I usually highlight fiction—romantic fiction—on my blog, but today I’m sharing a book which is entirely, heart-breakingly, true.
Last fall, my friend and fellow author A.E. Hayes published her autobiography, Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac. In Shattered, Hayes takes readers through the fragments of her life, painstakingly pieced together from journals, hospital records, accounts of friends and family, and a few actual memories retained after a traumatic brain injury wiped out most of her past.
Most of those retained memories, she would come to learn, were not her own. Instead, they belonged to alters: alternate personalities her mind created to deal with the psychological and emotional traumas of her childhood. But while Shattered grapples with the existence of the alters and their effect on Hayes’s life, her next book gives them voice.
Villain: The Voices of Shattered is a series of nonfiction essays, written primarily by alter personalities. In the book, Hayes and the alters tell stories that were not included in Shattered—stories that pose a question: what is good, and what is evil?
Villain will make you question your notion of heroism and villainy, and leave you wondering: who is the villain of this story—and my own?
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Here’s a brief excerpt from the introduction.
Five days before my twenty-first birthday, I was drunk. I was so drunk that I ignored both the speed limit and the fact that, up ahead, there was a train barreling down a set of tracks that I was seconds away from crossing.
“Stop!” a voice commanded. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but I heard her. I stopped.
The train missed me by a foot, and the force of its momentum made my little green Dodge Neon sway. I was on a boat, seasick from rocking, but mostly seasick from having downed a half-dozen small whisky bottles I kept in the glove compartment.
A man who had stopped behind me approached and tapped on my window. Shaking, sick, and wanting to forget about the train that was still passing in front of us, I attempted to ignore the stranger, but he would have none of it. He kept tapping until I rolled down the window.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“Can I help you?” he said. “You were almost hit by that train! You didn’t see the flashing lights? Hey, you don’t look well. Would you like me to call someone?”
The only person this stranger could have called at the time was my abusive boyfriend, Alexander. I was on my way to visit him and I wanted to be properly drunk before I arrived. That way, when he forced me to cut myself or punched me for talking too loudly, the impact wouldn’t feel as severe. And he was going to do those things. Drunk or not, it didn’t matter. Alexander was always a man of action. And I, his possession, was desperately trying to drink myself into an early grave.
“No,” I finally said. “I’ll be OK. Thank you.”
The train passed and my car stopped shaking. The man, still staring at me, shook his head, mumbled something under his breath, and walked back to his car. I looked with clouded vision through my rear-view mirror and watched him pick up a cell phone.
Shit, I thought. He’s going to call the cops, report my license plate, and have me arrested. I slammed my foot down on the gas pedal and took off, twisting and weaving my way through the Pennsylvania back roads that would eventually lead me to a large highway.
The drive from my college to Alexander’s house was only two hours long. I was used to driving to him. After all, he never came to me.
The little bottles of liquor were gone, and I knew I couldn’t score more until later that evening. Alexander was abusive, but he didn’t mind providing for me. He enjoyed showing off the fact that he was wealthy and able to procure whatever he wanted at any hour or at the location of his choosing, and what harm would a dozen or so small bottles of whisky do to his pain-in-the-ass girlfriend? I was an asset to him because of my age—twenty to his almost twenty-eight years—but other than being arm candy and a person to buy alcohol for, I meant nothing.
I didn’t want to believe that, but I knew it to be true. I kept driving, weaving in and out of the lanes, until I hit the highway. I increased my speed from sixty miles per hour to eighty and hoped no one would catch me.
Running away was my favorite thing to do. I’d run away from home, from people who wanted to help me, from colleges, from events I loved, simply because I found it easier to run toward the destructive things. Hit me, beat me, rape me, intoxicate me, whatever would come to be—that was always easier. I was the mistress of running.
“You will die this way, you dumb bitch,” I heard the voice say to me.
“I’m just drunk,” I said to myself, shouting over the radio.
“You’re just an idiot,” she said. “You’re gonna get into a wreck and we’re going straight to hell.”
I picked up my pack of cigarettes from the passenger’s seat, lit a smoke, and enjoyed the sound of the crackling paper upon the first inhalation. It was soothing, like flipping the pages of a book I’d been yearning to read.
Going straight to hell?
Crazy brain, I thought. Don’t you know better?
I cannot go where I already exist.
© 2018 A.E. Hayes
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Memories of Magic releases today!!
Normally I do a whole series of blog posts leading up to a release, but in my haste to get this book out to all of you, I scheduled this release only three weeks after the spring romance anthology, and I am, honestly, worn out. So I am going to take a break for a week or so, and then do my Memories-themed blogs in June. Look for blogs about history, anthropology, Hinduism (or at least the version of it that exists in my world, which is simply called Sutra), and my struggle with writing a non-gender-conforming but femme-skewing heroine who also doesn’t have access to twenty-first century terminology or non-gendered pronouns.
Thank you to everyone who is taking this journey with me and Clan Fay and its members! If all goes well, I plan to spend the next few months researching and then writing book four (title to be revealed soon!).
Keep reading for an excerpt from Olivia and Savit’s first meeting!
EXCERPT FROM MEMORIES OF MAGIC
Olivia rose from her chair and walked back to the parlor. Sorcha followed.
Everyone had clumped together around the new arrival, greeting him informally instead of following the more rigid rules of social introduction that her mother had always preferred. Olivia was glad to see Etta didn’t stand on ceremony, even with outsiders.
And then Liv saw Dr. Reilly and heat rose from her core, sending waves of desire tingling along every nerve ending in her body.
Dr. Alexander Reilly was gorgeous.
Not gorgeous in the same way as most of the male lovers she’d taken in the past, many of whom had been student laborers from universities on the Continent and bulky with muscle from digging. In many ways, he reminded her more of her last female lover, who had been slender and had stunning, well-defined features. He was beautiful, compact and slim, and only a little taller than her brother, but with nearly-black hair that curled at the ends, eyes dark as a moonless night, and skin a shade darker than Etta’s.
She had to suppress a very inconvenient desire to go and proposition him as she might a man met on her travels.
This was Dr. Reilly, the bane of her academic existence. She’d just skewered him in all but name in the last edition of Walking the Past, the premiere archaeological and historical journal in the United Kingdom.
So why was her pulse still racing, and why did her fingers itch to tangle themselves in his mass of black curls? She closed her hands into fists. She’d promised herself: no more mixing work and sex, and certainly no sleeping with the enemy.
Savit shook Ronan’s hand, then Malcolm Seward’s, and finally Etta Cook-Fay’s. He was a little surprised to shake a woman’s hand, and even more surprised when Ronan casually mentioned that she was married to Malcolm and was, by the way, the Duchess of Fay.
The woman looked nothing like his preconceived notions of a duchess. In fact, she looked more like his memories of his mother, with warm brown skin, brown eyes, and black hair. The only difference was a wide streak of opalescent silver that matched the one arching through her husband’s red-brown hair, and eyes that appeared slightly slanted above high cheekbones.
Her magic felt nothing like his mother’s, though. Hers was the deep pine of a forest, mixed with the scent of fresh-tilled earth and the taste of honeysuckle and salt. His mother’s had been jungle-hot, a mix of lotus and lily.
He released her hand, and her expression changed, becoming more assessing. She’d been testing his magic even as he experienced hers. She said nothing, but he altered his first impression of her immediately. She’d been informal, almost casual, but she was not a woman to be underestimated or dismissed. She might not match his imagined picture of a duchess, but the title and the power it held rooted her like a banyan tree. What had she determined in her survey? Did she find him lacking?
Ronan drew Savit’s attention away from the duchess. He had taken the hand of a very short, very voluptuous woman with pale blonde hair. He presented her as his wife, Sorcha Fay. Apparently the Fay women did not take their husbands’ names in marriage.
And then Savit saw the other woman, and such insignificant thoughts fled.
She was magnificent. From her tanned skin and heart-shaped face, to the toned body that spoke of an active lifestyle, to her tailored clothes that only barely edged over into femininity, he found her attractive, although a little thin and haggard, as though she’d recently been ill. But for that beauty to be crowned with such hair was a wonder and a delight.
Shorn shorter than he’d ever seen on a woman, her hair was no single color. Instead, the shining mass was caught somewhere between purest white, silver, and opal. Each individual strand would have been the crowning glory of a seashell, and put pearls to shame.
And even still, all of this only attracted him in a pleasant, aesthetic sort of way. There was something else underneath, an energy and a pulse of awareness, that roused his flesh, his mind, and his spirit all at once.
The flesh was easy to ignore; he’d not remained celibate for years now without learning to control his baser lusts. But the arousal of his mind and spirit was far more difficult to ignore.
Then Ronan said her name. Olivia Seward.
Olivia Seward? His shoulders shifted backward in a tiny, unconscious movement, pushing his chest out. He didn’t believe in coincidences, and Oliver Seward had been running a campaign to have him discredited now for almost six months.
Savit held out his hand. With a tiny hint of a smile, she took it.
Magic flared between them. He experienced her gift with a befuddled sort of wonder. She was all dust, leather, and bone, a mix of old books and the storage rooms where his college kept antiques and specimens. But cutting through these familiar scents was a refreshing flavor of peppermint.
Up close, he could see her eyes were hazel: a mix of greens and golds and greys and browns. Her mouth was formed with generous lips, and her jaw had a stubborn, deliberate line. Beneath the severe tailoring of her coat, her breasts rose and fell, too quickly for her not to be experiencing the same desire as he did.
He wanted her. Again his blood began to heat, his heart tripping into a faster rhythm. His cock stirred. Her lips parted, and she exhaled. Warmth settled in his chest as he pulled her breath into his lungs. As though he could make her part of himself.
He yanked his hand away and brought his body back under control. He could not do this. Must not give in to his physical desires. They clouded his thoughts, and his magic.
Once he’d calmed the raging beast within him, he recognized what else he had felt in her, mixed in with magic and desire.
She was definitely Oliver Seward. Even if he was tempted to break his ascetic vows for the gorgeous woman—which he most definitely was not—he would never do so for the scathing author of “How Anthropology Fails to Uphold the Basic Tenets of the Scientific Method.”
He deliberately turned his back on her.
© 2017 Cara McKinnon
If you enjoyed this taste of Memories of Magic, click below to get your copy!
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