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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Copper Reign Chapter


"Copper Reign" is on sale right now for $0.99! Native American folklore meets demon rock stars in “Copper Reign,” a fast-paced urban paranormal romance. Fans of “Supernatural’s” heart-stopping storylines and “Lucifer’s” dark wit will fall in love with “Copper Reign.” Temptation is known by many names, and he’s coming for her. (Free with Kindle Unlimited.)

Still unsure if this story is right for you? Here's a view of one of my favorite chapters. Enjoy!

THE PULL WAS SUBTLE AT first, like a shift in the wind pushing Nina toward an invisible opening. So much time had passed since the last time she’d sensed the switch turning ‘On’ to something greater than her existence—long enough to forget such things were possible. Still, the crisp coolness of the barrier or the sound of the chimes wasn’t surprising when she passed through to the other side.

****

THE TWILIGHT USED TO BE a source of comfort. She had played here often as a child, only now she stepped along the familiar trail with heartache twisting the pit of her stomach. Since her last visit, the vibrant path had all but crumbled into ruin. The once luscious gardens and beautiful forest were reduced to a barren landscape. Dragging bare feet, she slowed progress up the mountain as much as a sense of urgency allowed, grieving paradise as she travelled.
Time moved differently here—it was almost stagnant. She wondered if this world was a reflection of her inner self; if the loss she had experienced was mirrored by the rot and decay evident in every direction. All she had ever hoped for was gone, just as the water gurgling along riverbanks and the mighty oaks stretching to the sky were gone. Even the warmth of the sun refused to penetrate through the grey hue of crushed dreams. She would never find peace here again. Hadn’t her mother warned as much?
The Twilight is his home. If you go there, Sinauf will come for you.”
And she was right. He had come, but not for her…
Is it possible to go back? Nina questioned. She’d been to the past before, but had never tried to interfere, but could she? The wind picked up in a low howl of protest as her hair whipped against her cheeks, but she ignored the warning, wondering if turning around would save her parents. Encouraged, she looked over her shoulder, but the trail had erased into blackness. The putrid odor of stagnant water wrinkled her nose as shrilled cries pierced her soul with terror. Death lived there—only death. Too afraid of what dwelled in the past, she Walked off the cliff, stepping from the edge as darkness enveloped the place where she stood. Never falling, her feet made contact with a lovely manicured lawn.
“I had a feeling you’d be wanting to see me,” Jenny Webber drawled out. The southern accent dripped off her tongue like liquid honey, so naturally any stranger would have believed she was born a Georgia peach, but Nina could see her long-lost friend behind the pretenses.
“Well, what’re you waiting for? C’mon in! I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you accepted my invitation.” Dissolving into vapors that would have put Scarlet O’Hara to shame, she widened the door and Nina bounded through, excited at the prospect of catching up. Then she remembered she was Walking. Jenny’s invitation wasn’t meant for Nina, but for the dark figure standing on the porch.
His face was lost in shadow. The only feature clearly visible was the fire-blue of his eyes. He must have flashed the redhead a smile, because Jenny melted like butter in a hot frying pan. The air all but sizzled as he fixed his burning gaze with unguarded interest at the green silk robe tied about her waist. The blatant display surely raised an eyebrow as he stepped out of the still, black night and into the bright, plantation home.
“I must admit, the circumstances that brought us together the other night were very entertaining. But when you called to say you would be willing to share even more about your friend’s unique abilities, and perhaps tell me where to find her…well, that titillating bit of information was completely irresistible. Of course, you already know all the best ways to tempt me. Don’t you, kitten?” he whispered, insinuation lacing his voice as he spoke in her ear.
The hair on the back of Jenny’s neck stood at attention. He didn’t touch her, but Jenny shivered with anticipation. Or perhaps it was something else that caused her to tremble as he slinked past and entered the lavishly furnished living room.
The mansion had been built on the ashes of Atlanta in 1887, a testimony to the South’s tenacity even in the midst of defeat. The original owner, Colonel Thomas Wheeler, had wanted to hear the sound of rustling silks as his four daughters danced at parties, and to see them brought up in elegance and luxury. Perhaps, he had hoped to drown out the sounds and sights of dying soldiers on battlefields. Perhaps, he had wanted to regain some of the grandeur they had all fought for. In this estate, at least, he had succeeded. More than a century later, giggling debutantes in formal attire still descended the polished wooden staircases, while perfect gentlemen waited at the bottom of the twin spiraled banisters to lend an arm in escort.
Jenny's dark visitor was a sharp contrast to the gentlemen who had formerly graced this house, as well as to the hickory hardwood floors and beige-toned walls. Light, neutral colors spoke of warmth and safety, while he was the embodiment of cool danger. His jet-black hair jutted past the length of his ivory jaw, blending seamlessly with his black trench coat, as if his hair was an extension of the leather. Even his designer jeans and Doc Martin shoes were varied shades of ebony, projecting the appearance of a dark, romantic figure, like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. The only hint of color was a rich, burgundy, button-down shirt made of the finest silk that peeked out from under his jacket. But it was more than just his appearance that set him apart. He held a dark appeal, and Nina suspected that he wasn’t even really a man. If he was, he certainly wasn’t a gentleman.
His legs, long and elegant, stretched out with commanding confidence as he walked across the front room and eased himself into one of the white suede sofas grouped together in the center of the space. Tapping his graceful fingers on an oak end table, he gave Jenny a slither-hither look that had all of her circuit boards overloading.
Nina could feel Jenny’s emotions as if they were hers. Undiluted sexual desire punched through her system as Jenny admired his striking, self-assured posture. She burned for him. So many sensations assailed Nina at once it was as if his presence filled the very air around her. Intoxicating was the only word to describe his effect. Intoxicating and addicting, like heroin. She knew that Jenny wanted him, and that she would sell out her old best friend for just one taste.
Jenny came through so clearly to Nina, while the other figure remained shrouded in obscurity. She tried to touch his mind, but his thoughts evaporated into smoke.
“Well, here I am, caught within your capable clutches. Are we going to play out your little game, or did you plan to simply gawk at me for the rest of the evening?” he asked. Nina could feel the taunting amusement curve the corners of his mouth rather than seeing it.
There was no Heathcliff now. The shroud around him shifted ever so slightly and his words carried more authority, like that of a dark prince staring down upon his lowly subject. “It hardly makes any difference to me, but you might feel uncomfortable when your father comes home. I don’t think he’d appreciate you dribbling all over the upholstery.”
Jenny cringed as his snarky observations hit their mark. Her father did tend to treat her like a pampered Pomeranian who couldn’t be trusted past the front door. Thoroughly chastised, she lifted her chin, annoyance flickering now in her dangerous eyes. Nina knew that look. Jenny had decided it was time for a shift in power. Floating across the room with the grace of a ballerina, she positioned herself directly in his line of sight. Her luscious, full lips parted in an appealing manner, practiced to perfection, as the tip of her tongue darted out to moisten them.
“There’s no need to worry your silly little head over that stuffed shirt. He's run off to D.C. for the weekend and left helpless little me here all alone. I don’t know what I'll do with so much temptation all around me… Any suggestions?” Her wanton gaze lingered momentarily on his bemused expression as she opened her robe coyly and let it slide to the floor.
Jenny averted her eyes as her skin flushed a bright strawberry on appealing cream. The light played off the red in her hair, complimenting her ivory skin and striking green eyes like a forest fire across a snow-covered wood. The air flooded with a heady mixture of berries and gardenias from the lotion slathered on her skin. Any man would have been reduced to incoherent babble at the sight of her…any man.
Jenny was playing a perilous game and Nina wanted to cry out a warning. No! You can’t win this time. He doesn’t follow the rules! But any alarm would have fallen upon deaf ears. It was only a movie to Nina, and the outcome wouldn’t change with a protest.
“Certainly, I could think of a few,” he said, traveling his eyes along the skimpy nightgown Jenny had barely managed to squeeze into. Green lace and satin hugged tight in all the right places. The dark aura around his body expanded out, wrapping around Jenny as his eyes touched the curves of her body. Moaning, Jenny’s breath came in ragged bursts as the heat of his gaze roughly raked along her skin, as if his hands were stroking everywhere his eyes touched.
But Nina could see what was really happening. Fingers protruded out of the dark cloud directed by his vision, searing and violating Jenny without a single physical encounter. The invisible foreplay intensified until her legs finally melted out like warm vanilla ice cream, reducing her to a puddle on the floor at his feet.
As he stared down at Jenny, Nina could feel contempt pulsating under his cloak, but she wasn’t prepared for the viciousness of his true nature. All she could do was look on in horror as he introduced his favorite kind of sex. With incredible ease, the shadow penetrated into Jenny’s thoughts, desecrating her most private and vulnerable sanctuaries. Ruthless, he ripped away her defenses, not even bothering to hide the rape he was committing on her mind. He found it entertaining to watch the terrified confusion play along the tremble of her lips as she tried to understand his intrusion.
Pushing harder, he pierced the door into her deepest recesses. In his excitement, the shield around his thoughts faltered, giving Nina a tiny look into his mind. The information he was seeking in Jenny was there, but he growled in frustration when he finally found it. The story she had told him was a lie! There hadn’t been any contact with the girl for years. A name written on the back of a tattered photograph was the only remaining tie. Anger surged through his system as the shadow leapt back, returning into a shroud around his shoulders.
“However, the false circumstances under which you have lured me here require a declining of your unappealing offer.” He leaned in close enough for his rage to creep along her neck, and Nina sensed his satisfaction as Jenny shivered from the sting of his words.
Reaching over her, he opened the end table drawer and removed a photo, faded with age. In the picture stood two girls smiling on a sunny beach, no older than twelve when the moment was captured. One was all fire, clearly a younger version of Jenny, and the other, causing him to catch his breath in excitement, was Nina. The bottom of Nina's stomach fell out as he read the handwriting on the back of the photo: Jenny Webber and Nina Douglas, Huntington Beach, CA.
“I don’t understand why you’re so worked up over Nina. So she said a special gift ran in her family. Big deal! My father thought she was a liar,” Jenny protested, dropping her fake accent. Her full, generous lips pouted as she pushed her curls away from her face. Swampy eyes swam with confusion as she looked at him. He stared back at Jenny with a detached coldness, her raw, violated emotions causing her to look away. Pulling her robe off the floor, Jenny fastened it around her waist again, attempting to regain a shred of dignity.
“I found the picture, and that’s why I called,” Jenny claimed, meeting his stare again in beautiful defiance. Standing to full height, her gaze carried a haughty quality you could only find in a preacher’s daughter wearing lingerie.
“I think your reason for summoning me is evident,” he scoffed. Discomfort crawled under Jenny’s skin, adding to his pleasure. “You wanted to use me, just like you have used everyone who has had the misfortune of crossing your path. When we first met, I found your lack of scruples endearing, but now I find it a little over the top and borderline pathetic. Something really must be done to rectify your character flaws.
A dangerous look flashed in his eyes as the shadow encompassed Jenny again, showing Nina a fleeting glimpse of his beautiful face. Fear licked through her senses as the reality of her friend’s situation clarified, sputtering her heart to a stop before starting up again at double speed. Jenny was trying to turn away from his malevolent stare, but the monster held her frozen to his gaze. Nina cried for Jenny to run, but her body remained fixed. A scream ensued from somewhere deep inside her, but it only passed as a tiny whimper.
Nina.” He savored the name as it rolled off his tongue, looking at Jenny with ferocious derision. “I wouldn’t expect someone as ordinary as you to understand why she is exceptional. Even in this worn and faded image I can see her radiance glowing. She is an angel.” The last word was spoken in complete rapture, and Nina found herself mesmerized by the beauty of her name spoken in his melodic voice.
“This photograph was taken on Huntington Beach six years ago?” He didn’t expect a reply as he paced the room, caressing the tattered paper like it was a priceless treasure. “I had hoped for a more viable connection, but at least it's a start. Nearly three years have passed since I have felt even the slightest flicker of her.”
As he walked past the open drawer of the end table, Jenny caught a glimpse of her father’s gun, lying under the papers just a few inches away. If she could just reach it... Her hands shook with effort the as tears streamed down her cheeks, lining them with black mascara.
 “Do you want the gun?” he asked, barely glancing away from the photo as a strangled sob escaped her lips. “Are you sure? By all means, take it then,” he said, nodding his head, like an overindulgent parent allowing their child a cookie, as Jenny’s hand reached for the gun of its own accord.
“Please, don’t do this!” Jenny managed to choke out in a strained voice she didn’t recognize. Helplessly, Nina watched as the shadow forced Jenny’s hand to grasp the handle and slowly inch the weapon towards her temple. Blue eyes filled with hell’s fire stared at Jenny, feeding off of her fear like a delicious dessert while she fought the invisible force to keep her finger away from the trigger. “Please, please, oh God, please, no!”
“Now, there’s no sense bringing Him into this. He won’t help you. In fact, I’m not entirely certain that He exists anymore, and even if He does, why would He want to save you?” he asked with dispassionate interest. “You are no faithful servant or beacon of virtue. No, I think your salvation would be a waste of His time. There are much more admirable candidates, of that I assure you,” he said, his focus temporarily drawn to the photo again.
“I’m looking into your soul right now and there is nothing worth redeeming,” he went on. “You are a spoiled rotten, overindulged bit of plastic who has to buy her friends and drape them like jewelry. If your daddy wasn’t Reverend Webber—‘the face of family values’—I doubt anyone would even give you the time of day.
“You’re vain, and as shallow as a mud puddle. On top of all that, you’re insecure, needy, and quite frankly, useless in every way. I don’t understand how anyone can tolerate you for more than a few hours, even with your ample assets.” His words held a challenging quality, like he was begging her to contradict even one of his cruel statements. His razor tongue had hit the mark. All that he said was true and Jenny knew it, but Nina knew Jenny had plenty of good in her, too. Nina remembered the girl who had befriended her when nobody else would. If only Jenny could see herself in such a light. Given the chance, she could become that girl again.
 “So, why don’t we just get this over with?” Amusement danced within his eyes as the shadow descended, violating Jenny’s mind again, forcing her to see every shameful transgression she had ever committed.  The terror in her mind sharpened as though he were drawing it out, like infection from a festering wound. For the briefest moment, Nina connected with his thoughts and she understood his motivations.
There was enough hurt living in Jenny to feed him for days, but it would never fill his insatiable need for more suffering—and for vengeance. Most of his victims begged for death long before he was finished, but tonight he lacked the patience or the desire to toy with his prey. With a sickening raise of an eyebrow, a loud boom vibrated the windows and Jenny’s blood splattered over the white furniture.
Along with her body crumpling to the floor, Nina witnessed Jenny’s essence collapsing in on itself, until everything she had once been became concentrated into a dense ball tied to a thread of light. The silver cord shined in the darkness of death—the only tether to a failing body. Pulled taut, the string vibrated and finally snapped, and Jenny’s previous existence fell away as she ascended away from her earthly vessel.
Despite the horror of all that just transpired, Nina felt slightly exhilarated by the beautiful journey Jenny’s soul was making. Nina even felt a momentary stab of envy—to be free, to have nothing holding her. A golden light appeared in the darkness and a primal need pleaded for Jenny to soar into the brilliant spiral.
“You don’t really think that is what you are destined for, do you Jenny?” The shadow pulled her away from the light and her essence changed into a mockery of her physical form.
“No!” Nina screamed, grief overcoming sense. Jenny turned her head as if she could sense Nina standing there, but the darkness was pulling her spirit down into the depths of a prison governed by her killer. Nina no longer envied Jenny; her fate was far worse than death.
Still caressing the photo, the monster strolled to the entrance, quietly humming a melodic tune. Reaching for the door, he hesitated, as if he too could feel Nina’s presence. She held her breath, afraid to give him any indication as the shadow paused for a moment before joining its master. A sigh of relief rushed from her lungs as the handle turned, but his final words left her chilling and burning simultaneously.

“Nina, my angel, I’m coming for you.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Inner Storm



From the time I was a small, I’ve struggled with sailing. Born a lighthouse, I longed to be a ship. To achieve this, I had to deny my own nature. I struggled to grasp the simplest tasks—like battening down the hatch and holding steady. I watched other ships sail past me with the greatest of ease, and sat overwhelmed by a vast ocean between me and my dreams. I told myself that the opinions of ship-builders didn’t matter. I chose to sail anyway, but an undercurrent brewed beneath the surface, pulling me off-course at every turn. How could I not feel turbulent as I failed in every measure a ship placed value on?

On most days, the storm remained silent, but then I’d have moments when all of the previous turmoil would toss me into the rocks. I’d sit marooned, my mast broken, face to face with the same ocean taunting me. It was times like these when I would pose the same questions over and over and over…

Why have I chosen to travel these waters when I know I can’t keep up?  Haven't I experienced enough loss and heartache already? What made me believe that I had a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding? In these moments I’d consider scrapping my boat for firewood, but the thought of being left behind was far more painful than starting again. Perhaps the first attempts were just the conditioning for what lied ahead. I knew one thing for sure: quitting was never an option, but I also knew that my vessel wasn’t good enough. I understood that I wasn’t a ship going in, but it didn’t change my impatience as I tore myself down board by board. Stranded in the center of the ocean with no compass to guide me home, I stared at the treacherous waves taunting me to try again. I began to build, and as the new me took shape I gained a new perspective. Perhaps I had reached my destination after all, and my goal wasn’t really an ocean away. I didn’t need to sail anymore, just shine.

I’d set out to build a ship, but in its place stood a lighthouse. This wasn’t what I’d wanted to be, yet I still marveled over the perfection of my purpose. A lighthouse is patient, resilient, and a symbol of hope. It was everything the world of ships had measured and found lacking. A lighthouse can’t sail, but without their constant vigilance ships run aground. The message burned clear. I needed to be what I was born to be. I needed to shine, to remember that I am stronger, and more steadfast than I had ever thought possible.

My light is crucial. It can change lives. It cuts through the darkness, to reach out, to shed a ray of optimism in a frightful world full of turbulent seas. I wasn’t meant to navigate those waters, and that was okay, because I was destined to light the way.

Ships, lighthouses, harbors, wind, and even the sea itself are all in this together, each playing a crucial part, but if a lighthouse is judging its value by its seaworthiness it will always feel incomplete. Every one of us have traveled dark waters, searching for something on the horizon to fulfill the constant pitching in our hearts. We think that seeking and comparing the speed of our vessels is key to quieting the storm that never stops crying out, “I need to go farther, be more, and move faster.”

This world has enough fast-moving ships. What we need are more lighthouses, and safe harbors. The flame of one candle can be seen for miles on the darkest of nights. It is a beacon of fortitude, peace and faith.

If you are a ship, please continue. But if you are weary of sailing turbulent waters in vessel that is taking on too much water, don’t be afraid to seek refuge. I can guide you into safe harbors where you can rest and rebuild. To do so is my purpose. What is yours?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Copper Reign: Book Club

When I first started work on the Heartstone Collection, I wanted to create a story with layers of depth that any level of reader could walk away from wanting to discuss what they’d discovered about themselves. On the surface, the first book, Copper Reign is a love triangle, but if you delve deeper into the core this story is a battle of personal truth. Nina starts out as a weak teenage girl full of insecurity and doubt, and grows into a woman so strong and assured that even the devil himself can’t touch her. It is a right of passage that reflects pieces of many of our lives, and sparks the debate of create or fate.

With all of this in mind, I hosted a dinner at my house with my first readers who just happened to be the neighborhood book club. I wanted to see what type of discussions sparked up from my manuscript, and see if I was on the right track. Unfortunately, little was said. They smiled sweetly, and said they loved my cute little story, and that was that. The real debate took place the next month when I wasn’t able to attend. I live in a very conservative community. Needless to say, there were strong feelings on both sides, but they were too polite to talk about their issues in front of me. I completely understood. I hadn’t explained that my father was Irish. There aren’t very many ways to offend me, but luckily rumors trickled back, and I couldn’t have been happier. I’d hit the sweet spot. Anything sparking that much emotion definitely had my readers thinking. That’s awesome! And what any writer, or book club hostess dares to hope for.

I’ve put together a discussion guide and recipes to help your Copper Reign themed book club be a success, and although my appearance shut down the debate in my neighborhood, I’d still be happy to video chat into yours, or even stop by if you live with a reasonable distance! Find me on Facebook and we’ll talk.

The Recipes:
Drink: Ocean Blues Punch (Sprite mixed with Blue Raspberry Kool-Aid).
Dinner: Shrimp Scampi (saute’ 40 medium-sized shrimp in 1/2 cup of butter and 2 tablespoons of garlic salt, serve with 1 lb of linguine, 2 medium sized zucchini saute’d 1/4 cup of butter, white chardonnay, and garlic bread) serves 6.
Dessert: Angel, and Devil’s Food Cake topped with appealing Strawberries on Cream (mix and bake cakes to boxed specifications, top both with strawberries and whipped cream).
Candy: Chocolate-Covered Cinnamon Bears
The music:

Nina
Bleeding Out—Imagine Dragons
Dark Paradise—Lana Delrey
The Lonely—Christina Perry
Down—Jason Walker
Never Let Me Go—Florence + The Machine

Nate
Come Home—One Republic
Car Crash–Matt Nathanson
Draw Your Swords—Angus & Julia Stone
Wrong Side of Heaven—Five Finger Death Punch
Closer—Kings of Leon

Sinclair
I will Not Bow—Breaking Benjamin
Love Me Again—John Newman
Just One Yesterday—Fallout Boy

Discussion Guide—Copper Reign
In Copper Reign, Nina and her mother face issues beyond our reality, but the way they cope with one another reflects countless parent/child relationships. For better or worse, why do parents feel the need to mold their children into something they’ve pictured?

At the beginning of chapter two, Nina confides in Nate, and instead of judging her for being different he asks her out. How hard was it to take that leap of trust, and why did she hesitate to accept his offer?

The best moment of Nina’s life is quickly snatched away and replaced with tragedy. It’s a common theme throughout the novel. How does Nina cope with adversity in the beginning of the story compared to the end?

After her parents’ death, Nina honors her mother’s last wish, and uses the amulet to lock away her gift. She is held in a holding pattern until the amulet fails, at which time all of her emotion comes flooding back. What do the walls of protection represent, and who is Nina truly facing when her safety crumbles?

Sinauf has discovered her name, and he’s coming for Nina. He’s the embodiment of everything she fears and desires. She’s drawn to him, even after she watches her best friend, Jenny kill herself under his power. This trope goes back to the beginning of women’s lit. Good girls can’t seem to resist the allure of reforming a bad boy. Why is that? And how do these types of relationships differ in actual life?

Nate is everything a girl could want, handsome, attentive, and fun, yet Nina continues to fight loving him. What do you think were the reasons she avoided her feelings, and what methods do you consider Nate’s most effective in overcoming this obstacle?

Sinauf (aka Sinclair Devereux) burns through Nina’s world like a wildfire, consuming her every thought. She’s tricked into betraying Nate, and turns him away. Why did she think this was the right course of action? Here’s a fate, or create moment to question. Would anything have changed if she’d chosen to stay?

Nina’s in hell, quite literally. It’s been revealed that Sinauf and Sinclair are only a couple of a thousand personas the Archangel Lucifer has used throughout his time on Earth. She’s discovered his plan to destroy the world, and her role. Instead of allowing him to use her, Nina decides jump, and her sacrifice opens the Copper Way. Going forward, what will this mean for their world?

After making the right choice Nina falls into Nates arms, secure in the knowledge that he belongs to her. But their troubles aren’t over yet. Discuss the lull before the storm and Nina’s growth through her worst fears coming to pass.

What do you think really defeated Lucifer?

Discuss the epilogue, and what comes next.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cover Reveal: Copper Reign

Book covers are like an amazing recipe. Starting out, there are all these separate ingredients that are fine by themselves, but if they’re thrown in a pot together, or baked in an oven, they change on a fundamental level. Suddenly, the flavors meld in ways you never imagined, and sometimes, something richer and more decadent than you could’ve ever imagined emerges. This recipe is one of those instances. Lyndsay Johnson caught the essence of Copper Reign by orchestrating the basic themes of this story through her artwork. Then she weaved in subtle lighting and texture to bring this novel to life. All I can say, is this girl can cook a wicked cover!


Let me introduce you to Copper Reign, Book One of the Heartstone Collection:

The tale of Sinauf was a secret nineteen-year-old Nina Douglas’ ancestors kept hidden for generations. But after six-hundred years of concealment, their protection has failed, bringing Nina’s fate into light, and revealing an inescapable truth.
The dark god of legend is real.
Caught in an ancient war still raging in the modern world, Nina is confronted with Sinauf—the embodiment of all she fears and desires. Like a moth drawn to a deadly flame, she must resist the seductive charm of an alluring monster, or prepare for the destruction of an entire universe.
Temptation is known by many names, and he is coming for her

Monday, June 29, 2015

Stained Glass

I was raised in the disease of poverty.
Imagine, beginning at the bottom of a big, dark hole. Desolate, except for the light at the top, and the champions standing too high to reach. They claim that with the slightest bit of effort anyone can climb up. Ropes are thrown down and they cheer encouraging words, frustrated that no one is willing to meet them halfway, but another dynamic plays out below that only the people living it really understand.
To climb not only abandons a way of life, but also a way of thinking. It’s an uphill battle of tremendous weight that doesn’t end when you reach the top.
Twenty years ago, I personally took this journey, and everything I am today is molded through a shattered lens of two perceptions. read more 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Races and Ribbons

When I was ten-years-old, my school had field day. I never liked school events. My parents never came to them, and seeing my peers with their families was a painful reminder of the distance between our worlds. I didn't want to participate. What was the point? I wouldn't win. But my teacher insisted, pointing at a gunnysack. I stepped into the bag and up to the starting line. BOOM. We were off. I didn't try very hard at first, but I realized I had a knack for jumping. I jumped further and faster, and further and faster, and before I knew it, I'd crossed the finish line. They pointed at me and called out,"Six." Six! That meant I'd made it into the next round. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself as I lined up with my classmates. They counted us and there was one too many kids, but they couldn't decide who didn't belong. The refs agreed to go ahead and run the race with thirteen, but I didn't care. I was six, I'd made it. This was a pivotal moment in my life. I'd tasted success, and it suited me. I was as taut as a bow and ready to pounce. The starting gun fired, and I had never moved more quickly. I pushed further and faster, further and faster, further and faster. Once again, I crossed the line and turned to look back. Everyone else had ate my dust.

First place.

You'd think the story would end there, right? It doesn't. I got to hold my pretty blue ribbon for about five minutes. An irate parent claimed that I had cheated, that her son was sixth place and I had no business participating in that race. She ripped the ribbon from my hands and nobody made a move to stop her including the ref who'd named me six. He just stared at his shoes and refused to meet my eyes as I begged him to tell her that I had belonged. This moment was also pivotal. Two conflicting life lessons in a single afternoon, and never raced in field day to win again.

I didn't share this experience to have you feel sorry for me. Many of us have gone through similar trials, but I needed to explain this event to put the rest of this post in perspective.

One year ago, I released my first novel. Hard to believe it's only been that long, yet in some ways it's still surreal. So much growth has taken place since that little girl held her ribbon, but the fear of winning has never really gone away. Most of the time, I keep it hidden. On the outside I project the embodiment of confidence. It's been easy enough for people to believe because I'm involved with some pretty amazing people, and together we've accomplished some pretty remarkable things. But the only reason anything happened in my career was because somebody'd pointed at me and said, "Six." Their faith gained me opportunities not always afforded to debut authors, and I worked my butt off. Pushing further and faster than ever before, I proved their confidence wasn't misplaced. But inside I was ten-years-old again, waiting for someone to take my ribbon. With each new triumph, my feelings of inadequacy grew more weighted, because there was always another race, another way to be assessed and show that I was lacking. The stress of becoming a failure ate holes in my stomach until finally I reached my breaking point. Something had to change. I couldn't continue living in fear of losing everything I'd worked so hard to gain, but how could I possibly fix a flaw so deeply rooted in my psychological make-up? I stepped back to reevaluate, and here's what I discovered:

1) Taking a ribbon from a child may seem heartless, but that wasn't the woman's perception. More than likely she been wounded herself, saw her child hurting, and thought she was doing the right thing. Which leads me to my next point.

2) If something like that happened to one of my kids, I'd totally kick some ass, and how does that make me any different? The problem wasn't the actual conflict, but the feeling of isolation and not having any kind of support.

3) In the end I was holding on to the loss of a piece of material.

Any kind of trophy is symbolic, not the actual victory. My priorities were all screwed up by emotional responses to experiences that needed to be viewed logically. Irrational feelings had allowed some stranger who probably didn't even remember what had happened the power to control to my life, not only in that moment but for many others over the past thirty years.

With this in mind I spent the past few weeks making some tough decisions. I walked away from current my publisher, and in turn he decided to close his doors. We parted amicably, and I will forever be grateful for the run we had together, but if fear hadn't been my motivator I would've left months ago. I let go of my ribbon, but I am no longer scared of what that means. You see, I've lined up lots of times over the past year, and I have many great people supporting me. Really, that's the important part of becoming successful in any endeavor--hard work and the ties that form between like-minded people.

So I'm starting a new race. I'm preparing to go further and faster than ever before, but this time I'm lining up for all the right reasons. I might gain a shiny publishing contract, land an agent, or decide to be indie. Any way, it doesn't matter. Winning the race is more important than how you get there. Regardless of my choice, what I've accomplished will forever be mine to keep.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When It's Your Child



As a part of Secrets and Doors blog tour I volunteered to write a piece about why the Secret Door Society chose JDRF. Admittedly, I’ve been dragging my feet, not because I don’t want to share this story—I do—but it isn’t easy. Looking back on my reality of living with a T1D diabetic has stirred up emotions. The wound is still raw.
Nine years ago my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Just like any other mother, I imagined this pretty little girl growing up happy and healthy. Chronic illness wasn’t even a blip on my radar, but six months after her eighth birthday all of that changed. My once sweet and loving child was suddenly angry and confrontational. She didn’t want to go to school, cried her stomach hurt too much, only to be laughing and playing an hour later. My father had died earlier that year, and at first I thought she was having trouble coping with the loss of her grandfather. I took her to the doctor, and he agreed that was probably the cause of her erratic behavior. He gave me the names of several counselors, but drew blood as a precaution.
I’m so glad he did.
Her test results came back a few hours later with a blood sugar reading of 637. A normal range sits at 100. We were lucky. We had caught it early enough to avoid ketoacidosis shock, a condition caused by high blood-sugar that can lead to coma. This was the optimistic phrase delivered to me, but I didn’t feel very fortunate as I drove 40 minutes to the hospital to place her on Diabetic protocol, stealing glances in the rearview mirror. She’d grown so thin. How had that escaped my notice? The signs were there. She was always thirsty. Just that morning I had scolded her for drinking too much in the middle of the night and disrupting her sleep by needing to pee. Later the diabetes signs were easy to see when I thought back on the weeks leading up to her diagnosis, but at the time I'd missed them because I didn’t have a clue what to look for.
When it came to diabetes, my only frame of reference was Steel Magnolias. I’d directed the play in high school and could still recite every line from memory like some kind of sick cosmic joke. One thing was for certain: I couldn’t stand the thought of my baby girl cast in the role of Shelby. Shelby died too young, too soon.
As her parents we carried so many hopes and dreams. With the diagnosis, the simple future we’d pictured for this sweet little angel was torn from us and replaced with fears of kidney failure, amputations, and blindness. I wished with all my heart the diagnosis would’ve been mine.
At the hospital we learned what protocol meant. The staff had to work quickly to rehydrate her and bring dangerous sugar levels down. My daughter was eight and didn’t understand. I can’t begin to explain how hard it was to watch a team of nurses hold my fighting child down and repeatedly stab her with needles, injecting her with life-saving insulin and testing her blood. At the time, all I could hear were her screams; all I could see was the look of betrayal in her big, blue eyes. I stood there, helpless. A mother’s supposed to protect, but all I could do was whisper I’m sorry over and over. Pain became a daily part of her life. Pain from testing. Pain from injections. Pain from the disease itself. Pain is hard, but for T1D kids, pain means life.
T1D is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system malfunctions and attacks the pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin. There is no proven cure at this time. It is estimated that over 5 million people in the United States are affected by this disease, yet it receives very little media attention.
I believe a cure is obtainable within our lifetime, but just like any other project, funding and awareness are crucial. That is why we decided to name the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as the beneficiary for Secrets and Doors. No charity is closer to the hearts of many of our contributors.
My baby is seventeen now, healthy and happy like I had imagined—at least as healthy as any T1D kid can be. Parents of her peers are worried about college. I worry over prescriptions, rising medical costs, insurance premiums, and deductibles that have doubled every year since 2010.  (Thank you, Obamacare). I’m scared for her future. Just staring out in life as a young adult is hard enough without an added financial burden of a major medical condition that needs constant monitoring and medicine to survive. While the fear never goes away, I’m optimistic. She’s grown into an amazing woman, capable of overcoming any and all obstacles.


Please join us in our support of T1D research by buying a copy of Secrets and Doors. Just like my baby, many others have been robbed of their childhoods. Together we can unlock the door to a brighter tomorrow.


Open the door and unlock the secrets in eleven short stories from The Secret Door Society, an organization of fantasy and science fiction authors dedicated to charitable work. All proceeds from this anthology benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in their quest to cure Type One Diabetes (T1D).
In these pages you’ll discover a modern woman trapped in an old fashioned dreamscape, a futuristic temp worker who fights against her programming, a beautiful vampire’s secret mission disrupted by betrayal, a sorcerer’s epic battle against a water dragon, the source of magical mirrors—and more. There are tales for every science fiction and fantasy taste, including new works from award-winning authors Johnny Worthen, Lehua Parker, Christine Haggerty, and Adrienne Monson.
Join us in the fight against T1D as you peek into a world of magical and mysterious doorways—if you dare.

Buy your Kindle copy here. And thank you for your support!