Bio. After her first heartbreak, Tori found solace in two things: reading romance novels and listening to an after-dark radio program called Lovers and Other Strangers. Throughout the summer and fall of 1990, the new kid in town found reading fiction and writing her own short stories gave her a much needed creative outlet. Determined to become a published author, Tori amassed stacks of notebooks and boxes of filed-away stories, most only half-finished before another idea would overtake her and demand to be written down. Then, while on parental leave with her second baby, one story formed and refused to be packed away. Between teaching full-time, parenting, and life in general, it would take almost seven years before the first novel in her first trilogy would be completed. In the process, Tori finally found her stride as a writer.
At present, on her off-time, Tori not only enjoys reading, but also listening to an eclectic mix of music as she walks the family dog (Skittles), attempts to turn her thumb green, or makes needlework gifts for her friends and family members. She loves to travel, collect and make miniature furniture, and a good cup of tea during a thunderstorm or a blizzard. Under it all, she is always intrigued by history, the supernatural, vampire and shapeshifter mythology, romance, and other dangers.
Rayvin Woods, photographer and natural witch. She just wanted to start her life over again after a series of misadventures. She didn’t count on rekindling a lost love when she came home to Talbot…or battling a malevolent vampire and his coven for her life.
Grant Michaels, police officer. He thought Rayvin was a murderer. He will do whatever it takes to protect the community he loves from danger…but will he learn to trust his heart, and the word of a witch, before it’s too late?
Malcolm de Sade, cunning vampire, imprisoned underground for a year by Charlotte Fanning and Pike Mahonen (“Mist and Midnight”, Midnight Thirsts). His accidental release unleashes his hunger and ambition on a small, sleepy town…
Facing the past can be a nightmare. It’s worse when a vampire is stalking you.
Lisa’s Review: First of all, the cover is beautiful. This book has witches, vampires and love in it. What an awesome mix! I really enjoyed this story. It flowed well and the characters were awesome. Rayven is definitely a strong female character. Although I didn’t agree with everything Rayven chose to do I could understand why she made the choices she did. Tori did an amazing job creating several layers to her characters, specifically with Rayven and Grant, which kept me connected to the characters as well as the story.
Interview with Tori:
What inspired you to become an author?
I love stories — I love reading them and telling them, and I always have. My mother has a newspaper cutting of a short story I’d written for our local newspaper when I was five, about Santa and his reindeer, and by the time I was an adolescent, I was trying to make up my own little books to share with my friends. When I was twelve, I read a great novel by Gordon Korman that he’d written when he was thirteen, and I determined that I could get published by my thirteenth birthday, too. I didn’t meet that goal, so I pushed it back, again and again. But it was always there. I wanted to write stories that would transport my readers, characters that others would talk about and remember, the way that the books I loved affected me. It helped that my grandmother Phyllis had also had a book published, and encouraged me to follow the dream.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write what you love, and what you know. Readers know when we love what we’re doing, and the little details give away the depth of our knowledge. If you don’t know enough about what you want to write, be prepared to do some research. Write for yourself first, knowing that if you are happy with what you have, someone else out there will enjoy it, too. But be prepared for some readers to be critical — writing is an art, and therefore it’s subjective. You are always competing against yourself first and foremost, improving on your latest work. Make writing a daily habit, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Every little bit helps you to make your book happen. And read as much as you can, both outstanding books and those that could use some improvement, to look at the various possibilities in style, format, genre, plot, etc.
What kind of dog is Skittles?
Skittles is a medium-sized mixed breed, a rescue animal who was found as a puppy on a cold winter night in a car port. The nice couple who found her couldn’t take care of her, so she was given to their neighbours, who were able to have her examined by a vet, fixed, given her shots, and they took the time to train her. By the time we were ready to look into adopting a dog, Skittles was about a year old. We believe she’s part Husky, part German Shepherd, and part Labrador Retriever. She has a lovely golden coat with a white belly, white socks, and big dark eyes like a seal. She’s a big suck, too — she loves to cuddle on our bed, follows me to story time when I’m putting my daughter to bed, and enjoys racing about our backyard. She won’t play fetch, but she loves pulling a sled in the winter!
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
“Oh, boy, here we go again…”
What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading World War Z by Max Brooks, and I’m trying to decide what will be next. I have a long TBR list, but if I follow the titles alphabetically, the next is Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost, by Ron Vitale.
I love Rayvin’s tenacity. Did you put any of your own personality into Rayvin’s character?
Thank you! There is some of myself in her, yes — the part that keeps fighting though running in the opposite direction is so much more attractive. And some of her experiences in being treated like an outcast are based on bits from my own childhood, when I often felt as though I didn’t belong and was treated badly by my peers. Being able to go back to a place filled with powerful memories, both the good and the bad, when you’re not sure how you’ll be received or how you’ll feel when you get there — that’s a challenge I’ve faced myself as well, more than once. And like Rayvin, I practice witchcraft and am a Wiccan, although the more spectacular of her talents in telekinesis, telepathy, etc., are only in my imagination. Otherwise, we’re opposites: I’m tall, but she’s short; I have brown hair that I tend to wear short, and Rayvin has gorgeous long red hair that’s naturally curly; I’m a teacher and she’s a photographer; and I think I have more patience than she does.
Is Talbot a real town or based on a town?
Talbot is based on the real town of Cobalt, Ontario. Once known as the Silver Capital of Canada, it’s population is much smaller than during its boom years when mines were dug all around and under the community in search of silver. Many of the landmarks and buildings in Wind and Shadow and the rest of the series are based on real places in Cobalt, as well. I know the area well — I spent three years of my childhood living in the neighbouring town of Haileybury, my grandmother was born there in the 1920s, and my parents moved there to enjoy their retirement.
Do you have a playlist for Wind And Shadow? If so, what songs are on it?
Not all of the songs would play in their entirety for specific scenes, though — I’d love to splice them into a mashup for different chapters. Here’s my list for the first three chapters and the prologue:
Shadows: The Talbot Trilogy Playlist 1
Prologue:Rolling Stones, “Time Is On My Side”
Linkin Park, “A Place For My Head”Natalie Imbruglia, “Torn”Simple Minds, “Don’t You Forget About Me”Greg Joy, “A Maid in Bedlam”Blue Rodeo, “Lost Together”Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love”
Alicia Keys, “Girl On Fire”Journey, “Separate Ways”Journey, “Open Arms”Green Day, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
Third Eye Blind, “Jumper”Sarah McLachlan, “Good Enough”Barenaked Ladies, “If I Had $1000000″
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure! At the moment, I’m editing the second book in the Talbot Trilogy, Blood and Fire, getting it ready for a February release, and I’m writing the third and final installment, Crystal and Wand.
First, here’s an excerpt from Blood and Fire: Book Two of the Talbot Trilogy — warning, it’s got some strong language and content.
Rayvin stared at the neat stacks of oblong boxes, at the silhouettes of peacefully pregnant women on their covers, the pastel colours offering comfort to the user wanting to know the truth about her condition.
Why didn’t they ever consider the feelings of the woman who didn’t want to be pregnant?
The hushed footfalls of customers moving anxiously around her and the stringent odour of floor cleaner made her acutely self-conscious. There weren’t many people in the story at this hour of the evening, particularly after the holidays were over, but the absence of casual shoppers made it even more difficult to stand there and decide. It was easier to be anonymous in a crowd.
Rayvin missed the anonymity of the city almost as much as she missed her beautiful long, red hair. She wore what was left of it in a spiky pixie cut, with palmfuls of wax forced through its thick layers to keep it from clinging pathetically to her scalp or looking like a child’s ridiculous bedhead, but it stubbornly refused to grow any longer.
It hadn’t grown since Samhain.
Nor had she had her period.
The skin on the back of her neck crawled — someone was looking at her. She glanced at the pharmacist, whose eyes slid away as he pretended to be filling out a form on his clipboard.
This would be her fifth — no, her sixth pregnancy test in two weeks. Probably. She felt as though she were losing count. The damn things showed negative every time, but she was still late and feeling . . . off. She’d last had her period at the beginning of October. And then she’d packed up her stuff, moved back to Talbot, to enter a worse hell than the one she’d run from in the first place.
“It really shouldn’t be this hard to pick one,” she muttered under her breath. “Just grab one and go.”
Her hand hovered between the expensive digital model billed as the most advanced stick she would ever pee on, and the ultra-cheap no-frills brand she could have sworn was also on the shelves at the dollar store she’d visited not half an hour earlier. How accurate could it be, if the store had it for a buck?
After another moment’s indecision, she grabbed the mid-range box (the same brand she’d already used twice before) and headed for the register.
The cheerful plastic Christmas decorations grated on her nerves as much as the fluorescent lighting hurt her eyes. Fucking asshole, keeping her up all night with his megalomaniac plotting and planning, so that she slept through most of the day . . .
If she hadn’t made her doctor’s appointment for 8:30 in the morning, she’d still be in bed instead of yawning in the aisles of the one store in the area that stayed opened before 6.
The days had grown shorter and shorter as winter had begun to settle in, making it easier for de Sade to keep her on his metaphorical leash. Rayvin refused to admit to herself that a part of her was growing tired of fighting and just wanted to give in. Seeing cheerful people, watching the delights of the season appear in product displays and window decor, even the holiday-themed music piped over the store’s PA system, were making her grind her teeth, but she held onto the anger. She made a split-second decision and turned toward the kitchenware section.
Anger was better than despair.
With anger, she got things done.
If she gave into the despair, she’d hole up in her house and never leave again.
She had to believe that there was still a way to stop the nightmare. Some way to kill de Sade, free the people he had under his control, and make things safe for Talbot. Otherwise, there was no point to any of this.
In the pit of her stomach, she knew that freedom probably meant death — permanent, this time, for her almost-sister, Andrea. Her throat tightened at the thought. She hadn’t spoken with Andrea since she’d been turned by the bastard, hadn’t seen her since Andrea had helped de Sade to disrupt the ritual and take Grant from her. Could she even count on Andrea as an ally?Wouldn’t her loyalty now belong to her vampire master?
Rayvin found the knife display.
If Andrea’s heart was truly dead, then killing what passed for her body wouldn’t be murder, it would be giving her peace.
She wanted to laugh at the absurdity, but giving into the emotion might make her lose what little control she had left.
There were three sizes of butcher knife hung neatly by their handles.
The largest hefted nicely in her grip. Its weight seemed equal to punching through the skin and bone of any target.
Suddenly, the lights went out.
Instinctively, Rayvin looked up, her heart hammering in her chest. The startled cries of her fellow shoppers stopped when emergency lights in the corners of the building automatically clicked on, but Rayvin knew they’d be screaming in moments.
Her fist tightened around the tough wooden handle of the blade.
A half-second later, a large and icy hand had covered hers.
“Now, what are you planning on doing with that?” De Sade’s smooth voice in her ear made her stomach lurch and her thighs tingle in a disconcerting, incongruous combination. “You know how I feel about the knives.”
“You made it clear when you stole all of mine.”
The vampire pulled her back against his chest, forcing her hand up to her neck, the blade secure in their joint grasp. The plastic rim protecting the sharp edge dug into the exposed skin between the collar of her coat and her scarf. “For your own safety, my darling, I assure you.”
Somewhere, in the back of the store, a shriek rose and died with a nauseating gurgle. There was a moment of shocked silence before the handful of shoppers who had paused in the blackout began to panic.
It was amazing how much noise ten or fifteen people could make in a big box store when they were scared to death.
Rayvin knew it was useless to struggle, but she tried anyway.
“Come now, this is your fault, you know,” the bastard chuckled into her ear. “If you’d only behaved as you were expected to, this wouldn’t be happening. My vampires would have left this place in peace. Instead, you chose to break the rules. You know the penalty for breaking the rules.”
“You sonofabitch,” Rayvin spat, trying to force force her way out of his embrace. “Leave them alone!”
“Careful, now, Concubine. You’ll work this safety free, and then where will you be?” One long thumb, its nail manicured but clearly sharp, flicked casually at the blade protector. “The longer you struggle, the longer I will wait to send them away. How many do you want to die tonight?”
He hadn’t done this in days. Rayvin felt sick. “All right! Just stop them, please! I can’t let go of the damn thing unless you let go of me first!”
She felt him smile against the back of her head. “When will you finally accept the bond between us? When will you understand that I feel what you feel, that I sense your thoughts and come when your mind calls to mine? You gave yourself to me, freely. I own you. Whatever plan you had to whirl and strike at me when I ease my hold on your hand will fail. I can anticipate your every move, my dear.”
Rayvin closed her eyes. The horrified screams of innocent victims were echoing from the high ceilings. How many were dead already?
She could bide her time. There had to be a way.
With an effort, she relaxed her fingers.
“That’s my girl,” the vampire praised her. He kissed the tip of her ear, and she flinched. The butcher knife clattered to the floor. With one arm firmly around her shoulders, de Sade guided her away.
“I have to pay for the pregnancy test.” Her voice was low and flat, as lacking in emotion as she could make it. She was damned for letting him have so much power over her.
“It’s taken care of,” the bastard informed her, taking the little box and pocketing it. “They won’t be missing it tomorrow. You really don’t need that silly test. As I already told you, I can smell the changes in your body’s hormones. I am quite confident that you are breeding. I shall escort you back to your home while my family tidies this mess.”
Rayvin knew what was going to happen next. Jason, the vampire’s second in command and her would-be rapist, would do his little mind-control trick on the surviving shoppers and employees to erase all memory of the murders that he’d just committed with his girlfriend, Suzie. Maybe Andrea was part of it, too, and Matt; she didn’t know and she didn’t want to know. While Jason held everyone in thrall, Suzie would do a clean up of any blood spray and dispose of the bodies, bitching the whole time. They would have attacked the security room first, incapacitating the guard and removing the tapes so there was no other evidence that anything had happened.
Careful, planned, and tidy. De Sade’s ability to cover up the existence of vampires was meticulous, which helped to explain how he’d escaped discovery and annihilation for so long. The two or three people who had died would be added to the growing list of missing persons in Talbot, a list which had perplexed the police, alarmed the public, and led both local and national media to speculate on the mystery. It was true, the coven hadn’t fed on townspeople in a number of weeks, in order to throw investigators off the track. Rayvin knew that the bastard wasn’t keeping his group in line for any altruistic reason — he simply wanted to keep their secret for as long as possible.
And an excerpt from Book Three: Crystal and Wand (in progress)
The vampire was smiling at him.
Grant stared him down, willing de Sade to look away first. Instead, the fiend spoke, breaking the silence between them for the first time in almost an hour.
“Can you feel her, wolf?”
“My concubine. Your lover,” he sneered, unmoving in his bar-less prison. “She’s in pain. She writhes in agony. Do you feel her, in the recesses of your untrained mind? If you concentrate, you might.”
Uncomfortable, Grant shifted in his seat. He was concerned, of course, and the vampire probably knew that. He’d felt uneasy since they’d entered the building. But since Rayvin had gone down the hall, he’d been too preoccupied with guarding the prisoner to focus on anything else.
“I understand. You wouldn’t have wanted to connect with her while the doctor removed the child.” De Sade nodded knowingly without lowering his eyes. “As that was her choice alone, so was her pain. You would not have wanted to share that, to feel it with her.”
“I know what you’re trying to do,” Grant told him. He relaxed the fists he’d clenched on the arms of his chair. “You can just stop talking now.”
“Do you really think you have the advantage, here?” The black-haired predator leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands over his chest and tilted his head to look at him. A king in his throne, regarding a peasant. “I have centuries of experience. I penetrated her to a degree you cannot imagine, in ways you cannot fathom, not even in your most erotic fantasies. I called to her while I was trapped on the tower, and she heard me. But you? Her supposed soul-mate, her one true love, he is numb to her cries, deaf to her calls, ignorant of her suffering.”
“Shut up.” Grant focused on his breathing, remembering his police training. It was basic psychology, being baited like this. He’d dealt with manipulative assholes like this before. He knew how to deflect it, but there was a truth behind Malcolm’s words that was burning a hole in his heart.
Rayvin was in trouble. He knew it with every fibre of his being, even though she hadn’t called out to him like she had before. His body was on edge in a way that he couldn’t explain, even with his awareness of the environment off the charts. He didn’t want to admit it aloud, but some part of him hadn’t wanted to follow her into the day surgery, blocking any possible contact she might try to make. As much as terminating her pregnancy was hurting her, physically and emotionally, it was painful for him, too.
There would never be any way to know for certain whose child was being taken out of her body, his or de Sade’s. But could he have lived with himself if it had turned out to be a vampire-human monster? If it had killed her, or after its birth, become as murderous and cruel as its father?
He focused his eyes back on Malcolm de Sade and smiled grimly back at him. “And what about you? Have you been following her, sending her nasty messages with your powerful extra-sensory perception?”
The vampire lifted his eyebrows and sighed. He spread his fingers, a put-upon, world-weary gesture. “Alas, her concentration on herself was so intense that I could not break through her defences. Only natural, I presume, for a woman in that kind of distress. It’s become more difficult since our bond was broken by your pairing, as well. And it takes so much effort to make the connection, one can only put the effort forth for so long, even one of strength and ability such as myself. But here is an interesting development for you to consider.”
“I have not been able to feel her presence for the last ten minutes.” Malcolm tapped his temple significantly.
Grant felt his heart pound a little harder. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, that essential energy that is Rayvin Woods, that vibrant ripple in the atmosphere, has descended into darkness and I cannot find her.” Now the vampire sounded authentically concerned. “Tell me you cannot feel the same . . . loss?”
Grant bolted to his feet and sprinted down the hall.
“You won’t find her without me!”
He heard the vampire’s roar echoing along the empty corridor. Skidding on the clean tile floor, he found the women’s clinic.
A few drops of dark red blood on the floor were the only sign that Rayvin had been in the room.
He smelled scorched skin and hair. Turning, he grimaced at the sight of de Sade leaning against the doorway, brushing bits of ash from his singed face and scalp off of his clothes.
“I don’t need you for this, bloodsucker,” Grant snarled. He advanced on the vampire, his body tingling with anger. “Get out of here before I rip you apart.”
“You’re wrong, Michaels.” Dark eyes glared into his, reddening at the edges with a fury that matched his own. “Whoever took her knows that we’re here, that she’s not alone, and clearly, they are steps ahead of ourselves. You go alone, you are risking more than her life. Could you save her if you were dead?”
“And what’s in it for you?” Grant grabbed fistfuls of Malcolm’s shirt and forced him into the opposite wall, ramming his forearm against the vampire’s throat. “As if you care about her at all. She’s not part of your grand plan anymore. You’re not even part of it! And you could give a flying fuck about what happens to me.”
“And yet, who else would need her for a grand plan?” De Sade’s eyes glittered as he choked out the words. “Think, Michaels!”
Grant’s testicles shriveled. “Oh, god . . . Jason. It’s Jason. He’s been here all along.”
He stepped back, letting de Sade drop to the floor.
“You see? You need me,” the handsome vampire told him. He brandished his fangs in a lethal grin, his good-looking face twisting hideously. “The sonofabitch is in this building, right below us, and he has Rayvin. Why are you just standing there?”
Toe to toe with his nemesis, Grant held up his index finger. “One. You get one chance to show that you can be something more than a murderer. If you’ve actually somehow grown a conscience in the last twenty-four hours, this is the time you show it.” He left the rest of his ultimatum unspoken, confident de Sade understood him. “Come on.”
He turned and headed for the basement stairs, knowing the other man was right behind him.
“I’d really rather throw you out on the lawn right now than have you tailing me,” he muttered as he reached the door labeled “Emergency Exit”.
“I dare you to try it,” Malcolm sneered. He crossed to the opposite side of the doorway, listening carefully at the jamb.
“Neither do I, but I can smell your kind. It’s strong, here.” Grant eased the door open, checking the corners above and below, before waving de Sade ahead of him. “You first.”
As silently as a cat, the vampire eased into the stairwell and descended a few steps. He peered over the railing, looked back at Grant, and shook his head.
In a reaction learned over years of policework, he reached for his sidearm. There was nothing on his hip. The absence of his revolver took him off-guard for a fraction of a second.
That was all that was needed for one of Jason’s minions to get the drop on him.
Grant found himself falling down the stairs, grunting with the impact of each concrete step in his back. He’d just managed to get his arm up to protect his neck and shoulder from the creature’s gnashing jaws, but they tumbled together to the next landing, banging into the rails and sliding into the wall. He felt his skin itching to free the wolf again, but the deformed monster wrestling with him was breaking into every opening it saw.
A curdle of fear crept into Grant’s stomach when a frigid globule of saliva trickled down his cheek. The vampire’s gaping maw was millimetres from his face, so close he could see the working of its throat as it anticipated the rush of his heated blood down its gullet.
And then the thing was being thrown off him, its head smashed into the wall repeatedly in a series of sickening cracks. Grant scrambled back and staggered to his feet as de Sade pounded the novice bloodsucker into submission.
A trailing pile of grey ash on the stairs nearby revealed that he hadn’t been the only victim of attack from above.
De Sade’s next action gave him the answer to his next question: with a quick twist of his arms, the senior vampire neatly trapped his adversary in a headlock, and in a mighty wrench, tore its head off. As quickly as though it had been staked, the attacking vampire burst into a cloud of dusty particles.
“Now would be a good time for you to transform, young man!” De Sade threw at him. “More are approaching!”
Grant took a breath and tore his shirt off. He dropped to all fours as his bones morphed, his muscles altered, and the form of the wolf shattered the body of the man. He felt his hackles rise as his enhanced senses tracked several bodies closing in on them, faster than humans could move.
He rolled his eye at de Sade and then leapt down the next flight of stairs, opening his own muzzle to seize on the first vampire head that appeared around the lower railing.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you so, so much for encouraging me with your kind words and constructive feedback — every positive review is gold to me, pushing me to keep going and finish the next chapter, following the story to the end. I appreciate that you chose to read my story from among the untold options out there, and that you want to read more. It’s very gratifying, and makes the whole process incredibly worthwhile. All my best!
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