Archive for YA fiction

Back for VD Day!

Posted in blogging, Denver, horror, indie, mythology, urban fantasy, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , on February 14, 2014 by rachelcoles

Hi Indies,

I’ve been away for a while, failing to manage the work-life balance…Never been good at juggling. But I’m back! And while I used to scorn VD Day (yes, pun intended, from someone who used to do infectious disease surveillance) as syrupy Hallmark yuck, I’ve at least come to appreciate that it is a great excuse for a date with my husband at great restaurants. All holidays are all about food sooner or later. Food=love. Restaurants pull out all the stops on VD Day, with new menus etc. And my husband and I are both foodies. So yay! I can appreciate that level of capitalism at least, if it includes Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, Dinner, and Supper…

And I have a VD Day story to share, full of kisses. Always beware when a horror writer tries to cover a Valentine romance story…

Kisses

by Rachel Coles

 

Terry tried hard not to kick the side of the automatic door as it opened on an explosion of scarlet and bubble-gum satin and lace. The menagerie of heart bedecked stuffed animals crowded the aisles like a cupid-struck taxidermist’s fantasy, and Terry’s worst nightmare. The stacks of chocolate boxes waited, like Gretel’s witch in her candy house, to tempt her into a sugar feeding frenzy that would use up every drop of insulin in her diabetic body for the rest of her life. Valentine’s Day sucks! Fuck Valentine’s Day! she thought, as she savagely shoved the grocery cart ahead of her. It nearly careened into a stand of skimpy thong underwear with curly “I Love You” script littering the tiny triangle of fabric.

She tossed packets of lettuce and other veggies in her cart haphazardly, and then buried them under bags of chips and other snack food. Two minutes and counting, she thought as she reached for the rice cakes around a portly woman blocking the entire aisle with her cart. If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m going to shoot these people, she vowed. Two days until Venereal Day. I’m not going to survive this time without multiple homicide.

The woman giggled and grabbed a third box of frosty angelic white Valentine’s Day Little Debbie cakes. “Oh, I just love these things! I buy out a whole shelf every Valentine’s Day to decorate for everyone I know. I put messages on the top. They taste so much better than those chalky candy hearts, don’t you think?”

“I’m diabetic.”

“Oh, well, no cakes for you, then!” She waggled a puffy finger at Terry. “I bet those rice patties would decorate up nice. Lots of room to write, ‘I wuv you’ on those! You can whip up a batch of sugar free frosting in a jiffy with that Splenda now.”

But I don’t love you, I hate you, and your little teddy bear too. “Thanks.” Terry grimaced, pulled a box of angel cakes into her cart and ran.

***

Her one-bedroom apartment smelled like stale cigarette smoke again, and her lungs tightened a little as she entered. She left yet another message with the landlord about changing out the ratty carpet that seemed to emit a growing smorgasbord of nasty scents every week.  She took a puff of her nearly empty inhaler and opened her lap top and email. There was a message from her mother. When she opened it an e-card popped up and waited for her click. I’m a masochist, she realized as she clicked on it. It literally exploded in a shower of animated hearts and dancing bunnies singing something that she didn’t catch because she slammed the computer lid closed. Now it was probably broken. Another expense she couldn’t afford, but she didn’t care, as she sat, shaking in anger and staring at the empty space above the computer. That’s it, I’ve had it.

She stormed into the bedroom and grabbed the picture of George, her late husband, by her bed and went into the kitchen where the grocery bags were still sitting in the middle of the floor. She grabbed the angel cakes and opened a package and stuffed one of the treacle-sweet cakes in her mouth. She nearly gagged as she inhaled sugar glaze and crumbs, but she swallowed a giant gulp as she flung open one of the kitchen drawers and grabbed a lighter. It still had fluid, thankfully. She put the rest of the box of Valentine’s Day cakes in the sink, poured lighter fluid on the box and then lit them up. As she watched them burn, she put the picture of George next to the blaze, propped against a soap bottle. It was three years to the day that he had died in the car accident. He stared at the blaze with his playful blue eyes.

“I curse Valentine’s Day. To all the gods of Heaven or Hell, I offer this sacrifice of Little Debbies. May it and everyone who chases love and smothers people with kisses and hearts on that day be damned. May they be followed and haunted like I am, every time they look at one more stupid card or one more stupid fluffy bear with a stupid message on it that doesn’t mean anything except ‘Give me money.’  Fuck all you people! I’m done with you!” She swallowed the last dregs of cake, and looked at George. A tear rolled down her face and she swiped at it and flicked it into the fire. “You were the only one for me. You never gave me a card, and I never needed one with you. Fuck you too for dying on me.”

The smoke alarm blared, and she jumped. She grabbed the fire extinguisher and doused the flames and half the counter in foam. She put it down just as there was a pounding at the door. She went to the door and opened it a crack.

The landlord’s squinting eyes peeked through above the chain. “What’s going on in there?”

“Nothing,” she said as smoke drifted around her head and through the crack.

He sniffed. “Like hell. What you been smoking in there?”

“Nothing illegal. You going to replace the carpet?”

“Not if you’re smoking in there!”

“Then bye.” She shut the door almost on his nose.

He called her name outside the door for a minute, threatened to evict her, which she knew he couldn’t do, and then there was silence.

***

Sweat leaked onto the sheets in rivulets as she sat up with a start. The bedroom was dark, but she could see a shadow at the foot of the bed. She grabbed the baseball bat from under the bed and leaped at the form. Then she tumbled over the edge and fell to the floor, as she swung the bat. The momentum twisted her body in the air and she landed on her back with a thud. She stared up into empty space, expecting a gunshot or the slice of a knife from the intruder, but none came. She sat up, trembling with adrenaline, and looked around in the darkness. No one was there. She stood up shakily and climbed back into bed. She left the bat beside her near her pillow. What a horrible dream, she closed her eyes and willed her heart to stop racing. After an hour, she drifted back into dreams. They were filled with shadowy images and talking teddy bears.

At dawn, she woke up to pee. In the faint light, the tall shadow was back at the foot of her bed. She leapt up again with a shriek, bat in hand, but this time, the growing dawn illuminated the figure. It was a man. She got the impression of maturity, if not advanced age. His eyes were dark in his gaunt scar-pocked face, and his hair was long, black, and tied back. He wore a thigh-length tunic and leggings. She couldn’t tell the color of his clothes in the gloom. And then he vanished.

“What the hell!” She jumped off the bed and ran to where the figure had been, but no one was in the room. She ran into the hallway, and living room. Her door was still chained and locked, and the windows closed from the inside.

She sank down onto the worn mustard yellow couch and put the heels of her hands in her eyes. Then she got up and went into the bathroom to look at the side effects listed for the Celexa she’d been taking. They didn’t include hallucinations. She popped two pills and got ready for work.

***

“You look like shit.” Donna swung her head around the door of the stinky core room refrigerator.

The smell of something rotten wafted past her and almost made Terry gag. “Is anyone ever going to clean that?”

“It’s the exec department’s turn, according to the chart. We filled in for them last time. I’m not doing it again.” Donna wrinkled her nose. “I ain’t their mama. And stop changing the subject. Why you look like shit?”

“Bad dreams.” She edged around the stocky African American woman and wedged her lunchbag in on top of the mound of other bags.

Donna put her hand on her hips, displaying her elaborately painted nails. “Are you still going on about Valentine’s Day? You do this every year! Girl, you got to stop with that! Find yourself a friend with benefits, if you have to. You goin’ to drive yourself nuts. It’s just a national excuse to get candy and diamonds from your boyfriend. Work it! Or what about a girlfriend?”

Terry scowled at her.

Donna held up her hands. “Hey, I’m not biased. Whatever gets the job done.”

Terry glared around the room at the shiny foil hearts the ‘Cheer Committee’ had hung from the ceiling. She couldn’t even tear these ones down, let alone light them on fire, or she’d be branded a spoil sport at work, which translated into ‘not a team player’. She left the core room to go back to her cubicle.

Donna caught her look and followed her. “Hey, I thought you were seeing somebody about that, about you know, anxiety. You okay?”

Terry didn’t say anything for a few minutes, just stared at her computer screen. “It’s not that.”

Donna plopped onto the floor, pulled the cardboard divider across the entrance to the cubicle and whispered. “Well what is it?”

Terry looked up over the top of the divider and sat back down. She sighed, “I just had a bad dream. About a guy in my house. Nothing big.”

Donna’s eyes widened, “Shit, you check to make sure it wasn’t real? What if someone’s casing you out. That’s creepy.”

“To steal what, my million year old laptop?”

“No, your skinny White ass! What if he’s a rapist?”

“Thanks, I feel much better now.”

“You got to be careful in that neighborhood, woman!”

“It wasn’t like that. I—I could see, he wasn’t…real, and he wasn’t, like, from now. There was something about him, like he was dressed for another time.”

“So maybe you got a Ren Fair rapist.”

Terry rolled her eyes, and cracked a smile.

Donna grinned. “Feel a little less crotchety now? Why don’t you call the police about this guy? I got a date on V night, maybe he could bring a friend. He’s got some hot friends too. Once you go Black, you never go back, that’s what I’m sayin’. And I don’t like you sitting in that crappy apartment when you could be out eatin’ lobster and steak! The restaurants all have great deals on V Day!”

Terry nodded. “I’ll think about it.”

Instead of getting to her day’s debt collection cases, she stared at the screen and ruminated. How long before I get a call from someone like me? Her bills were piling up, the growing medical bills, and the funeral still had payments left, and interest. She’d footed the cost of that, since George’s parents were dead, and he’d been an only child. Every time she looked up on the screen, she could almost see her name, though her accounts weren’t for a lush department store.

Her thoughts strayed from her bills to the mysterious man. He wasn’t a rapist. He’d had no sexual intent in his face. Instead, his eyes had bored into her as though he wanted to talk to her. She shivered and picked up the stack of files for the day.

***

When she opened her eyes in the middle of the night, the dark figure was there, in the light cast by the closet bulb. She drew breath to scream and grab her bat, but he spoke first. His voice shivered through the air, a vibration of something harder than human vocal chords. He did not speak in English. She realized with a shock that the speech sounded faintly like Latin. Before she could wonder any more, the man advanced and touched her arm. She swung the bat, but it went through the man’s image. The pressure on her arm had been no more than a static electric buzz. When he spoke again, she understood his speech.

“You summoned me.”

She backed against the wall behind her bed, grabbed the blanket and pulled it up to her chest.. “Who are you? What are you? I didn’t summon anyone!”

“You called a curse. I exact the curse.”

She stared at him in horror. You mean yesterday? That was just, I was pissed. It didn’t mean anything!”

He gazed into her eyes. His own eyes were dark rheumy wells from which a nightmare peeked. “The curse had intent. You did mean it. All things that are meant persist. I will show you.”

She fell into those eyes and a scene unfolded in her mind.

George laughed and shoved her into a pile of crackling leaves as she swung the rake at his ruddy face.

“Look what you did, bozo! Now I have to rake it all up again.”

This only made him laugh harder. “Aw, I’ll help you babe! If you can dig yourself out!” He buried her under the two bags of leaves she’d set aside for the trash.

“Aghhh!” She burst out of the pile and chased him around the back of the small stucco house, grabbed the back of his shirt and yanked.

He whirled around and pulled her down with him into the pile of leaves she had collected in the back . And then his mouth was on hers, his hands sliding into her jeans. “Screw the leaves.”

“You mean ‘in’ the leaves.” She grinned and rolled him under her.

Terry relaxed into the memory and sagged against the wall, but the memory changed.

George stared up past her. His crystal blue eyes were blank. The tubes sticking out from under the white sterile sheets didn’t shift with movement. The lines on the monitors showed her that there was no one home in his head. He looked like a man-sized doll. She sunk down beside his bed, tears dripping onto the chrome bar, and realized that no matter what she said to this body, it wasn’t him. And unless there really was a beyond, he would never hear her.

“Fuck you! Who the fuck are you!” She hurled the pillow at the phantom, followed by the bat. A brief image appeared in her head of a gaunt prisoner kneeling before a burly man dressed in a tunic with a gold border. They stood in sand as the prisoner was bent to the man’s sandals in a Roman-style coliseum. The prisoner spat at the man’s feet, before he was yanked back by a soldier holding his long dark hair. The soldier swung his sword and opened the neck of the prisoner. Blood spurted across the sand as the prisoner collapsed. The soldier swung one more time and the head separated from the body.

Terry gasped and stared around the empty room. The man was gone.

***

Terry tried to keep the coffee from spilling all over the counter as she poured it into her travel mug. Her wrist shook, even when she braced it with her other hand. There had been no more sleep after her nocturnal visitor. She tossed her Metformin in her mouth, grabbed her coat and headed out to the car.

It was 9:00 before she made it to work. She slunk to her cubicle. As she pulled her chair out to sit down, a cascade of perforated mini-cards slid to the floor onto her computer mat, with the penned names of most of her office mates. On her keyboard was a mini box of chocolates. Everyone in the office knew she was diabetic. She growled and pulled the wrapping off the box, and opened it. There were four filled chocolates inside. One of them leaked nuclear pink fluff. She sighed and tossed the box in the trash can, gathered up the cards and displayed them carefully around the desk so that the senders’ feelings weren’t hurt seeing those in the trash can too. The folded paper notes took up most of her work space. One note was from Donna. In her neat curly cursive it said, “7:00 tonight, my place. We’ll go from there. Leron’s got a friend. Javeed, he’s yours. Dress to the nines.” Terry put her head down on the keyboard and closed her eyes.

She was interrupted a moment later by her annoying neighbor, Kendall, in the next cubicle.

“Happy Valentines Day, Terry! You got a hot date tonight?” His snaggle-toothed grin appeared around the wall of her cubicle, while he teetered on the edge of his chair. “I do!”

“I think Freud would have something to say about that kind of relationship with your mom,” she replied, not in the mood.

“Oh, Haha. It’s not my mom! I’m just helping her out with the mortgage, that’s why I moved back! I told you already!” His fair face flushed pink. “Boy, you’re in a shitty mood. You get dumped?” he shot back.

Terry opened her mouth to reply and then noticed a motion behind his head, a tiny shape that flitted from view as she stared at it.

“What?” Kendall ran his hands over his greasy thinning brown hair. He looked down at his shirt for stains.

Terry realized she’d been staring with her mouth open. “Sorry, just thought I saw something behind you.

He swiveled around to look behind him, and then turned back to peck at Terry again.

“You’re a grump, you’re like the scrooge of Valentine’s Day. Have a chocolate! It’ll make you feel better.” He flipped her a chocolate coin,

The coin he threw her fell to the floor after bouncing off her shirt. “I’m diabetic, asshole.”

He popped one in his mouth. As his mouth closed on the chocolate, a finger of gray reached up from under his clothes and tried to snake between his lips, but withdrew as he bit down on the sweet morsel. “It’s okay, they’re sugar free. I remembered you.”

She blinked, astonished first, that he had thought of her, and second, that he clearly hadn’t noticed the creature that had just tried to enter his mouth. “Uh, thanks!”

She turned back to her screen and put her head back down. I’m losing my mind, I’m seeing things now. I gotta get back to work before the boss comes by too.

A minute later, a string of drool seeped from the corner of her mouth onto the gel pad as she slept.

It had been a year now, since George had been buried. She sprawled face-down in the queen-sized bed that she’d wrestled into the tiny room. It was one of the only things she hadn’t sold with the house. It smelled like him. Her arm lay across the dip on his side, worn down by his butt. She crawled into his spot, curled up, and cried.

When she looked up from the mattress, the sheet beneath her was covered in filth and blood, and looked like stone. She scrambled to her feet. A soldier stood beside her. Chains in his hands clinked as he finished removing them from her wrists. He addressed her in a desperate tone. “Can you help her? She will never find a husband to look after her if you don’t cure her.” She blinked at him, trying to get her bearings in the strange dream. She felt herself say, “Bring her to me. If it is the will of God, her sight and hearing will be restored.”

The soldier went around the dark corner behind them and pushed a mousy teenage girl forward. He guided her so she would not stumble. Her eyes stared before her. She didn’t acknowledge anything around her. But her pupils were wide and dark. The girl saw.

“Leave us, jailer. I must speak with her alone.”

The rough man nodded and left.

When the sound of his feet faded, Terry-in-this-other-body spoke quickly. “I know you see, girl. And I know you hear me. Why do you trouble your parents so with this false sickness?”

The girl scowled and said nothing, only stared ahead.

“Do you wish to stay in your father’s house forever? And what will become of you when he dies? How will you earn a living? If you remain ‘sick’ your father may yet find you a husband, but it will not be a man of quality. Is this the life you wish? Think on it, the next time he brings home a match.”

The girl frowned, and was silent. Her father’s footfalls began around the corner at the far end of the hall. She screwed her eyes shut and then opened them wide, looking around her. She yelled, “Father! Father, your prisoner’s god has given me my sight back, and I can hear you coming too! I am cured!” She ran to him and threw her arms around him as he rushed around the corner.

He stared wide-eyed at her, and then at Terry in the dream. “Valentine!” he exclaimed.  He stalked to her and put his hand on her neck and leaned to her ear, as he gazed toward the entrance. The roar of the crowd in the coliseum filtered in through the heavy iron and wooden doors. “I cannot save you from Claudius. But when the time comes, I will be quick, and I will see to your family, if you have any.”

The coliseum faded, and the voice of the jailer resolved into the voice of her boss, Thomas, as he stood in her cubicle. “Long night? I can’t really have you sleeping on your keyboard, so if you need to go home, just take a sick day.”

Her eyes flew open. “Oh crap, I’m so sorry, Thomas! I’ve just been having trouble sleeping.” She swiveled to face him, overshot in the spin and almost threw herself off the chair. And then she stared at him. There were a few gray blurry forms crawling on his cheeks. He just nodded, and walked to his office, calling over his shoulder, “Sick day is fine.” She kept staring after him. Before he got in, the department slut, Brenda, sauntered up to him, dressed head-to-toe in hearts and wearing a pink feathered tiara with red plastic heart rhinestones. She wore a red shirt that said ‘Mighty Aphrodite’ across the front. Terry wouldn’t have been surprised if the same words were plastered on her red pants across her ass. Dagmar Department Store’s own Holy Whore wrapped her arms around him and planted a loud sloppy kiss in the middle of his cheek.

Terry blinked and her mouth dropped open. As Aphrodite’s pink pearly lips left Thomas’s cheek, gray matter oozed from her lips and slid across his face to his mouth as Terry watched. The gray shapes. They came from the kisses. Did they only come from Venereal Girl, or was it anyone’s kiss? Then she shook her head and rubbed her face. This is insane. None of this is real. Kisses do not come to life as little gray life forms. I’m still dreaming. Oh, who cares! At least it’s something to think about other than the dreams. And well, good! Creepy things running around on V-Day. How damn appropriate. And not less creepy than some people on V-Day! She pointedly stared at  Brenda from around the corner.

As Thomas detached himself and walked into his office, she meandered after Brenda, waiting for the floozy to give her another opportunity to observe the kissy creatures. She only had to wait about three seconds until another co-worker encountered Brenda in the hall between the cubicles. Terry watched as Brenda plastered a wet one on the man’s cheek. As before, a gray amoebic shape seeped out from between their lips and oozed across the man’s face and probed around his mouth. She watched Brenda a couple more times before veering into another hallway toward the water fountain, to avoid looking like a voyeur.

As she sipped the water, a young man and woman, interns, wandered by to the snack machine. Gray shapes teemed across their faces and upper bodies, like moving plaques of mucus. She stared at their backs while water dribbled down her chin. If they were the embodiment of kisses, she was going to be celibate for the rest of her life. But what were they, and what were they doing? They seemed to be reaching toward people’s noses and mouths as though they would crawl inside. If so, what happened when they got there? She shook her head and returned to her desk.

***

At about one-thirty, just after the Oh-God-I-Ate-Too-Many-Carbs-For-Lunch hour, a commotion began on the other end of the floor. Terry heard a siren’s blare come closer and then die just downstairs. She saw flashing rotating lights reflecting off the ceiling and went to the window. An ambulance was parking outside. She wandered down the hall as EMTs came up.

She didn’t want to disturb them in their mission, so she asked a fellow gawker, “Do you know what’s going on?”

The woman shook her head, “Not really. Guy stopped breathing, I heard.”

“What, like a heart attack?”

She shrugged, her pale blue silk shirt shimmering with the motion. “I don’t know. I hope he’s okay.”

“Who was it?”

“Jim Fenton, from financial. Do you know him?” She spared a glance for Terry. “Finally, someone else not decked out in red or pink.”

Terry shook her head. “No, don’t know him. Kind of chunky, tall guy with the kinky red hair? I’ve passed him in the hall a lot. Hope he’s ok.”

“Me too. He’s got three kids! My husband went college with him a long time ago.”

Terry opened the door back into the cubicle jungle, and indicated the woman’s clothes, “By the way, welcome, fellow hater.”

As she passed Kendall’s desk, his Space Invaders screen saver was pinging, and the soft buzz of his snore fluttered past his nostrils. A soft finger of gray seeped into his open mouth. As she stared, horrified, the rest of the small mass followed and disappeared into his mouth. She thought about shaking him awake. Even if this weren’t strange and wrong, the boss could walk by, and as irritating as Kendall was, he’d done that favor for her enough times.

But she stood, transfixed. Nothing more happened for a few moments. But then his chest started hitching, as if he were having trouble breathing. His brow creased, and his eyes flew open as he clutched his throat and began coughing. He whooped and sucked air as though he’d been choking.

Terry grabbed his water bottle and handed it to him. “Kendall! Are you all right? What the hell was that?”

He shook his head, his hands trembling as he took a frantic swig and then gulped more air. “I think maybe my sleep apnea’s gotten worse. It’s never gotten me like that during a nap though.” His eyes betrayed fear.

“I thought sleep apnea was only when you’re lying down?”

“Guess not.”

She stared at him while he downed the rest of the bottle.

“I gotta get back to work. Thanks, Terry.”

“For what?”

“Being there.”

“Uh.” She backed around the corner into her cubicle and just sat for a minute. She shivered and rubbed her arms. A freezing chill slid down her spine as she thought of the gray shape slipping between his teeth. It had been the kiss. She knew that as certainly as she knew that Jim Fenton hadn’t stopped breathing because of a heart attack. She stood and peered over the sea of cubicles. Some of them clicked with the sound of keyboards, or rustled with papers moving. But what about the ones that were silent? How many innocent after-lunch snoozes would turn into the quiet choking she had just seen?

This is the curse, my curse. She sat down. It’s real. What the hell do I do? How can I tell people that they’re being choked by kisses?

She rolled her chair to the edge of the wall and poked her head around. “Hey, Kendall!”

Kendall looked at her, a swizzle-stick poking from his mouth.

“I know this is going to sound weird, but don’t let anyone kiss you, got it?”

“Right. Hot date, remember?”

“Tell her you’re a gentleman, pretend. That hot date will turn into many hot dates, trust me. It’s the new thing, for men to be chaste for the first few dates.”

He squinted at her. “Yeah, what makes you think that it’s supposed to be more than a fling?”

Terry looked him up and down and raised her eyebrows. “Do you ever want to move out of your mama’s house?”

“Ouch.”

“Listen to what I’m telling you then.”

He rolled his eyes and sighed.

“And Kendall? Be careful. Don’t fall asleep again with your mouth open.”

“I get it. I snore.”

“Damn right. Women hate that.”

She rose again, and went all the way out to her car. She got in, though no one was in the lot to see her talking to something invisible. “Whatever the hell you are, call off the curse. I never meant for people to get killed. I don’t want people to die. Call it off!”

A breath of air blew her hair, and a figure appeared in her rear view mirror on the back seat. She whirled around. A man sat. His neck dripped with blood, though his head remained on his shoulders. It was the man from her dream.

“Valentine. You’re Saint Valentine, aren’t you? You were killed by Rome for marrying people in the first church. I heard of you.”

His hollow dark eyes drilled into her. “No. I am merely a Christian. I did not refuse my God at Claudius’ feet, or show loyalty to the Roman gods. Some people thought I could heal them.”

“Did you?”

“Perhaps I healed some people of foolishness, or anger, or other kinds of pain than that of disease. The disease of the soul.”

“Why did you come to me? Will you take back the curse?”

“I cannot. Only you can.”

“I don’t know how!”

A sharp rap at the window jolted Terry around to stare out of her driver side window. Donna stood there.

She cupped her hands and peered in. “Hey Girl, what are you doing?”

Terry turned back around. The back seat was empty. Damn!

She opened the car door. Donna backed up and let her out.

“Donna, listen. You have to help me. I screwed up. You’re not going to believe this, but I think I started something really bad, and it’s going to get a lot worse before the day is over.”

Donna’s eyes widened. “What are you talking about?”

“I…I made some kind of a curse, a Valentine’s Day curse. I was really pissed, and thinking about George, and I think I called something here that isn’t supposed to be here. Well, I know this sounds crazy, but kisses have been coming to life, and choking people when they fall asleep!”

Donna’s black eyes stared at her, flat. “Okay, girlfriend. I think you better check up on that medication of yours.”

“No! The guy in my apartment last night was a ghost, a really old one. It was Valentine, the Roman Christian saint guy. He said I summoned him with the curse. What do I need to do to get you to believe me?”

“I’m not sure. Are you listening to yourself?”

“Kendall, he almost choked while I watched him. I saw what slid into his mouth! You can ask him about the choking at least.”

“That oily guy next to you…choked on kisses. Whose kisses, Miss Thing? He lives with his momma.”

“Hers! I saw Brenda kiss Thomas and this gray thing came out of her mouth when she did it. And the same kind of thing crawled into Kendall’s mouth when he choked.”

Donna sighed and leaned back against the car behind her. “You nuts, woman. But I think, I guess it’s possible. My crazy grandma would believe you anyway. She always believed in weird things down in that Florida swamp.”

“What does she believe?”

“That thoughts you speak can come to life. If you speak bad thoughts, bad wishes, you make ’em real. That’s sorcery.”

“I didn’t mean it. How do I take it back?”

Donna shrugged. “I didn’t talk with her much about that stuff.”

Terry sagged against her own car.

“You really think you made a curse, huh? Okay, well, what you want me to do?”

“You believe me? You’ll help me?” Terry gazed at her.

“I believe that you believe, and I guess anything you come up with isn’t much crazier than she used to have me do. But I ain’t slitting the neck of no chickens!”

“Do I need chickens?”

“What do I look like, a voodoo priestess? How the hell should I know?”

“Well, can you think of anything your grandma used to do?”

Donna sighed, “You owe me for this, girl. I’ll get some info from her. But I got to call her, crazy bat! That’s why you owe me! I’ll come to your house after work.”

***

Terry spent the rest of the day roaming the cubicle halls and socializing wherever she saw a drowsy person. She generally made a pain in the ass of herself asking inane questions and speaking loudly to jar everyone out of any chance of sleepiness. She introduced herself formally to about ten different people in other sections. Since she was a classic introvert, it was exhausting. But there were no more calls to 911 that afternoon.

A half hour before quitting time, Thomas strode to her cubicle, just before she zipped off on another round of Wake Up.

“Oh, nice to see you at your desk. Decided to do a little work today?” he cleared his throat.

His face and head were swarming with kisses. Either Brenda or some other employee had been very busy, or he was having an affair. None of my business! She reminded herself. “You don’t have to be snide. I’m just trying a new program.”

He leaned against her wall and crossed his arms, and then almost toppled onto the floor as the flimsy wall moved back from his weight. “New program?”

“After Jim Fenton had his incident earlier, it occurred to me that not enough of us know each other. So I was introducing myself. Business might flow better if we all knew each other. You know, synergy.”

He stared at her. She tried to keep her attention focused on his eyes and not on the gray moving blobs. “Nice buzz word. Are you on something? You seem to be having trouble concentrating.”

“Nope.”

“You’ll have to work on Saturday to make up for the time you spent on your new program.”

“Okay. Give your wife a big smooch for me. Happy Valentine’s Day!” Dickhead!

He turned around and headed back to his office with a wave.

***

On the way home, the radio news reported that there were strange incidents of respiratory failure during sleep, throughout Phoenix. Especially affected had been hospitals, day care centers, kindergartens during the nap periods, and adult day cares. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health had been notified and engaged in the investigation. The public service message urged anyone with sleep apnea or other sleep disturbances or disorders, to call the health hotline.

As she passed pedestrians, or stopped at lighst and peered into other cars, the kisses teemed everywhere. They crawled through people’s hair, probed gray wisps of matter into people’s ears, and danced tentatively around people’s noses, and mouths as they spoke or inhaled. One afflicted man sitting on a bus bench, scattered kisses across the pavement and garbage can near him, as he sneezed. But they swiftly slithered back to congregate around the holes in his face, shadows waiting for an unguarded moment to sneak in.

Donna waited in the parking lot of her complex when she pulled up. Her face was clear of the creatures.

Terry asked through the window, as she parked the car, “Why don’t you have any kisses on your face? Mostly everyone else does.”

Donna’s eyebrows rose in surprise, then she recovered. “Because I don’t want no one else’s nasty-ass mouth all over me, unless they plannin’ on going all the way. And then you better give me a nice dinner and chocolate! Otherwise, stay the hell away from me and keep those germy lips to yourself. I don’t know where they been.” She stared at Terry. “You really can see that shit, huh?”

“Yup. So do we have everything we need?”

“Yeah, everything that you’d want to do in an apartment with a deposit, anyway.”

They went up to the apartment. Terry closed the door behind Donna and followed her into the center of the living room.

Donna she pulled out pink valentine cards from her red leather handbag and pinned them around the walls of the room. In the blank center spaces of the cards, she drew a symbol with the strawberry stinky marker Terry had seen on the whiteboard at work. The symbol was an elaborate crowned heart with a staff and curlicues coming from the sides.

“Oh V-Day cards, really? Come on!”

“Shut up and let me work!”

Once Donna was done with her drawing, she pulled three silver rings off her fingers and gave them to Terry. “Put those on. But I get those back after, bitch, those are mine! And go get a piece of your jewelry that’s nice.”

Terry went and got a bracelet that George had gotten her.

Then she laid a pink cloth in front of the television. On it she put a couple of packages of Little Debbies, unwrapped.

“God, those things are everywhere,” Terry moaned.

Donna gave her an irritated look and pulled a long bottle of Irish Cream out of her bag, laid Terry’s bracelet on the cloth next to the cakes, and poured the cream on the cakes. Finally, at the head of the cloth, she laid a picture of a Madonna.

“What is all this?’

Donna nodded to all the symbols. “Grandma says you might have offended Erzulie. You’re just pissin everyone off today. She’s sort of like our version of a love saint. You’re a lot like her, actually.”

“No, I’m not. I’m the opposite of a love spirit, I hate this shit.”

“Yeah, but Erzulie is said to never get her heart’s desire: love and regret. You two will get along just fine.”

“Bite me!”

“You want my help or not! I should be gettin’ ready for my date, but I called that fine African man and put off my own shit, for you.”

“You’re right. Sorry. What now?”

“Well, I ain’t no voodoo priestess, so don’t expect results. Maybe you should ask Erzulie for help. And no whinin’. It’s called prayin’ respectfully. How long’s it been since you prayed?”

Terry thought for a second. “Long time. Every time I pray, I’m in my own head, someplace I really don’t want to be anymore. I just…went round and round.” She sighed, kneeled and gazed at the picture of the Madonna.  Her face must have betrayed her dismay.

Donna interrupted, her voice gentle now, “Well, now there are other things in there with you, so you ain’t alone. Look, I know you had a rough time. Maybe this is what you need anyway. Just focus on what you want. What you want most? What’s in your heart?”

A tear slid down Terry’s face. “I want George to be alive.”

“Ain’t nobody but Jesus can help you with that, girl. Not until the end time. What do you want that somebody listenin’ can give you?”

“I don’t know.” She looked at the picture of Erzulie/Madonna. Tears streamed down her face now. She closed her eyes.

“Yes, you do.”

A scent of delicate perfume wafted through the room. It smelled familiar, but she didn’t think she had smelled it in a long time. Her own voice sounded strange, as though it came from a long way away. And the tone was different, a husky contralto that came out once when she had met George and was three sheets past the wind. “I wanted to say goodbye.”

The last evening light in the city faded into night. As dark fell, emergency response sirens blared to life in multiple places in the city. Terry didn’t hear them.

Valentine stood in the dim hospital room. The florescent light from the medical displays cast a washed-out light across his ghastly figure, making him look even more corpse-like. Next to him lay George, unmoving and white against the sheets. His flaxen hair silky against the pillow. “Why do you keep showing me this?” she screamed at the gory phantom.

“You wanted to say goodbye.”

“Not like this, he can’t hear me!”

“Not if you don’t talk.”

She sunk down to her haunches by the bed, sobbing. Then she slowly rose and stared into his face. His eyes were closed, and his face unlined by everyday cares, the cares of normal life. She wiped her face, leaned over and kissed his cheek, not caring what weird creatures came out of it. “I love you. I miss you.”

Something was behind her. She whirled around. It was George. He was smiling and his blue eyes were as mischevious as ever. Her jaw dropped open, and she swiveled back to the bed. The figure on the bed was gone.

“What—How did you…Oh God, George!”

He grinned. “Hi.”

“Are you real?”

“Real enough.”

“Are you in Heaven?”

“No, I’m here with you.”

“You know what I mean!”

“I know. There’s not much time, Babe. Only a moment.”

She put her hands on either side of his face and kissed him deeply on the lips. He kissed her back, and then pulled away, his eyes sad. “I’m sorry I had to leave. I have to go again. But I love you too, always will.”

She swallowed hard. “I know. See you next time around, maybe?”

He faded into the darkness, and his teeth flashed in a wide smile. “I’d chase your ass through the universe.”

The room was empty, except for the dark solemn figure in the corner.

“What about the curse? What do I do about that?”

“You lifted it.” Valentine said as the wall became visible through him. “Thank you.” Then he too was gone.

The room was dark, and Donna sat next to Terry, shaking her head. “Do you want me to get you some insulin or something?”

Terry felt something moist. She looked down on a pile of sticky crumbs in her lap. She’d eaten all the cakes covered in liquor. The bracelet twinkled on her wrist. She held her picture of George in her hands. “What the fuck?”

“Do you remember anything? Grandma says that when people are ridden, they don’t remember it. Erzulie likes sweets.”

“Well, I remember everything. Besides manging on enough sugar for a year, did I do anything weird?”

“You had a conversation. It sounded like there were a couple people in the room, and one of ’em was George. For a second it looked like there was a couple people in the room too, scared the shit out of me. One of them was right next to you. I almost grabbed a knife from the kitchen, but one, I was too scared to move, and two, for a second, it looked like it might be George, and I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“Thanks.”

“So, is the craziness over now? No more kisses running around killin’ people? Can we get on with our lives?”

Terry nodded. “I think so.”

“Good, maybe we can still catch a V-Day burger at the diner. You coming?”

Terry shook her head.

“Oh no, Miss Thing, you are not gonna start that moping again. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place!”

“No. I’m not. I’m okay now. I just need to clean up.”

“All right, well, you meet us there then?” Donna grabbed the bottle of Irish Cream, stashed it back in her bag, pulled the rings off Terry’s fingers, and propped open the front door.

Terry nodded. “Give me an hour.”

Donna tapped her nails on the lintel and left. Terry returned to the altar, picked up the picture of George and sat for a while, smiling.

***

The diner was bright with florescent 50s colors as Terry found the table and sat down in the booth with Donna and Leron, and a tall muscular man. He spoke with an African accent that rolled off his tongue like music.

“I’m Javeed.” He extended his hand, politely.

“I’m Terry. Wow, Donna was right. You’re really hot.”

He grinned. “And you are also as lovely as she said.” His smile had a mischevious glint that reminded her of George.

End

Comment and link to your page if you have a VD story you want to share!

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New Releases! Awesome Summer Reading Material!

Posted in book reviews, indie, urban fantasy, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2013 by rachelcoles

YA_Indie_CarnivalHi fellow indies!

Been gone for a little while, but now I’m back with more fun reading recommendations, from a few of our very cool YA Indie Carnival authors, Heather Sutherlin, Cindy Bennett, and Jeffrey Moore!

Check out Wandering! I love even the name. Author Heather Sutherlin transports you to another world rich with vivid images and even recollections of song, reminding me of nostalgia, of getting a whiff of scent during spring, or remembering a snatch of melody that instantly drops me full-force into a memory. Her images evoke visceral reactions, which make her writing very engaging.

Here’s a teaser synopsis and excerpt:

Wandering front only

When you’ve travelled between worlds, there’s nowhere left to go but home.

Rory has never been so cold in her life. But the biting wind only reminds her of another pain that grows more intense with each passing day. Each night Jaron’s beautiful voice sings in her dreams, and each day her footsteps draw her closer to his side. Danger and intrigue at every turn, no distance is too far when you’re returning for true love.

 

Rin has spent the last five years searching for Rory across two worlds. Now a series of visions have him convinced he’s growing closer to finding her. But when Rory slips through another portal, taking his visions with her, he finds himself back at square one. To find her now he’ll need the help of an old friend and a little otherworldly magic.  This time he intends to bring The Wanderer home for good.

Wandering

Available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iTunes

June 25th, 2013

 

Links for purchase:

Amazon

Nook

iTunes

 

An Excerpt from Wandering:

 

Sometimes I think I’ve seen her face more times than my own.

 

Tonight she stands on top of a snow- covered mountain with the wind in her hair.  Her eyes crinkle at the corners as she squints into the distance. She shifts her stance, leaning, her body reaching forward and I can almost feel the racing of her heart as the wind billows around her, lifting her cloak and whipping her hair into her eyes. It reminds her of something she once felt, something powerful.  Blood pounds in my ears and for a moment we are connected, The Wanderer and I. Her pain, her longing, they choke me. She holds her breath as the wind grows stronger. It pushes against her so that her footing slips. I want to shout to her, warn her that she might fall, but I can almost hear her thoughts. She hopes it will carry her away. To bring her back.

 

The wind whips around her, swirling ice and snow at her feet and she begins to cry. Her tears freeze as they slide down her cheeks.  She doesn’t cry from fear or pain.  Not even the bitter, endless cold could cause her tears.  No, she cries because it is only the wind.

 

***

 I woke up, panting, covered in sweat.  Turning over, I clenched my eyes shut in a desperate attempt to bring the images back into focus.

 

“It’s no use,” I groaned.  I knew it wouldn’t work.  It never did.  She was gone.  That one little glimpse was all I would get –for now.

 

The visions began the very day we returned home from Rutahn, the world beyond the portal. I fell asleep on my aunt’s couch and probably hadn’t even started snoring when her face filled my mind. She was lying in the corner of a little hut, bundled in blankets and furs. I remember how she shivered, like she was trying to shake off her own skin. Her cheeks were flushed a bright red and she gasped for air, tossing in her makeshift little bed. An arm with skin the color of caramel reached toward her and wiped her face with a wet cloth. That’s when I realized she was sick. I woke up in a panic, my heart racing. I had fallen asleep afraid she might be dead and now instead of feeling relieved that she was alive, I was more afraid than ever. We still didn’t know where Rory was, but now I knew she was very sick. I worried incessantly about her after that. I dreamed of her nearly every night, gathering bits and pieces of information, clues as to where she might be.  After that, the dreams gradually increased in frequency, and then grew more intense.  Now, instead of just seeing Rory, I could feel a little of her thoughts, her emotions.  Most of the time it was a relief.  I saw her safe. I watched her grow strong again. I even saw her smile once or twice.

 

Then, there were nights like this one.  Nights where I could sense her terror, her despair, the aching loneliness or desperate longing for those she had lost. I would lie there helpless, watching her cry deep, heart wrenching sobs and I would wake up with my pillow wet, my face covered in sympathetic tears. Those were the nights that weighed on me.  Visions like this one often forced me out of bed and back into my research. It was impossible to sleep knowing she was out there somewhere in pain and longing to find a way home. That’s why I keep searching. For five endless years I’ve searched and I’ll keep searching until I find her and bring the Wanderer home.

Wandering is the sequel to Seen by Heather Sutherlin.

 

Another terrific book for your summer reading list is Whispers of Razari by authors Cindy Bennett and Jeffrey Moore!  So, I’m a sucker for stories that explore the ‘final frontier’, death. And this book dives right in and buries you, so you don’t want to put the book down and dig yourself back into the regular boring world. Another teaser…because I’m evil:

THUMBNAIL_IMAGE

Blurb:

When sixteen year old Olivia Adams wakes from a horrible car accident that killed her parents, she knows she’s something different. Olivia died, and now the soul inhabiting her body needs to find out who – and what – she is. A glimpse of a world called Razari burning is the only clue to her previous existence—a tragic memory, sparking events that endanger the people helping her.

 

Jacobi McKenzie has lived in Crescent, Montana for more years than he can remember, even though he’s only seventeen. He’s been waiting, but for what he isn’t sure. Jacobi recognizes Olivia for what she is before she’s even aware of it herself and the effect she has on him threatens to expose his true identity–a thing he’s worked hard to conceal.

 

They come together in an explosion of emotion that neither of them is supposed to feel. As Jacobi fights for Olivia’s life, protecting her from those who would use her for their own selfish purposes, together they unravel the mystery surrounding the destruction of their race.

 

Sales links:

https://www.createspace.com/4337730

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/329991 ISBN 9781301306619

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DMTGT24

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940016799902

 

Excerpt:

 

The smell of blood, iodine, peppermint, and ammonia blending with sweat is my first sense of awareness. These are scents I recognize. A dozen other foreign smells seem to be a mix of different elements. If I could concentrate and study the odors, I’m certain I’d be able to break them down into their base elements, but the noise is too distracting. I’m not as good with sound as I am with smell. I can make out several distinct voices and artificial sounds that are probably machines. If I could open my eyes, I’d be able to connect the noises with the smells. I think my eyes are fastened shut.

 

Slowly, I begin to explore the body of the host I’m in. I come upon damaged areas that cause intense pain and I quickly retreat from these areas. The body is broken in several places. I sense voices come from those repairing the host body. A name comes to me: Olivia. With effort, I crack open my eyes. Gauzy images of people work on me. A tall man has his hands in Olivia’s body and he speaks softly, as if afraid of startling anyone. I retreat and turn to exploring Olivia’s memories.

 

Reliving Olivia’s life from her earliest memory is instinctual for me. I think I’ve existed for a long time. Parasite. I find the word while searching through Olivia’s memories—a parasite is what these people would think of me if they knew what I was. But a parasite by definition lives in or on a host and steals everything, giving nothing in return. I’m not really like that. I entered Olivia shortly after her soul departed. Her body’s not the ideal place for me to be, being only sixteen earth years old and badly broken, but I was drawn to her. What made me choose her? I can’t remember. Typically I acquire a host much younger and definitely less broken—at least, that feels like the thing I’d do.

 

As I’m learning about Olivia, her culture, and the society in which she lives, it sparks the knowledge that I don’t remember where I came from. I know I’m not human, and I know what I need to do to exist in Olivia, but why I’m here eludes me. With that comes the idea that my kind only moves to a different world as a last resort, so I figure something terrible must have happened not only to me—or actually my former host—but the world from which I came.

Cindy C Bennett

 

Bennett is the YA author of several books. She lives in Utah with her husband and two daughters. Both of her sons have married, giving her two more daughters (in-law). She loves gooey cookies, dark chocolate, and cheese popcorn. She hates housework and cooking, and has no plans to become a domestic goddess. She occasionally co-hosts a geek podcast with her son, called Geek Revolution Radio. Her favorite pastime is riding her Harley.

 

Find more about Cindy at www.cindycbennett.com

Geek Revolution Radio www.geekrevolutionradio.com

 

Jeffery Moore

 

Moore was born in Germany. As a military brat, much of his childhood was spent abroad, growing up in Germany on military installations. He subsequently enlisted in the military and served for ten years as an army pilot. While in the military, he lived in Italy and South Korea and deployed to many European countries. He has traveled to Australia, Japan, Singapore and most European countries. His experiences and contact with many different cultures helps form some of the elements in his stories. He currently works for a global IT company and lives in Massachusetts.

 

Find more about Jeffery and his work at www.jefferyemoore.com

 

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy 16. Melika Dannese Lux, author of Corcitura and City of Lights
17. Author Cindy C Bennett

See what other authors from the YA Indie Carnival are doing this summer!

 

YA Indie Carnival: Book Length

Posted in book reviews, indie, publishing, romance fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , on June 3, 2013 by rachelcoles

Hi fellow indie writers and readers!

Had an exciting weekend! It was the Denver Comic Con weekend, and we dressed up! Got to show off the costumes we’ve been working on for months. My husband and I went as Stilgar and Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim. PUT YOUR RIGHT HAND IN THE BOX! THERE’S BACON IN THE BOX! RESIST THE BACON! No, there wasn’t any bacon in the box, but you need to adjust the motivation for your current applicants to the Sisterhood.

295664_10201150679831196_1255722956_n

And our daughter, the cutest…I mean scariest weeping angel! I have discovered that while you can’t blink, if you put on iCarly, you can distract this one. But make sure not to leave out spaghetti or chocolate milk. It attracts weeping angels.

944348_10201153230254955_1394871498_n

Now that the insanity of Comicon is over, today’s topic is book length! How long should your book be?

The short answer for me is: However long it needs to be to feel done.

I don’t know how long books are supposed to be. I’ve read books that were very short that were page-turners that were amazing and left me satisfied. I’ve read books that were like War and Peace length that felt like they breezed past because they were so well written. And I sometimes feel as though long series with complicated arcs are like that. They don’t seem like separate books. Perhaps they are only separate for the sake of physical publishing limitations, but it is really a seamless story from one book to the next: such as with the Hyperion series by Dan Simmons. Some ideas are so sweeping, they need a lot of space to tell. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve read, or tried to read books that felt like I was reading a library after only a few pages. They filled up my attention span with three pages of description about the main character’s baroque button on his velvet shirt against his well-sculpted chest.  For that kind of detail or attention to the characters’ appearances, I have porn.

How well the story is told is, to me, more important than its length, knowing how long it needs to be to really tell the story fully without being repetitive or getting lost in the weeds. That’s not easy to do. I just kind of wing it. I’ve had both situations happen to me in writing where I started off spare, and then realized when I was almost done that a character thread was missing, or I hadn’t given enough detail or backstory. So I go back and add whatever I feel is missing. On the other hand, everyone falls prey to repetition, so I’ve also written pages and pages, then gone back and realized that what I was trying to say could be said in a couple paragraphs rather than three pages. Or I’ve realized that the bit that I was putting in, while interesting to me in terms of the character’s backstory, was slowing down the rest of the flow, and wasn’t really necessary to move the plot.

I think the best advice I’ve gotten about length is: Write the book. Don’t even think about the length unless you are going to submit to somewhere that has a limit and needs to fall between a range of words. And then, go back and see if the length needs to be dealt with in editing, or not. Read through it and decide whether it tells the story you want it to tell. That will let you know if you need to add or take away.

But see what the other indies have to say at the websites below!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy 16. Melika Dannese Lux, author of Corcitura and City of Lights

And here’s what’s new at the YA Author Club!

New Book Release: Bait by K.C. Blake, and Author Spotlight: Heather Sutherlin

Posted in book reviews, indie, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , on May 29, 2013 by rachelcoles

Hi all,

Been absent for a while, frenziedly doing the yardwork for spring now that the snow is finally gone, and simultaneously trying to get our costumes ready for Comicon next weekend. Where the hell did the time go? I am going as Benegesserit Reverend Mother Helen Mohaim from Dune. My husband is going as a Fremen. And our daughter is going as a Weeping Angel from Dr. Who. We have to make all of the costumes, mostly from scratch. My husband’s is the most complicated, a still suit. But the Reverend Mother’s turned out to be more complicated than I thought with the little headpiece thingee. And we’ve been working on making our daughter’s dress and wings to look like stone. She’ll be the cutest…I mean scariest Weeping Angel ever.  But now, I have an exciting action-packed post today! We have two features, a new book release by K.C. Blake for her new novel Bait! Very exciting! And we have an author spotlight for another page-turner fantasy author: Heather Sutherlin!

NEW BOOK RELEASE!

BAIT

Bait (Order of the Spirit Realm #1) by K.C. Blake

Ghosts, a reaper, and a rock star.

At sixteen Bay-Lee is not your typical girl. She doesn’t even try to fit in at school. What’s the point when she’ll be moving to a new place within a few months?

She’s lived her whole life on the run, hiding from monsters.

Then a reaper uses her closet to cross over from the Spirit Realm. It has a message for her. Just when she’s about to join her father at his school for hunters she finds out they are dying on their birthdays. Something is killing them, slipping past locked doors, never leaving a trace of evidence, and her birthday is only two months away.

Becoming a hunter isn’t exactly her dream come true. She’s doing it for her mother, for revenge, for justice. Nothing is going to get in her way, least of all love. Then she looks up into a pair of jungle green eyes and everything changes.

Author Bio:

Born and raised in sunny California, K.C. Blake fell in love with books at a young age and decided to pursue writing as a career.  Her favorite authors include Stephen King, John Saul, Cassandra Clare, J.K. Rowling, and Carrie Jones.  In her spare time she enjoys shopping (and when I say shopping I mean go to the mall early in the day, eat lunch, and then keep going until you don’t have any strength left), reading great books, taking care of animals (she lives on a farm), and searching for creative ideas to improve her home.  A former writer for Harlequin, she now publishes her books her way and loves every second of it.  Okay, she’s a bit of a control freak.

Bait links:

Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CJ182E4

Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00CJ182E4

B&N link:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bait-kc-blake/1115218705?ean=2940044497689

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/252449

(also available in print)

K.C. Blake‘s Social Links:

Blog:  http://kasi-kcblake.blogspot.com

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4809417.K_C_Blake

Goodreads Book Club Discussion on Bait:  http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/102756-order-of-the-spirit-realm

Facebook Fan Page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/K-C-Blakes-Author-Page/246146215412824

Twitter:  @kasiblake

Oooh! I love stories about ghosts and reapers. This very promising novel is on top of my list for summer! K.C. Blake is an intricate fantasy writer that draws people into the story with quirky twists that really rocket you into the story and kick around in your brain after you put the book down. I have my Kindle charged and ready!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT OF THE WEEK!

All About Heather Sutherlin:

Here are some cool dates from her timeline.

1999 – B.A. in Elementary Education from Harding University

2011 – 1st Place White County Creative Writers’ Conference First Chapter Contest
2012 – Debut novel, A Light in the Darkness, is released along with its sequel, To Light the Path.
2013 – Seen and Wandering, two books in a new YA fantasy series, will be released in the spring.
President – Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas
Featured Author – Arkansas Literary Festival

Something that I didn’t know about Heather is that she got her degree in teaching. I cannot think of a better elementary school teacher to have than one who writes fun and exciting books. While I love my daughter’s teachers, I think it would be great to be able to have Heather to come in and talk to kids about literacy and writing. Too bad she lives in Arkansas instead of Denver. Maybe if we could set up an internet feed into the school classroom…

Other neat things about Heather:

Heather Sutherlin lives in Arkansas with her husband and three children. She is the author of A Light In The Darkness and Seen  both fantasy adventures for young adults. She loves all things creative and enjoys the worlds she dreams up, longing to live the adventure alongside her characters. When she’s not at her writing desk, she is busy exploring and learning with her children or cooking big, elaborate meals in the kitchen with her husband.

You can see more of Heather at her website, HeatherSutherlin.com

Or, email her at HSutherlin@gmail.com

See behind the scenes of her indie life by following her on Facebook.

You can also follow Heather on Twitter and see what inspires her on Pinterest.

Ok, I really need to learn to use Pinterest.

Books by Heather Sutherlin:

Light

A Light In The Darkness

Merrilyn’s life is quiet and predictable. An apprentice to the royal healer, she spends her days helping in the village or up to mischief with her best friend who happens to be the handsome younger son of the king. But when a mysterious archer shows up in the forest and shoots their escort, Merrilyn’s life is forever changed. Caught in a battle between two forgotten gods, she must embrace her destiny and fight the very powers of darkness before it’s too late.

LighPath

To Light The Path

Prince Jarrod and his men have been missing for months and still Merrilyn has no idea where they are hidden. Now the king of Zinder is missing, too, and his children seem to think Merrilyn’s the key to finding him. Along with Aiden and Prince Justan, she travels to Zinder looking for clues in the king’s journals. When a mysterious man begins whispering in her dreams, tempting her to reconsider all that she believes, she must face both her fears and her desires. Merrilyn may be a light in the darkness, but she’ll have to trust Loian to light their path as they travel through foreign lands and face new enemies in their search for the missing men.

Seen_Front_Cover_copy

Seen

Rory has no idea what’s going on in the woods behind her house, but it’s driving her crazy. On the last day of her senior year she finds herself caught up once again in the curious happenings of the forest and walks away without any of the answers she was hoping to find. To make matters worse, she is sent to visit a sick neighbor and instead finds the hottest guy she’s ever seen. When she discovers his brother’s incredible secret she falls further into her own chaos and into a fate she never could have imagined.

Jaron is just counting the days until the summer is over and he can get back to his real life. Stuck with his little brother on a tiny farm in rural Oklahoma is not exactly his idea of fun. But when Rory shows up on his doorstep with an armload of pie, he knows his summer has just taken a sharp turn into new territory. He never expected the adventure they would discover next or the quest that would change their lives forever.

I look forward to these page turners as the days get longer and the weather gets nicer, and I finally have a couple evenings to sit lazily on the front patio. Check out Heather and her novels this summer!

To see what our other YA Indie Carnival Authors are up to visit their websites:

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy 16. Melika Dannese Lux, author of Corcitura and City of Lights

And What’s New at the Author Club?

YA Indie Carnival–Author Spotlight: KC Blake

Posted in book reviews, horror, indie, publishing, romance fantasy, urban fantasy, vampires, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , on April 1, 2013 by rachelcoles

YA_Indie_Carnival

Hi, fellow YA indie-lovers! I’m back from Puerto Rico, salty (Ahhh ocean air, I’m from dry Colorado), spinier (Poor sea urchin I accidentally stepped on, clumsy people should not wander around reefs in water shoes), and probably several pounds heavier for all the awesome food we sampled.

Today we have a treat, an up-and-coming YA author with some exciting novels: KC Blake! Her novels are fast-paced with strong, adventurous female characters, and a playful sense of supernatural.

 

Author Bio:   K.C. Blake is a ninja on the keyboard.  When she is locked away in her office, pounding out another story, no one dares disturb her.  She probably wouldn’t hear them anyway.  They don’t get it.  They think she’s in her office, but she’s lost in another world.  Sometimes she is fighting vampires or hunting ghosts.  Sometimes she is running with a werewolf pack or falling in love with a misunderstood creature.  Her books appeal to lovers of the paranormal.  Whether you are twelve or fifty, you will fall in love with her stories.

 

KCBlake

 

Website: http://kasi-kcblake.blogspot.com

Twitter: @kasiblake

Vampires Rule Fan Page:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vampires-Rule/184193604955442

K.C. Blake Fan Page:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/K-C-Blakes-Author-Page/246146215412824

Goodreads Page:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4809417.K_C_Blake

 

Interview:

 

1) What is your all-time favorite book and why?

City of Bones.  I love the way Cassandra Clare writes, so visual that I can see it, and I love her awesome characters.

 

2) Is there an author you could be compared to or popular fictional characters your book’s characters could relate to and why?

I don’t think my characters are like any other characters I’ve read about.  My writing is my own.  I’ve been told I have a unique voice, a unique way of writing.  Some people love it and some of don’t.

 

3) Can you give us your favorite quote from one of your books and explain it?

This is a hard one. I can’t think of one off the top of my head, so I will use one that people have put on Goodreads as their favorite.  It is from Vampires Rule.

 

“Stop!” she screamed. “Don’t hurt him.”

“Back off!” Billy shouted.

She yanked harder on Billy’s arm.

“He isn’t a vampire anymore, idiot. Look! Do you see that big, yellow thing up in the sky? That’s called the sun. It’s shining down on him, and he isn’t exploding. His fangs are gone. He’s as human as we are. Case closed.”

Billy stared up at the sky, his jaw slack. “Not possible.”

Jack mumbled, “They don’t call me Jackpot for nothing.”

“What?” Billy blinked at him.

“Private joke.”

 

I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.  Jack was a vampire and now he’s not, and his brother just found out.

 

4) What types of things/people/music inspires you and makes you want to keep writing?

There isn’t any certain thing that inspires me.  Once in a while a movie or book will speak to me.  Sometimes a person I know will say something that sends me into a ‘what if’ daydream.  As for music, I love listening to songs while I write.  What I listen to depends on what sort of scene I’m writing.  I need a song that captures the emotions of the scene.  Then I can picture it in my head, and I’ll listen to that song a hundred times if I have to in order to finish what I’m working on.

 

5) Describe your typical writing day or week.

Within five minutes of waking I am thinking about whatever book I’m working on.  I might listen to music and daydream about it for a while, or I might jot down some notes.  Usually I spend time on-line before pulling my book up on the computer.  I check email, do some research, and play games (lol) before starting to work.  Then I work on and off all day until I get a chapter finished or am too tired to keep going.  I take breaks quite often.  If I don’t, my eyes and head hurt so bad the next day that I can’t work at all.

 

6) Is there a food or drink do you have to have when you’re writing?

No.  Eating and or drinking distracts me from the writing.  If anything, once in a while I will have some chocolate, something I can just pop into my mouth.  I’ll use it as a reward.  I get one after I finish a certain amount of pages.

 

7) Can you tell us what you’re working on right now (& possibly provide an excerpt & cover)?

I am editing a book called Bait, the first in a new series.  Here is the blurb for it:

 

At sixteen, Bay-Lee Bishop is not your typical girl.  The last thing she wants is to be popular, but flying below the radar isn’t easy when you’re the tallest girl in the eleventh grade.  She works hard to keep a steady C point average, never raises her hand in class, and avoids extra-curricular activity of any kind.  The other students would be stunned to learn she’s living under an alias as she and her uncle move from town to town, just barely staying a step ahead of the monsters hunting her just because she’s Van Helsing’s daughter.

 

Life is weird.  Then it gets worse.  A reaper uses her closet to cross over with a dire warning the day before she’s whisked away to her new school.  This time it’s the school she was always meant to attend, a school that trains hunters.

 

This is what she’s been waiting for her whole life, only it isn’t anything like she imagined. The other students hate her, something evil is killing hunters, and her mentor refuses to give her the slightest bit of help.  Determined to make her father proud, Bay-Lee focuses on her training.  Nothing is going to distract her.  Not border monsters or wraiths or the boy with jungle green eyes.

 

For Bay-Lee, love is not an option.  But try telling that to her heart.

 

Excerpt: (keep in mind this book is still being edited)

At some point during the night a stranger crawled into Bay-Lee’s bed while she snored softly, unaware.  The mattress springs squeaked in complaint beneath the additional weight as he reclined on his side and stared down at her face in the moonlight.  It bothered him that she continued to sleep.  After all the stories he’d heard about this girl, exploited rumors verging on myth, he’d expected more from her.  Shouldn’t she be able to sense danger?

This was Van Helsing’s daughter?  She looked insignificant, vulnerable beneath the green sheet.  He could snap her neck so easily—and maybe he should.  The world would continue on, undisturbed, but the dark cloud hanging over his head would finally dissipate.

A fraction of moonlight filtered through partially open curtains, not enough to see clearly, but it didn’t matter because he’d seen pictures of this girl on Van Helsing’s desk.  Her features were burned into his retinas.  Every time he went into the office he tried not to look at the photographs, purposely pointing his gaze elsewhere.

There was something about her, something unsettling which inevitably pulled him back to stare at her reproduced image.  She looked like an average girl at first glance.  A pretty face framed by dark hair that nearly reached her waist, parted in the middle and layered stared back at him.  Of Brazilian descent, her eyes were the darkest of browns, nearly black.  They hid a mountain of secrets.  She had attitude to spare and the camera caught it, recording it for future historians—if the prophecies were correct, they would want to study her.

She possessed a ‘bite me’ expression that must drive vampires crazy.

Fortunately, he was not a vampire.

Her mouth bothered him the most. Full lips haunted his dreams with a secretive smile curving the ends and a bottom lip that begged to be nibbled on. Sometimes, when he wasn’t carefully controlling his thoughts, he wondered what she would taste like.  In his dreams, when he wasn’t fully in control of his mind, he kissed her without ceasing.  He wondered what would happen if he kissed her in real life.  Would it stir something deep in his soul?  Would the prophecy come true?

Something hard lodged in his throat and he swallowed.  It was a near miss, so he swallowed again.  Kissing her shouldn’t even be a blip on the radar. This girl was the reason he didn’t have a home or a family.  It was her fault he’d grown up on the outside looking in, her fault people whispered behind his back, and her fault he was destined to die young.

Bay-Lee stirred in her sleep.  Mumbling, she pushed against his chest with two fingers.  “Go ‘way.”

Cute like a box of kittens, for a second he forgot to hate her.  His heart momentarily softened—not for long.  The unfamiliar sensation was enough to wipe the half-smile from his face.  Delivering a mental kick to his brain, he reminded himself this girl was the last person in the world he could let his guard down around.  She was worse than trouble.  If he wasn’t careful, this seemingly harmless meeting would lead to his total destruction.

Ready to wake her, he leaned in close and whispered her (fake) name.  Like him, she was forced to live under an alias.  Michelle.

Vampires Rule:  FREE

vr

 

They don’t call him Jackpot for nothing.

 

Jack has always beat the odds… until now. When a werewolf tried to kill him, vampires saved him. When he got tired of life as a vampire, another attack gave him back his mortality. Now Jack just wants to live a normal life, but what’s normal about having a hunter for a girlfriend, a brother who wants to stake him to be on the safe side, and a werewolf building an army to rule the world?

 

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Vampires-Rule-Series-ebook/dp/B004YZB8XU

 

Smashwords:   https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54214

 

 

Werewolves Rule: $2.99

fantasytree

 

The second book in the Rule Series

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Werewolves-Rule-The-Series-ebook/dp/B005IDV3OG/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/83046

 

 

 

 

Shifters Rule: $2.99

Third book in the Rule Series

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shifters-Rule-Series-ebook/dp/B009SFWWN6/ref=pd_sim_kstore_2

 

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/246117

 

Crushed: $2.99

crushed

The Noah sisters rule Titan High with their beauty, brains, and magical powers.

 

Each year they play a secret game: Crushed. The girls pick their targets carefully and blow enchanted dust into the boy’s faces, charming them, but this year Kristen makes a grave mistake. She chooses the wrong boy and almost dies that same day. Coincidence? Maybe.

 

But something isn’t quite right about Zach Bevian. He doesn’t behave like a boy who’s been Crushed. He goes from hot to cold, from looking at her with contempt to asking her out on a date. She doesn’t know what to think. Does he hate her or is he truly falling for her? Is he trying to kill her, or is he trying to save her?

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Crushed-The-Witch-Game-Books-ebook/dp/B005CJ8H9A/ref=pd_sim_kstore_5

 

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/73251

 

Witch Hunt: $2.99

witchhunt

A magical game of Hide n Seek begins.

 

Find the missing player and win.

 

The game resets, everyone forgets, and they start to play again.

Starr Hughes hasn’t believed in magic since her mother died. As a reporter for the school paper she’s only interested in cold, hard facts. When she hears rumors that the mysterious It-Squad members are about to play a secret game, she is determined to learn all about it, especially since she’s been in love with one of the members half her life. Hiding under the headmaster’s desk, planting bugs, and breaking into a fellow student’s locker are all on her to-do list.

 

Starr is about to discover that witches not only exist, but they need her help. Someone is using the game to steal their memories, their powers, and maybe even their lives.

 

ATTENTION: Although this is the second book in the series, each book has its own set of characters and can be read as a stand-alone book.

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Witch-Hunt-Witch-Game-Series-ebook/dp/B007JCNEYQ/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1

 

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/171249

 

Bait:  (coming Summer 2013)  FREE

If you don’t think monsters in the closet are real, ask Bay-Lee.

 

At sixteen, Bay-Lee Bishop is on her way to a new school, a training ground for hunters.  Before she leaves she gets an unexpected visitor, a reaper with a warning: It kills you on your birthday.  For years she’s dreamed of becoming a great hunter so she can avenge her mom… but school is nothing like she imagined.  The students resent her, a border monster is running loose, her mentor refuses to help her, and hunters are dying on their birthdays.  If she’s going to live long enough to reach her goal, she’ll have to solve this mystery before the day of her birth arrives.

 

The last thing she needs is to fall in love.  No problem.  Bay-Lee is focused and determined.  She barely notices boys.  Then she meets Nick Gallos, a gorgeous boy with jungle green eyes, a reckless heart, and a past darker than her own.

***

Well, this is an exciting spring reading roster! I’ll be busy! Check out some of our other Indie Author Blogs:

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy

What’s New at the YA Author’s Blog: New releases, Cover reveals, etc!

YA Indie Carnival–Goodreads: What’s Good and What’s Not

Posted in book reviews, indie, publishing, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , on March 21, 2013 by rachelcoles

YA_Indie_CarnivalHi all,

This week’s post is about Goodreads. For people who haven’t heard of it, it’s a database/bloggersite for books. That’s the closest I can come to describing it. Pretty much any book, anywhere in the world can be found on Goodreads. And it’s more than that. Here are the goodies available for people to take advantage of on Goodreads:

Reader’s groups where people can discuss books they’ve read, sometimes book clubs

Author Dashboard where authors can manage their books, reviews, ads, etc

Reading list where readers can add books they’ve heard of to their lists that they want to read, and receive recommendations from other readers

Review areas where readers can write reviews and post them

These are among some of the cool features of Goodreads. I’ve found a great resource for the things I want to read, though I tend to forget about that one. I am notorious for making lists of all kinds and then ignoring the lists, including in my house, at the grocery store, and at work. So why would that change for anything else…

As an author, I tend to use the author dashboard quite a bit. I recently posted an ad on Goodreads, as an experiment. I’m not good at advertising and such, and Goodreads, unlike Amazon is dummy-friendly, and wallet-friendly. The feature is that you create a simple click ad with a small caption, and send it out to either authors you like or genres or both. The Goodreads team recommends both simultaneously. And from there you add the amount of money you want to spend. It is $.x per click. So you can manage how much you spend and who views it. Views are not the same as clicks. Hundreds of people can view it, but you only pay if they click on it to see more.

Another function I use a lot on Goodreads is the review section. I like to be able to write reviews and post them, about something I’ve read. Admittedly, I am spotty about this because there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but it is a great avenue to post reviews. And you can link these reviews to your Facebook page, your website, Twitter, etc., so that it shows up in multiple places. And people can friend you on Goodreads too so that they are notified any time you publish a review of a book. That being said, if you prefer publishing reviews on your website, you can also link it that way too, so that your Goodreads friends will get a notification by email whenever you’ve published a post on your website, if they click that they want to receive notifications from you.

These are all pretty user-friendly, and in my opinion, good things about Goodreads.

I don’t think there are too many problems with Goodreads. The only issue I have encountered is that they do not seem to have a very user-friendly option for giveaways. Their giveaways are structured rather specifically, it seems. It’s possible that I’m reading it wrong, but mostly, I have only been able to find where you can do a giveaway if your book is about to come out (new). I like doing giveaways sometimes, and don’t want to limit myself to one period in time. I also recall reading, for a past YA Indie Carnival Giveaway, that they only accept giveaways for paper books. I have paper books, but sometimes people want e-books. Though I love the smell and feel of paper pages. I also love being able to carry a library with me on a plane.

Please share your experience with Goodreads, things you liked, things you didn’t! And check out what other folks have said on their websites, below.

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy

What’s New in the world of YA at the YA Author Club? Cover reveals, new releases, giveaways?

And check out Ina Grujic’s awesome book blog for a plethora of interesting new indie authors, like Bella Forrest, Imogen Rose, Claudia Lefeve, and James Lyon! There’s a new author interview posted for Pazuzu’s Girl there also.

YA Carnival Author Questions

Posted in indie, mythology, romance fantasy, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , on March 18, 2013 by rachelcoles

Hi all,

Now that I’m back in front of a working connection and computer, here is the belated author questionnaire! In addition to the questions, I’ve posted an excerpt from the sequel I’m working on for Pazuzu’s Girl!

1. What is your all-time favorite book, and why?

I’m not sure I could pick a single one. One of my favorite series is Dan Simmons’ Hyperion series: Hyperion, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, Rise of Endymion. I loved those books because they were complex, and when I put the last one down, it felt like my brain had changed after reading them. Mind-blowing. The series explored human evolution, not just physical, but religious and cultural, in the kind of time-span covered by Dune. It also explored artificial intelligence, in a different way than anything I’d read before. I also loved reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I always enjoy reading that because Discworld really picks you up and carries you away in the story. And that world is hilarious. Terry Pratchett takes typical tropes like vampires, dwarves, werewolves, etc, and turns everything on its head. He’s a really fun read, great for escaping. But I would say that the book whose phrases stayed with me for decades was either Something Wicked This Way Comes, or The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. He was one of the most poetic writers I’d ever seen, and really impressed upon me the power of words.

2. Is there an author you could be compared to or a popular fictional character you could relate to and why?

I have been compared to Neil Gaiman once or twice, because of the mythological content of some of my stories. That absolutely makes me feel honored. He is another one of my favorite authors, and I have to admit that I’ve emulated him in a lot of ways. As for characters I could relate to, I guess I would have to say Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit. I come from a family of Hobbits, pretty much. We’re mostly little people who love to eat and talk, and eat and talk, and eat and talk. I’m mostly not exaggerating. When I went to my aunt’s retirement party, we stopped at a deli and got pounds of meat, knishes, whitefish salad, bagels etc, on the way to her place from the airplane. Two hours later, we went to her party at which we didn’t stop eating, talking, and dancing for five hours. And when we got home, we cracked open the leftovers and ate again, chatting around the kitchen table. And that was just the beginning of the weekend. Elevensies/luncheon/afternoon tea/dinner/supper, they all ran together. Somehow I’m not 800 pounds. That’s why I think we’re secretly Hobbits. I am specifically a bit like Bilbo Baggins because I like telling stories, I am a creature of habit, and don’t normally go for anything unexpected, but every once in a while, I throw my hands up, give in to my wild side, and get into trouble.

3. Can you give us your favorite quote from your book and explain it?

My favorite quote, spoken by Pazuzu, is “I will do whatever I have to do to protect you, even if I do it poorly in your eyes. You are young and angry and nothing is as simple as you imagine.” I like it because Pazuzu’s Girl is partly about what it means to be a parent. Whatever his other flaws are, he loves his daughter, and insists on being a dad, even if it means Morpho is mad at him. It reminds me of what I have heard some parents say, ‘It’s not my job to be your friend, it’s my job to be your mom/dad.’ I’m sure that I will someday have this conversation with my daughter when she is a teenager, because I had it with my parents at some point.

4. What types of things/people/music inspires you and makes you want to keep on writing?

Everything. I’m a space cadet and cannot stop daydreaming, and every experience I have somehow wends its way into a story. But specifically, I’m a child of the 80’s. I mostly listen to 80’s music because even though it’s corny often, there was an optimism then, and now a nostalgia. It’s energetic, bittersweet, and just kind of grabs my emotions. I write best when I’m caught up in some emotion or other. People who inspire me to keep writing are my family and friends. My daughter was the reason I started writing. She loves to hear bedtime stories, particularly scary stories. And when we had burned through all of the remotely age-appropriate scary stories we could find, we started making them up together. I started writing them down, and kept going. My husband who is my best friend is really supportive and beta-reads my stories. The writing group I’m part of, we critique each others material, and have peer-pressure writing nights and get each other to write (pssst, just a few words, you know you want to, all the cool kids are doing it…)

5. Describe your typical writing day or week.

My writing can be kind of scattershot. I have weeks where I’ll sit up until midnight after my daughter goes to bed, and write every night. Other times, it’ll be only on peer-pressure writing night, when I take my daughter with me to Panera and she plays Minecraft, while we all write, though I often have her write me a story on her iPad too.

6. Is there a typical food/drink you have to have when you write?

Well, I don’t know if I have a particular food or drink, whatever I’m in the mood for at the time. Usually iced tea of some kind. I’ve gotten into the habit of eating a Panera sandwich and soup, and one of their brownies. I love eating their brownies when I’m writing, and am sad when they’re all out by the time I get there. Their chocolate chip cookies are nice, gooey, and chewy too. But I can’t eat those every time I write, or I’d need a forklift to get me to the restaurant.

7. Can you tell us what you’re working on now, possibly an excerpt?

I’m working on a sequel to Pazuzu’s Girl. For now the working title is Iron Butterfly. But I will probably change it, because there are really four main characters: Morpho– the demon Pazuzu’s daughter who is also part Sidhe, Ereshkigal–ruler of the Underworld, Ninhab Agresti–Morpho and JD’s high school principal and future consort of Ereshkigal, and Marduk–ancient god-king of Babylon now a CEO.

From ‘Iron Butterfly’–

The tunnel went on in darkness for a ways. Morpho couldn’t tell how long. She had the feeling of rough walls on either side and above. The ground felt like loose dirt underneath her sneakers. But light grew ahead, and slowly they emerged out of the tunnel. There was sky overhead, but it wasn’t like any sky she’d ever seen. There was a moon like the moon outside in the regular world, except bigger, and brighter. It was clearer, and looked somehow like a bowl of molten silver dripping little pearls into the rest of the sky. The sky around the moon was deep emerald green shading into black velvet, which was littered with rainbow swaths of stars.

“Whoa.” JD stared around him at the thick bushes and trees. Their leaves were bronze and teardrop-shaped, with an iridescent sheen. Other bushes looked periwinkle blue in the glow from dozens of insectile motes that flitted away through the trees. The forest went dark, and she had somehow gotten the impression that they hadn’t been alone when they had come out. “Okay, then.” JD whispered. He kept going along a faint trail. “That was cool. Like Tinkerbell’s family.”

She looked back at the tunnel, but there was only foliage behind them. “Tunnel’s gone…Of course.” She muttered. “Okay.” She followed him until the trees thinned out to a broad plain of rolling grass-covered hills. The trail widened into a road that threaded through the swells of land. They had been walking for about five minutes, cresting the first hill when the baying started in the distance to the left. It got louder quickly as whatever made that sound came closer, but as she stared out at the hills, she couldn’t see anything, at first. Then a form took shape in the low mist that cloaked the valleys. As it got closer, it looked like a woman riding a chariot, that was drawn by the largest dogs she had ever seen. They were the size of horses, so black the light of the moon just sunk into their fur. Their ringed yellow and red eyes shone from their heads like lamps, and their sharp teeth were as black as obsidian. She didn’t get as far as noticing what the woman looked like.

“Oh hell!” Morpho and JD turned and ran.

“Change, Babe, change!” JD yelled to her. “They won’t be able to chase all of you!” he panted. “Or maybe you could test your Cuisinart wings move!”

She changed into a cloud of butterflies with razor wings and flew up into the sky above the chariot to get a vantage point, but the chariot had gained on JD. Then just when she thought that it couldn’t get worse, the chariot split into three. Three chariots, three sets of hellish dogs, and three women. They circled JD.

Leave him alone! She thought, as she dived at them. But the woman in the middle raised her hand, and suddenly, Morpho was human again as she slammed down onto the ground in front of the figure, whose hand was still outstretched toward her. Morpho couldn’t move, not even to turn her head, so she had a moment to see the women who had captured them. The tallest one had blazing red hair, not just Irish red, but so red it was almost like flames drifting around her head, barely restrained in long braids that were bound by delicate chains ending in tiny golden balls. She wore a gold circlet with swirls across the band. Her eyes were blood red. The woman to her left had a face very much like the red-haired woman, enough to be sisters. Her hair was as black as the messenger Raven’s wings, almost as black as the hell-hounds’ fur, absorbing light. Her black irises were like two holes in her eyeballs. Her nose was long and slightly curved, and her lips were thinner than her sister’s. The last woman was as pale as her sister was dark, the shortest of the three. She had pure white hair, as long as the other two. Her skin was the color of bone, and the eeriest part was her eyes. They were completely white. There were no pupils or irises, just milky white all the way across. They were terrible to look at, and oddly beautiful.

The red-haired one spoke. “You certainly are curious little creatures, aren’t you? Lugh told us you were coming. I warned your mother that you would be too curious for your own good at some point. I told her you would be your father’s child.”

“Who are you?” Morpho choked and strained against the force that held her head down. It released suddenly, and she sat up, spitting soil.

“I am Nemain. We are the Morrigan. We rule here. You would do well to show us some respect. Especially since you are trespassing.”

“Lugh is here? He told you about…us?” She glanced at JD. The dogs stood in front of him, a low rumbling growl issuing from their throats.

“Yes, though Macha saw that you would come.” She nodded at the white sister.

“Uh, sorry, we didn’t mean to trespass.” JD gulped, looking at the length of the dogs’ teeth.

The black-haired sister turned to her sibling, opened her mouth and a caw bordering on a shriek came out. It wasn’t amiable, like Raven’s caw. It was sharp and dangerous. Her nose seemed longer and her lips and white teeth seemed sharper.

Nemain studied JD. “Badb says you are young and…cute, like a lapdog. She wants to let you live, for now. Very well.” She reached over Morpho, as if her arm simply stretched and grew. Her long-fingered white hand grasped the back of Morpho’s shirt and hauled her up as if she were a kitten, into the chariot and dumped her at her slippered feet. Badb took JD. His face was frozen somewhere between terror and the goofy look he got when he stared at his busty guitar girl posters. If Morpho had been closer to him, she would have smacked him. But then, the chariots took off with a lurch and they were moving so swiftly she didn’t have a chance to do anything but slit her eyes against the wind as they flew. Everything turned grey and when she looked down at her hands, they seemed insubstantial, like mist. The dogs, JD, Badb and Macha, all of them seemed to blend into the grey so their edges blurred. She didn’t want to turn and see the red-haired queen behind her. And then, they slowed to a halt. Now, they were in a circle of grey stones so tall, the shadows they cast from the moon must have spread across the plain they were on for a mile. And across the shadows, filling up the plain behind them were hosts of fairies of all kinds. At least that’s what Morpho thought they were when the chariots pulled around. There were some very powerful looking fairies around a semicircle of thrones in the center of the stone circle. Their thrones were all different too. One of them was made of what looked like carved amber, inlaid with gold in the same swirling designs as the red-haired queen’s circlet. Another was made entirely of silver, another of pure gold, shining in the moonlight. Another appeared to be made of woven branches and soft emerald moss. Lounging in the amber throne, was Lugh, their erstwhile legal guardian. He had a gold circlet around his forehead, the only thing controlling his wild tawny locks. He wore what looked like a fine red linen tunic with gold embroidery and woolen plaid leggings.

“Hi, luv! Took you long enough.”

“You knew we were coming.” Morpho said.

“I’ve been livin’ with you for almost a year. And I know your mama.”

“So…you’re not mad? That we, uh, poked around and, uh, followed you?”

“I didn’t say that.” His pale eyes flickered for a moment with golden light. “But you’re my cousin’s girl. I’m under a geas that I’d look after you if something happened to…the other side o’ yer family.”

“Under a what?”

He smiled grimly. “Geas. An oath.”

“Oh.” She swallowed, somehow deflated.

“Relax, I like you. I like yer boy too,” he nodded at JD, “or we’d be havin’ a very different conversation right now.”

“Do you vouch for them, Lugh Lamfada?” The man who sat in the golden throne boomed. Though he was seated, he was obviously tall and powerfully built. His hair was silver. He had none of the other marks of advanced age, but Morpho could tell he was old. Really old. Not crusty though. He radiated power. He had the bearing most jocks took steroids to try to look like, with half the brains.

“I do, your Highness.” Lugh inclined his head.

The Morrigan hauled her and JD out of their chariots in front of the King. Then the chariots collapsed into a single throne made of black sharp rock and padded with what Morpho seriously hoped wasn’t human skin. There were six heads tied by the hair onto the sides of the throne. And instead of three women, there was only Nemain now. She stared at Morpho. Her expression was somewhere between contempt and curiosity. Either way, it was unsettling. She said nothing.

End Excerpt

 

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