3:00 pm EDT, April 12, 2016

Read an excerpt from ‘New Charity Blues’ by Camille Griep

New Charity Blues is a post-apocalyptic retelling of the Trojan War, and today we’ve got a peek at the first chapter of the book.

After her debut novel Letters to Zell, Camille Griep wasted no time in bring us her next adventure in New Charity Blues. Check out the first chapter below, and then order it today!

About ‘New Charity Blues’ by Camille Griep

In the wake of a devastating plague, two communities emerge as bastions of survival. One is called the City, and its people scrabble for scraps in the wasteland. The other, New Charity, enjoys the bounty of its hydroelectric dam and refuses City denizens so much as a drop of precious water. When City-dweller Cressyda inherits her father’s ranch within New Charity, she becomes intent on opening the dam to all — no matter the cost.

But when Syd reunites with her old best friend, Casandra, a born seer and religious acolyte, she realizes that her plans could destroy the fragile lives they’ve built in order to survive. What’s more, the strange magic securing the dam’s operations could prove deadly if disturbed. Yet when Syd discovers evidence that her father might have been murdered, she is more determined than ever to exact revenge on New Charity’s corrupt.

Pitted against Cas, as well as her own family, Syd must decide how to secure the survival of both settlements without tipping them over the brink to utter annihilation. In this intense and emotional reimagining of the Trojan War epic, two women clash when loyalty, identity, community, and family are all put to the ultimate test.

new charity blues cover

‘New Charity Blues’ excerpt

Chapter One

On an evening like this, I should be gazing out over a wall of floodlights, a tide of applause washing over me, exhausted, elated, distantly annoyed that I mistimed an arabesque or fell out of a fourth pirouette. That’s how things were supposed to turn out. Journalists would’ve introduced me as twenty-one-year-old Cressyda Turner, a soloist-on-her-way-to-principal at the most prestigious ballet company on the left coast.

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Instead, the plague happened. So, here and now, I’m simply Syd, galumphing down a pitch-black alley on my way home from clinic rounds. I’m not pretending to be a qualified professional medic or even a competent adult, but Doc needs a hand, and I made Danny several promises I shouldn’t have: first to find and tell the would-have-been Mr. Danny that he’d missed out on, then to eat all the SpaghettiOs I could, and finally to make the sick and dying of the City feel cared for.

To fulfill the latter, I quit pouring tapers at the candle works and signed on with Doc Remington’s clinic.

The next best friend who decides to kick the bucket better have simpler demands.

Danny was a true Survivor. He beat the plague five years ago, only to be leveled by a case of once-treatable appendicitis. We kept him as comfortable as we could. But losing him is still tragic and painful and unnecessary. Had we had light, power, a sterile operating room, and water that didn’t have to be hauled in buckets from clear cisterns, maybe Danny would have made it.

The whole situation is stupid. Even more stupid than thinking I could have possibly been suited for any sort of caretaking job. Doc says it’s good to have a brusque bedside manner, but that’s not really it. I’m angry. I don’t want to help people die nicely. I don’t want to help them die at all.

Instead of taking my third curtain call tonight, I am peering into a darkness punctuated by an even deeper darkness, listening to what sounds like a child crying for help. I should be done for the day. I should just go home. But I don’t, because I am not a monster. I should just get help. I don’t, because I am not a crowd.

I curse as I hitch my supply pack higher onto my shoulders and retrace my steps to the street. If Danny has a ghost, he’s laughing because I have enough battery power to last my headlamp about fifteen minutes, thus it’s off and I’m stumbling around like a drunk on a three-day bender instead of a one-time professional ballerina.

“Hello?” I call. I hear the sound again, a ways down Bleeker and on the right. I keep going, thankful for the books that lace up my shins, saving my ankles from the perils of ever-growing potholes.

Until Danny, I didn’t think anything would ever feel as bad as losing my mom, but it does, even though they’re two separate griefs. Mom was one of the first to die, back when they were still learning what the plague was. We’d thought it was the flu at breakfast. I went in for my first day of Company rehearsal and came home to paramedics. I said good-bye to my mother almost forty-eight hours later, still dressed in my knit body warmer and a holey green leotard.

I stop in front of the building where the sound is coming from. There’s no observable door, so I poke my head inside, where the wailing of a child grows constant and loud. “Hey, kiddo, can you hear me?”

It takes a moment for the wails to turn to sniffs and coughs. “I fell,” a girl says.

“I can see a candle flicker above, though it’s not much brighter in here than outside. “What’s your name?”

“Mina,” she says, voice shaking.

“Mina, I’m going to try to come up the stairs now.” I test them with my weight. They are rutted concrete and for this I am thankful, though I’m still careful as I climb. On the second floor, Mina has fallen through a rotted plank. Though she has managed to remove her leg from the hole, it is obvious she will not be able to stand on it. The candle is brought is starting to gutter out, but I let it burn a while longer, hoping to use the headlamp to get us back to the clinic.

“What were you doing up here?” I ask. Children are rare in the City. Especially outside the boardinghouse. Most families went south, down the coast where things are a bit more stable.

The girl bites her bottom lip, seems to weigh how much to spill.

I try to ease her fear. “Are your people looking for you?”

She shakes her head.

I test the floor with my foot and it flexes beneath my weight. “You aren’t living up here, are you?”

She shakes her head again and looks to the corner, patting her knee. “Come on, Buster. It’s okay.”

A black-and-white dog steps out of the shadows, some sort of bulldog mix. “And what were you doing up here?” I ask the dog. He wags his tail. Mina laughs, a tinny small thing. Even in the candlelight she is too pale, red hair hanging in a half curtain over her face.

“It’s okay, Mina. My name’s Syd, and I’ve been on my own for a while, too.”

She lets out a breath, her shoulders slumping. “Buster was along. Until I saved him. Before today, I mean. Today he was chasing a cat.’

“Well, sometimes even we savers need saving. Let’s get you out of here.” I belly over to her, trying to distribute my own weight over the boards. When I reach her, the dog gives me an once-over and looks back to her. She nods.

She’s a tough kid. I splint her calf, while the dog watches my every move. She doesn’t cry, doesn’t whine, and doesn’t babble. The candle gives its final sputter while we’re inching our way over to the stairs on our stomachs. I pick Mina up and flip on the headlamp. The dog, who does not need a headlamp, leads us down the stairs.

“I’m going to borrow him someday, Mina.” I say. “So he can lead me through the dark.” But she’s already asleep; her soft breaths warm against my neck. At the door, Buster waits for us to catch up, tethered to the girl by some invisible leash. I’m a little bit in love at first sight with them both, despite myself,

I look up at the sky, where I imagine Danny looking down. “I hope you’re happy.”

About the author

Camille Griep author photo

Photo credit: Jackie Donnelly

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Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

She wrote her way through corporate careers in marketing, commercial real estate, and financial analysis before taking an extended sabbatical to devote more time to her craft.

She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. She is a 2012 graduate of Viable Paradise, a residential workshop for speculative fiction novelists.

Her first novel, Letters to Zell, was released in July 2015. Look for New Charity Blues in April of 2016.

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