For the third day of this event, AD Starrling is featured. She has several extras to share with all of you! Thanks so much, AD, for participating!
Enjoy the blog everyone!
AD Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God’s hours as a Paediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing. Soul Meaning is her debut novel and the first in a supernatural thriller series entitled Seventeen. King’s Crusade, the second novel, will be released in May 2013. She currently lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the third novel in the series while drinking gallons of tea. She still practises medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name.
To find out more, please visit her at
Author: AD Starrling
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Social Media connections:
Release Date: 12 July 2012
Where to buy:
Parajunkee’s View http://parajunkee.com/2013/01/indies-on-pjv-review-soul-meaning.html
I woke up in a dark alley behind a building.
Autumn rain plummeted from an angry sky, washing the narrow, walled corridor I lay in with shades of grey. It dripped from the metal rungs of the fire escape above my head and slithered down dirty, barren walls, forming uneven puddles under the garbage dumpsters by my feet. It gurgled in the gutters and storm drains off the main avenue behind me.
It also cleansed away the blood beneath my body.
For once, I was grateful for the downpour: I did not want any evidence left of my recent demise.
I blinked at the drops that struck my face and slowly climbed to my feet. Unbidden, my fingers rose to trace the deep cut in my chest: the blade had missed the unusual birthmark on my skin by less than an inch. I turned and stared at the tower behind me.
I was not sure what I was expecting to see. A face peering over the parapet of the glass and brick structure. An avenging figure drifting down in the rainfall, a bloodied sword in its hands and a crazy smile in its eyes. A flock of silent crows, come to take my unearthly body to its final resting place.
Bar the heavenly deluge, the skyline was fortunately empty.
I pulled my cell phone out of the rear pocket of my jeans and stared at it. It was smashed to pieces. I could hardly blame the makers of the device: they had probably never tested it from the rooftop of a twelve-storey building. As for me, the bruises would start to fade by tomorrow.
It would take another day for the wound in my chest to heal completely.
I glanced at the sky again before walking out of the alley. I found a phone booth at the next intersection, closed the rickety door behind me and dialled a number. Steam rapidly fogged up the glass wall before me. There was a soft click after the fifth ring.
‘Yo,’ said a tired voice.
‘Yo yourself,’ I said.
A barely suppressed yawn travelled down the line. ‘What’s up?’
‘I need a ride,’ I replied. ‘And a new phone.’
There was a short silence. ‘It’s four o’clock in the morning.’ The voice had gone blank, devoid of all traces of emotion.
‘I know,’ I muttered in the same neutral tone.
The sigh at the other end was audible above the pounding of the rain. ‘Where are you?’
‘Corner of Cambridge and Staniford.’
Fifteen minutes later, a battered tan Chevrolet Monte Carlo pulled up next to the phone booth. ‘Get in,’ said the figure behind the wheel. I opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat. Water dripped onto the leather cover and formed a puddle by my feet. There was a disgruntled mutter from my left. I glanced at the man beside me.
Reid Hasley was my business partner and friend. Together, we were co-owners of the Hasley and Soul Agency. We were private investigators, of sorts. Reid certainly qualified as one, being a former Marine and cop. I, on the other hand, had been neither.
‘You look like hell,’ said Reid as he manoeuvred the car into almost nonexistent traffic. He took something from his raincoat and tossed it across to me. It was a new cell.
I raised my eyebrows slightly. ‘That was fast.’
He grunted indistinct words and struck a match. ‘What happened?’ The orange glow of a cigarette flared into life, casting shadows under his brow and across his crooked nose.
I transferred the data card from the broken phone into the new one and frowned faintly at the bands of smoke drifting towards me. ‘That’s going to kill you one day.’
‘Just answer the question,’ he said testily.
I looked away from his probing gaze and stared blindly at the dark tower at the end of the avenue. ‘I met up with our new client,’ I muttered.
Reid looked at me expectantly. ‘And?’
‘He wasn’t happy to see me.’
Something in my voice made him frown. ‘How unhappy are we talking here?’ he said guardedly.
I sighed. ‘Well, he stuck a sword through my heart and pushed me off the top of the Cramer building. I would say he was pretty unhappy.’
Silence followed my words. ‘That’s not good,’ said Reid finally.
‘It means we’re not gonna get the money,’ he added, clearly heartbroken by the news of my recent passing.
‘I’m fine by the way. Thanks for asking,’ I said wryly.
He shot a hard glance at me. ‘We need the cash.’
Unpalatable as the statement was, it was regrettably true. Small PI firms like our own had just about managed before the recession. Nowadays, people had more things to worry about than what their cheating spouses were up to. On the other hand, embezzlement cases were up by a third; unfortunately, the victims of such scams were usually too hard up to afford the services of a good detective agency. As a result, the rent on our office space was overdue by a month.
Mrs Trelawney, our landlady, was not happy about this: at five foot two and weighing just over two hundred pounds, the woman had the ability to make us quake in our boots. This had less to do with her size than with the fact that she made the best angel cakes in the city. She gave these out to her tenants when they paid the rent on time. A month without angel cakes was making us twitchy.
‘I think we might still get the goods if you flash your eyes at her,’ said my partner thoughtfully after a while.
I stared at him. ‘Are you pimping me out?’
‘No. You’d be a tough sell,’ he grunted as the car splashed along the empty streets of the city. He glanced my way. ‘This makes it what, your fourteenth death?’
Further silence followed. ‘Huh. So, two more to go,’ he murmured.
I nodded mutely. In many ways, I was glad Hasley had entered my somewhat unnatural life, despite the fact that it happened in such a dramatic fashion. It was ten years ago this summer.
Hasley was a detective in the Boston PD Homicide Unit at the time. One hot Friday afternoon in August, he and his partner of three years found themselves on the trail of a murder suspect, a Latino man called Burt Suarez. Suarez, who worked the toll bridge north-east of the city, had never had so much as a speeding ticket to his name before: he was later described by his neighbours and friends as a gentle giant who cherished his wife and was kind to children and animals. That day, the giant snapped and went on a killing spree after walking in on his wife and his brother in the marital bed. He shot Hasley’s partner, two uniformed cops and the neighbour’s dog, before fleeing towards the river.
Unfortunately, I got in his way.
In my defence, I had not been myself for most of that month, having recently lost someone who had been a friend for more than a hundred years. In short, I was drunk.
On that scorching summer’s day, Burt Suarez achieved something no other human, or non human for that matter, had managed before or since.
He shot me in the head.
Sadly, he did not get to savour this feat as he died minutes after he fired a round through my skull. Hasley still swore to this day that Suarez’s death had more to do with seeing me rise to my feet Lazarus-like again than with the gunshot wound he himself inflicted on the man with his Glock 19.
That had been my fourteenth death. Shortly after witnessing my unnatural resurrection, Hasley quit his job as a detective and became my business partner.
Over the last decade we have trailed unfaithful spouses, tracked down missing persons, performed checks on employees in high profile investment banks, took on surveillance work for attorneys and insurance companies, served process to disgruntled defendants, and even rescued the odd kidnapped pet. Hasley knew more about me than anyone else in the city.
He still carried the Glock.
‘Why did he kill you?’ said Reid. The car had stopped before a set of red lights. ‘Did you do something to piss him off?’ There was a trace of suspicion in his tone.
I grimaced and scratched my head. ‘Broadly speaking, he seemed opposed to my existence,’ I murmured. The rhythmic swishing of the windscreen wipers and the dull hiss of rubber rolling across wet asphalt were the only sounds that broke the ensuing lull. ‘He called me an abomination that should be sent straight to Hell and beyond,’ I added drily and paused. ‘Frankly, I thought that was a bit ironic coming from someone who’s probably not that much older than me.’
Reid crushed the cigarette butt in the ashtray and stared at me with narrowed eyes. ‘You mean, he’s one of you?’
I hesitated before nodding briefly. ‘Yes.’
Over the years, as I came to know and trust him, I had told Reid a little bit about my origins.
I was born in Europe in the middle of the sixteenth century, when the Renaissance was at its peak. My father came from a line of beings known as the Crovirs, while my mother was a descendent of a group called the Bastians. They are the only races of immortals on Earth.
Throughout most of the history of man, the Crovirs and the Bastians have waged a bitter and brutal war against one another. Although enough blood has been shed over the millennia to fill a respectable portion of the Caspian Sea, this unholy battle between immortals has, for the most, remained a well kept secret from the eyes of ordinary humans, despite the fact that the latter have been used as pawns in some of its most epic chapters.
The conflict suffered a severe and unprecedented setback in the fourteenth century, when the numbers of both races dwindled rapidly and dramatically; while the Black Death scourged Europe and Asia, killing millions of humans, the lesser known Red Death shortened the lives of countless immortals. It was several decades before the full extent of the devastation was realised, for the plague had brought with it an unexpected and horrifying complication.
The greater part of those who survived had become infertile.
This struck another blow to both sides and, henceforth, an uneasy truce was established. Although the odd incident still occurs between embittered members of each race, the fragile peace has, surprisingly, lasted to this day. From that time on, the arrival of an immortal child into the world became an event that was celebrated at the highest levels of each society.
My birth was a notable exception. The union between a Crovir and a Bastian was considered an unforgivable sin and was strictly forbidden by both races: ancient and immutable, it was a fact enshrined into the very doctrines and origins of our species. Any offspring of such a coupling was thus deemed an abomination unto all and sentenced to death from the very moment they were conceived. I was not the first born half-breed, both races having secretly mated with each other in the past. However, the two immortal societies wanted me to be the last. Fearing for my existence, my parents fled and took me into hiding.
For a while, life was good. We were far from rich and dwelled in a remote cabin deep in the forest, where we lived off the land, hunting, fishing, and even growing our own food. Twice a year, my father would venture down the mountain to the nearest village, where he traded fur for oil and other rare goods. We were happy and I never wanted for anything.
It was another decade before the Hunters finally tracked us down. That was when I learned one of the most important lessons about immortals.
We can only survive up to sixteen deaths.
Having perished seven times before, my father died after ten deaths: he fought until the very last breath left his body. I watched them kill my mother seventeen times.
I should have died that day. I did, in fact, suffer my very first death. Moments after the act, I awoke on the snow-covered ground, tears frozen on my face and my blood steaming as it stained the whiteness around me. Fingers clenching convulsively around the wooden sword that my father had given me, I waited helplessly for a blade to sink into my heart once more. Minutes passed before I realised that I was alone in that crimson-coloured clearing, high up in the Carpathian Mountains.
The crows came next, silent flocks that descended from the grey winter skies and covered the bloodied bodies next to me. When the birds left, the remains of my parents had disappeared as well. All that was left was ash.
It was much later that another immortal imparted to me the theory behind the seventeen deaths. Each one apparently took away a piece of our soul. Unlike our bodies, our souls could not regenerate after a death. Thus, Death as an ultimate end was unavoidable. And then the crows come for most of us.
No one was really clear as to where the birds took our unearthly remains.
‘What if you lived alone, on a desert island or something, and never met anyone? You could presumably never die,’ Reid had argued with his customary logic when I told him this.
‘True. However, death by boredom is greatly underestimated,’ I replied. ‘Besides,’ I added drily after a pause, ‘someone like you is bound to kill himself after a day without a smoke.’
‘So, the meeting was a trap?’ said Reid.
His voice jolted me back to the present. The car had pulled up in front of my apartment block. The road ahead was deserted.
‘Yes.’ Rain pounded the roof of the Monte Carlo. The sound reminded me of the ricochets of machine guns. Unpleasant memories rose to the surface of my mind. I suppressed them firmly.
‘Will he try to kill you again?’ said Reid. I remained silent. He stared at me. ‘What are you gonna do?’
I finally shifted on the leather seat and reached for the door handle. ‘Well, seeing as you’re likely to drag me back from Hell if I leave you high and dry, I should probably kill him first,’ I said wryly.
I exited the car, crossed the sidewalk and entered the lobby of the building. I turned to watch the tail lights of the Chevrolet disappear in the downpour before getting into the lift. Under normal circumstances, I would have taken the stairs to the tenth floor: dying, I felt, was a justifiable reason to take things easy for the rest of the night.
My apartment was blessedly cool and devoid of immortals hellbent on carving another hole in my heart. I took a shower, dressed the wound in my chest, and went to bed.
1 When did you first start writing?
When I was twelve years old, after my father trashed a creative essay I wrote for school. I started writing even more stories to spite the poor man. It was the most life changing revenge move I ever made. Before I left school, I had written two novels and was on my third.
2 Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Being a writer has always been my ‘dream job’. My ‘real job’ aspiration was to work in biotechnology and genetic engineering. I ended up in medicine. Go figure.
3 What genre do you prefer to work within? Or do you mix it up?
The first novel I wrote in my teens was a middle grade-YA fantasy. The second novel was a boarding school action-adventure tale. When I resumed writing in 2006, I returned to fantasy once more. Soul Meaning was a bit of a surprise! It started life as a short story that made the top five of the British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition a few years ago. I never thought I could write in that style. When I completed the short story, I knew it could become a novel. Even I wanted to know what happened to my protagonist! Writing an action thriller was challenging and exciting.
4 Where does your inspiration for these stories (this story) come from?
The series itself originated from the number 17 written in red paint on a black marker stone in a lagoon in Mauritius. When I came back to this image, I eventually decided to write about a man who could die seventeen times. Generally speaking, my inspiration comes from dreams, images, films, and books.
5 What has your publishing experience been like?
When I made the choice to write again in 2006, I researched the publishing industry for several months. When I saw what was involved and how long and hard the road was going to be, I decided to give myself six years before reassessing the situation. By 2012, I had written three novels, a few short stories, almost landed a few agents and publishers, and had received consistently positive feedback on my writing. But I was not getting anywhere in terms of securing a traditional publishing deal. In 2006, self-publishing was, in my eyes, the last resort and a sign of failure. By 2012, the publishing world had changed drastically. Self-publishing is now the first option for many authors, some tired from playing the subjective game of chance that is traditional publishing, some who would never even consider that road and like being in full control of their career. There are also a whole host of professional resources now available to self-published authors that can make their book indistinguishable from a traditional published novel. Again, a lot of research was involved before I committed to self-publishing in 2012. It has definitely been challenging and is hard work, but so worth it in the end. To those who say self-publishing is easy and the option of lazy writers who won’t perfect their craft, I say,
‘Yes, self-publishing can be easy. Write a book, photoshop a cover, load it up on Amazon and Smashwords. There are a lot of self-published novels out there. Some are good, some are great, some have even made the New York bestseller list. But there are also a LOT of awful ones (just as there are among the traditionally published books). Rushed first drafts with poor editing, structure, and flow, shoddy covers and poor formatting. To produce a good quality product that can challenge any novel produced by the former Big 6 publishers is HARD. It takes a hell of a lot of time, energy, and, for many authors who cannot afford/ don’t want to outsource aspects of the process, the acquisition of new skills.’
I am lucky in that I can afford to pay for two editors, a proofreader, two formatters, a cover designer, and website designer, as well as marketing. Although I am doing what I always dreamed of, I also see writing as a business. Any business needs financial investment.
6 Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? i.e. You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I can write anywhere, but I bought my first desktop computer last year in a deliberate attempt to establish a writing routine. So now, I mainly write in my study. I have a playlist for every book that I write. It’s all American hard rock and some of the songs have actually inspired entire scenes in the books. I have written on planes, trains, in airports, and on nightshifts.
7 How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Place names are not difficult as they tend to be real, as in the action will take place in known cities such as Boston or Prague. I tend to look at Google Map and pick a geographically and historically appropriate country and city. Character names come from my Penguin Dictionary of First Names, which explains the origin and history of first names, and baby names lists from the web. I try to be as ethnically accurate as possible in the names that I choose, for example one of the main characters in Soul Meaning is a Czech immortal called Victor Dvorsky. Both the first and last names are of Czech origin.
8 In your most recent work, who is your favorite character and why?
Most people would assume it’s Lucas Soul. Although I love Lucas as my main protagonist, Reid Hasley ended up stealing my heart in many scenes. For one thing, I would most definitely gravitate towards Reid if I walked into a bar where both men were standing. Reid projects an easy charm that will attract most women. In my mind, he has a very sexy smile. Lucas is the darker, quieter character of the powerful duo. Because of his painful history, he doesn’t let people get close to him. I think Lucas presents a challenge a lot of women would like to take on, knowing that if they get past his barriers, he would be some catch! Now, if you were to ask me who I would give my room key to (not that I do that, of course!), the answer is…hmm…Well, sex with Reid would be smoking hot and mind-blowingly good. Sex with Lucas would capture my body and enslave my soul.
11 Can you describe the feeling you had when you saw your published book for the first time?
I was shaking it was so goddamn exciting! I came home from a walk to to find a note from FedEx. I jumped in my car, drove twenty miles to the depot, and got there ten minutes before they closed. I then promptly drove to my friends’ house, dropped the parcel in their hands, and told them to open it as I couldn’t! It was an amazing feeling. Also, the quality of the finish was even better than I expected, with a satiny smooth cover and thick, cream paper. Lightning Source printed the paperbacks. The original proof copy sits inside a custom made picture box on the wall of my study.
12 Favourite authors?
Enid Blyton, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt, Jeffrey Deaver, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Kathy Reichs, Clive Cussler, Robert Crais, Janet Evanovich, Naomi Novik, Philip Pullman, JK Rowling, Stieg Larsson, and Stephanie Meyer to name a few. I also discovered the lovely Jade Kerrion last year.
15 Are you working on anything new? If so, can you tell me about it?
I am polishing the second novel in the series Seventeen, due for release May 2013. It’s entitled King’s Crusade and it will tour with Bewitching Book Tours that month. I won’t say more than that on the second book! I think it will surprise people who have read the first novel; they will no doubt be expecting something entirely different. I hope it’s a pleasant shock. I have also started the third novel in the series.