The Midnight Society

THE DAY CATE ACCIDENTALLY BROUGHT A DEAD CHEERLEADER BACK TO LIFE EVERYTHING CHANGED…

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Fifteen year old Cate is seeing things. A ridiculously charismatic boy just appeared out of thin air, disarmed a bomb at a busy bus stop and then vanished again. Everyone around her was oblivious because they were frozen like statues the entire time.

Cate has stumbled into an invisible war in a realm filled with dark magic and time travel. She is now being stalked by not one, but two dangerous wizards.

When her brother disappears, a terrified Cate is forced into the brutal world where she must risk her life to search for him. There she is faced with the most unimaginable decision.

This YA Urban Fantasy is an action-packed, swoony, page turner with an intricately plotted story set in an amazing new world. Grab your copy today.

The Midnight Society is the first book in The Midnight Chronicles Series (The Midnight Society was originally released as Timesurfers.)
Praise for The Midnight Society:
“OMG that was amazing”
“This is pure fantastical with a side of trippy sci-fi and loads of thrilling action”
“The family trees in this story are CRAZY GENIUS”
“The way time travel was handling… perhaps the best way I have EVER seen it done”
“I absolutely LOVED it”

 

https://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Society-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B01EO2CBUG/

The Midnight Society is available worldwide in ebook, paperback and hardback from your favourite online retailer. The ebook is exclusive to Amazon and Free on Kindle Unlimited. Purchase sites include:

Amazon : https://amzn.com/B01EO2CBUG

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Book Depository: http://bit.ly/TMSBookdep

It is also available from bookstores throughout Australian, United States, Canada and United Kingdom.

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The Howling Heart — Tour Stop

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Synopsis:

Paige Donovan is an ambitious college graduate who aspires to reach the top of thecorporate ladder. She’s climbing fast when given the promotion of a lifetime at a prestigious fashion magazine in New York City. Her bright future comes to an unexpected halt after news of her father’s death. She inherits his old cabin in the Colorado Rockies, and just when she thinks her luck couldn’t get any worse, she has a car accident in the mountains and awakens in the small, remote community of Black River.

Soon, she’s engulfed in the mystical world of Varulv—wolves descended from 13th century Scandinavia and blessed by Norse gods with the ability to appear human. Paige is desperate to return home, but never expects to fall for her rescuer, Riley Gray, a charming young werewolf from England who offers her an alternate future with his pack.

Now, she must choose between the career she’s always wanted and the love she’s always dreamed.

 

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April Bostic is a New Jersey-based, Adult Romance author who enjoys unleashing her creativity and letting her imagination run wild. Her love of romance books inspired her to become not just a reader, but also a writer. In December 2008, she self-published her first novel, a contemporary romance with a supernatural twist entitled “A Rose to the Fallen”.

Her first short story, “Right Here, Right Now”, released in January 2012, is an erotic romance with a dash of S&M. The following year, she released two more short stories: a romantic urban fantasy inspired by the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche entitled “Eros, My Love”, and a sexy romantic comedy entitled “Love Addiction”.

After five years, she released her second novel, “The Howling Heart” in August 2013, a paranormal romance that delves into the mystical world of werewolves and Norse gods. To end her busiest year in publishing, April also released her fourth short story in December 2013, a historical paranormal romance entitled “A Dark Scandal”.

author-interview

Where are you from?  I was born in Perth Amboy, NJ but grew up in Woodbridge, NJ until 6th grade when my parents divorced. Then my mother, sister, and I moved to Brick, NJ where I spent most of my teenage years. As an adult, I live in Perth Amboy again and I think it’s funny how my life has gone full-circle. I just hope I don’t die in the same town I was born.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? I would write more about the history of Varulv, and include an epilogue which would explain what happened to Quinn after Riley and Paige left. I know many readers wanted to know more about her.


Can you share a little of your current work with us? 
The Howling Heart is an adult paranormal romance about a young woman from New York City named Paige who falls in love with a young werewolf from England named Riley. They first met as children in a forest in the Colorado Rockies, and are reunited years later as adults after a tragedy in Paige’s life. They both face many obstacles that prevent them from being together and it’s not only because they’re different species. Paige wants to focus on her career, but she wants to be with Riley, too. Pack law prohibits him from abandoning it, so they have to figure out how to make their relationship work. My novel gives you a healthy dose of paranormal and romance. There’s an equal amount of both. There are twists and turns in the story, so I hope the predictability factor is low which should make for a more enjoyable reading experience. My werewolves are unique from other authors. Their existence is the result of the love between a wolf and a human during 13 century Scandinavia, and the supernatural intervention of Norse gods. The wolves are called Varulv, which is the Swedish and Danish word for ‘werewolf’. They can’t keep their human form for an extended time or if they fall asleep. The moon doesn’t affect their shifting, but a special light was placed inside of them by the gods which allows them to shift between human and wolf. They are wolves first, and humans second.


How do you overcome writer’s block?
I think you have to be really motivated and have an awesome story idea. The story has to be so great, that you can’t contain it in your mind anymore and you feel like you’ll explode if you don’t write it. That, and having the passion to write. If you don’t have passion, I think readers will be able to tell through your writing.

What was the most fun part of writing your book? I wrote The Howling Heart like I was watching a movie. I love romance movies with supernatural, fantasy, or sci-fi elements, so I think that’s why this book was fun to write. I envisioned my dream cast portraying the characters. For the some of the dialogue, I would think, “How would so-and-so look if they said this?” I’m a very visual person, so I think that’s the reason I wrote the book in the style that I did.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? I acknowledge that I have a problem with telling and not showing in my writing. I’ve been struggling with that weakness for years, but I hope to overcome it one day. I know the only way I will is to write more, but that means getting over my 3-year writer’s block.


Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
When writing about werewolves that are mostly wolf in nature, I felt it was necessary to do some research on Canis lupus. I read about wolves and watched several nature documentaries. I learned about a female wolf’s gestational period for a very specific reason and it’s explained in the book. I read about pack hierarchy, especially because I decided there should be alphas, betas, and an omega in the Black River pack. Reading about wolves’ physical features and advantages that help them survive in the wild was important. I needed to know how a wolf behaved when it was aggressive, submissive, and playful, because it helped me when writing certain scenes. Although my wolves are essentially “super” wolves that have extraordinary abilities, I had to think about what makes them similar to normal wolves. I even looked for images displaying the variety of fur coloring across different sub-species including the extinct species. Could I write about a wolf with striped fur? Are there wolves with tawny or brown fur? Are they all gray, black, and white? Many of the things I learned about wolves were used as a foundation for my mythical werewolves. And while Varulv don’t truly exist, some aspects about them are rooted in truth.


Do you have any advice for other writers? 
If you write a story, and you’re passionate about it, don’t give up on it. See it through to the end, because you’ll feel so good about yourself when you do. It’s a major accomplishment to finish a story, whether it’s a short story, novella, or novel. Don’t get discouraged by negative readers or reviews. Remember for every person who doesn’t like your work, there will be someone who does. Writing, like all forms of art, is subjective, and not everyone is going to like your work. Be brave and put yourself out there. It takes a lot of courage to be a writer or author. Don’t be afraid, because you’ll realize it’s not so scary once you do it.


Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope they think The Howling Heart is a unique werewolf love story. If they weren’t big fans of the paranormal romance genre before, and my book just sparked their interest, I hope they finish it with the desire to read more books similar to mine. Each author tries to write their own twist to werewolf mythology, and I think it’s fun to read about different variations. It’s a myth after all, so the possibilities are endless!

Do you have an agent or publisher? How did you go about finding one? When I think about my publishing journey, it brings me back to a place I wish no aspiring author has to go through. I started by querying 52 literary agencies, but no one accepted my manuscript. Then, I queried 31 publishers that accepted unsolicited manuscripts from authors. After receiving so many rejections and unsatisfactory offers, I almost gave up and decided to just keep the story on my hard drive forever. I swore never to self-publish again, because I had such a terrible experience with my first book. But I kept querying publishers, and finally accepted a contract with Eternal Press because they published in paperback and e-book. I’m old school, and still love paperbacks more than e-books.

Find the author on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2768953.April_Bostic

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Location, Location, Location

TOPIC: Story World Building

Many of you have read or heard about our book, The Lost Heir, so my writing partners and I were thinking that maybe some of you might like to see who the “skyside” world in The Lost Heir came to be.

**skyside=Above ground (as this world also includes vast environs below ground).

There are two major locations considered skyside in the novel: Brightwood Studios and The Foxworthy Hotel.  As a writing team, over the course of about two years, we visited many places to write and take notes. The year and a half after that, we spent in edits and publishing this title, along with my other book, Forget Me Not. Thank you, Booktrope Publishing for helping make that happen.

When it came to building the world of The Lost Heir, we decided on occasion to get outside of the house and work in blissful settings that might inspire the story locations fluttering around in our imaginations. We looked no further than the city we live in, Los Angeles, CA. I am a native of the area, and I think it’s my imagination that holds the novel’s world the most, but I feel that Erin Virginia and Grace Arden are powerful forces that swirl around in it and give it new life. But where did all this life and this world spark from?

Inspirations for BRIGHTWOOD STUDIOS

The Culver Studios is the movie studio that inspired Brightwood Studios in The Lost Heir. We spent a lot of time walking along the outer rim. Though we’ve been inside briefly, we have not had the full tour yet. But when we stayed as guests at the Culver Hotel, we had a good view of it from our windows. From the best of our views, we found out what it might have looked like as Isabella looked out of her window onto Brightwood Studios. See below. Cool huh?

Below is the 2oth Century Fox backlot. A good deal of Brightwood’s backlot is based on this studio, which is about five miles from Culver Studios. I have been on this backlot a few times more times than Culver so it was easier for me (Allison) to picture this one. Also, Brightwood is about halfway between the size of the Culver Studios and Fox lot. Though Sony Studios is closer to our main location, the only thing I think we used as inspiration is that lot’s main gate…It once used to be good old MGM. Yay for Leo the Lion!

THE FOXWORTHY HOTEL

The Culver Hotel is the hotel we spend the most time in and was the primary inspiration for The Foxworthy Hotel. I guess you could say The Culver Hotel is our hero. Practically adjacent to Culver Studios, just like The Foxworthy is nearly attached to the fictional Brightwood Studios in The Lost Heir, The Culver Hotel was always accommodating and friendly when we’d spend hours there working with our laptops. Some of the staff members even made into the book! We’ve had several tours of the hotel and as we mentioned earlier have rented rooms a few times to make sure we soaked up the classic Hollywood charm that the stunning boutique hotel has to offer. The Foxworthy is meant to be much larger than The Culver Hotel. We had to do that so we could make sure it has plenty of places to move and get lost in. But The Culver Hotel itself is not without its own magic and mystery. Talk to the staff and you’ll hear stories of the ghosts of Hollywood past. Legend has it that there is even an old tunnel underneath the hotel that led to MGM (now Sony lot). Sorry, people, it got plugged up… or so they say.

Below is the gazebo at The Ritz Carlton, Marina del Rey. We only went to this hotel once to write, but we loved the back garden and the staircase that led to it so much that we decided to make it the inspiration for the gardens behind the ballroom The Lily Field Ballroom in The Lost Heir. This gazebo looks like it comes from a magic world, doesn’t it?  It definitely opened up our imaginations to beautiful ideas.

We visited the Chateau Marmont and felt it was as spooky and grand as The Foxworthy. The Foxworthy, again, is larger than the famed Hollywood Hotel, but lacks the bungalows the Marmont is famous for. Also, there aren’t many wild celebrity parties at The Foxworthy — in the first book, anyway. 😉 We created a funny character whom you’ll meet later in the series just before we went inside that. It was a fun visit, but since we were afraid to break something, we decided to leave after about an hour. They seemed nice enough though.

The Beverly Hills Hotel‘s Cabana Cafe was a fun place to have lunch and write. We shared steak quesadillas and had amazing cocktails. Yes. We are over 21. We had a great time discussing Isabella’s life and family legacy at this historic Los Angeles landmark. We did not base specific decor of the hotel in The Lost Heir, but we do imagine Isabella and her grandmother’s suite to look a bit like the interiors of the bungalows. The hotel staff clothing in our novel is also similar to that of the BH Hotel staff’s. Thank you Pink Palace for always being so friendly and making our poor writer girl days filled with hopes and dreams.

We also spent some time at The Roosevelt Hotel for inspiration. It’s bigger. It’s Hollywood. It’s legendary. We could not skip it.  So what happened on the first, second then and third visit? We just ended up eating giant burgers at their Average Joe and Jane restaurant, 25 Degrees, situated at the back of the hotel. Nothing specifically in The Lost Heir is based on the Roosevelt, other than this restaurant. The food at Betty’s is a combo of the food here, The Culver Hotel, The Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles, and, of course, Musso & Frank!

That’s it! There will be many more places visited in the series, but unfortunately, there is no underground Violet City, but I’m sure we’ll find ways to make do. Oh, note: Isabella’s school (St. Agnes) is based on Immaculate Heart School for Girls as well as Marymount High School. We did visit the below location to map out Isabella’s run from the bullies with Pythian and decided to place her school, St. Agnes, in a fictional location near the 8600 block of Sunset Blvd, known as Sunset Plaza. Fun times! We actually walked the chase path. We had a lot of fun.

Sunset Plaza, Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA -- setting for Part 2 of Chapter 1

Sunset Plaza, Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA — setting for Part 2 of Chapter 1

We’ve had a great time getting prepped for the novel. Now it’s time to work on its sequel. Since we know the world so well now, we are ready to write it and the rest of what we will call The Diadem Chronicles much more quickly!

Happy 2016!

**Dedicated to Alan Rickman, a wonderful actor and talent.

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

 

 

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.

The Lost Heir — Chapter 1

A girl who isn’t Katniss or Harry Potter, but a girl who can take on her world and be awesome about it.

The-Lost-Heir-final-cover--front-4

The Lost Heir, Chapter One

Isabella Foxworthy

Fire licked the walls and formed a canopy above her head. Numb. Trapped. Their screaming burned in her ears as the earth shook, and near-death coated her skin. The fire whipped around her, close but not touching, never touching. It was almost as if she wielded some sort of power over the flames, but that couldn’t be. She heard her mother and father’s screams over and over as they were engulfed by the blaze. She was helpless to save them. Suddenly, the screams stopped. Terror climbed into her throat as a shadow moved toward her. She tried to breathe but couldn’t. The room grew darker as her body weakened.

“Come on. I’ve got you,” the man said, as her knees buckled and she grabbed his shirt. “I’ve got you. You’re a light in this darkness. You’re safe.” The trembling in the ground stopped, but the fire continued.

Enveloped in a warmth different from the conflagration, eight-year-old Isabella Foxworthy collapsed. Cradled in the man’s arms, her terror melted into tranquility as she was taken from the house into the cool night. Her eyes opened to an oddly purple sky, and she noticed a light glowing around them, not unlike the vicious flames of the fire. Red deep as blood. An empty blackness filled the room. A foreboding fear encircled her heart. Then, her savior mumbled something, and the light turned to a silvery blue.

“Give her to me,” another man said.

“I can watch over her.”

“Give her to me,” he repeated. “She needs to be at the hotel with her grandmother.”

She felt a gentle caress on her cheek and a rush of coolness shoot through her body. “Then I’ll take her.”

Isabella reached up to touch the second man’s hand, but he was gone. “Where’s my mother?”

“Hush. I’ll take you to your Nano,” said the one who held her, the one who’d saved her.

Then, as the violet sky turned blue again and as the approaching fire engines howled in her ears, the man carried her up the narrow road to the Foxworthy Hotel.

Los Angeles, CA – Present Day

 FREAK!”

As sunlight and darkness fought for occupation in the sky, nearly-sixteen-year-old Isabella clutched her backpack as she approached Sunset Boulevard en route to the city bus stop a few blocks down the famous street. Classes at St. Agnes High School had gotten out an hour earlier that day, but she’d stayed behind with a couple other girls to work out with their capoeira instructor. She was shocked when she’d learned St. Agnes offered it as an after-school activity. Brazilian martial arts didn’t really go with the strict traditionalism of St. Agnes. Carte Blanche, the school she’d gotten thrown out of last year for something that wasn’t her fault, would have offered capoeira as standard physical education, however, along with extreme dodgeball and competitive hula hooping. Their motto: Unschool the schoolchildren and the world will be in harmony. Honestly, Isabella just wanted to go to a normal school for once, have a normal family. But she didn’t have either. In fact, all she had was her grandmother who, half the time, wanted Isabella out of the way and the other half of the time wanted her locked up in their family hotel and homeschooled until she finished college.

Isabella shifted her eyes down to her smart phone. 3:52. Perfect. Eight minutes until the bus got there. She could make it to the stop in less than five if she walked fast. She loved the stability of the city bus system. Always coming and going on time. Well, at least in theory. Even if the afternoon bus was late, she could always count on it coming eventually. And if she missed it, another one would come along soon. It took care of her and other people, no matter who they were. It, in an odd way, allowed her to wobble on the wings of independence before she was ready to fly off on her own. She was glad her grandmother had let her ride it this year. 3:53. She didn’t want to be late, though. Not today.

WEIRDO!”

Two voices filled her ears as she got closer to her destination. One like the roar of a lion, the other—a baboon, maybe? Against her better judgment, she continued down the street, past a hippie clothing store and Mel’s Drive-In restaurant. 3:54.

Stop it!” A third voice protruded with sheer fright. It seemed to come from a young boy; his pleas punched fear straight into her chest and invaded her senses.

“Please? Please, leave me alone!” the young boy continued to plead. She could feel his fear.

Her heart squeezed as she heard another shout of, “Stop!”

She had wanted to make it home in time for Betty’s corn ‘n’ crab chowder. The cook was leaving for the Christmas holidays after her shift ended at five, and Isabella wanted one last cup. So hot, so creamy. No, that was selfish, right? Other things were more important than her stomach. It growled. But maybe it didn’t have to be her. Maybe a cop would come by.

Images of chowder fled her mind when she saw them in the opening of an alley a few feet from the bus stop. Three boys. The largest was dangling the smallest off the ground. The other stood laughing as he watched—the baboon. He and his bigger friend were dressed like skaters with no skateboards in sight while the boy was in black pants, a white shirt and a vest. Strange outfit for a little kid. The boy shook him again. She told herself that she felt absolutely nothing. She could just walk by or maybe call for help. She could call for help. The connection between her and the younger boy grew stronger.

Fat flying fists seized her heart and squeezed. Her throat narrowed as her eyes centered on the action. 3:56.

“I should help this kid.” Beads of perspiration exploded onto her temples. “I can still make the bus.” When the big boy dumped the little one onto the ground and kicked him, Isabella gave up, threw down her backpack, and marched full-speed over to the scene. With expert ease, she yanked one boy’s already low-hanging pants down. The pudgy rat-faced boy bellowed. His friend, lankier and full of acne, lost his hold on the small boy as he doubled over in fits of laughter. He was met with a swift kick to the shin, making him stumble and fall. “Come on, kid. You gotta get up. You gotta run.”

“I can’t,” the small boy moaned. She could feel him acutely. He was nauseated, worn out, and still afraid.

Isabella snatched him by the collar, forcing the boy into a squat. A large shadow loomed over them. Kicking her foot out behind her and then sweeping it backward, she tripped Lanky-Acne again, but she didn’t think she would be able to get away with her amateur capoeira tactics much longer. From the look in Lanky-Acne’s eyes as he got back to his feet, Isabella knew it was going to be game over soon.

“Run, kid! Run!” She yanked the boy to his feet, hearing the 4:00 bus pull up to the bus stop behind them. “Follow me!” She felt his hopeless fear slide into relief mingled with a sudden burst of adrenaline. The change in him was fast, but it worked for their situation. They needed to outrun these guys. The bloody-nosed boy’s adrenaline charged Isabella forward even faster as they raced down the alley to a small street that ran adjacent to Sunset. They could take that street down to her school and be pretty close to the main gates. She wanted to go back for her backpack, but she’d run away from it. Damn it. She looked behind her. Pudgy Rat-Face fisted it between his thick fingers, slung it over his shoulder, and, with his friend now fully recovered from having his pants around his ankles, chased them down the wide alley.

“Keep up, kid! We have to hurry.”

“Do you know where you’re going?” the boy asked as they ran.

“I always make sure I know where I’m going.”

They turned the corner onto the back street and ran down several short blocks until they came to the narrow road that led to the front gate of her school. White, purple, and green Victorian houses sat on the expansive grounds of a former oil baron’s estate.

The campus guard let her pass, but when the boy followed, the burly man stood. “Whoa. Whoa. Where do you think you’re going, kid?”

Isabella turned back, chest heaving. “Oh, Sam. This is, uh, my little brother.” She felt newfound safety and warmth threading between her and the boy. He wasn’t worried that Sam was going to toss him out. It was odd. He didn’t even know Sam, and those goons were still just outside. She tried to ignore the boy’s reaction as Sam raised his eyebrows and folded his arms. Isabella’s dark, wavy frizz, tan skin, and dull, olive-drab eyes clashed sharply with the pallid, sleek-haired boy with a dust of slant at the corners of his black eyes.

“He’s adopted.”

Sam looked skeptical. “I never heard you mention a brother.”

“I…” She’d always wanted a brother. Did that count?

“You know the rules,” the burly guard said, arms across his chest. “No boys on campus.”

“Look! He’s being chased by them.” She pointed at the two boys who were huffing and snarling at the gate. “They were beating him up.” She didn’t mention that the boy standing next to her no longer seemed fazed by this. In fact, he was just picking at his fingernails as if nothing were going on at all. Sam, on the other hand, did not take the invasion of the menacing boys lightly.

He walked toward them, rattling his keys and waving his baton. “Is that right?”

The bullies backed up, shaking their heads.

Isabella approached behind Sam. “Scared now, aren’t you? Cowards! Just give me my backpack and go away.”

“What backpack? This one here? This is mine,” Pudgy-Rat-Face said, clinging Isabella’s black backpack with hot pink flowers to his chest.

“Fancy pants,” said Sam. He took another step toward them. They stepped back in unison. Rat-Face dropped her backpack, and the boys turned and shot off like two arrows released from an archer’s bow. “Good riddance.”

“Thanks, Sam,” Isabella said, patting his arm.

“Is someone picking you up?” asked Sam.

“I prefer the bus,” she said. The boy stood beside her expressionless as he shifted his eyes between her and Sam as they spoke. He seemed perfectly calm now. It was as if the episode outside the gate hadn’t even happened. Isabella wondered why she was still so connected to him. He wasn’t in danger any longer.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea with those two out there,” said Sam. “You should call your family.”

“I don’t have a family,” she replied.

Sam’s expression was serious when he asked, “What about your grandmother and all those people living under your roof?”

“My grandmother’s all right, I guess, but those people living under our roof need to take a vacation,” said Isabella.

“Isn’t that what they’re doing?” Sam laughed.

“Maybe, but I’m not,” she said, looking down at her phone. It was 4:20. Betty would be leaving soon. “I can take care of myself,” she said as a coolness passed through her body, and her connection to the boy snapped apart as if it was a dried twig. She gasped. That had never felt so abrupt before. Not that it mattered. She had other things to worry about. The kid was fine now, after all. “Well, I guess I wouldn’t mind a ride… this time. My grandmother won’t like that I’m asking for one so last minute, though.”

Sam chuckled. “I’m sure she’ll make an exception. And what about you? Where do you live, kid?” he asked, looking at the small boy.

“I was on my way to see my Uncle Theophilus at the Foxworthy Hotel.”

“What?” Isabella’s mouth fell open. Sam laughed.

The boy continued, “The Foxworthy—”

“I heard you. That’s my hotel. And your uncle hasn’t been around for over a month.” Her old music instructor, a Foxworthy family friend for decades, did have a room at the hotel but not an apartment suite like the rest of the permanent residents. He was always on the go, and he wouldn’t be back for months. That was what her grandmother had told her.

“Oh no, that’s not true,” said the boy. “He’ll be there today to give piano lessons.” This kid really was getting on her nerves.

“Oh, great. I hope they’re for you and not me,” she said with a sigh.

The young boy tilted his head. “And what do you mean it’s your hotel?”

***

Twenty minutes later, a black town car pulled up in front of the school. A gray-faced driver with gray-blue eyes rolled down the window.

“Hi, Archie. This is my friend,” Isabella said, thrusting her thumb behind her at the boy. She turned to him. “What was your name again?” They’d chatted with Sam for a while about a lot of nonsense while waiting, and he had said it, but she hadn’t paid much attention. She had to stop being so selfish, right? But she wasn’t selfish. She did a lot for a lot of people. So maybe it wasn’t that she was selfish. It was more that she really wanted to be selfish but couldn’t. She really didn’t know.

“Pythian,” the boy said.

She smirked. “No wonder you were being pummeled.”

“Pummeled?” asked Pythian.

“You know… beaten up? Creamed? Turned into rodent bait?” She probably shouldn’t have said that. For a person who sometimes felt other people’s emotions, she certainly was good at whipping them with her tongue at the wrong time.

“How’s it goin’, Isabella?” Archie the driver asked as they got into the back of the hotel’s service car, wrinkles pinching the corners of his smile.

“Winter break starts tomorrow, and I already want it to be over.”

“What kid wants winter break to be over before it starts?”

“It’s pretty much sucked for me the past few years, so, uh, this kid,” she said, leaning back in her seat.

“Rolf told me this was a secret mission and not to tell your grandmother I had to come get you.”

Isabella sighed. “I didn’t want her to worry. There’s too much to do at the hotel.”

Archie looked back at her with a wry smile as if he knew exactly what she meant. The Foxworthy Hotel was crowded over the holidays, and Isabella had more to do than ever, but that wasn’t the real reason she wanted to skip this time of year. It never failed that she got into some sort of disaster because her weird empathic abilities heightened even more than usual during the last two weeks before her birthday, December 31.

Isabella shifted her eyes to the boy beside her. He stared out of the window, wearing that empty expression again. He was beyond strange. But if he was right and Theophilus was at the hotel, it meant even more work to do.

Nope. Isabella was not going to let her grandmother win that little game. She was going to have a normal holiday like a normal kid, even if she didn’t have a normal family anymore.

First, she’d dump the strange boy, go find Betty, and then hide in her room to do whatever she wanted. The perfect plan.

 

 

 

The Fabliss Life of Bella Mellman Tour Stop

The Fabliss Life of Bella Mellman by Shirley Sacks spins a bold tale of a savvy woman of the world who gives a rollicking social commentary on life in the flats of Beverly Hills, men, “mature” dating habits, and the odd complexities of love, sociopaths, marriage, divorce, and living a creative life. The book also looks at the role of the older woman, her place in the sexual panoply, which has been so horribly simplified.

Bella Mellman, a transplanted South African artist and writer, lives a ‘fabliss’ life (as her 8-year-old granddaughter tells it) in the flats of Beverly Hills. A long-time divorcee nearing the seventh decade of a very full life, Bella is constantly annoyed when friends, and even strangers, ask the impertinent question of “Why don’t you have a partner?” Followed by the hated phrase: “You look quite good for a woman your age.” The only thing to do, Bella realized, was to write a book that explained once and for all, her satisfaction with being older and single.

fabliss

Born in South Africa, married, two children, divorced.
Off to London, back to South Africa, mistakenly and briefly married.
Then 1987 to The United States, landing in Beverly Hills.
Writes, paints, knits, re-arranges decor, cooks, exercise a bit, reads a lot.
Loves animals and abhors animal cruelty!
Interested in just about everything except sport.
Has opinions about everything including sports.
Loves friends old and new, family near and afar.
Love … the answer.
_____________________________

Education: Fine Arts Degree, University of The Witwatersrand.
Showed art at various galleries in Johannesburg, London and Los Angeles.
Advertising copywriter, Johannesburg.

An Interview with Author, Shirley Sacks

shirley sacks

  1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
    I used to want to be a painter, and have a degree in Fine Arts and have shown my work at various galleries. But once I began to write seriously, in my early forties, I loved the process so much. I continued doing both and make art occassionally but I much prefer writing. I have illustrated my first book myself; so the two can work together.
  2. Do you write full time?
    I write almost every day. It’s not a chore. When I can’t write, I don’t like it.
  3. How does this book differ from your other series’?
    This is my first book in a series; The Fabliss Life of Bella Mellman: Book Two is well on its way.
  4. Describe your main character?
    Bella Mellman is almost seventy. She’s had a full, rich life. She is opinionated, passionate and energetic. She hates being told she looks good for her age. She lives on her own and cherishes that she doesn’t have to share her life with anyone irritating (like one of her ex-husbands or boyfriends).
  5. Who would you choose to play that character in the movie version?
    There are so many wonderful actresses who are older. I adore Angelic Huston, Helen Mirren (my publisher loves her best). Jacqueline Bisset suddenly came to mind. She’d maybe too gorgeous (for any age). Rene Russo was Fabliss in Night Stalker. I like Diahann Carroll and Pam Grier, but Bella’s supposed to be white. Still Hollywood can fix that. Dianne Keaton … maybe? Jean Smart? Joan Collins (I think too old now). Bette Midler … love her!
  6. Who is your favorite author?
    I do not have a favorite author. I like reading books in which I learn something. This makes for many authors, as so many write about things I don’t know. I am not the kind of person who re-reads books or goes to movies more than once. I know that every single person who manages to write a book does something that is difficult and brave. Especially brave.
  7. Do you have any advice for other authors?
    I think the hardest thing is to find out what you want to write about, especially if you love the process of writing. But you can always begin writing about yourself, what you feel and think and your interests or passions, and that can segue into something different. That’s how Bella began, with a memoir that segued into a character that segued into a whole Fabliss Life: a novel, NOT a memoir.
  8. Anything you’d like to say to your fans?
    I love you all. Anyone who likes me and my books … love you!
  9. What’s next for you?
    I am writing The Fabliss Life of Bella Mellman Book Two, and it’s well on its way.
  10. If you could live anywhere, where would that be?
    As I have moved around the world a few times, I am always thinking of other places to live that might be nicer than Los Angeles. Los Angeles is too hot, too dry and has too much traffic although the pending El Niño might change the dry part. When I went on vacation to The Big Island of Hawaii about ten years ago, I fell in love with the place. I even went to look at property to rent or buy, but my daughter, with whom I am very close, wasn’t as struck. I like living close to my family, and they all live near me in LA. But if I win the lottery or have my book bought by a movie or TV studio and make a fortune, I’d like a holiday home in either Hawaii or The French Riviera. There is good reason so many rich people – through the ages – like the Riviera; it’s heavenly. But you have to speak French. And despite having French lessons for years at The Alliance Francais, I can’t understand hardly a word when French people talk. And with my accent they probably won’t be able to understand me that well either. And seeing as language is very important to me, I think I’d have to live in an English speaking country. Maybe back to live in England, not London, but somewhere in the gorgeously green country (it’s green because it rains a lot).
  11. If you could choose a super power, what would that be?  I would like to live forever. I would like to see how my grandchildren and their children grow and so on and on. Or maybe to fly like a bird? I love birds, and find them so fascinating. They are much smarter than we think. In fact, they are probably smarter that we are, in their birdy ways.

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Happy Thanksgiving!