I ABSOLUTELY FREAKING LOVE BEAUTIFUL BOOK COVERS, and I have been known to stare longingly at those in book stores for long amounts of time, drawing strange looks from other browsers probably wondering if I'm some kind of cardboard cut out. I'm not. I'm just fond of lovely powerful images that adorn books. So, naturally, today I'm super excited to be a part of a very special person's cover reveal.
My lovely friend and editing partner Rebecca Carpenter writes an incredible YA contemporary science fiction series called THE METAMORPHOSIS SERIES, with her debut BUTTERFLY BONES winning an award (OH YEAH!) and book 2 BUTTERFLY BLOOD coming out in August (and it's one heck of a sequel!). Well, the series has had a face lift, courtesy of the awesomely talented Emma Wicker, and OH MY WORD IT'S GORGEOUS!
Check it out...
HER BONES. HER FUTURE. HER SACRIFICE.
“I wish I was a normal fifteen-year-old. I have dreams that I am.”
Fifteen-year-old Bethany Keatley’s life is anything but perfect. Yet despite a rare bone disorder cursing her with the body of a ten year old, a dead mom, and being a target for the school bullies, things could be worse.
She owes her life to her scientist father and the butterfly hormone racing through her blood.
But the discovery of unexpected and horrifying side effects means her dreams of leaving the small-minded town of Springs, Georgia to become a scientist have all but shattered.
Her world becomes a prison and her existence a life sentence.
The only thing keeping Bethany fighting is her true love, football star Jeremiah Wright—if only he felt the same way. And now, with the clock ticking and her future uncertain, courage and the determination to survive must drive her decisions.
But nature has other plans, a sacrifice for Bethany’s life.
In this award-winning incredible debut, Rebecca Carpenter brings to life the “haunting and twisted story” of one girl and an ending that will blow your mind.
BUY NOW ON AMAZON.COM
CHECK OUT THE REVIEWS ON GOODREADS
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HER BLOOD. HER LOVE. HER FREEDOM.
“How many of my sins will have to be paid for in blood?”
Sixteen-year-old Bethany Keatley finally has the healthy body and looks she’s always desired. But the price she’s had to pay has left her traumatized.
The only thing making her battle on is the memory of that kiss with Jeremiah.
Now miles from him and living in Florida with an aunt she's never met, shocking revelations about her parents are too much to bear. After collapsing from exhaustion and shock, Bethany wakes in a hospital bed awaiting test results—results that might lead to the discovery of her unusual butterfly blood.
But that’s the least of Bethany’s concerns when the doctor informs her she’s infected with a parasite and without immediate treatment she’ll die.
Too young to refuse and too weak to fight back, Bethany’s life once again hangs in the balance. Yet her scientific knowledge and suspicious nature lead her to unravel a horrifying web of lies.
Will nature intervene again, demanding another payment?
In this stunning sequel to the award-winning BUTTERFLY BONES, Rebecca Carpenter raises the stakes and offers up an intense and heartbreaking ride that will leave you shocked to the core.
BUY NOW ON AMAZON.COM
READ THE REVIEWS ON GOODREADS
I love these books so much. Rebecca is such a talented writer and this series offers you so much more than a lot of the YA on bookshelves. It has science, it has romance, it has creepiness, horror, shocks, twists, and courage. And it's jam-packed with so much beauty. I highly recommend you get your hands on this series if you love something a little bit different.
Can you hear that? No, seriously, listen hard ... Yep, that's the sound of me crying. I'm bringing you my final author interview in my best and worst series and I'm gutted! All the fab people I've gotten to know through this has been absolutely awesome and I'm going to miss it. But, it's time to say goodbye and for a change, of course.
But, I'm ending the series on a fabulously high note as I'm delighted to introduce you to not only a superbly talented young lady (and trust me, I've read her words and wow!), but also a wonderful, supportive, and upbeat soul.
Sage Webb spent over a decade writing legal briefs in the field of federal criminal defense before turning to fiction. Her debut novel, The Unremarkable Circumstances of Inmate 17656-090, won the Permian Basin Writers Workshop 2017 manuscript contest for general/literary fiction.
For short stories, her piece "Queen" won second place in the 2017 Hackney Literary Awards, her story "Rings" earned semi-finalist status in Ruminate Magazine's 2018 William Van Dyke Short Story Contest, and her work "Dispute" was the overall winner of the Wild Words 2017 Winter Solstice Competition (based in the U.K.).
In nonfiction, she writes for a Gulf Coast health-and-wellness magazine and her essay "Mahogany Pilgrimage" received honorable mention in Flyway's 2017 Notes from the Field Contest. She is a member of International Thriller Writers and Read Local. Sage and her husband live on a fifty-year-old wooden trawler in Galveston Bay with a ship’s cat named Ines and Jackson, the boat dog.
In this modern-day twist on the idea of the Good Thief, an abused young man fights for a new life and falls in love with two adventurous itinerants on a small sailboat only to face an indictment for receiving child pornography and become federal inmate 17656-090.
Before his conviction, the young man leaves Michigan and the abuse of his childhood in search of a new life on Galveston Bay. Serving sandwiches beside the tourist boardwalk, he meets failure-haunted Grayson and affection-seeking Blair, who invite him into the world of the little sailboat on which they live. The threesome builds the family none of them has ever known, and will-be inmate 17656-090 believes he’s just about made it to the mythic “beach in California” of his dreams—until Blair starts dating another man and Grayson makes a confusing romantic overture.
When a federal agent knocks with an arrest warrant based on an indictment for receiving child pornography, the world of the little boat crumbles and the will-be inmate must answer charges for looking at the pictures that had helped him make sense of all he’d suffered. Speaking with his crusading public defenders and the psychologist who declares he presents no danger of a “hands-on” offense, he begins to hope for the best in the face of the mandatory five-to-twenty-year sentencing range until Grayson appears at the U.S. Attorney’s Office with another laptop.
Buy it now on Amazon!
An Excerpt from Sage's Novel ...
Mr. Donaldson rises, steps to the podium, places his legal pad in front of him.
“Your honor, my client is twenty-four years old, and these twenty-four years have not been very good to him. But this young man has done just about everything in his limited power to dig out of the hole into which he was born, in which he found himself through no fault of his own. He’s worked, he’s tried to provide for his sister and her children, he earned a high school diploma. And probably most remarkably, he’s stayed optimistic. He has cultivated some deep, pro-social relationships, and he likes to read. And something that stood out to me markedly: he moved to the Galveston area and learned to sail sailboats. Now, I know nothing about boats. I don’t even fish, even though I love my summers in the Upper Peninsula. But this young man, from very, very humble circumstances, somehow found his way onto a sailboat with a woman, a platonic friend, who knows how to race these boats. And he learned to sail. When he talks about it—and that isn’t often; he’s quiet, humble—he lights up. One afternoon at the jail, he told me a story about driving—sailing—a boat from the north end of Galveston Bay down to Galveston Island. He told me how he and his friends anchored the boat and rowed to shore and went to the beach. He told me how they returned to the boat and barbequed and told stories and spent the weekend anchored on this boat.”
Mr. Donaldson pauses, and the courtroom uncurls, stretches. It pays attention to what it seems to consider an unlikely tale.
“I tell the court this story because it strikes me that this young man is more than what the indictment and the presentence report describe. Yes, he suffered terrible—unspeakable—abuse from the time he was five years old. He has been beaten, raped, humiliated, and tortured. But he hasn’t stopped. In fact, I’d say this young man could teach each one of us some lesson about living. He has kept on living, and I daresay has enjoyed parts of his recent past, namely some friendships and the sailing.”
The room quiets, hollows out. I feel the table under my folded hands melt, flex, ripple. Sucking at the air, I drop softly through space out of the wood-paneled nave—down, down—to land on the deck of Narwhal. Grayson and Blair cast off the lines one last time, and I point the little boat toward Cuba one last time, and I am free one last time.
"The sights, sounds, and smells of the Texas Gulf Coast come to life in this unusual but captivating work. Regardless of which side one takes, Sage Webb courageously dwells where few have dared, and boldly questions public policy and basic notions of justice. Webb crafts a subtle tale of a wounded protagonist who gets in well over his head vis-à-vis perplexing laws and persistent attitudes. We are drawn into the colorful lives of a group of close-knit but lovably flawed friends. What started off as the protagonist’s act of self-medication, an attempt to heal from abuse, turned out to be a profound mistake that forever changed not only his life but those of everyone around him. Prejudging aside, this work will provoke obliging discussions about a topic best left undiscussed."
Jaime Salazar, Author of Legion of the Lost and Escaping the Amazon
THE BEST & WORST OF SAGE
Best Book - My favorite book (look at my terrible American spelling!) has long been the Iliad. It’s so fundamental in many ways: fundamental human frailty, fundamental human longings, fundamental plot lines. . . . It’s all there. I also love The Sun Also Rises. I didn’t “get” Hemingway as a kid, but he really speaks to me now.
Best Band - Oh, that’s tough. I like Latin dance music, especially bachata. But if I had to pick one band, maybe it’d be Gypsy Kings. Before I moved to Texas, I couldn’t do country at all, but it’s grown on me and I’d recommend John Baumann to writers: the man has a real gift with lyrics—his songs are bite-sized short stories.
Best Song / Worst Song - Aaahhh! Another tough one. I’d say “Timing Is Everything.” A country song by Garrett Hedlund. My husband plays guitar and that’s “our song.” He strums that one and I melt. Guilty pleasure: “Vivir Mi Vida” (Marc Anthony). Get my pumping: Orff’s “O Fortuna.” Worst?! Yikes. “Pour Some Sugar on Me”—not because it’s a bad song, but because it’s the only song I karaoke to and I’m a HORRIBLE singer.
Best Holiday / Worst Holiday - Best holiday?! The one you “sneak”: when you play hooky from work and go surfing. Also America’s Memorial Day. I lived in Michigan for over a decade and winters there are killer! Memorial Day ushered in summer! Worst . . . well, I’ll get serious. My family had some biggish bumps in its road when I was a kid (and maybe that comes out in my writing in a couple places). I’ll just say I haven’t had to celebrate Mothers’ Day in a long, long time. It hasn’t been a big thing since I was quite young, but every once in a while, I feel that “hole.”
Best Animal - CATS!!!!!! We have an awesome ship’s cat/pirate kitty and a wonderful boat dog. But I’m a cat person all the way.
Best Item of Clothing - Rash guard for watersports! Worst: winter clothes!!!!
Best Food / Worst Food - Best?!?!?! Ice cream? Pizza? Crepes? Gelato? Don’t make me pick!!! Worst: olives . . . and cucumbers.
Best Drink / Worst Drink - Best: my husband’s special virgin Margaritas!!!! Da bomb! Worst?! I don’t do coffee. My husband’s an addict. I never touch the stuff.
Best Alcoholic Drink / Worst Alcoholic Drink - My drinking has been very limited. I just don’t have a taste for it. But for book research, I tried Sunny Delight + Vodka. Ya know? It worked. Worst?! Beer!!!! My husband loves his IPA. I don’t get it.
Best Friend - Husband, sister, and an amazing woman/dance friend/singer I lost to colon cancer a couple years ago. I miss her tons.
Best Writing Moment - It’s also the scariest: having people buy my book!!!
Best Childhood Memory - I’ll skip the worst here. Best . . . hmmmmm. I had a pony when I was a kid. That’s hard to top. And I rock climbed a lot, and I used to lead multi-pitch stuff and aid climb. That was pretty cool.
Best Word / Worst Word - Antidisestablishmentarianismist and pusillanimous. Because they are just darn fun. Worst: can’t. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at an event I attended and reminded us that “Old man Can’t is dead . . . and I helped bury him.”
Best Shop - Little book shops with cats!!!!!
Best Sport - Sailing? Diving? Worst: running!!!! I hate to run.
Best Job - I’d like to be a mascot/character in a suit. Worst: lawyering when the deadlines are crushing you.
Best Saying - See above: “Old man Can’t is dead and I helped bury him.” Justice Clarence Thomas (and his grandpa).
Best Teacher / Worst Teacher - Same for both: Experience. You really learn from her, but she beats the tar out of you at times.
Best Time of Day / Worst Time of Day - Worst: I’m not a morning person. Best time: when I’m with my husband and/or on the water.
Best Room - The cabin on a boat!
Best Day Ever / Worst Day Ever - Best days: involve the beach. Worst days: when you don’t get outside!
Best Smell / Worst Smell - Best: plumeria flowers and magnolias. Worst: fish offal stink in the harbor of Kona, Hawai`i, on hot days when I was in college!
Best TV Show - OK, I got a little addicted to Breaking Bad. My husband did Shameless. I did NOT!
Best Gadget - Those weird circular apple slicers that you push over an apple to slice it!!!
Best Sound / Worst Sound - Best: ocean sounds, silence (we don’t get enough!), my husband playing guitar and singing. Worst: the ding of MORE email coming in. My life and work involve too much email!
Best Restaurant - There’s this cute local chain in West Michigan called Russ’s. Homemade food cheap. Not low calorie. Good for feeding sweet teeth (plural of sweet tooth?!)
Best Movie / Worst Movie - Best: Cool Runnings about the Jamaican bobsled team. Worst: anything horror! Plus I don’t do the blow-‘em-up ones.
Best Time of Year / Worst Time of Year - Summer rocks. People just seem more chill in summer. Summer means boats and boards and beaches. Winter is kinda sad. Staying inside is sad.
Best School Subject / Worst School Subject - I was pretty good in English and with languages and, in law school, I loved jurisprudence and legal theory. Worst: do not ask me to do math or tax!
Best Body Part / Worst Body Part - Your eyes—to read and see the world! Worst: my, ahem, girth when I get a little liberal with the sweets.
Yes! I am there with you hiding from the math questions! But probably not when it comes to watching horror! Thanks for being my final victim, Sage. Good luck with the book. :)
I'm back today with one of my final Best & Worst author interviews *cries* but I don't think you'll be disappointed with my guest. Here, celebrating May, her book birthday month, please meet...
MIRIAM SPITZER FRANKLIN
Miriam Spitzer Franklin has been sharing her love of reading and writing with her students for years as an elementary and middle school language arts teacher. Her debut novel, EXTRAORDINARY, was published by Skypony Press in 2015. She has published two other middle grade novels, CALL ME SUNFLOWER (2017) and EMILY OUT OF FOCUS, which comes out in Feb. 2019.
Miriam's hobbies include coaching her daughter's Odyssey of the Mind team, figure skating, and being passionate about environmental and animal rights causes. Miriam spent her childhood in New Jersey but currently lives with her husband, two daughters, and two pampered cats in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Follow Miriam on Twitter here!
Last spring, Pansy chickened out on going to spring break camp, even though she’d promised her best friend, Anna, she’d go. It was just like when they went to get their hair cut for Locks of Love; only one of them walked out with a new hairstyle, and it wasn’t Pansy. But Pansy never got the chance to make it up to Anna. While at camp, Anna contracted meningitis and a dangerously high fever, and she hasn’t been the same since. Now all Pansy wants is her best friend back—not the silent girl in the wheelchair who has to go to a special school and who can’t do all the things Pansy used to chicken out of doing. So when Pansy discovers that Anna is getting a surgery that might cure her, Pansy realizes this is her chance—she’ll become the friend she always should have been. She’ll become the best friend Anna’s ever had—even if it means taking risks, trying new things (like those scary roller skates), and running herself ragged in the process.
Pansy’s chasing extraordinary, hoping she reaches it in time for her friend’s triumphant return. But what lies at the end of Pansy’s journey might not be exactly what she had expected—or wanted.
Extraordinary is a heartfelt, occasionally funny, coming-of-age middle grade novel by debut author Miriam Spitzer Franklin. It’s sure to appeal to fans of Cynthia Lord’s Rules and will inspire young friends to cherish the times they spend together. Every day should be lived like it’s extraordinary.
REVIEWS OF MIRIAM'S BOOKS...
"An endearing story of friendship, heartache and triumph proves extraordinary things can happen when we least expect it."--Jennifer Murgia, author of Forest of Whispers and Castle of Signs
"Readers will be both heartbroken and warmed by the way Sunny views the world and her attempts to change it. A relatable heroine with a noble cause that readers won't soon forget." --Erin Entrada Kelly, Newberry Award winner of the book, Hello Universe
For more information and to purchase EXTRAORDINARY, visit: here and here and here!
For more information and to purchase CALL ME SUNFLOWER, visit: here and here and here!
THE BEST & WORST OF MIRIAM
Best Book : Soooo hard to pick, but one of my all-time faves since I was a child is CHARLOTTE'S WEB. It never fails to amaze me, now matter how many times I've read it. A newer favorite? THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson. This book is pure poetry and is a story about things that matter: family, friendship, music, nature, joy, love, dealing with loss, and finding your best self.
Best Band: The Beatles
Best Animal: Cats, elephants, whales, otters, and Esther the Wonder Pig (if you don't know who she is, Google it!)
Best Food / Worst Food: One of my favorite treats is Cadbury Eggs but I can only eat them for a few months of the year! My worst choice is meat since I've been a vegetarian since my early teens.
Best Drink / Worst Drink: Diet Coke with Lime- a must-have when I'm writing / regular Coke
Best Alcoholic Drink: It's hard to choose a favorite but I usually drink red wine!
Best Friend: I've been lucky to have Liz as my best friend since college! We're very different but she's always been there for me and seems to know what I'm thinking before I put it into words. <3
Best Writing Moment: When I finally saw the email saying my debut novel, Extraordinary, had sold! It had been out with the last publisher for 8 months and my agent and I had parted ways so it was totally unexpected!
Best Childhood Memory: Going ice skating on Thursday nights at the outdoor rink in NJ with my friends. My dad, an engineer who wrote plays in his spare time, would sit on a bench in the warming area with the latest scene he'd written and a pen. When we finished skating, I'd find him there, reading his words and laughing at his own jokes. He always bought me a Milky Way and a hot chocolate before we headed home.
Best Word / Worst Word: I'll state the obvious here: Peace/War
Best Shop: Street Fair—my favorite hippie shop in Asheville, NC where I can find all my favorite skirts, barettes, earrings, and bumper stickers.
Best Sport: Ice skating
Best Saying: "The only way to guarantee failure is to quit."
Best Teacher: The best teacher I had was in 1st and 2nd grade. She encouraged me to write and asked me to go to the upper grades and share my stories. The worst teacher I had was my 8th grade history teacher who gave me a zero when she fell asleep during my presentation. She'd also stand behind students while they were taking one of her challenging quizzes, cackling. Yes, she actually cackled. A real witch of a teacher! When I modeled a teacher after her in one of my manuscripts, I was told by everyone to tone her down because she wasn't realistic.
Best Time of Day / Worst Time of Day: Afternoon/morning
Best TV Show: Current favorite: This Is Us. Full of amazing writing and people you wish were family members. Each episode is a work of art. Bring a box of tissues.
Best Restaurant: Ben Tanh Vietnamese
Best Movie: HAROLD & MAUDE—I first saw this back in college and I will always remember how I walked out of the screening and it was raining outside, and while I'm usually not a fan of rain, I wanted to stop and feel the rain against my skin, feeling the joy of being alive. (Really! this movie will do this to you)
Best time of year: Fall
Best School Subject / Worst School Subject: Reading/Math
Yes, yes, yes. I promised this blog would go out on Wednesday last week. I failed miserably, I know. I had other blogs scheduled plus work and edits and kids, so I have valid excuses! :) Anyway, here's part two as promised.
I shared some insight on Monday as to why I've been celebrating lately and you can read about that right here, but there have been other goings on behind the scenes, and I made a big ol' decision earlier in the year that I wanted to talk about.
It still pains me to think about this and to share my decision brings on triple tears, but a few weeks back, I decided to hang up my Pitch Wars mentoring hat.
Ugh. I'm so sad. Pitch Wars has been one of my most positive, exciting, and satisfying experiences of the last few years. I HAVE LOVED IT. Loved my fellow mentors, my mentees, and I loved Brenda and Heather with all my heart. I still love them all. Being part of this opportunity for new writers gave me so much and became something I missed and anticipated in each off season.
Having the opportunity to read so many upcoming writers' queries and first pages has been an honour. Honestly. I know people say that, but I really do mean it. It's a weird feeling, that you've been trusted with one person's words, that they've already put their faith in you as a mentor to guide them and help them polish their craft. And I got to work with a handful of INCREDIBLE people. I will be forever indebted to those I chose as mentees each year...
... the other writers I connected with via the contest (you know who you are!), all the people I chatted with via Twitter, and all the new friends I've made. You have given me so much and actually kept me going through some hard times. When my dad passed a couple of months before the contest opened in 2016, the focus on Pitch Wars and the support of my friends held me up.
So, yeah, it's safe to say that this annual contest is a blessing and I know it will continue going from strength to strength, offering opportunities for new writers to hone their skills, make new friends and build their communities, and maybe even launch some more sparkly careers.
But, because I know I am going to miss the whole mentoring experience too much, added to the fact that I'm cutting back on my editing services this year (though Rebecca, copy editor extraordinaire, definitely won't be!), I have decided to offer something special. Later this year, of which the details of entry will be shared via one of my next newsletters, I would like to offer a one-year mentorship to one writer. The writer can have a manuscript already written or they can be at the idea brainstorming pre-writing bit. I don't mind at all. I just want to continue paying it forward. All I will ask is that the writer is committed and enthusiastic to learn - that's it.
So, if you think this is something you'd like, please do sign up to my newsletter to find out the details of how to enter, as well as all the editing and writing advice that comes with it. It won't be right now, more likely something that will commence in the autumn. I really haven't settled on the details yet.
But, in the meantime, goodbye Pitch Wars. A part of my heart will always belong to you. And thank you so much for everything you've given me. It's now my turn to be the writer - of course with some editing in between!
I'm back! And absolutely delighted to help celebrate a lovely friend's book birthday with this very special interview. Please meet...
As a child, Kendra wrote her first books on construction paper and bound them together with ribbon, though she can’t remember even one of those early stories. Once a teen and young adult, she jokingly referred to herself as Queen of the First Five Chapters, as that’s where every story seemed to fizzle out. It wasn’t until she was in her mid-thirties, when her family relocated to the West Coast, that she got lost in libraries again and finally managed to type “The End.”
Since finishing that first manuscript, Kendra hasn’t been able to stop new characters from talking to her.
Her fascination with all things abnormal comes out in her writing, whether it’s steampunk freak shows, vampires, or ghosts – if it has fangs or goes bump in the night, she’s writing about it.
Kendra now lives back in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband, Tim, who’s responsible for making her believe all her writing dreams will come true. Together they have two daughters, Savannah and Tabitha, who both enjoy art and writing as well. By day, Kendra teaches eighth grade English & Language Arts in an urban middle school where she shares her love of writing and dreaming “big dreams” with her students.
"I am my father's daughter, and I am terrified of that fact."
Seventeen-year-old Josilyn is the city’s rumored Cardboard Princess.
Living in a crumbling cardboard castle under the park bridge and struggling to care for her mentally ill father, Josilyn’s life has been anything but regal since her mother’s death.
But when a former friend discovers Josilyn's secret and leads Child Protective Services directly to her, her father’s visions of dragons and dark knights become the least of Josilyn’s problems.
Now separated from her father and terrified for his safety, Josilyn begins to see the world of his imagination for the first time, forcing her to consider the possibility that he’s not insane, and that someone may be desperate to see her father dead—and her in chains.
In a stunning twist of reality, survival may not be a matter of sanity, but who to trust, and who to kill.
DOWNLOAD THE FIRST FIVE CHAPTERS HERE
Father paces in the shadows as we approach, his face set in a stern scowl. “You might have told your father you were stepping out with a beau.”
I let out a disdainful snort while Brice feigns offense at my reaction. “It’s only Brice, Father. Not a beau in sight, I swear it.”
Father tips his plastic goblet in Brice’s direction. “Keeping my princess safe, I assume?”
Brice bows, doubling nearly in half at the waist.
“Spot any rogue dragons, whilst you were about?” he asks.
“No, Father,” I sigh. “No dragons, only a local homeless man in need of medication for his stomach. Do we have anything?”
Brice clears his throat, stepping into character for my dad. “Still, I didn’t chance allowing Josilyn to travel too close, King.”
Father nods, running his index finger around the rim of his goblet.
“Care to fence a bit before I depart? A show of our sword prowess might deter the fiends from attacking.” Brice rests his hands on his hips, tilting his head back as if he were posing for a photograph at a cheesy renaissance fair. Brice manages Father’s delusions as well as I do without missing a beat.
Father’s chest expands in approval before asking me to get his fencing swords, but as I pass the rough cut wooden swords to him, he shakes his head. “On second thought, Daughter, you are getting out of practice. Brice is not as good as I, but he is a capable sparring opponent.”
Brice’s smile swallows up the better half of his face as he takes the sword from my hand. If I ever question why I put up with the agony of being so close to him, I’m reminded of it at times like this.
Anxious to put on a good show, Brice’s grin widens as he advances, but I’m not new to this. Father insists on regular training sessions, even demanding I study other fencing forms in old library books. We circle, assessing each other before our swords meet a second time.
I avoid Brice’s jab easily, returning several strikes of my own. Loud clacks split the night air as our wooden blades clash again and again. He parries, anticipating my next attack, but isn’t quick enough to recover himself when I feign right and lunge again. It’s my favorite series of steps, but before long we’re both nearly ready to collapse.
Father, ever attempting to be regal, bows, his broad smile beaming in the moonlight. “Knighthood would serve you well, Sir Brice.”
“It does have a nice ring to it,” I add.
Brice repays our compliments with one of his best half-tilted grins, his eyes dancing with mischief. We say our goodbyes, with Brice assuring Father he’ll be on guard for any dark knights. Brice doesn’t break character for a second, not even to exchange a silent glance with me.
The stars are bright tonight, like a brilliant sea stretched out before me. I bring out an extra blanket to sit on and gaze at the constellations, my back resting against the strongest part of the castle. I pull up one corner, wrapping myself in it, and divide my attention between trying to identify my favorite constellations and listening to Father’s critique of our performance, which is mostly favorable.
My world is small, but it’s mine, and I love it despite all the reasons I shouldn’t.
As if in a show that the heavens themselves approve, a falling star streaks across the sky.
Before I can think, my heart makes a wish my mind wouldn't have agreed to if it had been given a chance to argue. Brice turns back, his eyes lock with mine, and I am at peace.
Unfortunately, peace never lasts long in a castle, especially if it’s made of cardboard.
"CARDBOARD CASTLES is by turns introspective, heart-wrenching, brilliant, and daring. I adored Jos, the desperate and supremely unreliable narrator whose cynical yet world-weary voice evokes Bogart at his best. K.L. Young's prose seized me like a dragon's talons, never letting go..." -Keith W. Willis, author of the Knights of Kilbourne series.
"Loved this book! Beautiful writing, great premise, and characters that I rooted for and cared about all the way through! I didn't know I was a fan of dragons until I met Falcon. Now he has my heart." -Carmen Erickson, Editor
"An absolutely brilliant and touching story. The characters made you feel everything in the storyline that was happening. I enjoyed this so much I would read it again and again." - Amanda Williams, Goodreads
“I loved this book. Such a heart gripping story of homelessness and mental illness, which many people experience in society today. I couldn't put this book down as it was written so well that it kept you glued to the pages right till the end. Highly recommend you read this book." -Anne Kinslow, Goodreads
THE BEST & WORST OF KENDRA
Best Book – Harry Potter
Best Band – Def Leppard
Best Song / Worst Song – Best: “Best Day of My Life”/ Worst: “Does That Make Me Crazy”
Best Holiday / Worst Holiday – Best: Halloween / Worst: New Years (I can barely make it to midnight) LOL
Best Animal – dogs and Beluga whales J Yes, there’s a story behind the belugas.
Best Item of Clothing – yoga pants for the win!
Best Food / Worst Food – Best: Pizza / Worst: Anything gritty (pears, seafood with sand, etc -- shudders)
Best Drink / Worst Drink – Best: Sweet tea! / Worst: Sodas. I rarely drink them.
Best Alcoholic Drink / Worst Alcoholic Drink – Best: Margarita! / Worst: Beer. Gross.
Best Friend – my husband, hands down.
Best Writing Moment – hmmm. I can’t pick just one. It’s the moment when a story or character really comes to life. I start giggling. That’s when I know it has to be written.
Best Childhood Memory – Best: Sitting on my grandmother’s sink and talking to her while she cooked or did the dishes.
Best Word / Worst Word – I can’t just pick one best word. I love them all. Except for seepage. Seepage is always bad.
Best Shop – Target!
Best Sport – None? I’ll say football or baseball for my husband though.
Best Job – Not sure?
Best Saying – “It’s always about the reader.” I say it to students all the time, especially when we’re talking about grammar.
Best Teacher / Worst Teacher – Me? And also me? LOL Seriously, Best: Janice Payne from my elementary years / Worst: My geometry teacher, Mrs. McClintock. When I think about what kind of teacher I don’t want to be, I think of what it felt like to be in her class.
Best Time of Day / Worst Time of Day – Best: Either early in the morning, when I can watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee / Worst: When everyone is running and busy.
Best Room – Does my back porch count? It’s screened in and it’s my favorite place to be.
Best Day Ever / Worst Day Ever – Both are too hard to choose
Best Smell / Worst Smell – Oh this one’s easy. Best: Honeysuckle or my husband’s cologne are the absolute best / Worst: Spoiled milk or Doritos.
Best TV Show / Worst TV Show – Best: Stranger Things / Worst: is hard to say. I don’t watch a lot of television anyway.
Best Gadget – Corkscrew? Haha!
Best Sound / Worst Sound – Best: Laughter / Worst: A high pitched/whiney voice. I can’t take it.
Best Restaurant – Alleia in downtown Chattanooga. My absolute favorite.
Best Movie / Worst Movie – Best: The Princess Bride / Worst: Napoleon Dynamite. We still make fun of that move in my house.
Best Time of Year / Worst Time of Year – Best: Fall. Love the Fall / Worst: I like Summer for about two weeks, then I’m ready for Fall again.
Best School Subject / Worst School Subject – Best: Science and English / Worst: Always math.
Best Body Part / Worst Body Part – Best: Eyes? / Worst: Legs. Definitely legs.
YES! Honeysuckle is my absolute favourite smell ever too! Reminds me of my childhood. Thanks for joining me, Kendra, and good luck with your fantastic book!
So thrilled to help celebrate the release of the lovely K.T. Hanna's new book! SOMNIA ONLINE: INITIALIZING is here and it looks freaking amazing. I haven't read this one yet but have read some of K.T.'s other work and her writing is tense, sharp, and exciting. I highly recommend you head out and grab a copy today. I know I will be!
Discover the class you were born to play.
Wren, a seasoned healer, is dismayed when Somnia Online automatically assigns her character, Murmur, to the Enchanter class. Determined to overcome the unexpected setback, she assembles her guild, intent on the coveted #1 spot. Twelve keys stand between her and victory, but finding them is only part of the puzzle.
Armed with telepathic abilities, Murmur rises to the challenge. However, old rivals have followed her to Somnia Online desperate for revenge. Intricate quest lines become more dangerous as NPCs absorb powerful artifacts, and Murmur begins to wonder just what sort of AI controls the world.
Murmur questions her sanity as the real and virtual worlds mesh together. Everyone is keeping secrets from her, even the AI, and Murmur’s determined to uncover them.
Available through AmazonExcerpt:
A skeleton shambled to the left, its bones creaking softly as it jangled about. Straight ahead was a spider with ridiculously long legs, and off to the right was a cluster of so mething she couldn't make out. All of the mobs she could see were yellow, probably at least level three. But if she didn't try, she'd never know.
Feeling reckless , she cast minor suffocation and pulled the skeleton toward her. The fact that the spell manag ed to convince an undead creature it was being strangled was quite amazing. It let out a cackle and jangled over to her as she backed up, hoping to let a third tick hit before it reached her. This time her spell was hitting for five and four. A slight incr ease was at least something. The skeleton flailed a wooden staff in the air and Murmur hoped against hope her hit points would outlast it.
Then it was upon her, three ticks of her Damage Over Time down. The thing was tall and gangly and she realized these skeletons had to be locus , too. Even its empty sockets glowed, like some type of magic possessed it. Considering it was a walking skeleton, that probably wasn't far from the truth. It swung at her, and barely missed when she managed to dodge. She could fee l the heaviness of her body, and the unwillingness with which it made the movement. That was probably her one dodge for the next twenty. She'd better make it count.
Killing a skeleton was far more difficult than a beetle. For one thing, it was already bloo dy dead. That blasted staff hurt too, though not as much as the pincer claws had. It made Murmur wonder if locus could bruise. Finally, after what seemed like an age, she managed to hack its skull off. She leaned forward and looted the mob. It had twelve c opper on it. Maybe skeletons were a good idea for a while with or without her quest. Not only that, the staff it had been wielding was hers as well.
“Score," she muttered to herself, aware she was probably grinning like a loon. Sure, her staff skills were n't up to par but she was sure it wouldn't take too long. It's not like melee did most of her damage or anything.
KT Hanna has such a love for words, a single one can spark entire worlds. Born in Australia, she met her husband in a computer game, moved to the U.S.A. and went into culture shock. Bonus? Not as many creatures specifically designed to kill you. KT creates science-fiction, fantasy, and LitRPG like it’s going out of style, with a dash of horror for fun! She freelance edits for Chimera Editing, plays computer games, and chases her daughter, husband, corgis, cats, and snake.
No, she doesn’t sleep. She is entirely powered by the number 2, caffeine, Chipotle, and sarcasm.
K.T. can be found in the following places:
How are you all doing? I hope well. Selfishly this blog today is going to be all about me! Though I sparkly promise the next one on Wednesday will be more for all you guys (definitely don't miss it). But what a few weeks it's been. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you might have seen the massive announcement I made at the end of last week. It went something like this...
I have accepted an offer of representation from Colleen Oefelein at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.
It feels so good to have finally found myself a partner in crime. Someone I can trust with my words, with my writing career, and to hug my horrible anxiety when it rocks back and forth in the corner. Colleen is that person.
Here's a brief rundown of how it all came about.
I haven't queried much, and when I have, I am THE SLOWEST QUERYER OF ALL TIME. I can't confirm this, obviously, but I reckon I'm up there with some of the best snail queryers in history. It's not that I don't enjoy the process (I don't much), but it's more that I suffer major anxiety and doubt every single time I hit send. Probably just like so many of you, I'm sure. I also love editing - as you might probably guess. I love feedback and I love taking ideas on board and revising my work. So, when I send one or two queries, I like to wait for replies. Is that laughter I hear? Yeah, it's okay, I'm laughing with you. Currently, even a form rejection is something to celebrate when so many agents offer nothing but radio silence. But, forever hopeful once the anxiety fades, I keep my fingers crossed an agent might offer their reasons for passing so I can then reconsider my opening chapters or my query.
Anyway, I had an agent a few years back, which didn't work out sadly, (and let's not mention the fallen-through offers of publication and the disastrous publication ordeal!) and in the wake of our separation I lost a whole bunch of confidence in my writing for years to follow. I didn't stop writing - I doubt that will ever happen - but I was afraid and reluctant to share my stuff. My decision to end the querying break came when I thought I'd take a serious shot at Twitter pitching contests. #PitDark was the first, if I remember correctly, followed by a few others including #PitMad. I did pretty well with favourites coming from some dream agents. Yet, in typical me fashion, I decided to embark on a major rewrite, so held off on sending my manuscript. Nuts, I know. But, the manuscript improved tenfold due to this revision and I added some confidence blocks to my core. Here's one of the pitches I used that resulted in some favourites:
"Kids fall sick. The dead rise. Black smoke lingers. Boy teams up with asylum patient who predicted the end to save humanity."
Still, when I started querying my MG horror, HALF DEAD, my expectations were super low. So, cue the surprise and buzz when I started receiving partial and full requests! In fact, I had an almost 50% success rate with my query and opening chapters. AMAZING! For those who like studying query letters, here's mine (although I tweaked and personalised it often!)...
"THE SKELETON TREE meets STRANGER THINGS meets SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK. HALF DEAD is an upper middle-grade light horror with paranormal elements and plenty of emotional depth, and is complete at 42000 words.
Thirteen-year-old Charlie Oaks wants his old life back—a dad who doesn’t shout, a mom who hasn’t abandoned her family, and a sister that isn’t dead. He tries his best to avoid dealing with his new reality, but it’s getting harder each day. And now that a nasty flu epidemic affecting only children is forcing schools to close, Charlie will be stuck at home with his depressed dad, which might just rob him of all the hope he has left.
When visiting his sister's grave, Charlie sees skeletons roaming the cemetery. Tendrils of black smoke rise from the earth and drag him towards the town's derelict asylum. Rescued by Molly Denton, the most unpopular kid at school, Charlie is both terrified and desperate. With a new goal to become a disease research scientist, he wants answers. He needs to find out why he—and Molly—aren't sick like all the other kids. It seems one person has the answers—Molly’s demonologist dad. Only problem is, he's an ex-asylum patient who was locked up for having a mental breakdown.
With the epidemic spreading quickly and the living plotting ways to take down the walking dead, there's a darker evil at work. It’s not the skeletons who are the bad guys, and now the professor believes the last of Charlie’s profound hope might be enough to restore belief in humanity and save the sick children—if there’s still time."
(I ended with a paragraph about me and some writing-related things that I thought might make me sound attractive. Meh, who knows if that worked!)
Yeah, of course, the rejections still came (and they tend to hurt a heck of a lot more on a full than simply a query) but eventually so did an offer. And what a feeling that was! Okay, so I have been there before, but this time it felt so different. It's what I can only describe as right. I am ready. And yeah, my excitement could be premature, but I am a creature that trusts my gut and this time it's pretty darn calm.
So, now came the chasing the outstanding queries and a flurry of full requests. Plus, a few more offers! AMAZING! I couldn't believe it. And, when I made my decision that Colleen was the agent for me, turning these agents down HURT LIKE CRAZY. Not because I experienced any concern or regret for the decision I made, but because I loathe letting people down. And that's how I felt. Ridiculously, I wished Colleen had been the only agent who'd offered so I could have avoided that part.
And here I am. Agented and feeling pretty validated and pumped for my next steps. The positive words I received for my writing through this experience will always mean everything, no matter what comes in the future. I learned that I can write - and quite well. It might not be to everyone's taste but I'm okay with that. Subjectivity smiles its cheesy grin on everyone!
I also have to go public with my thanks to a certain few people that supported me, beta read, and critiqued HALF DEAD at various stages. My mum, J.S. Roberts, Stacey Goldstein, Lynn Leitch, J.C. Davis, and Rebecca Carpenter. These guys...LOVE THEM! There are others who helped as well, but we'll stick with these guys for now.
And that's it. I have another blog coming on Wednesday, entitled NEWS, and this one isn't just about me, I promise. In fact, it's my way of celebrating and sharing my good news with you. But, I hope there are some helpful things in today's blog at the very least, and please feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
Until Wednesday, thanks for reading!
Hello! How have you all been? I've had a couple of weeks away from the blog as things have been pretty hectic, but I'm back today to introduce you to another awesome author.
Eli Kale is an author, educator, and traveler. He has published two short story volumes on the Kindle as well as a collection of four books set during the Second World War; the collection is entitled Faces of the War and explores stories from the perspectives of four different characters. Eli graduated from the University of Mount Union in Ohio, U.S. with a history degree and a teaching license. He lives in Ohio with his wife and son, Sarah and Everett, and their pets, Nika and Zazu. When he’s not writing, he teaches high school social studies specializing in World History.
Benjamin, a youthful man working at the U.S. Consulate-General in Barcelona, finds himself in a world of danger, vengeance, and intrigue in the early autumn of 1942. His position as cultural attaché will prove to be merely a stepping stone in his European post. Only time will reveal what perilous stepping stones await him, as well as what consequences will arise from his decisions. But will those consequences prove to be too much for him?
An Excerpt from NEEDLESS
“Where are we heading?” he managed in German between laborious breaths as we ran.
“Figuring that out,” I answered, looking for posted signs that read Piazza dei Pitti. I ran on, past more curtained windows and paint-chipped house doors, dodging a few bicycles and a beaten up soccer ball. The alley drew near to a T, with a tall wall staring me down. ‘Right has to head toward the piazza,’ I thought, sure of my bearings. I glanced over my shoulder to see the policeman closing on Mitchell. I faced forward again to round the corner. The other policeman suddenly stood there, tall and strong.
THE BEST & WORST OF ELI
Best Book: Fiction: Constantinopolis by James Shipman; Non-Fiction: Stalingrad by Antony Beevor.
Best Band: Dream Theater.
Best Song / Worst Song: Choosing a best song is too difficult! The worst song, though, is the one that gets stuck in your head in an annoying way – and right now, that song is the theme song from Paw Patrol…one of my son’s toys plays it over and over and over.
Best Holiday / Worst Holiday: Best: Thanksgiving – for family’s sake; Worst: National Coffee Day – I don’t drink coffee.
Best Animal: Dog – I have a purebred Siberian husky that is such a good pet companion.
Best Item of Clothing: A comfortable, worn in pair of blue jeans.
Best Food / Worst Food: Best: Homemade meatloaf with cheesy potatoes; Worst: Cooked Brussel sprouts.
Best Drink / Worst Drink: Best: An ice cold pop on a summer day; Worst: Caffeine Free Diet Coke.
Best Alcoholic Drink / Worst Alcoholic Drink: Best: A crisp Pino Grigio; Worst: South African Sauvignon Blanc.
Best Writing Moment: When I was able to brush aside a 1-star review and not let it get to me.
Best Childhood Memory / Worst Childhood Memory: Best: playing basketball with my neighbourhood friends on hot summer days during high school; Worst: almost paralysing myself in a bike ramping accident.
Best Word / Worst Word: Best: In this moment, serendipitously; Worst: In this moment, whatchamacallit (not the candy bar, though – that’s delicious.
Best Shop: Clock shop in the Black Forest (Hofgut Sternen Shop) where we got my father-in-law’s cuckoo clock.
Best Sport: World football.
Best Job: Being a father.
Best Saying: “Actions speak louder than words.”
Best Teacher: I had so many wonderful and amazing teachers it’s too hard to choose!
Best Time of Day / Worst Time of Day: Best: When my wife and I get our son out of bed in the morning; Worst: When you need to go to sleep but can’t because you’re too awake.
Best Room: Living room – there are shelves on the far wall with all my books and travel souvenirs.
Best Day Ever / Worst Day Ever: Best: The day my son was born; Worst: The day my father had a heart attack.
Best Smell / Worst Smell: Best: Early morning after a night’s rain; Worst: cooked Brussel sprouts.
Best TV Show: Best: Gotta go with Friends.
Best Gadget: The vinyl record player my wife got me two Christmases ago – I enjoy listening to classical music in that way.
Best Sound / Worst Sound: Best: I’ll spin this in a travel context – hearing native languages being spoken by locals in foreign countries, especially Italy or Russia; Worst: Legitimately sad cries from my son.
Best Restaurant: I’ll spin this in a travel context as well – the place with the best wiener schnitzel I’ve had is at the restaurant Dresden 1900 on the square in sight of the Frauenkirche in Dresden, Germany.
Best Movie: One of the coolest concepts for a movie in my opinion is Inception – it’s one of the only movies (outside of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and others) I’ve seen more than a dozen times and haven’t grown tired of.
Best Time of Year / Worst Time of Year: Best: the cool months of summer; Worst: the latter months of winter when the snow and cold temperatures are longer welcome.
Best School Subject / Worst School Subject: Best: History and English; Worst: Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry.
Best Body Part / Worst Body Parts: Best: The brain; Worst: The weenus.
Ah, yes, I was a history lover too! And Friends is a definite go-to comfort show for me.
It's been a dodgy week or two in the word world, but I'm beyond excited to share today's interview with you. A bit of fun and a chance for you to meet someone super lovely! I love this lady! She's a fantastic person and awesome writer, and her new book CHEAT CODE is out now!
AFTEN BROOK SZYMANSKI
Aften lives in a very cold Wyoming valley with her husband, three kids, and one unhappy cat, where they are being cryogenically preserved for all time—thanks to how cold it is.
A terminal illness no longer means certain death when human intelligence can be uploaded to robots. But playing a virtual reality game to win a spot on the transplant list is more brutal than anyone would have guessed. And not everyone's playing fair.
Player GenE doesn't have a code on her arm like every other player. She sure as hell isn’t like the others—killing each other to get an advantage. No way. She’s killing them for completely different reasons because if she doesn’t, she’ll lose more than a rank on the leaderboard.
Excerpt CHEAT CODE:
The illuminated words in bright green letters light a path where an EXIT sign should be. The words are the only source of light in the room. I stare up from the dark entry, unsure where I am or how I got here. Or who I am, for that matter. Not feeling the whole ‘welcome’ vibe at all.
Yet, it’s not particularly weird as people press around me in a direction toward the sign. Nothing pricks my ‘no worries, this is normal’ nerve, so I don’t follow. I also don’t run.
I might be an idiot. Right now, I’m guessing I’m a total-amnesiac-moron.
Lack of light isn’t the only sensory hole in this space. Sound shuffs away into the darkness like an anti-chamber.
Instead of shutting off my senses, I’m on fire, desperate for information. I seek out the light bits and sound parts for guidance and security. All around me people behave with pattern-like confidence, moving toward the lighted words, shuffling samely together. The little sparks of sensory information, all too eager to lead me along with the rest, offer no alternative to ‘welcome’.
The phrase shines seductively, directs me forward. It casts distorting shadows over the people packed around me. The difference between them and me is they walk like they know where they’re going and are eager to get there. I have no idea what’s ahead. And I’m not at all thrilled about the word ‘donor’.
Illuminated arrows diverge from the greeting, leading people in two directions. ‘Ads’ one way, ‘Game of Life’, the opposite. The rest of the group presses forward, like they’ve studied for this decision.
How am I without a plan? I’m a girl of action--that I know. Or a girl not of dis-action. Alright, I know close to nothing about myself and I want to believe I’m awesome. Please, be awesome.
I stand, dividing the crowd that presses toward the lit words. I don’t know which way to go, but I do have an overwhelming urge to bite the person nearest to me. It might be an overreaction. It’s hard to know in a room full of strangers when I can’t even remember my own name. Then again, biting people might be my best course of defense. I don’t yet know …
Stop. Before I sink my incisors into some dude’s arm. Don’t be a psychopath.
Someone bumps me, jamming my right shoulder forward. I smack my left hand against my hip expectantly, but whatever I hope to find attached to my belt isn’t there. I want to go back to before here, but I can’t remember where. Or what it was. None of these idiots seem concerned.
I turn back hoping to find the ‘EXIT’ lit in the same neon green as the other illuminated words, but find only more people with their eyes set on the bright letters shining above, like it’s some kind of goal line.
Reaching out a hand, I stop a girl near my age moving toward the ‘Ads’ arrow. The girl stands symmetrically perfect, having both curves and height. It seems unfair considering I feel mismatched when it comes to my limbs. I can’t help when a little scoff escapes.
The girl stretches her back to her full height, demonstrating the real difference between the two of us—her poise and my edge. And the fact she makes the formless dress look good. I’m wiry to the point of being lurpy, with electrified nerves to match my lightning blond hair.
“Where are we?” I ask without excusing myself for halting her progress. It earns me an up-down judgment glare.
“Did you need something? I don’t want to miss the next ads audition,” the girl says.
Purple streaks, the color of her lips, take the edge off her black hair. Everything about her screams confidence. I feel like her complete opposite, lost in a crowd.
I push into her personal space, forcing her to step back. “Do you know what’s going on?”
She leans away from me even more. “Of course. My agent worked his tail off to get me on the donor list when they found out I was terminal.” She squints at me. “What’re you? Some kind of pre-assessment?”
I roll the words ‘donor list’ silently around in my mouth, tasting them. I don’t like the flavor.
‘Terminal’ and ‘pre-assessment’? No time to dwell on that. She holds her forearm up to my eye line. “GenE247” appears burned or inked into her skin in black block letters. It’s weird. She folds her cream-colored sleeve down several times, covering the markings.
“I’m cleared for Ads.” Her superior attitude melts into a softer, sweeter girl with sparkling eyes smiling along with her full mouth. “I know only Entertainment and Marketing Gen can audition.”
“GenE247, you’re holding up the line.” Someone in a white coat with a clipboard appears from the point where the Ads line bends around a corner. It’s impossible to tell if it’s a woman or a man, but they definitely have the stance of ‘authority figure’ down.
“Coming.” GenE247 hurries away like a misbehaved child. I step backwards—away from the white coat—and hide in the flow of moving people while observing GenE247. Don’t look at me, person holding the clipboard. Why do they keep looking this way?
When GenE247 reaches the person in the white coat she lifts her left arm again. Her purple streaks shine under the lighted lettering. The authority figure places a black device at the crook of GenE247’s elbow and drags it the length of her entire forearm. A beep of approval chirps from the black object as the girl rounds the corner. The white coat person disappears behind her with the black device still in hand.
The people around me continue to move, jostling me so I have to shove them forward in order to keep my distance from the glowing words and their blind corners. Everyone pushes their left sleeves up as they advance in their respective lines. I look at my left arm and fold back my sleeve. There’s nothing but skin. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. GenE247 appeared proud of her branding.
Craning my neck as people filter forward, I look for exposed skin of left arms. ‘Gen’ follows a letter and number sequenced tattooed on their left forearms like a VIN number. I brush my hand over the clean slate of my bare flesh and hold it there, waiting for a mark to reveal itself.
People continue to pass me. No one steps out from behind either corner to beckon me forward like they did for GenE247.
The crowd thins to a trickle. Most head toward the arrow indicating ‘Game of Life’. I wait until I’m the only one standing in front of the ‘Welcome Donors’ sign. At my back, blackness. No exits anywhere. There’s a fine line between taking action and being rash. I need a plan. My mind wipes of information I need to form such a thing.
A door slides across the open bend of the ‘Ads’ hallway. The mechanical grinding and sucking-pull of air from the door cuts me off from joining Ads. The path seals. The lighted arrow flickers once, momentarily revealing the emptiness inside what were shadowed corners, then goes out.
The ‘Game of Life’ pathway remains lighted. The thought of being cut off, left in the haunting glow of the welcome sign alone, sends a chill across the tops of my arm hairs. Each one stands on end.
I race to the bend in the hall where the arrow points forward. No one in a white coat waits for me. I don’t know if I miss them or if the black scanning device waits ahead. Keeping my right hand pressed over my left forearm, I continue walking until the lighted arrow sizzles once then goes dark.
“Hello?” I call.
There’s no answer. No sign of anyone. All the masses of people before me are gone. A sliding door slams shut from where I entered this space, trapping me in my decision. I again reach to my hip for something with which to defend myself. My fingers throb at having nothing to grasp. I pop the knuckle of my index finger to release tension in the tiny joint.
My stomach jumps into my ribcage. I’m trapped. My eyes strain to make out the room, but it’s all dark. Extending my arms, my fingers brush a narrow chamber. The walls sting with cold. No shifting air seeps under gaps in doorways or down corridors. I slap both palms against the wall.
A tinny clap echoes back, muted by the pounding of my panicked heart. “Let me out!” I kick the same wall, jarring my shin in the effort. I could kill that wall right now if I had a weapon, but I’m too busy hopping on one foot because the sting of the unmovable metal still rings up my calf.
This time there’s an effect. A vibration rings under my toes. The pads of my feet go numb as the shaking climbs my legs and settles into my knees. The floor disintegrates around my feet. I sink through crumbling metal which has become something like sand.
“No, no, no…” I say, lifting one foot and not finding solid ground anywhere. “Go back,” I say, motioning my hands to steady the floor. “As you were.”
The sand of the floor bites up my ankles, each grain picking higher and higher up my leg to cling and suck me down a millimeter deeper.
“Open the door,” I shout. What was so horrible about the welcome sign anyway? It was at least… welcoming. Not like this. I’m being expelled, digested through the bowels of a hallway.
The sand pecks at my knees. I slip further and further inside, unable to feel any part of me that’s disappearing into the grains surrounding me. Holding my arms high above my head, I worry if I touch the sinking sand with so much as a finger, I’ll sink faster.
“Help!” I want to bite back the word. Besides, there’s no one else in this space to answer my call. At this rate, I won’t be here for long.
Help doesn’t come and I’m running out of time. Wherever the people in the white coats have gone, they’re not coming back for me.
Opening and closing my upstretched hands, I hope for a ladder rung to magically appear in my palm and lift me out of this mess. Maybe if I concentrate hard enough, I can will an escape option. Mind over rapidly-shifting-matter. I mean, if a solid floor can change into sand, maybe it can turn into a stairway.
A light crackles to life above me. I’ve done it. I’ve activated a way out. But it’s not a hand reaching down to rescue me or a walking path out of this hell-hole. It’s an illuminated phrase far out of reach.
‘Have a Nice Game.’
“Screw that,” I say. “Pull me out.” The sand races toward my neck and face.
Without enough time to suck in one last breath before my mouth and nose are covered, the neon phrase changes to ‘Good Luck’ and I can’t help but feel the room mock me. It might as well be a giant bird icon for how much I’m being given the finger. Raising my middle finger in reply, it’s the last thing consumed by the microscopic grains of glass.
THE BEST & WORST OF AFTEN
Best Book: I’m super into Arc of a Scythe series right now. I’ve read Scythe and Thunderhead—bought the hardcovers I love them so much.
Best Band: This is hard. I love Mika and Kongos and Rage against the Machine… I lean 90’s alternative most days. Kashmir by Led Zepplin is always a favorite.
Best Song / Worst Song: Best: “Kashmir” by Led Zepplin. Worst: “Today is Monday” by that creepy lady who does little kid songs.
Best Holiday / Worst Holiday: Best: Thanksgiving is my favorite—nestled in with all the cozy winter months in the US. I love focusing on gratitude and family. Worst: I guess Columbus Day is one I don’t really get into. The guy wasn’t the type I like to honor.
Best Animal / Worst Animal: Best: Potbelly Pigmy Goat! All the way. Worst: creepy diseased rodents, or venemous creatures. Please stay away death and disease.
Best Item of Clothing / Worst Item of Clothing: Best: Socks. I love cute comfy socks. Worst: pokey underwire or non-supportive bras.
Best Food / Worst Food: Best: Avocado, Artichokes, Steak, Lobster, Sushi, Tomatoes, Kimchi… I could go on. I really like foods. Cucumbers are awesome too. I love soups. Worst: would be goober textured or bland.
Best Drink / Worst Drink: Best: Water is best. Tomato juice is second. Mango Smoothies are third. Worst: I’m not a consumer of alcohol. I completely avoid it. I also try to avoid most sodas, but slip from time to time and splurge on an energy drink or Pepsi.
Best Alcoholic Drink / Worst Alcoholic Drink: I’m sober all the way. No mood altering substances for me.
Best Friend: My husband Devin. We get on each other’s nerves sometimes, but we also understand each other better than anyone else. He is always there for me and supports me even when I’m being a butt.
Best Writing Moment: My little girl reading a short story I wrote about a sweet fourth grader with impulse control issues who learns to rely on her strengths to overcome her weaknesses and my girl saying ‘Mom, I love this character’ <3
Best Childhood Memory / Worst Childhood Memory: Best: Christmas when my sister and I snuck under the tree and saw we had Cabbage Patch Kids; we were caught and had to gift those compromised gifts to a family we knew who couldn’t afford toys that year. I was so mad until I saw the girls carrying the dolls around town—they loved them so much and my six-year-old heart had never experienced that kind of joy before. Worst: Our dog got rabies and bit me, I had to get an awful shot and my dad put the dog down (it took twelve gunshots and I could hear each attempt no matter how loud my mom turned the TV).
Best Word / Worst Word: Best: Albaricoque. it means apricot in Spanish. I love to say it. It sounds so cool on your tongue. Worst: I dislike crass swearing. F word and beyond are poor taste. I also don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. It may sound dumb, but I think it’s in poor taste.
Best Shop: Independent Bookstores <3 with cute reading nooks—I love them.
Best Sport: NFL Football.
Best Job: Being a Mom. <3
Best Saying: “Whether or not you write well, Write Bravely.”
Best Teacher / Worst Teacher: Best: Faye Laloni Anderson Frazier, my third grade teacher. I had great teachers. I can’t think of a truly bad one.
Best Time of Day / Worst Time of Day: Best: I love night. I get more done at night, have more energy, and fewer interruptions. Worst: Early morning—why does it exist?
Best Room: Family room. I love hanging with my crew of cute kids and cute husband.
Best Day Ever / Worst Day Ever: Best: Getting married and having each of my three kids are all my favorite days. Worst: Any day I feel useless or depressed. I hate feeling like a waste.
Best Smell / Worst Smell: Best: Clean laundry. Worst: Cat urine.
Best TV Show / Worst TV Show: Best: Seinfeld is the best of all time. Worst: I don’t watch something if it makes my worst list, so I don’t know how to determine this.
Best Gadget: Instapot—roast from frozen to perfection in one hour, heck yes.
Best Sound / Worst Sound: Best: Laughter. Worst: My children in pain (internal or external).
Best Restaurant: I rarely go out to eat. I have fond memories of The Red Iguana in Salt lake City and Buca di Beppo in LA.
Best Movie / Worst Movie: Best: Oh man, how to choose? I love epics, Star Wars, LOTR… Also Dan in Real Life and Walter Mitty. Worst: Super Mario Bros. My son loves it. It’s so bad. So bad.
Best Time of Year / Worst Time of Year: Best: First snow fall. Worst: Seventieth snow fall.
Best School Subject / Worst School Subject: Best: I love history and science. Worst: Geometry. I can’t proof anything.
Best Body Part / Worst Body Part: Best: I love my husband’s shoulders. I love my own fingers—they’re long but strong. Worst: My mom gut. It’s like elephant skin.
Urgh, I totally hear you about the mom gut! Suck it in, cover it up!
A very happy release day to the very lovely Kelly Siskind! LICKS is here...
Licks, an all new standalone Second Chance Romantic Comedy by Kelly Siskind is NOW AVAILABLE!
36 hours is a short spell when racing the clock.
2,160 minutes is an eternity for old friends to fall in love…
August Cruz is the only man I’ve ever loved.
He’s the one who got away.
He’s the one I totally screwed over.
Now he’s standing on my doorstep, nine years later, but he’s not the only thing that turns up. My mother’s lost diary is in my hands, and it might lead me to my father. A possibility I wished for one year ago, at my last birthday.
I have 36 hours to fulfill that wish.
I have 36 hours to drag August on a wild scavenger hunt.
I have 36 hours to protect my heart before I lose him again...because there's something he's not telling me.
LICKS is a full-length, standalone Sexy Second Chance Romance with a swoony Happily Ever After.
Grab Your Copy Today!
Free in Kindle Unlimited
Amazon US - http://amzn.to/2oNpvIc
Amazon UK - http://amzn.to/2D4ylWd
Amazon CA - http://amzn.to/2tlbbv5
Add to Goodreads - https://bit.ly/2GEuXr7
About Kelly Siskind
A small-town girl at heart, Kelly moved from the city to open a cheese shop with her husband in northern Ontario. When she’s not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head. She laughs at her own jokes and has been known to eat her feelings—gummy bears heal all. She’s also an incurable romantic, devouring romance novels into the wee hours of the morning.
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