Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday.

I would like to share with you a story for you to read at your leisure. It is the beginning of a new series by my co-author Erin Virginia and me. Have a great holiday!

It’s the story of Cinderella’s stepsister after happily ever after and the curse that has been placed upon her..

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The dark, foreboding sky looming above Barren Wood that night painted it in a more haunting light than usual. At only ten-years-old, Hans Nox, was used to nightmarish things: things many in their realm thought to be mere myth or legend. But for the boy, whose hair and eyes matched the darkness that followed him wherever he went, this was a good thing. Hans fashioned himself an apprentice to both the darkness and the light, so he had to study each carefully. Twigs snapped beneath his feet until he came to a familiar clearing in the woods, not too far from the cottage where he lived with his family. It was odd, all the moonlight seemed fall into that circular area. Then, he saw her standing by the cauldron as it bubbled brilliantly above the crackling fire. She wore a dress layered in black and red. In her hand, she held a raven, petting it gently as an evil smile creased her lips. She forcefully cracked the bird’s neck, causing a sharp snapping sound to echo through the night. Then, she tore away a clump of feathers and tossed the carcass into a nearby bush as a dark, red liquid gushed over her hands.

“Why are you doing this, mother?” Hans asked, pulling himself onto a tall tree stump that overlooked the cauldron. With his feet dangling back and forth, he watched her carefully and waited for an answer.

Without a word, his mother lifted her bloody hand above the brew. Then, she slowly dropped one feather into the brew at a time, which bubbled and smoked with ferocity until they had all been added. Moments later, it faded back to a quiet boil. “I owe it to my sister’s memory and to the peace of this realm,” she said, her sharp glare focusing on him for a moment.

From her pocket, she pulled out a smooth, round mid-sized stone and gripped it tightly. It was dark green and glowing. It could have been from the moonlight or the light of the fire, but Hans knew differently. It was coming from a place of magic. He frowned, attempting to make sense of his mother’s words. “But I thought the curse was to be lifted nevermore?”

She glared at him again then when he thought she’d shoot him with a spell to punish his sass, she turned back to the brew and barked with laughter. The sound was so terrifying that even his skin stood on edge, but he knew what she needed next. Without waiting to be asked, he slid off the high stump and walked over to his mother, who now had her hand out in anticipation of his approach. From his pocket, he pulled out the small purple root that he had just retrieved from the deepest part of the woods and held it out her.

As the root disappeared into the clutch of her hand and sharp fingernails, she smiled at him and shook her head. “A curse can always be lifted, but I will not allow that. I cannot allow that.”

Then, she raised her hand above the cauldron and let the root fall from her grasp. As it slipped into the liquid below, a large cloud of smoke emitted from it, filling the entire clearing with a faint green mist. Hans looked up, unsure of what to say or do, but when he set his focus back on his mother he noticed that the stone held in her opposite hand changed to black.

A flock of ravens burst from the trees as steam from the brew climbed into the sky.

“As long as this stone remains black, we can be certain that Stephanie Thorne will die-without true love, or happiness.”

Chapter One

CURSED
Beyond the shadowy trees of Barren Wood in the northern realm of Fairland, sat a vast castle; one that had once been used during times of war to stave off soldiers and threats that had spilled out from the mysterious, darker parts of the country. At the moment, war was not on the horizon but that did not mean relations were harmonious between the four kingdoms of Fairland. The High Emperor, who overruled it all, imposed many restrictions upon the citizens though the kingdoms, who each had their own rulers, remained independent in their day-to-day lives.

As the morning stretched toward noon, the beautiful raven-haired, Stephanie Thorne, sat in the kitchen yard of the Northern castle, the section of Fairland that was on one side dark and on the other side very green, with a bowl of cherries and a sharp, thin knife. The juices gushed over her hands and clothing with each pit she removed, soaking her apron in their blood-red stains. She’d finally reached the last cherry when a large cloud of smoke burst from the woods in the distance. A pain in her stomach twisted at the same instance. It mirrored the pain she’d felt the night she’d moved to the castle over five months ago, and the pain she’d felt the morning of Prince’s Dominic’s Rose & Slipper ball, and the pain she’d felt when she turned sixteen and every birthday before that since she was eleven-years-old. It came more often and erratically as of late. Stephanie watched the billowing smoke evaporating into the sky, waiting for the sharpness to pass and wondered if she’d been stricken with a kind of intuition about whatever happened in the woods that she didn’t understand yet. It wasn’t a place she’d often go. She wasn’t like her younger sister, Helena, who didn’t mind the trees and the earth. But the feelings were probably only bad stomach spells as many were wont to have. They passed, then they were gone. Age had probably increased their frequency. She’d be twenty in a few months time.

“You’re wanted upstairs, milady,” said a familiar voice. Stephanie turned to see the head kitchen maid standing in the doorway, brushing the back of her hand against her sweaty brow.

“I’m just Stephanie, Mary Oliver,” she told the woman tiredly. She didn’t seem to understand that Stephanie was no longer a lady, or maybe she did understand, but it was too much for the middle-aged woman to ignore Stephanie’s true station.

She stood up with her bowl of cherries, handed it to Mary Oliver, then removed her apron to give it to the kind-faced woman as well. At that moment, the kitchen mutt with its light somewhat unclean fur and adorable but mischievous panting face, ran out of the backdoor, limping. Stephanie whistled for the dog to come back to her. She sat back on the stoop and put the dog in her lap, scratching it behind its ears and looking at its injured paw. “Has anyone looked at this?” she asked Mary Oliver.

“What? No, milady. We’ve been too busy.”

Stephanie gave the dog another scratch, this time beneath its chin. “Well, Mr. Wallford,” she said to the dog. “I’ll just have to send someone to look after you myself.”

“Milady,” Mary Oliver cleared her throat.

“Yes, Mary Oliver?”

“Princess Ellinor wants to see you.”

Ellinor. She sighed. Ellinor was the person she spent most time avoiding at the castle. Her step-sister, who’d been in her place once upon a time, was now royalty. It didn’t seem right, but what could Stephanie do? “The cinder princess. Whatever for?” She watched the dog hobble over to its small bed set up for him inside of a wooden crate then stood to look at Mary Oliver directly.

“It’s not for me to question,” she replied, avoiding eye contact.

“But you know?” Stephanie asked stepping over to a washing bucket the maids used to clean their hands. She took a cup and scooped out the water, then watched it send the redness from the cherries with a splash into to the ditch in the kitchen’s dirt packed yard. Stephanie took the small towel Mary Oliver had on her shoulder and wiped her hands with it before replacing it neatly. She gave the woman a pointed look. “Well then?”

“They want you to move all of your things upstairs, milady,” Mary Oliver said, unable to contain her smile, re-folding Stephanie’s apron over her arm, while still balancing the cherry bowl in the crook of her other arm.

For some reason, Stephanie felt the urge to smile back. At last, this could mean they’d finally come to their senses and were ready to grant her title back. Would they grant her mother and her sister’s titles back, too? And the lands that had been taken away from them after Ellinor had married the prince, would those be restored? They’d found her mother guilty of treason after lying to the Grand Duke and hiding away the now Princess Ellinor from the prince. Her mother could have worked her away out of it if she hadn’t spit in the Grand Duke’s face during a heated argument in front of several nobles. She was lucky to have her head, really. But the Grand Duke had known Lady Lavinia years before under what circumstances Stephanie was never quite clear on, and so he’d had the king punish her and her daughter for their crimes mildly. They would either be banished from the kingdom to live penniless, or they could stay at the castle and work as Ellinor (or as they’d once called her as children, Cinderella) had done all those years as a servant. But Ellinor must have seen the darkness of this cruelty and fought to bring the light back into their lives. She, after all, had the kindest heart of all of them growing up, a heart that Stephanie sometimes envied. She had to have gotten the king and his brother to re-think everything. What else could it possibly be? Stephanie rushed inside, passing through the kitchen and the other servants. As she rounded the first corner, mirth compelled her to reach into one of the maid’s mixing bowls and pull out a handful of berries. She stuffed the small bunch into her mouth as she skipped through with a wide grin on her face. There were gasps and sighs all around her as Stephanie yanked the apron tie from another maid, spun her around then let her go. The maid held her head as if she’d gone dizzy. As she ran out of the kitchen, she heard that same maid’s voice shout, “You’d think she weren’t never a high born lady!”

Stephanie could have cared less what maids thought of her. They’d never warmed to her anyway. That didn’t matter now, did it? As she passed the servants’ quarters, she stopped in the threshold and peered in. Along the floor lay stacks of hay with makeshift hay beds and floor mattresses littering the room. It was modest and dreadful, but the thought of moving upstairs caused her to sigh in relief as a smile creased her lips. “At last,” she said to herself, before heading down the back western corridor to the spiral staircase at the end of it.

***

At the top of the staircase sat the princess’s quarters, which was connected by a bedroom in the center to the prince’s rooms. When Stephanie reached the landing, she came to a set of guards standing watch outside of the door. They immediately moved aside and held the door for her. Chin high, Stephanie walked into the room to see her step-sister standing by the window with her ladies-in-waiting just behind her. At eighteen, Princess Ellinor, was the youngest of the group, but she was also the most beautiful. Her long, honey-colored hair shimmered in the light as it fell in perfect waves down her back, and her sweet hazel eyes added to her innocence.

The moment Stephanie’s presence was known, the ladies-in-waiting turned toward her with sharp glares. Stephanie paid little mind, however, as all three of them were nothing but an annoyance to her. She’d known them growing up, and she knew that they loved the idea of seeing Stephanie in such a state, any excuse to look down on someone. She’d been like them too once, she supposed, but now, she just wanted to be home again, comfortable and at the station she belonged to. She wouldn’t take it for granted ever again. Not like these girls did. The three ladies continued blinking at her as if the image of her stung their eyes. There was Marigold, who was beautiful and bookish, but her problem was that she never failed to let you know just how smart or attractive she was. Then there was Abigail, a stern, plain, no-nonsense kind of woman–whom frankly she found dull. Last but not least was Penelope, the group’s peaceful mediator. She was the nicest of the bunch, but that wasn’t saying much. Even she made Stephanie feel uneasy most of the time.

“Thank you, ladies. I would like to speak to my sister-cousin alone, if you please,” Princess Ellinor said, still looking out from her window.

“Why, so I can strangle you without any witnesses?” Stephanie mumbled to herself.

The three ladies curtsied toward the princess and then exited the room, leaving only the step-sisters behind. Just then, Stephanie stood up straight and mimicked their curtsy, grinning widely as she thought of just how fake and irritating they were. “Your highness.”

Ellinor smiled, her eyes darting back and forth. Seconds later, she began pacing the room, picking up and folding garments as she came by them.

“Ah… your highness?” Stephanie repeated, hoping to gain her attention, but it didn’t work. Instead, the princess carried on, ignoring her as she became engulfed with the task at hand. Not wanting to overstep any bounds, Stephanie waited patiently; well, as patiently as she could.

Once Ellinor had finished, she turned back to her with a bright smile. “How long have I been married to Prince Dominic?”

Stephanie tried to hide her face from the princess as she gritted her teeth at the thought. “Five months, three weeks, seven hours, twenty-three minutes, and three seconds, your highness.”

Ellinor tilted her head slightly and shot Stephanie an incredulous look. “You never took care to know any minute of the day when we were children.”

“Things change, your highness,” she said in earnest. She was tired. Her bones hurt and feet ached. She just wanted to take a hot bath, but she never got to do such things. Who would carry hot water in for the likes of her ever again? It was obvious that Ellinor had not called her in to restore any title. She would have come out and said it by now.

Princess Ellinor then returned to the vanity by her window. “They do,” she said, staring out of her wide window that overlooked the castle gardens once again.

Stephanie stood there, watching Ellinor twiddle her thumbs as she stared blankly out of the window. She was already growing weary of the princess’s delays. Why didn’t she just come right out and say it? “Your highness, I heard from Mrs. Oliver that you wanted to speak to me,” she said, her tongue a bit sharper than in should have been.

“Oh. Yes,” Ellinor replied, her eyes still refusing to focus on Stephanie. “As you may have noticed,” she sputtered. “I am not doing well in my station. I’m rubbish, really. And the last time I attended a tea party was when I served you, which-”

“Not to be rude, Ellinor… your highness,” Stephanie said, interrupting her mid-sentence, “But would you please get to the point?”

The princess turned away from her window and shot Stephanie a piercing gaze before speaking. “Prince Dominic’s mother is returning from the south for the first time since our marriage, and I want to host a tea party for her before the gala that night in honor of her homecoming.”

“And?”

“And… I wondered if you could be my etiquette tutor,” Ellinor said, her voice sounding a bit strained. Stephanie shook her head, taken aback by the offer. She wanted to say something–anything–but she couldn’t find the right words to use before the princess spoke again. “If you want to keep your kitchen duty, I understand. Is that what you were doing just now?”

Stephanie could tell by her step-sister’s actions and expressions that she was keenly interested, but it didn’t make her any less exasperated by the request. “Cherries, Princess. I was cutting cherries.”

“Oh,” Ellinor said, smiling as she turned back to the window. “I love cherries.”

Without control, Stephanie raised her hand and made a choking gesture aimed at her step-sister’s neck. Something had come over her. She was not going to harm Ellinor, of course. In spite of everything she’d done or said to Ellinor in the past, she did not hate her, or at least she did not want to. She’d tried hard on many occasions to be friendly with her, but there was always something holding her back. Any time Ellinor irritated her or didn’t grasp things as sharply as she did, she found herself annoyed, fired up in a way that almost seemed magical. It was a feeling she’d felt so many times growing up, a feeling that seemed almost as if it was not under her control. It was as if a mystical force was causing her to lash out at Ellinor when with another person she would have easily been able to relax or brush it off. The feelings had left her since she’d moved to the castle, but she’d made it a point to stay as far away from the princess as possible. That likely had everything to do with it. The only thing was that it felt stronger than ever today, like it had when they were children and like the day she’d rather forget, the day of the Rose and Slipper ball. It always frightened her a little, but she was able to find the composure to close her eyes and take a deep breath.

When Stephanie opened her eyes again, her hand fell right to her side seconds before Ellinor turned to face her again. “You could live right here next to me. There’s a small room adjacent to this one,” she said, her tone now perking up quite a bit.

Stephanie sighed loudly, shaking her head in disapproval; although she really did want to escape the servants’ quarters. “Why, so I can hear you and the prince in the throes of passion while I lie cold and grateful under a thin sheet of cotton alone?”

“Don’t be silly,” Ellinor said, almost laughing. “You’ll have thick blankets.”

And that was it. Stephanie clenched her fist tightly at her side, anger swarming over her. “Will I have my title reinstated?”

“You know I can’t do that,” the princess said, letting out a faint sigh. Then, she turned away and began brushing her thick, fair hair.

Stephanie shot her a heated glare, frustrated and angry with her flippant response. “At least, I wasn’t raised in a cinder closet.”

Almost immediately, Ellinor’s hand stopped brushing, and she looked back at Stephanie through the reflection in her mirror, blinking.

“Apologies, your highness; but I must decline,” she said, offering a final curtsy to the princess before walking toward the door. Before she could leave, however, she turned to her. “Your old dog, Mr. Wallford. He’s got a bad foot. Would you mind sending someone for him?”

Ellinor’s eyes went wide. “Mr. Wallford is hurt? I wish I could bring him up here with me, but he is an outside dog.” And not a purebred, who might have been given a caretaker and a groomer.

“Tell that to the kitchen maids,” said Stephanie.

“I’ll send someone.” Ellinor looked a bit guilty, but Stephanie knew that Ellinor really had as little control over her life as she did. Thinking she could help her had been a wild idea at best. There was no one to help either of them.

“Thank you, your highness,” Stephanie said softly and left Ellinor alone.

***

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you enjoyed the first part of Cursed. You can find more of the story on Wattpad

 

 

Under the Shadow — Book Blitz

Interview with author J.M. Kay

 under the shadow

Under the Shadow: Children of the First Star, Vol. 1

Can you give us a summary of your book?

 Under the Shadow is a story of self-discovery. Two thirteen-year-old boys, Jason Swann and Daniel Elliot, are forced into friendship as they are accidentally abducted by the Archivist, a robotic being created by an ancient alien race known as the Shantar Anar for the purpose of studying the universe. But of course, things that seem like coincidence reek of deeper mystery as the boys and the Archivist find themselves lost in an adventure on a foreign world, Ranis Anjiran.  What they discover there only further dismantles the myths surrounding their accidental abduction and their connection to the Shantar Anar.

While the boys are in far off worlds, their respective families in the small town of Ashton, in the American Midwest, desperately seek to find them, thinking the worst. Their search uncovers a hidden history with ties to the events surrounding Jason and Daniel’s journey.

What was your inspiration for writing Under the Shadow – Children of the First Star, Vol. 1?

I wanted to write a story that wasn’t just about good versus evil but about an evolution and about the ability to become a better version of oneself by looking within.  In that sense, it’s my homage to T.S. Eliot, whose poetry I fell in love with in high school and has always made me want to better understand who I really am as a person.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I don’t know if there was ever a “light going off” moment, but the need to put my thoughts down onto page has been with me since probably late high school.  Writing was a way for me to empty my anxiety and my stress, to literally take it from my own body and put it on a page and I would always feel better afterwards.  From then, my desire to write evolved into a love of bringing my imagination into the world in a way where it would have a home and not be forgotten.  From there it was just a natural progression to thinking, wouldn’t it be amazing if this were my job?

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Have you always been interested in science fiction?  

Science fiction and fantasy were without a doubt my favorite genres growing up and in many ways they still are.  I have always been very fond of astronomy and physics and if my math skills were better I definitely would have pursued a career in a hard science.  Some of the best science fiction I have read isn’t just about spaceships and aliens but builds on a platform of real scientific research and imagines potentials based upon these theories.

Name your favorite book and author from when you were the age of the characters in this book and explain why it appealed to you so much.

That’s tough, a lot of choices, but maybe The Seventh Gate, which is the final installment of The Death Gate Cycle (Fantasy not Sci Fi)  by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  I read the series for the first time at around fourteen.  The world was very original, it employed a great magic system, and the depth and range of the characters they imagined into being were really amazing.

How long did it take you to write your book from start to finish?

I think it took me about two and a half years from first word to final draft, though that doesn’t include a stretch of about a year where I had to set it aside for work related issues.

What was the most challenging part about writing your book?

The most challenging part was not throwing it in the garbage and going to look for something else to do with my life after the first time I had a real editor do coverage. I was used to having writing critiqued but not to the extent where I knew I was going to have to spend months and months tearing apart and writing a new story, which I was already happy with. 

What are your writing goals for the next 12 months? 

In the next 12 months I hope to be able to finish my outline for A Moment in the Glass: Children of the First Star, Volume II and be well into writing the first draft.  If I have the time, I’d love to keep working on a series of humorous short stories I started a little while back and some poetry here and there always seems to find a way into the mix.

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Are you working on something right now? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I’ve started working on the plot points and the outline for Children of the First Star: Volume II which will continue the adventure of Jason and Daniel on the home planet of the Shantar Anar and will find those searching for them on Earth closer to the boys than they might ever have imagined.

 If you could meet three authors, which authors would you choose?
Really tough question and I’m not sure how I could even pick so I’m just going to choose three authors who’ve written books that changed the way I look at life.

Joseph Heller – The sardonic humor of Catch 22 is melded so perfectly with a profound understanding of the human condition and it inspired the title for my first collection of poetry, which I wrote during college Snowden’s Secret.

Milan Kundera – While I’ve read many of his books, The Unbearable Lightness of Being broke my heart during a time when I had lost a close friend.

Alexandre Dumas – The unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo is simply and without doubt the best book I have ever read in my entire life.

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Forget Me Not, Excerpt, Miss Carrington’s

Forget Me Not — Excerpt, Chapter 17

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The Head Student, Virginia Larson, sat behind a long brown table like she did every day after lunch, handing out mail like a drill sergeant. Virginia’s iron demeanor contrasted the rest of Teddi’s comforting days at Miss Carrington’s—or “Middletown,” to the girls who lived there. Virginia’s long dark hair hung straight down her back, pinned tightly at the sides, reminding Teddi of a nun’s habit. She wore her uniform skirts just longer than they needed to be as if to emphasize her position as the most proper and well-groomed young lady at the school.

“Bryant, Pamela,” Virginia’s voice rang out over the whispering girls who crowded together in the front hall.

“Oh, hold these, Teddi. I’m expecting a package today.” The tall blonde named Pamela stuffed her books into Teddi’s arms and pushed her way to the front of the crowd.

“She’s probably getting another gift from Randall,” said Laura Norwick. She stood beside Teddi in their usual spot near a pair of imposing white double doors that led into the main courtyard. Today, the doors were closed to keep the December chill out.

“Could be Christopher this time,” Teddi drawled tiredly.

Laura giggled, then slumped against the wall with a sigh. “I wish I had just one boy writing to me and sending me gifts.” Laura hadn’t received a scrap of mail for weeks. Her parents weren’t exactly the overprotective types, and boys… well, she was far too shy to talk to one.

“What about Stu Buchanan?” Teddi asked with a knowing smirk, causing Laura to blush.

“Oh, he’s too handsome for me. Besides, any boy I’m interested in will look right through me and ask about Jeanne.”

Laura’s sister Jeanne was an actress, to the chagrin of their parents, and engaged to a famous Broadway producer. Jeanne graduated from Miss Carrington’s the year before, and therefore, was the talk of the girls—and any boys who visited the school. They joked about Jeanne in ways that Teddi didn’t think the former debutante would have appreciated. Being an actress seemed glamorous to Teddi, but at the same time she knew a world like that would never be hers. She loved the movies and movie magazines, but she couldn’t imagine being in that life. Laura, she knew, felt the same way.

“Ask him to dance with you tonight,” Teddi suggested, referring to the winter formal that was taking place that evening.

“I don’t think so,” said Laura, shaking her head as if even the thought of such a thing would cause sudden death.

Teddi shrugged. She didn’t feel like talking about boys right now. She was done with them. Unfortunately, she was not going to get her wish as Pamela approached them holding a rectangular box in the palm of her hand.

“Well?” Teddi smirked with a raise of an eyebrow.

Laura was a bit more enthusiastic with her inquiry. “Is it from Christopher or Randall?”

“Paul,” Pamela said quickly. “But not as big as I was hoping. Well, you know what they say about small boxes.”

“Paul? Who’s Paul?” Laura asked, wide-eyed.

“Hotchkiss boy. He’s rather good looking, I suppose. He’ll be here tonight,” she said with a flippant wave of her hand. “Ted, you’ve got a couple of packages waiting for you up there. Do you want me to run back up to the room and put this away so I can help you?” The house they roomed in was just across the snow-speckled lawn.

“No, I think I can manage.”

“I’ll help her,” said Laura.

“Thank goodness,” she said. “That nearly put me in a spot. I still have to finish that history report.”

“It’s due in twenty-five minutes!” Teddi admonished her.

“Well, I guess time’s a wastin’,” Pamela said, waving at them as she turned then dashed out of the building.

Teddi shook her head. “Some roommate.”

“At least you don’t room with Bertha the Bull.” Laura glowered.

Teddi laughed as she thought of the field hockey captain and her brutish attitude. To say she was a contrast to the bookish, giggly Laura would be an understatement. Teddi found her nice enough, but Laura was scared to death of her and spent most her time in Teddi and Pamela’s room.

Pamela was also quite different from Laura, but as Laura pointed out, Pamela was like her sister Jeanne. Boy crazy and glamorous. She was used to those types of contrasts.

“Donovan, Theodora,” Virginia boomed. Teddi and Laura gathered their things and headed for the table.

There were three midsized parcels waiting for her. “Thanks,” she muttered, placing both on top of her books.

“My grandmother is crazy. We have one more week before the holidays. What is the point of all of this?”

Laura helped Teddi carry her last package and noticed a red envelope fall to the floor. “Hey, Teddi, don’t forget your letter.”

“What letter?”

“This.” Laura held up the red envelope only to realize that Teddi couldn’t see in front of her for all she was carrying. “Oh, it looks like a Christmas card or something. I’ll keep it for you,” she said, navigating Teddi through the crowd so she wouldn’t drop anything.

When they reached Teddi’s room, they dumped everything onto her bed, books and all.

Pamela sat scribbling on a pad of paper at the edge of her own bed. Her desk was too cluttered with pictures of boys and decorations for practical use. “Wow, positively symphonic timing, ladies.” She smirked without looking up. “I’m just about done. And I’ll wager one of those packages contains goodies prepared by a certain housekeeper extraordinaire named Gertrude, Miss Theodora.”

“My grandmother exploits her. She works for another family, too, and doesn’t have time to waste baking stuff I’m never going to eat just because my grandmother feels guilty about judging everyone and destroying my life.”

“Be grateful she’s not sending you dried berries and nuts like my mother. What did she send this time?” Pamela asked, looking up with hopeful eyes.

Teddi opened a box and found several pairs of socks inside.

Pamela tossed her essay aside and went to sit next to her roommate. “Hmm, nothing. Okay, next box,” she said, putting the socks behind them and handing Teddi another parcel.

In it were pictures of the family, several of them. “Aw, is that you, Teddi?” asked Pamela, grabbing one of the framed photographs from the box. “You were too adorable.”

“Oh, you were. Who’s this?” asked Laura, squeezing in beside Pamela and pointing at the picture.

“My sister Liza.” Teddi’s brow furrowed. Why would her grandmother send her a picture with Liza in it? She hadn’t seen one in plain sight of their house since before she moved in.

“Okay, Ted,” Pamela sing-songed, holding the remaining box in her lap, “open this up before we have to go to class.”

Teddi put the pictures aside and ripped through the third and final package.

“Kippy! Oatmeal raisin! That woman is a goddess,” Pamela said, grabbing one of the voluminous cookies and sinking her teeth into it. “Mm, well, time for class.”

“Did you get it done?”

“Yep. It’s a little over a page.”

“It’s supposed to be three,” Teddi snorted.

Pamela shrugged. “I’ll say I had a stomachache.”

“I’m sure she’ll believe that.” Teddi sighed, watching Pamela stuffing the last bit of cookie into her mouth before grabbing another.

“What? I didn’t have much at lunch.”

Laura laughed and Teddi shook her head, eyes dropping to her watch. They had three minutes to make it across campus. She pushed her friends out of the door, and they high-tailed it to their lesson.

Find Forget Me Not on Amazon

**Photograph courtesy of WikiCommons of Choate Rosemary Hall

The Scarlett Legacy by K.N. Lee

Welcome, K. N. Lee and her amazing book, The Scarlett Legacy to my blog! I am excited to her have here. Today, you will get to read an excerpt from the book after learning a little bit about this new young adult paranormal fantasy romance!

The Scarlett Legacy is one of the books in the Woodland Creek Series.  30 Authors. 30 Shifter Stories.  Wow! Go Team! Of course, The Scarlett Legacy has its own special flavor. Read on to find out about Evie and the Scarlett family below.

Wizards. Shifters. Murderers. 

Welcome to Woodland Creek where one family of wizards gives new meaning to organized crime.

Evie Scarlett wanted two things: marry Parker Drake and leave Woodland Creek.

But when Hugh Prince, a dangerous crime boss, is mysteriously murdered while awaiting trial for her father’s murder, all eyes turn to the Scarlett family.

The arrival of Hugh’s youngest son, Avalon brings a century-old feud to a dangerous climax. This vengeful wizard gives Evie’s older brother a choice: die or give Evie to him.

When Evie’s plans for escape are broken by familial duty, she must find a way to protect those she loves and win back her freedom. What she finds is an ancient power that she never knew she had.

A power that might change everything she thought she knew about her family.

The Scarlett Legacy

Excerpt

Avalon 

“ARE YOU SURE you’re okay?” Quinn watched Evie as she stepped out of her afternoon shift at Carter’s Books and Gifts.

Evie nodded, offering a half-hearted smile to her best friend. They met up every Friday after her shift for coffee.

“I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”

“Crazy that he just died in his holding cell. From a freaking spider bite! How does that even happen?”

Evie shrugged.

You’d be surprised what could happen when you’re on my family’s bad side.

Quinn adjusted her red-rimmed glasses as she gazed at the gray sky. “It’s about to storm.”

Evie smoothed her wavy black hair down. “Well, let’s hurry over to Geek Beans.”

“Sure. I can’t stay out late tonight. I have to study for my Physics test.”

“Okay. I can’t stay late either,” Evie said as they made their way down Albrecht Street.

Quinn shook her head with an annoyed grunt. “You’re so lucky you chose English instead of biology. My physics class is killing me.”

“You’re right. I’m a writer. I’ll stick to the words.”

“How about you write me an excuse from my exam,” Quinn said with a sigh.

“I wish I could.”

Another wind brushed her hair across her face. A cool droplet of rain splashed on her nose. “Let’s hurry. I just felt a drop!”

Evie was glad she wore her ankle boots as they ran the rest of the way. A man held the door to Geek Beans open for them, and they hurried inside.

“Thanks,” Quinn said as she pulled her blonde hair back into a ponytail. A loud crash of thunder made her jump. “Whew. Close one.”

Evie’s eyes scanned the coffee shop for a seat somewhere discreet.

Geek Beans was one of the coolest places in town. Inside it felt like they weren’t in Woodland Creek. Appropriately named, all of her fellow geeks could hang out in a judgment free zone. With colorful tables that didn’t quite match, hanging plants, colorful artwork, and everyone with their tablets and laptops, it felt as if they were in a quaint coffee shop in Soho or something.

One day Evie would see Soho. She’d see the world and would forget this small town.

“What are you wearing to the Halloween party?”

Evie shrugged. “I haven’t thought about it yet. What about you?”

She breathed in the room’s delightful scent of roasted coffee beans, cinnamon, and apples. The low hum of chatter mixed with the sound of a guitar playing.

“Naughty nurse. Get it? Since I’m going to be a registered nurse,” Quinn said, nudging her.

Evie nodding, only half listening. She turned to see who was playing. Her eyes locked with the musician the moment she found him. It was as if he’d been watching her.

“Whoa,” Evie said under her breath. She couldn’t look away.

Something about him left her frozen in place. He had a familiar face, but she couldn’t place where she’d seen him before.

This was Woodland Creek, Indiana, where everyone knew everyone.

He strummed the guitar strings with grace. His voice made the hairs on her skin rise as he sang along to the guitar. She couldn’t look away. It was as if he held her captive in a spell.

With striking green eyes, tanned skin, and hair cut low on both sides and long on the top he looked like a model from a magazine. Within seconds, she imagined herself running her hands through his rich red colored hair while they kissed in the rain.

Evie felt her cheeks flush and turned away.

Where did that come from?

She’d never even dream about cheating on Parker.

Warnings flashed in her mind. Her skin started to feel hot. Her palms started to sweat.

Her eyelids flickered closed for a quick second, long enough for her to get a read on the stranger.

Nothing.

She opened her eyes to see him looking at her.

That’s odd, she thought.

She could always read others, with minimal effort…or magic.

Something was definitely up with the stranger.

She grabbed Quinn by the forearms. “Get me a mocha latte. I need to run to the bathroom.”

Quinn nodded, a thinly arched blonde brow raised. “Sure. You all right?”

“I’m fine,” she said before retreating to the bathroom at the back of the coffee shop.

She made it a point to avoid looking at the handsome musician that she’d never seen before. He was definitely new, which meant soon every single girl in town would be batting her eyelashes at him.

Evie shook her head.

No. No. No.

Her mind recalled the stranger’s tattoos. An eagle stretched across his neck. She now knew where she’d seen him before.

Inside the bathroom, she went to the mirror. She checked her reflection. Her cheeks were still pink. She grabbed a paper towel and wet it under cold water. After patting her cheeks, she dug into her satchel for her lip balm. She dabbed it on her lips and looked at herself one more time.

Someone knocked on the door, breaking her from her thoughts.

“Okay,” she whispered to her reflection. “Just keep calm.”

She turned and opened the door to leave.

She audibly sucked in a breath.

There he was. He stood before her and smiled, leaving her unable to speak or move. He was taller than she’d remembered from her dream, and smelled as if he’d just eaten apple pie.

Silence passed between them as she stared into his eyes.

What do I do? What do I say?

“Hi,” she squeaked.

“Hello,” he replied. He looked over her shoulder. “Are you done?”

She nodded, wishing Geek Beans would create another bathroom so situations like this wouldn’t occur.

“Excuse me!”

She sidestepped around him and hurried to the table Quinn picked out by the bookcase in the corner. Once she sat down she buried her face in her hands and groaned.

The smell of the citrus bathroom soap wafted into her nose as she breathed in. “Dear God, I made a fool of myself. I just stood there!” Evie buried her face in her hands, smearing her glasses with oil from the palms of her hands.

Quinn paused the chewing of her croissant. She raised a brow. “What?”

Evie took her glasses off and wiped them with her shirt. Her shoulders slumped. She reached for her mocha latte and took a gingerly sip.

“Nothing,” she said.

Quinn chuckled. “Okay. Whatever.” She leaned in, her eyes bright. “Did you see the new guitar player? Tattoos, a great voice, and killer hair.”

Nodding, Evie took another sip, letting the warm liquid soothe her nerves. She closed her eyes.

Guitar player.

He was a musician. That explained the music notes from the dream.

“And what a face,” Quinn continued.

“Listen to you. You sound like you’re ready to give it up to a stranger.” Evie said, forcing a smile even though her heart was racing.

“Everyone can’t get a catch like Parker Drake,” Quinn said. She scrunched up her nose. “And don’t act so high and mighty. You just lost yours this year.”

Evie drank more of her coffee.

“Shush, Quinn,” Evie kept her voice barely above a whisper. She didn’t need everyone in the coffee shop to know she was once a twenty-one-year old virgin.

“So, he asked you to stay with him for a few days? Is that the beginning of moving in together? Spill the beans.”

“I don’t know. Maybe.” She didn’t want to reveal that he had asked her to move in yet. Quinn was a good friend, but a jealous one.

Quinn pursed her lips. “Oh. I see. That’s all you’re going to give me?”

“I can’t focus on that right now. There’s too much on my mind. But sure, it sounds nice. It will be a nice change.”

“Well good for you. I’m glad you guys are together. Even if you have less and less time for your best friend.”

Evie reached a hand across the table and placed it on Quinn’s. She smiled warmly. “You’re always going to be my best friend. No matter what. We will always be close.”

“Promise?”

Evie nodded.

“Good,” Quinn said. “Or else I’d have to move Wendy up to best friend…and she’s nowhere as cute as you are.”

Evie laughed. Her smile faded as she sat back in her chair.

She watched the musician leave the short hallway that led to the bathroom and enter the main room. He paused a moment and looked around the room. When he saw her his eyes brightened, and he started to head their way.

Evie sat up straight, praying that she could keep calm and act as though everything was still normal. Quinn saw her expression and glanced over her shoulder.

“He’s coming,” she said.

“I know,” Evie said, barely moving her lips.

She watched him come to their table and pull a chair out for himself.

Evie’s face flushed as she watched him sit next to her.

Both girls were silent as he sat back and draped an arm around the back of his seat.

There was an awkward silence for a moment.

He looked at both of them and sat up quickly as if he hadn’t noticed them sitting there until now.

“Excuse my manners,” he said. He reached a hand out to Quinn. “I’m Avalon. Nice to meet you.”

He had an accent, a sexy one that made Quinn perk up. Even Evie sat up a little straighter.

Quinn shook his hand. “Quinn. Nice to meet you too.”

When Avalon reached out to Evie she shook his hand as well, feeling the warmth of his palm against hers. Along with the warmth, she felt a slight electric pulse run up her wrist and arm.

She gasped.

He was a wizard.

A quite powerful one.

She could tell the instant they touched.

Wes called it a gift. He couldn’t do it. He could do other things, but always said that she was lucky to know what kind of beings existed around her. As a child, Evie looked up to Wes. They’d play games that strengthened Evie’s powers. Mental games mostly.

She missed those days.

Evie examined Avalon from the shiny red hair on his head, to his expensive black shoes.

Being a wizard explained why she couldn’t read Avalon earlier. His form of power must have prevented it.

And by the shoes on his feet he wasn’t just a guitar player.

She swallowed when he caught her checking him out.

“I’m Evie…short for Evelyse.”

“Lovely name for a beautiful lass,” he said, and settled back in his chair once again. “Do you mind if I sit with you ladies for a bit? I find myself all alone on a Friday night, and you two seem like nice normal girls.”

Normal? I wish.

Evie faked a smile.

“You’re new to town,” Quinn said. “Where are you from?”

“Woodland Creek,” Avalon replied.

They both stared at him, neither believing his story.

“Oh,” Quinn said. “I’ve never seen you before. What’s with the accent?”

Avalon tilted his head and nodded, a lock of his hair falling into his eyes. He racked his hair back. “Aye. I was shipped off to boarding school in Scotland when I was a lad.”

Quinn peered at him, clearly still suspicious of his story. “What brings you back?”

He rubbed his chin. “Good question. A little business. A little pleasure.”

Quinn grinned. “Come to charm innocent Midwestern girls with your Scottish accent and guitar?”

He chuckled at that. “Not really.” He gave Evie a sidelong glance, making her subconscious of her white lock of hair. “I’ve come to bury my father, and see an old mate.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Evie said.

“Who?”

Evie folded her hands in her lap, eager to hear his answer to Quinn’s question.

One of the girls from Evie’s Asian history class stepped over. “Hi,” she said.

Avalon looked up at her from his seat.

“What can I do for you, gorgeous?”

The girl blushed. “We were hoping you’d play some more. You’re really good.”

Evie raised her brows. The nerve on that girl.

Avalon nodded, glancing at the cat-shaped clock on the wall above Evie’s head. His eyes lingered on hers, making her hold her breath before he turned away.

“Aye. I can play a few more songs.” He looked to Quinn and Evie. “You’ll excuse me, ladies?”

“Of course,” Evie said, nodding. She let out a long breath as she picked up her coffee and looked away.

She couldn’t stand it when he looked at her. It was as if he could see into her soul.

“Sure,” Quinn said. “You didn’t tell us who your friend was, though, and who you’re here to bury. We might know them.”

“I’m burying my father, Hugh Prince.” He stood. “And my old friend is Wesley Scarlett.”

Evie’s head snapped in his direction. She could barely breathe when their eyes locked.

There was no denying who he was. Her suspicions were correct.

Avalon was the man from her dream.

It’s not possible, she thought.

“How do you know Wes?” Quinn looked surprised. “That’s Evie’s older brother.”

He grinned, giving Evie a knowing look. “I know.”

Evie swallowed.

Quinn sipped from her coffee, her eyes going from Evie to Avalon. “Well, what a coincidence that we ran into you then.”

Grinning, Avalon pulled his guitar strap over his head. “Indeed. Especially since I’ll be heading to Scarlett Hall tonight.”

Purchase, The Scarlett Legacy Here

K.N. Lee Author Photo

K.N. Lee is an award-winning author that resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. When she is not writing twisted tales, fantasy novels, and dark poetry, she does a great deal of traveling and promotes other authors. Wannabe rock-star, foreign language enthusiast, and anime geek, K.N. Lee also enjoys helping others reach their writing and publishing goals. She is a winner of the Elevate Lifestyle Top 30 Under 30 “Future Leaders of Charlotte” award for her success as a writer, business owner, and for community service.

Her works include, Rise of the Flame, The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld, Dark Prophet, A Gifted Curse, Wicked Webs, Empty Your Heart, Pixie Dust, and the paranormal collection of short stories, Thicker Than Blood.

Author, K.N. Lee loves hearing from fans and readers. Connect with her!

www.Kn-Lee.com

www.WriteLikeAWizard.com

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Cover Reveal Event — The Solomon Project

Hi all, I just wanted to share this info about my friend, Jessica Wren’s latest book. It is paranormal dystopian/historical fiction combo called “The Solomon Project.” She started the novel for NaNoWriMo after carrying around the idea for years, and says on her blog, “I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun writing a book.”

The novel revolves around Eddie Ruiz, one of the so-called “solomons” who, under a cruel social experiment called The Solomon Project, is one of the approximately 15% of males spared mandatory sterilization at birth. He is also a medium who can summon the spirits of the dead. When the inevitable consequences of The Project start to surface–jealousy and resentment that divides families, the spread of a deadly disease, and the wicked one-world government’s horrific attempt to hide The Project, Eddie, along with his spiritual guardian Queen Bathsheba, uses his powers as a medium to summon The project’s namesake to defeat the world powers and put an end to the Solomon Project.

The novel is scheduled for publication February 6.

The cover reveal party is Saturday, December 12. There will be swag and prizes awarded, and other authors will be present to showcase their work as well. You will also meet Mr. Paul White, the talented artist who designed the cover.

Here’s the link!  http://www.facebook.com/events/962729123773696/ 

Lord Bachelor — Tour Stop

Closeup face of a fashion young businessman in black suit casual poses at studio

Today, I welcome Tammy L. Bailey to my blog as well as her wonderful historical romance, Lord Bachelor.  Make sure to enter her giveaway to win a signed copy  of the novel!

Lord Bachelor

Edmund Rushwood is a single English lord in possession of a great fortune who is in desperate need of a rich wife.  

In accordance with his father’s will, Edmund has until he turns twenty-six to find a wealthy bride or lose his vast inheritance. To retain his selfish lifestyle, he agrees to join an American dating game show to find the woman who can save him. He doesn’t bargain on meeting Abby Forester, an impoverished, spirited American woman who is content to live out her father’s dreams in his vintage record shop.

With covert intervention from an unlikely source, Abby lands on the dating game show as one of Edmund’s potential brides. As their worlds entangle and love begins to bloom, Abby discovers Edmund cannot marry her and retain his wealth at the same time. Will love keep them together, or will greed triumph and tear them apart?

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Buy the book:

Tammy Bailey

Tammy L. Bailey is a mother, wife, and veteran. After graduating from Appomattox County High School in Virginia, she joined the military, serving five years in the active duty Army before retiring as a Master Sergeant in the Ohio Air National Guard.

She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and enjoys writing both contemporary and historical romance. When she’s not writing or watching Jane Austen adaptations, she enjoys Star Wars movie nights with her 9-year-old and watching her 12-year-old’s drumming gigs.

Without her family’s sacrifice and understanding, she believes she would have never been able to pursue her passion of writing or her accomplishment of becoming a published author.

Watching an Old Favorite with Brand New Eyes

Moulin Rouge

What are you doing tonight?

I missed Sinatra 100 tonight because I have Internet only. No TV. I can’t imagine telling my ten-year-old self that I would have to live even one day without TV. But rest easy child, there is the internet. The what? The glorious web of all means of distraction, entertainment, folly, nostalgia, news, and the dot-matrix of human consciousness.

So what did I do in lieu of Sinatra? I watched an old favorite, Moulin Rouge. I haven’t seen this film in at least eight years. Would I still enjoy it after all this time? Tastes change, don’t they? If you haven’t seen the movie, you will not get the rest of this post, and if you intend to watch it, the rest will spoil you. Please move on.

For those of you who may be fans of the film, I will go on. My perspective on the movie more than half a decade later is new. It’s because life has made me older than Satine (Nicole Kidman), and so far from Christian (Ewan McGregor) that, though I still love him, I feel sadder for his naïve state than I ever thought possible. He comes from a home like mine–parents who take care of you and things are okay, even if they have judgment. But when you go out into the world, you learn it is sad and not always what you dream it to be. Then there is poor Satine. This girl I always imagine brought into a harsh world from the time she could speak. She survives in a way that only she can and then she sees that things can be beautiful. She’s dreamed of this, but she was confused as to where it might come from. Rather than from love, she assumed, it would come from money. Maybe that is true in the sense of security, but then she finds it in a person who simply sees her as more than just an object. After that, she dies. Then there is Toulouse (John Leguizamo)–dwarfed by disease, talented and genius but forgotten as a clown. His tears remind me of life unrealized and loneliness. He has friends, but he has no family at home. Then Harold (Jim Broadbent). He’s in his 50s and pandering to a Duke, who may save his theater, a duke, who is so alone he feels he has to buy love. What is beauty, freedom, truth and love?

The ideals are what they want, but because they lack freedom, they really can’t have any of these—at least not in the environs of The Moulin Rouge. Harold is a dastardly person but tragic too. He uses Satine, hides her fatal illness so she can make money for him until her last breath is drawn, but what is his life but nothing at all? There is so much painful beauty in this movie for me, and to-be-honest, memories of being shocked that these actors could carry a tune keep it light. It’s also very funny at certain moments and has a great love story weaved throughout its creative soundtrack, not to mention Baz Luhrmann’s beautiful directing makes it complete eye-candy. The fourteen years since its release has not changed that.  Christian and Satine are beautifully tragic, and I think I will always enjoy watching this movie. Maybe I am a movie masochist, but the crying and the sad state of life and the truth it tells its audience will remain beautiful to me for a long time.

 

Person-to-Person

Seven Facts About Allison W.

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  1. I started out as an actress at 17 in the late 1990s. It was a lot of fun. I always wanted to story-tell. My parents remind me that I wanted to do something with story-telling my whole life. I guess acting makes sense though I can’t imagine doing anything but writing these days.
  2. Though I started as an actress, I ended up a teacher for many years. I taught English and got to play in stories that way. I’ve always been a bit of a mentor at heart, so it made a lot of sense for me. I was recently asked if I felt like I’d wasted my time pursuing other things before finally pinning down writing as my life’s work. Not for a second.
  3. I love movie soundtracks and old TV show theme songs.
  4. Though I write in various genres, most of my work features strong heroines in a coming-of-age story, and there’s always romance.
  5. I didn’t think I liked poetry growing up past my Shel Silverstein phase. It grew one me in college, but it wasn’t until I took a poetry writing class in graduate school that I actually tried writing it. Ninety percent of the poems in my chapbook were written in that class. Now, I write poetry as a creative release, fearing it’s never good, but oftentimes needing to do it anyway.
  6. My family and my friends are the hallmark of my life. I enjoy their company though they may think I don’t since I’ve become a bit of a recluse with my writing lately.
  7. An extension of myself beyond the keyboard includes love for old movies, dismay that bookstores are dying, and joy in really good takeout. One day soon this writing will pay off, and I intend to live the world. Until then, see you around the blogosphere.

Any fun facts about yourself you’d like to share in the comments below? I’d love to hear them!