–The auditorium is dark and intimately ringed with chairs and two mics, as the crowd awaits the appearance of The Dream Team, due to arrive shortly, and answer their questions. Some people have already formed lines at the mics, eagerly anticipating asking their favorite character questions.
The lights go down further, forming a single spotlight on the stage. Appearing, as if by magic, The Writer is suddenly there, smiling at the audience before her. They blink, take a moment to realize what has happened, and burst into applause. —
J.A. Brown: Welcome all to the first ever panel discussion with the Dream Team, A.K.A, the cast of characters from the Dreams Series! First up, let me say: SPOILERS!
If you haven’t read the first three books of the Dreams Series, and don’t like spoilers, add this page to your favorites for later, and come back to us when you’ve done your homework. *Fair warning, there may be some spoilers for Mosaic, Dreams Book 4 here, as well.*
Everyone ready? (The audience applauds loudly, screaming their excitement.) Excellent! Please allow me to introduce our panel members, once everyone is seated, we will begin to take questions from the audience.
First, we have the four thousand-year-old vampire who was kind enough to let us Dream through his eyes. He became a vampire in 1,985 BC. He is they child of Senaya. He is the former captive and lover of the demon prince, Alareon. The best friend, and business partner to the demon hunter Mads, friend to Malik, and the man who hung the moon for Sara Siler. The one, the only, Eli Solomon!
(The crowd goes wild, and even my heart skips a beat as Eli suddenly appears on the stage wearing jeans, a white t-shirt and a brown leather bomber jacket. His fangs are down, and he has a big smile on his face as he winks and preens for the audience, most of which is female, and totally enamored with him. A couple of women hold up homemade signs with the words, “BITE ME!” in red on them. The whistles and cat calls go on for several minutes before Eli finally bows deeply, blows a double handed kiss to the crowd, and takes a seat next to where I am standing. He appears to ignore me, but you can never be sure with Eli Solomon.)
Next, we have our favorite dark hearted leading lady. She once made a Christmas wish for a driving immortal lover, someone who was more than a man. She has served as the anchor for our team when they fell sway to emotional instability, due to magical influences beyond their control. She’s always pressing for what she calls the ‘smart question’, and her favorite things in the world are coffee, and Eli Solomon, the man who made her Dreams come true. Please welcome, Sara Siler!”
(The crowd goes wild again, as Sara comes out dressed in combat boots, and a frilly little yellow sun dress that ends a little above her knee. The men in the audience stand up this time, their signs declaring, “I’M MORE THAN A MAN!” She flashes them a fangy smile, making a few of them gasp in surprise, before reinvigorating their exuberant desire for her, once the initial shock passes.
The women’s cheering, too, increased at the sight of her fangs, and a couple of them wave their “BITE ME!” signs at her. She takes it all in stride, and sits down beside Eli, lacing her fingers through his, before leaning over to whisper something in his ear that we can’t hear. He smiles, and kisses her lips lightly, setting off the crowd again in a flurry of cat calls, whistles and cheers. I watch, as captivated as the crowd by the strength of their obvious devotion, before remembering I need to introduce the rest of the cast.)
Next, we have, the lovely but deadly, demon hunting business partner to Eli Solomon, and bonded of the vampire Malik. The power of their connection taking them through racial prejudice, and creating a bridge back from death so that she might stand at Malik’s side once again. She is like a sister to Sara, growing closer through their adventures and shared love of Eli. I give you the the two hundred-year-old demon hybrid, raven haired, green eyed beauty, Madalyn Illyana Shostakovich, better known as, Mads!”
(She appears on stage, dressed in tight black jeans, high heel black leather boots, and an off the shoulder sweater in light aqua that makes her green eyes seem brighter than usual. I suspect somewhere on her person is a concealed weapon or two, and the thought makes me smile. Several crowd members can be heard over the others offering her peanut butter M&M’s, and I see one person in the back holding a sign offering “RED BULL 4 KISSES”.
Mads seems less comfortable with the attention than Eli or Sara. She smiles and waves, but I can see the tension around her eyes, and the stiffness of her smile. Her current situation was weighing heavily on her, and I’m glad that I can pull her out of it, even for a small time to do something else, because sometimes a distraction helps you see the bigger picture more clearly.
She hugs Eli first, and then Sara, both of whom stand to greet her with smiles. She says something to them both that the crowd drowns out, but we see them both move to embrace her at once, surrounding her with their arms, and their bodies protectively, speaking quietly to her. She nods, and tries to smile before taking her seat.)
This next guest is what some would call a ‘twofer’. (There is a sudden mixture of boos and claps from the audience.) “The body we are about to meet is that of the eight hundred-year-old Irish vampire we know as Malik. He’s rumored to have Fae ancestry, which if true, could mean that Mads is currently blood bonded to a fairy prince, in body at least. A body that is currently being possessed by the demon king, Abadan!”
(The crowd stands and cheers and boos again as Malik/Abadan appears on the stage. His hands are restrained, but he raises them in greeting anyway, allowing us to see that they are bound in a shimmering multi-colored restraint that looks like malleable stained glass.
His eyes are pure black, his dimples offering any takers a slide and groove directly into the heart of his darkness. He’s dressed in jeans and a blue shirt, and struts to his seat before completely dismissing our presence in favor of Mads. He leans over to whisper to her, but she jerks away, pressing closer to Sara, and I see her grip tighten on Sara’s hand, but the expression of determination never wavers from her face. It all makes me love her just a little bit more.
Next, we have the six thousand-year-old demon prince. The man who claims to have loved Eli for thousands of years, and Mads for less time, but perhaps no less intensely. He made the first vampire, and is the man behind the curtain labeled Tomahawk. He is also the reason that Abadan is currently in possession of Malik’s form, his plan coming to fruition in the last exciting pages of Awakenings, or did it? (I hear the audience murmuring, and I can practically see questions lighting up their eyes.) The one, and only, Alareon!”
(Alareon appears on the stage with a slightly confused look on his handsome face, as he glances around taking in the audience first. His steps falter when he sees Mads already seated, but he keeps going until he gets to the next available seat beside Malik/Abadan.
The crowd is screaming, again both cheers and boos, but Alareon doesn’t show any reaction to them. Instead, he focuses on me, the first of them to do so, his beautifully long lashed eyes narrowing at me suspiciously. I wink at him, because who doesn’t want to tango with an individual capable of mad love so strong it burns as hot after four thousand years as it did the night it started?)
Next, we have the expert in sociology and antiquities, a devotee of Illiad, the dragon lover who haunted her dreams as a child, filling her mind with promises that she thought were to be fulfilled in Awakenings, only to find herself shoved through a portal of blood and light into the past where she became The First Vampire. She defeated Abadan six thousand years ago, and lived long enough to sire Eli, before meeting the sun, leaving our fledgling hero to his own devices. The indomitable Senaya!”
(The crowd gives polite applause, indicating they have not made up their mind on whether to love or hate her. As soon as she sets foot on the stage Eli, Alareon and Malik/Abadan come to their feet; one furious, the other two lost in another emotion. Mads freezes Malik/Abadan with a wave of her hand, and everyone present watches Alareon run to Senaya, jerking her off her feet, and spinning her around, before laying the mother of all kisses on her lips.
The crowd is completely silent, processing what they were seeing. When the kiss finally ends, he’s hugging her to him, showing us more emotion than anything we have seen from him so far, inside or outside of our storybooks. Her stern expression thaws slightly, almost smiling as she looks at him, her hand caressing his face lovingly. He refuses to release her, holding her hand in his, as together they take their seats, hers being the last empty seat available.
Eli remains standing, looking at Senaya with confusion, and some pain on his handsome face. I wait, refusing to go on until she at least acknowledges him, and wonder if this is always the way with masters and their children. Finally, she faces him, and something so real passes between them when their eyes meet that it stirs the air around us. Senaya looks at Sara, an eyebrow raising in question, to which he nods slightly in answer. She nods, and we watch Eli sit back down, taking a deep breath before shaking off whatever just happened. When he takes Sara’s hand again, I can tell it’s all right to move on.)
“Now that we are all here, let’s go ahead and start taking questions.”
Fan: This is for Eli. What happened to Willow? Will we see her again?
Eli: As far as I know she is still safe in Tennessee attending school. Do you know otherwise? (He looks at me directly for the first time since his arrival, with an eyebrow raised in question.)
J.A. Brown: That’s all we can say right now.
Fan: Sara, do you miss coffee now that you’re a vampire? (She smiles, her fangs protruding just slightly over her bottom lip.)
Sara: I still go to coffee houses, because I love the smell, and, well, let’s just say I enjoy my caffeine more vicariously these days. (The audience chitters, as the next person steps up.)
Fan: Eli, what was your favorite period in history, and can you tell us a little about it, and why you liked it so much?
Eli: Before this, my favorite time was when I was he curator for The Library at Alexandria. (The audience murmurs, trying to reassure each other that what they just heard couldn’t be possible, and reminding me that a fact without context is easily overlooked.
We all know Eli was four thousand years old, but the meaning of that age didn’t fully connect until correlated with historical reference.)
As to why, well, I’m a bit of a bookworm, so being able to live amidst the greatest wealth of knowledge available was, even then, intoxicating. (He frowns, and before stepping away the fan asks a follow up.)
Fan: Why did you leave? Was it the great burning of The Library that forced you out?
Eli: No, a lesser. Scholars who theorized that small fires did damage prior to Rome’s invasion were correct. There was an incident, and I was forced to leave some thirty odd years before Caesar arrived. (While it was clear that there was more to the story, it is also clear that Eli has said all he was going to say on the matter, for now.)
Fan: Mads, considering how things are right now, do you regret bonding with Malik?
Mads: No! (Her voice booms out across the auditorium, echoing back to us.) Not for a second! What kind of person would regret a vow, just because the gratification becomes less immediate? Is that what you think of me? That I would be sorry for finding everything I ever wanted because things became difficult? (She’s still holding Sara’s hand, but her face is a twisted with rage. Some fans can’t take a hint though, rather than step down, they go one step further.)
Fan: Malik, do you regret bonding with Mads?
Malik/Abadan: (A wide slow smile spreads over Malik’s face, showing Abadan’s amusement.)
Unfortunately, Malik can’t come to the phone right now. You’ll have to talk to me instead.
(Abadan flashes his solid black eyes at the fan, tilting his head, considering the person at the mic, sizing them up, maybe.)
Do I regret bonding to Mads? Well, that question should be modified to, ‘Do you regret possessing a body that is blood bonded to Mads?’ Shouldn’t it?
(His hands are still bound, but he slides back in the chair, crossing his legs, resting his chin on his hands. The crowd is holding its breath, waiting on the demon king to reveal his desire, or his intent to them. It’s clear that Abadan thrives on their attention, but he directs his answer toward Mads.)
And the answer is, no. She is lovely, and smart, and strong, and the feeling of her inside me is like nothing I have experienced. I would look upon her forever, if she let me. I don’t know if it is the bond, or the woman that inspires this emotion in me, but there is something about her that I find…fascinating.
(He turns to face Mads as he says that word ‘fascinating’ leaning closer to her. Instead of pulling away again, we see her jaw tighten, and her eyes narrow as she leans into him. It’s a silent push back on him, but he refuses to give way. He lets her do whatever she wants with him, and I wonder what this might mean. The audience is silent as they watch this mystery unfold before their eyes. This was not the first time Malik’s lips had called her ‘fascinating’, and I see the barb for what it is, a weaponized adjective with edges sharper than steel. Malik had said that to her, was Abadan using that memory to hurt her, or did he truly find her fascinating as well?)
Fan: This is a question for all of you. Can you tell us where you were before you came here, like where you are in the story right now, and what is happening to you? (I take this one before they can speak.)
J.A. Brown: No, I’m sorry, but spoilers. You’ll have to wait for that one.
Fan: Sara, did you not know Eli was a vampire, or were you suspicious that he might be?
Sara: (Sara smiles at the fan.) It’s not possible to see clearly the things we most desire. We talk ourselves in and out of believing they are real, at least sometimes, we do. I was already falling in love with Eli, and that was scary for me, so any thoughts that crossed my mind of him being the total package for me, everything I ever thought I wanted, were naturally resisted. We all think we want to be happy, and we pretend to know what will deliver us to that state, but we fear it as much as we desire it, sometimes more. So, the answer is…maybe? Or maybe I was just wishing he was a vampire, and thought I was fooling myself?
(She shrugs a little, and smiles again at the fan as they stepped down.)
Fan: Senaya, did you recognize Eli from the beach, when you met him four thousand years in the past?
Senaya: No, it took another two thousand years of time for me before I saw him again. I had fought wars, banished kings, and held on to life with everything I had in me to…
(She stops there, and clears her throat, before resuming, evidently not ready so share what motivated her to travel so far through time.)
My mind was filled with other things.
Fan: Senaya, what did you think if Eli the first time you saw him?
Senaya: How fortunate I was to find a meal in the ass end of nowhere.
(The crowd gasps. She looks down her nose at them, her regal bearing emitting icy blasts to their dislike of her response.)
Should I lie? Tell you want to hear instead of the truth? Is that what time has wrought? A gang of self-deceivers who prefer lies to truth? I will not be infected by your willful weakness! I am not a toy for your amusement!
Fan: Why did you turn him, if you didn’t know him, and therefore were not seeking him out specifically?
Senaya: He was mine, I knew it the moment I saw him.
(Her tone is dismissive, and indicates that she dislikes being questioned, period, but even less than usual regarding the turning of Eli Solomon. We all look at Sara, used to only her declarations of ownership regarding the sexy alpha vampire. She frowns and bites her lip, and chooses to remain silent.)
Fan: This is for Malik, er, well Abadan, I guess?
(I nod for them to continue.)
Will Malik’s experiences with Le Rouge Collier be helpful when dealing with Abadan, or since you..he refused to let Mads take the scars away, will they leave you more vulnerable?
(The question is messily directed to someone who can no longer speak for themselves. For the first time Abadan seems uncomfortable under the weight of everyone’s attention.)
Malik/Abadan: I’m sure I couldn’t say. What is Le Rouge Collier?
(Before the fan can explain, I cut in.)
J.A. Brown: Spoilers. Let’s not tip the scales in anyone’s favor now.
(I smile, and motion for the fan to step away. Mads takes a quick breath behind me, but I keep my back to her, hiding my smile that would confirm what she thinks she just heard.)
Malik/Abadan: Wait! I want to know what that means! Come back!
(To their credit the fan keeps walking, and the next takes their place, leaving Abadan fuming.)
Fan: Sara, what was it that made you feel so comfortable that you opened up to Eli about your dreams?
Sara: There are levels of things, you know? In the coffee shop, when we first met, the words just poured out of me. Who I was, what I was studying, anything to make him stay just another minute more, and smile at me again.
(She gestures with her right hand, up and over the back of her head.)
He sang to me, I could hear him, humming pleasantly, and it relaxed me, all over, better than a massage. He made me hum, too. I liked the feeling.
(Her hand comes down to caress her face as Eli sat quietly beside her, completely hypnotized by her every word and gesture.)
The night I made my wish, I was tipsy, drinking for courage more than celebration, and scared because the dance contest was over, and there was no reason for him to come back again the next night, and I wanted him to, come back, I mean. I had come to depend on him being there, and as scary as that was, I liked my life a lot better because he was in it. But I didn’t want to lie. So, I wished, and pretended that he understood what I was really saying. But when he offered himself to me, I couldn’t do it. I knew I was holding back no matter what I was pretending, so I told him the truth and expected to lose him.
Later, when we were at his house, and he asked me to be intimate, I thought back to how brave he had been when he blew back into my room, fangs down, being exactly what I needed him to be, and I realized that I had to be as brave, to be worthy. I had to be as fearless for him, as he had been for me.
I’m not sure which place in the story you meant, but if you meant the last one, where I tell him my intimate dreams, my fantasies, think of how vulnerable he was in that moment. How much he needed, and the risk he took to share that need with me. How could I love him, and ignore the gravity of such trust and vulnerability? Why would I ever want to?
(There is a breathless pause when Sara is done speaking, and then thunderous applause explodes across the auditorium. It takes a couple of minutes for things to settle down and the next fan to come up.)
Fan: Alareon, did you plan all along to kill Sara, and take Malik for Abadan?
Alareon: You’ve already decided you know this answer, haven’t you?
(Alareon’s disdain for the fan, and the question evident.)
Why am I even here?
(He looks at me again, his eyes narrowing as he considers the circumstances in which he finds himself. He seems more self-aware than the others, and I find myself more and more impressed with his insight, and power.)
J.A. Brown: You’re here because I’m not done with you, yet.
(He growls at me, his eyes lighting up with his demon power, and I wonder if he would dare to try anything here and now, and what the others would do, if he did. Before either of us can decide what to do, the next question comes flying at us from the darkness.)
Fan: Eli, will you use the formula from Malik to walk in the sun?
Eli: I have no plans to do so right now, for all the reasons I gave Sara in Awakenings.
Fan: Senaya, when did you know you belonged with Illiad?
Senaya: I refuse to discuss this with you, or anyone. Sit down. Don’t ask again.
(The audience laughs a little at her cold dismissal, but only a little, they were too intimidated to feel comfortable pressing her further.)
Fan: Sara, do you have any siblings or other family?
Sara: I have Eli, and Mads and Malik. They are my family now, and really the only one I have ever known.
Fan: Eli, how’s Sleipnir?
Eli: An excellent and trusty steed. (He smiles fondly at the mention of his eight-legged war horse.)
Sara: I’ve spoiled him a bit.
Eli: A bit? You’d let him in the house if he would fit through the door. (She smiles at him, and shrugs sweetly, confirming his accusation completely. It’s quite endearing.)
Fan: (In a heavy Russian accent, the next fan directs their question to Mads.)
Mads, what were you thinking when you stepped through the portal at the end of Awakenings?
Mads: That I have finally been blessed to know and feel true love, because there is nothing more powerful in any universe.
(Her eyes narrow as she tries to see the face of her querent.)
Fan: Da, you should remember that, girl.
(Mads jumps to her feet, shading her eyes from the bright spotlight with her hand.)
(The crowd shifts forward for the next person to ask their question, and the man Mads thinks might be her Uncle slips into the crowd disappearing instantly. She takes a tentative step forward, but stops, as though tethered to the stage, or maybe the people around her. It could also be that despite her initial surprise, she doesn’t truly want to see her Uncle, and so, in case it was him, decided it was better to let him go. She sits down again, and the next querent steps to the mic.)
Fan: Eli, when you and Sara have children, will they be vampires?
Eli: Physically, vampires reproduce by making other vampires, as I did with Sara. However, I have offered the option to adopt a human child to Sara, if this interests her. If we do adopt, I suspect the offspring will also be offered immortality.
Fan: This is for the writer, can you share with us the spark that ignited this amazing world and its cast? And do you know how many books there will be, and how it ends?
J.A. Brown: Dreams started from a Christmas writing prompt. I had been writing fan fiction for three years, and as I started this story I wanted to go all in, create something new and original by pulling out all the stops, and writing the kind of fantasy romance novel I enjoy reading. The characters are the kinds of people I would like to know, and spend time with myself.
As to how many books? I don’t know yet. I will tell the story until the story is done, or my time runs out.
And as to how it ends? I don’t know for sure, but right now I don’t think it does. I think everything is connected, and as the great wise and mystical King once said, ‘there are other worlds than these.’
(I tell them we have time for one more question, and then we must go.)
Fan: This for everyone. Using only a single word, give us a hit at what comes next for you in the Dreams Series.
J. A. Brown: Storytelling.
Thank you all for being here with us, and for your questions, and your support of this series. It’s my world, it’s your world, it’s our world! Before you go I have a special treat for you!
I’m very excited about this project because it’s another medium to conquer, and the opening of this incredible world we world into that new medium. I was privileged to work on this with the wonderful Robin Shaw of www.robinsmotifs.com who made this Dream come true for me.
I bring you Dreams, Dreams Series Book 1!
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Thank you, again, and goodnight!
Storyteller Magazine Cover Art by Golden Designs & J.A. Brown, Storyteller © 2017