Worn

The alarm blares at six in the morning. She turns with difficulty and hits the snooze button, too tired to open her eyes more than a crack. Her baby is already moving, probing gently across her belly. Her body is already communicating, sending information to her brain like text messages. Full bladder; must empty. Empty stomach; must fill. Dry mouth; need water. Feet aching; need relief. Back sore; roll over.

Every new ping sounds louder and louder, until the hamster wakes up at the back of her mind. It gives itself a shake and begins to run on the wheel that turns on the lights and begins all the productivity. Like the grinding gears of an enormous machine, new thoughts move sluggishly through her mind at first. But they get faster, louder, more demanding. Thoughts about what needs to get done today both in the home and at work, what errands need to be run, who needs to be called, and are there any appointments today that she might’ve forgotten about? Oh, and did so-and-so ever email her back? She should probably check–

No, she thinks forcefully. Go back to sleep. 

Then a song joins the jumbled mess of thoughts. An song appropriate to her situation, but just as unwelcome as everything else.

“I’m tired
I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing

I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left…”

Quiet, she begs, pressing her face into her pillow. Please–

The alarm goes off again. Has it been ten minutes already? With a growl of frustration, she gabs at the snooze button yet again. Falls back into the mattress, tries to wipe away the obnoxious thoughts assailing her mind like gnats. She pictures a dark room, a blank slate, a broken radio, a faulty machine, anything that will communicate to the hamster that it can stop all production up there. But the hamster just keeps running, puffing softly, dutifully performing. And the song continues.

“Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That You can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
‘Cause I’m worn…”

Her body chimes in again, sending a more demanding message to her brain. Bladder FULL; must empty immediately. Her baby gives a big shove and she finds herself doubling over, drawing herself in tightly to keep from wetting the bed. When the urge is less severe, the covers are kicked off. With curses and groans, she wrestles out of the comfort and warmth and safety of her beloved King, and waddles (yes, waddles–like an engorged penguin) to the bathroom as fast as she can.

The baby weighs heavily on her pelvis and lower back. Her feet feel swollen and tender; she winces with every step. Sitting brings little relief. The toilet is wedged in the corner between a wall and the shower. Even with both knees against a wall, her belly takes up too much space. She shifts and grunts and eventually settles. At least she’s able to empty her bladder in a dignified, adult-like manner. Leaning back, she sighs.

When did something so simple become so complicated?

She knows the answer, of course. She pokes the baby with a finger; he makes everything more complicated than it once was. He kicks back. A little smile, a speck of contentment, a moment of love. But once one physical ailment is relieved, the others swoop into the spotlight. Stomach empty; must fill. Mouth dry; need water. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

She lets the dog out of the kennel next, travels into the living room, opens the back door, watches the dog sprint into the grass. The cat leaps down from the couch, meowing in greeting. Both animals are fed. Then it’s her turn. Cereal and almond milk. She sits and reads a few verses from her well-worn Bible, tries to see beyond the familiar story and hear a different message.

What do You want me to learn today?

Breakfast is finished. She stays on the couch, staring into space. Trying not to follow the trains of thoughts still blazing through her head. Maybe she can go back to sleep for a few minutes now that her body has been appeased…But a quick glance at the clock kills that idea. Heave, ho, heave, ho! Up from the couch she finally goes. She walks back into the bedroom (ouch, ouch, go her feet). The pressure returns to her pelvis, low and deep. Baby gives another kick. She presses her hands into her lower back, suppressing a groan.

“I know I need
To lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends…”

She blindly selects an outfit for the day. Struggles into the jeans. Tugs on the blouse. Shoves her feet into shoes that had once fit her loosely but were now tight. Looks at herself in the mirror. A zombie stares back, eyes half-lidded, ringed with dark circles. With slow, painstaking movements, it tries to do something with her hair. She used to try. She used to care. Now, she just pulls it into a ponytail. The dog follows her every movement, carrying around its favorite toy, hoping to play. She manages to kick the toy a few times. The dog runs happily after it and brings it back to her, wagging its stump of a tail, almost smiling as it pants up at her.

Sweet puppy. How are you always happy?

She scratches it behind the ears before heading back to the kitchen. There she prepares her lunch. The same lunch she had yesterday. The same lunch she’ll have tomorrow. Does she have everything she needs for dinner tonight? A quick peek in the fridge and at her recipe book. Yes, all but two vital items. Of course. She’ll have to stop at the grocery store on the way home.

Prenatal vitamins are ingested. She experiences a wave of nausea as a result. Brushing her teeth thoroughly, she manages to erase the bitter taste from her tongue. Rinse. Spit. Look up. There’s the zombie again.

“…my prayers are wearing thin
I’m worn even before the day begins
I’m worn, I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn so heaven so come and flood my eyes…”

There will be more aches and pains as soon as she leaves the house, little things that make everything feel worse. Faulty AC. Slow traffic. Irresponsible drivers. Never-ending phone calls from people with sob stories, people who feel the need to explain everything in specific detail before presenting their request, people who will demand things from her. Tasks assigned by coworkers. Disgruntled walk-ins (or worse: overly cheerful walk-ins). Nice people who only want to help. Concerned people who ask how she is doing. People she can never be honest with. And the long stretches of silence in between them all. Silences filled with nothing except her overwhelming desire to lay down and sleep. To shut out the world, to quiet her screaming body and squirming baby, and try to return to some semblance of the person she’d once been. Who was that again?

God, help me.

Blinking away tears, she tries to smile. She has to smile. Otherwise, her face betrays her true feelings. Frustration. Exhaustion. Selfishness. Apathy. Chronic pain. Things no one and nothing can alleviate. She is done being pregnant but a small part of her is afraid of what comes after. It’ll be worse, won’t it? It’ll be harder. If she can’t deal with this now…

Just let me get through today. Please. I need Your strength.

This is her mantra as she puts the dog out, snatches her short grocery list, picks up her purse and lunch and heavy water bottle, and waddles out to the car. She drives away, already anticipating her return. Will her husband have to work late again? Or will he be waiting for her when she gets home, ready to give hugs and kisses and much-needed foot massages? Baby rolls over in her belly. She winces and places a hand over him as she drives.

Careful, son.

She almost wishes he wouldn’t move, but she knows the moment he does stop moving, she’ll go into a panic. She’ll assume something is wrong. She’ll jab a finger at him until he jabs back, just to be sure she hasn’t lost him like she lost the first one. So she bears his kicks in silence. Tries to be thankful for the discomfort. Tries to find the wonder and the love again. Reminds herself that a miracle is going on inside her body. Still, the thought that rings louder in her mind is:

Six more weeks.

 


 

*Song lyrics from Worn by Tenth Avenue North*

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The editing phase of I Dare You to Stay With Me is done. And now so is the cover! I’m just waiting to get the final images from my cover designer before I do a big social media reveal. I hired Cora Graphics for this job because Cora’s the artist responsible for Asta and the Barbarian‘s cover, which came out looking amazing. She didn’t disappoint this time around either. I’m so glad I was able to work with her again!

Once I have the cover, it’s only a matter of plugging it into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing’s template and printing a proof for myself. And, as soon as I’ve looked over that, it’ll be publishing time! Thanks to all of you for your patience. I know I said I was going to publish this book this month but it looks like I’ll be publishing it at the beginning of April. So sorry to have to push things back but I want it too look and feel perfect for you guys.

I’ll be doing a promotion the week of publication, making the I Dare You to Love Me ebook free and the I Dare You to Stay With Me ebook only 99 cents. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter to find out the details!

 

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BHC Press is interested in publishing The Andromeda’s Ghost! I have a phone call scheduled with them this Saturday to talk about my plans of the trilogy and any other questions I might have about the company. From what I’ve read on their website, I’m liking what they have to offer. I feel like my fan base for this trilogy is smaller when compared to the amount of people interested in my other books. The fact that BHC Press has working relationships with reputable publications like Publishers Weekly gives me hope that I’ll have help building up that fan base. That and their shared-cost option (in exchange for a higher royalty rate) is very appealing to me.

So, unless I find out something unspeakably nonnegotiable about them on Saturday, I plan on signing with them. I’ve been pitching and querying The Andromeda’s Ghost for over a year. I’m so ready for my first science fiction/fantasy trilogy to have a home. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself now. More details to come!

 

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Asta and the Barbarians will be on sale for 99 cents April 8th through the 12th! If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, that would be the perfect time!

My Life

“…This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you’ve dreamed
That it would be when the world was younger,
And you had everything to lose?”
-This is Your Life by Switchfoot

When I was fourteen/fifteen, I listened to this song with hope that one day my life would be everything that I ever dreamed it would be. Because, I don’t know if you remember, but being a teenager isn’t as fun as they make it seem on TV. Your choices are pretty limited. You go to school, go to church, do your chores, do your homework, mind your manners, hang out with your friends, maybe get your driver’s permit, learn a life lesson or two. Sure, you have less responsibility and less to worry about, but that to me always meant being stuck in the same old routine.

I longed for the day when I’d be older because I couldn’t do any of the things I actually wanted to do until then. I figured if I finally finished school, published a book, got married, and started my own family, then I would have “arrived.” I would’ve been done with the farming and gaining XP part of this video game, and be leveled up enough to get to the good stuff. Do you know what has happened the older I’ve gotten? Nothing. I still feel exactly the same, like I’m waiting for the “good” part of my life to start.

Don’t get me wrong; I have A LOT to be thankful for. I have a good-paying job with incredible health insurance. I have a car that works (most of the time). I’m living in a rental house that’s in a good neighborhood. I have a husband that I don’t deserve. We have loving and supporting families, a nurturing church, great friends, and pets that are practically angels (when compared to the animals in all of those shaming memes). I’ve published three books and will be self-publishing a fourth in the next month or two (fingers crossed). I have a bouncing baby boy on the way.

According to the logic of Teenage Me, this should mean that I have “arrived,” right? My days of striving and waiting and working are over. I have everything that I’ve ever wanted, but nothing is at all like I thought it would be. I’ve always known that I’m something of a romantic, that I see life through rose-colored glasses. The truth is I don’t see life at all.

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I thought this meme only pertained to the fantasy worlds I wrote about. I was wrong. This is just how I view everything. Unrealistically. Positively. Naively. I set myself up for disappointment because I’ll always be waiting for my circumstances to align with my view of how things “ought to be” after all my years of “farming.” When in reality, life is hard and is always going to be. People tried to tell me this when I was younger. Sometimes I believed them. Most of the time I didn’t. Now, I think, I’m finally starting to see.

Because–shocker!–the things I’ve been looking forward to? They have their down sides too. For example:

  • I’m done with school (for now); that’s great. But trying to make writing my full time career or trying to get an internship at a publishing company is a drag. There’s always a better writer, a better candidate.
  • I’m published. Again, great! I’m super proud of the fact that I have books out there for people to enjoy! But book promotion and marketing are soul-crushing. There are so many articles and blog posts and YouTube videos chock full of information that has, so far, not helped me very much.
  • I’m married. Woohoo! But…actually, I have no complaints there. Being married to Devo Fox is pretty amazing. Sure, sometimes we confuse and frustrate each other, but we never go to bed angry. He’s still the first person I want to see when I wake up in the morning, the person I can’t wait to get home to. Moving right along…
  • I’m pregnant. Guess what. Feeling nauseous and exhausted all the time sucks. There are things I used to do with ease, things that I can’t do anymore because I literally don’t have the energy. I keep hearing that it’ll get better with time but it hasn’t. I’m thinking I’ll keep feeling sick and tired right up until I pop this kid out.

There is no giant scale where all my hours of farming go in and, after I’ve reached a certain point, I’ll have “earned” an easy-breezy end to my life. I’m always going to have to work for what I want. I’m never going to “arrive,” not until the second coming. If I get a little extra money to travel or purchase something big that I need, it’ll be a blessed miracle. If I ever look around and feel any measure of peace or contentment, I need to cherish that because those moments are so fleeting.

But nobody wants to hear about that, do they? Complainers and downers get nothing but eye-rolls and cricket noises. Plus, I don’t want to stay in this depressingly realistic place either. I want to continue seeing the bright side of things, to continue believing that my circumstances will get easier with time. Because if they don’t, then I might actually give up. What kind of life would that be?

There’s a not-so-subtle theme in The Andromeda Trilogy (cool name pending). It’s something along the lines of “do the best you can with what you have and try to find happiness no matter where you are in life.” It makes me sound wise but, as you can see, I’m still trying to figure out how to put that into practice. How to be content without getting complacent. How to see things as they are without giving in to depression and discouragement. How to explain to my kids the difference between living in the moment and being reckless. Because I can’t wait for the day my unrealistic expectations come true. Not anymore. This is my life. It’s happening right now. There is good and there is bad. There are things I can do and things I can’t. What am I going to do with this knowledge, this new outlook? Time will only tell.

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2019 Goals

I don’t do New Years resolutions because I never keep them, but here are several things I’d like to get done in 2019:

  • Self-publish I Dare You to Stay With Me. Inkitt has made some changes to their publishing policies that I didn’t agree with so they’re giving me my rights back for the sequel to I Dare You to Love Me. I’m just waiting on that reversion of rights contract to be emailed to me so I can sign it and get this self-publishing process going! I’ll give you all updates as things change.
  • Finish writing The Andromeda Trilogy. (And come up with a cooler name for this sci-fi fantasy series…I’m open to suggestions!) The first book took me over a year to write, the second one took me all of six months to write, but I’m only about a third of the way through the last one even though it’s been five months since I started it. Grant it, I haven’t been writing as often as I used to because of work, holidays, and other family stuff. But still! The words are coming slowly, much to my frustration. I’d like to have at least the first draft completed before my baby is born in June. That way I’ll only have minor edits and revisions to make before it’s ready to be shown to the world.
  • Get The Andromeda’s Ghost published. I’ve participated in Pitch Madness and will be involved in SFFpit, (a similar Twitter pitch party for science fiction and fantasy manuscripts only) later in the month. I blame my terrible pitch-writing skills for the small number of requests I’ve gotten. This book is special! I know it! I’ll keep trying until this series finds a home. It’s been on ice for far too long.
  • Finish writing Death’s Curses. This is technically my first and only attempt at a YA romance story with some magic realism. I want to be sure it’s good enough to compete with my other work. I’m starting to realize that Esmer (one of the main characters) sounds a lot like Jael (from The Andromeda’s Ghost). Which is a big NO-NO! Each character I create is supposed to be unique. I’ll have to work on highlighting the differences between them because, although they share a similar sense of humor and both have tragic pasts, they have different goals, temperaments, and coping mechanisms. And they’re both great! It might help to finish The Andromeda Trilogy, make Jael and Taren’s arc solid and complete, before I attempt to wrap up Esmer and Charlie’s story…
  • Read more! I’ve gotten into a terrible habit of binge watching old TV shows instead of reading. I have a TBR list but I haven’t been motivated to check those books out at a library. I’ve just been waiting for Marissa Meyer and Brandon Sanderson to come out with the last books in their series, which is going to take forever of course. It’s not cool. I used to consume a book a week and I miss it! I just have to grit my teeth, pick a book, and dive on in. And ignore my wariness when it comes to new authors. Is there a possibility of disappointment or a bad fit? Sure. But that’s why we go to the library first and only buy the books we like. I have to take advantage of my time now, before I have a baby to take care of 24/7.
  • Promote more. After exploring numerous free book promotion options and seeing little to no results last year, I got really discouraged. I knew giving up wasn’t the answer but I couldn’t bring myself to keep trying things I knew wouldn’t help. So I told myself I was “taking a break” and would get back to book promotion later. Well, as you can probably imagine, “later” never came. Here I am, at the start of 2019, and my book sale numbers are only getting worse. It’s time to invest more than just time and energy into my books. If I’m truly serious about my writing career, I have to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve looked into some book promoting services that actually require me to pay something. (Thanks, Tirgearr Publishing, for providing a list of some sites that you’ve found to be the most helpful! It’s a great place to start.) My husband is on board with it. I just have to budget it in to our monthly expenses and try a few of these new avenues.
  • Get ready to be a mommy. I volunteered at my church’s nursery for almost three years before I got engaged. I was a nanny for several months. I’ve baby sat before. I have nephews. I know how to keep an infant or a toddler alive and entertained for up to four hours. But I’ve never had to take care of a newborn by myself. I don’t know everything there is to know about them. I have to do my research. Find a birthing class or a Lamaze class. Maybe both. And yet I’ve been dragging my feet on that. I want to blame my husband, whose attitude concerning the unknown has always been, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” but that’s cheating. I’ve always been the planner. It isn’t like me to put off preparing for something. They say a new mom can do all the research they want and still come up empty when they have their first kid because there’s just too much that can’t be accounted for. That’s more than likely the reason why I haven’t gotten started: there’s too much information to absorb. It’s overwhelming. But it’s still a good idea to be as informed as possible before baby comes…Again, I just have to grit my teeth and get started somewhere.

Laying it all out like that, it sounds like a lot! 2019 is going to be another busy year. Who knew? To those of you who do goals or resolutions: best of luck! To those of you who don’t, rock on!

Hello, Peeta

Two blog posts ago, I shared the tragic loss of Bruce/Betsy (my husband’s white Mazda Ford pick up). For those of you who didn’t read that particular post, a red-light runner hit the truck on the driver’s side. My husband only sustained sever whiplash, thankfully, and the other driver was unharmed. But Bruce was totalled.

Anyway, it took three weeks for the policeman who was on the scene to file his report (which included testimonies from witnesses clearly stating that it was the other driver’s fault). It took four or five weeks for us to get an estimate of how much the truck was worth and how much the other driver’s insurance was willing to reimburse us for that rental car we had for two weeks. Even after we were sure we were going to get a certain amount for my husband’s truck, we still had to figure out what car we were going to by and from what kind of seller. This being our first big purchase (and by big I mean more than one thousand dollars), we knew we would need a loan and that the loan would come with a high insurance rate. My husband agonized over what to do for several days before he decided to play it safe and go with a dealership, Sanderson Ford to be exact. I have an uncle who works there, someone we were confident would get us the best possible deal, someone we knew we could trust.

(Not to say all car salesmen are tricksters; we just had a really bad experience with one two years ago when we almost bought a car from a Chevy dealership. That’s why we were so hesitant to go with a dealership this time.)

So my husband found a truck he liked that was reasonably priced, a used 2014 F150 with a crew cab and four wheel drive. He did a test drive with my uncle and loved it. My uncle said he could hold onto the truck for us for a little while, but we still didn’t know when those checks from insurance would come. As we drove home later that day, I said something like, “Should we check the mail? I know we just checked it yesterday and there’s probably nothing in there but…” My husband said it was worth a shot so we stopped by our mailbox. Out loud, as a joke, I prayed, “Jesus, it would be great if there was a check in that mailbox. If there isn’t, I’m sure we’ll be fine but it would still be REALLY great if there was.” And, praise God, both checks were in there! We turned the car around and went straight to the bank to deposit them. We went to Sanderson Ford the next morning. Two hours later, my husband drove his new truck home.

I know it looks red in the picture but its technically “sunset metallic” orange. I’m calling this new vehicular addition to our family Peeta, after Peeta Mellark. This mind-blowing blessing comes with a new payment every month and a spike in the amount we pay toward car insurance. But we’re still on cloud nine. We’ve been praying for this day since the accident happened back in October. God answered in a BIG way. We’re still humbled and in awe of His provision and His timing.

This year, as I’m looking back at everything my husband and I have been through individually and together, I’m calling 2018 the Year of Trust. We needed a new car, a dependable family car. We tried saving for it. Things happened that caused our car fund to slowly be depleted. Then the accident happened. I wouldn’t have thought to provide anyone with a car this way. But God did. Somehow, He knew this was the only way it could happen. Same with how our child came to be. Same with pretty much every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I wonder why things happened the way that they did, why God couldn’t have made it a little easier. But that’s not for me to know, is it?

As I writer, I’ve put my characters through some pretty rough situations. They’ve experienced loss, heart-break, disappointment, injury, danger, and depression. But they always learn something in the end, maybe even become better people as a result. I’d like to think my husband and I are a little bit stronger now that this year is coming to an end, not only as a couple but as individuals. It wasn’t always fun, but I’m glad it happened.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year, readers. See you in 2019!

A sequel to my scifi novel

Hey everyone!

If you’re wondering why I’m suddenly only blogging once a month, I apologize. I should’ve given you guys some notice. I came to the point several months back where I was just really overwhelmed and burned out. With the addition of a newsletter, it just seemed like I was repeating myself a lot and struggling to come up with new material. It doesn’t help that my life has slowed down considerably with the coming of summer. Nothing big and exciting has happened in a while. All I have right now are my new writing projects. So, for those of you still following religiously, expect to hear from me once a month from now on (unless something changes; then I’ll let you guys know what my schedule’s going to look like).

In other news…I FINISHED THE SEQUEL TO MY SCIFI NOVEL! Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal to some but it is to me. I finished this draft in three months; that’s a record. Usually it takes me somewhere between six months to a year. The Andromeda’s Ghost took me a year and four months to complete! I’m not saying this sequel is perfect (it’s a first draft after all) and I know I have days of editing ahead of me, but I’m taking a moment to celebrate. It was so much fun to write, and so easy! I’m thinking this was probably due to the fact that I was writing through the points of view of three different women, all of which had varying personalities, but were still female. I don’t mean to brag but I’m pretty good at writing in girl voices. Finding and sticking with Taren’s voice was a challenge. It also helped that I had an outline and a clear vision of where I wanted this book to go, two things I certainly didn’t have when I started writing it’s predecessor.

Here’s the blurb:

Chaos followed the untimely end of the marriage union between Princess Kylee and Prince Maju. Queen Miyako is too worried about her daughter’s safety to blame the princess, but she can certainly blame Taren Platinum. When a recording device full of diary logs is found in the princess’ room, however, the queen starts to wonder if perhaps she’s been wrong about the couple this whole time.

Jael wants nothing more than to return to her family, but Taren gave her an assignment before he was arrested: “Take care of the kids until I get back.” While babysitting and trying not to think about her feelings for The Andromeda‘s captain, Jael discovers that there might be more to family than blood.

Dr. Ezabrae Mortimer has lived peacefully among the Mirelings for years, despite the fact that she’s human and has glowing ocular implants. Then she’s given a new patient; the fugitive, Taren Platinum. The stories about him circulating the media never made sense to her, but she didn’t care enough to investigate until now. While discovering the truth about him, Ezabrae uncovers secrets from her own past. Can she ever go back to her quiet, ignorant existence on Palnach?

The Andromeda’s Captain is a new adult scifi/fantasy novel with romance, mystery, drama, and a bit of action to liven things up. Told from Queen Miyako, Jael, and Dr. Mortimer’s perspectives, this book answers the following questions: What was going on in Doeline while Taren was on the run? What happened to the kids after he was taken into custody? Was he truly alone during his trial?

Advanced warning: this book ends on a cliffhanger too. Mwahahaha! I know; I’ve become the very thing I once hated. (As a reader, I often cried in anger and distress when I finished a new book on a cliffhanger. I did not enjoy the wait that usually followed.) But, as an author, it’s a lot of fun. Plus, it makes readers keep coming back for more, right? Only problem is that there has to be a third book now and it has to be freakin’ amazing, otherwise you’re all going to hate me (even more than you’re going to when you read that ending! Hehehe. Sorry, I’m really proud of that cliffhanger).

Anyway, I’m taking a break from writing scifi to finish a young adult romance project I started a while back. Don’t worry; I have less than one hundred pages to write before I reach my goal. I’ll be getting back to the The Andromeda’s series as soon as I finish. And if this young adult romance project turns out to be as good as I think it is, I’ll share it with all of you. I promise.

For those of you who have already read The Andromeda’s Ghost, The Andromeda’s Captain is up on my Inkitt profile page. You can read it for free here. Let me know what you think! You can comment on individual chapters if you find typos or have questions about specific things, or you can leave a review at the end and tell me how you liked it overall. This will help me a lot when it’s time to do more edits. I always reply to comments and reviews, so it’s a cool way to connect too. 🙂

A second look at In the Dark

It’s been one week since my paranormal fantasy novel, In the Dark, was published. The first chapter is available on the book’s page here on my blog and also as a preview on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Nook. So I thought I’d give you guys the chance to read chapter two.

If, after reading, you realize this is the best thing since sliced bread and you simply have to purchase the rest of the book immediately lest you spontaneously combust, there will be links at the end of the post. Thanks for reading!

 


 

Chapter Two

Considering the tornado cellar was a place a family would come to for safety in a catastrophe, there wasn’t anything useful. Avery found a few thin blankets, a rotting wooden table and chair, an old oil lamp, and a few bottles of water.

He cheerfully distributed the water. “Good to know our kidnappers don’t plan to kill us by dehydration.”

Lindsay propped the unconscious woman’s head up with a folded blanket and wrapped her up in another, hoping to make her more comfortable on the earthy floor. The woman stirred a little at being moved but otherwise remained unconscious. After the oil lamp had been lit by Avery’s handy lighter, the hostages emptied out their pockets and piled the contents before the light.

“These guys haven’t come to check up on us,” Bailey muttered, throwing a reproachful look up at the ceiling. “Either they’re too busy to make sure we’re still alive, or they don’t care if we all starve.”

Kyle’s stomach growled when he caught sight of the smashed Baby Ruth bar Bailey had added to their pile of supplies. Avery swore he had a stomachache from all the junk he’d eaten before being captured and Lindsay promised she wasn’t hungry, so Bailey and Kyle shared it.

“All right,” Avery said when the kids finished eating their meager midnight snack.
“Let’s see what we’ve got. Three cell phones—one dead, one broken and one having
no signal whatsoever—fifty bucks and forty-three cents, two pieces of squished gum,
a receipt for the Baby Ruth bar that has already been eaten, a small box of matches,
a pack of cigarettes. . .” He gave Lindsay a sideways smirk. “Now, Jules, really. A nursing student should know better.”

“Those are yours,” Lindsay said with a flat look.

Avery tried to smother a smile that was both adorable and infuriating. “You can’t prove that.”

“I’ve never smoked a day in my life and you know it.” Lindsay batted her brother’s hand away from the switchblade in their midst. “Don’t touch that.”

“But I’ve always wanted one of these.” Kyle sent a worshipful look Avery’s way. “Where’d you get it?”

“Now, that’s just stereotypical, little man. Not all BMX bikers carry switchblades. That could be Bailey’s for all we know.”

“Is everything a joke to you?” Bailey asked, her mouth twisting in annoyance.

“Pretty much.”

“What else do we have?” Lindsay asked, trying to be patient.

“We’ve got a comb and a piece of string, an MP3 player, two empty wallets, a driver’s license, and a note from a secret admirer.” Avery opened up the folded piece of paper. “Bailey, this is so junior high. How old are the people you hang out with?”

Bailey huffed. “Wrong again, biker boy. That MP3 player, the receipt, the comb, and the pieces of gum are the only things that I had in my pockets when I was taken.”

Avery turned to Kyle. “Sandy wants to know if you ‘heart’ her and asks you to circle yes or no.”

Kyle snatched the note and shoved it into his pocket. “I wasn’t going to circle anything. I didn’t even know I still had it.”

“Uh-huh,” Avery said. “Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pooped.”

“How can you think about sleeping at a time like this?” Bailey asked. “We could’ve been snatched by sex traffickers!”

Kyle shuddered and wrapped his arms around his knees.

Avery threw the boy a worried glance before he cleared his throat and summoned a lazy smile. “Believe whatever you want, Bails, but don’t go spreading your fear around. It’ll only make things worse.”

“Everyone else is thinking it,” Bailey said, crossing her arms.

“We don’t know that for sure.” Lindsay scooted closer to her brother and wrapped an arm around him. “They could just be desperate lowlifes looking for a pay
day.”

Kyle was too quick to smile. “Yeah. I’m sure you’re right.”

“Kind of gullible, aren’t you?” Bailey muttered.

The boy flushed.

“Let’s not turn on each other now,” Lindsay said, wrestling with her motherly indignation. What’s this girl’s problem? Why pick on Kyle?

Bailey snatched the MP3 player before crawling away. “Whatever.”

“Well, that was dramatic.” Avery stood. “I’m going to find a quiet corner to sleep. Peace out, homies.”

Lindsay rolled her eyes at him and pulled her brother closer to her side. “I’m sorry you have to be here, munchkin.”

“I’m sorry you have to be here with him,” Kyle said, scowling at Avery’s retreating back.

“I’m an adult, hon. I’m perfectly capable of handling my ex.”

“Does it hurt a lot?” Kyle asked. “Seeing him again?”

“A little.” She fidgeted with a loose string on her frayed jean shorts. “But I expected that. I didn’t expect to. . .miss him, though. Not like this.”

“Did you love him?”

Lindsay watched Avery’s silhouette settle back into the adjacent corner of the room. “I did once.”

“Is that why you came back home? Because it was too painful to stay in Laguna?”

Lindsay sighed. “Yes and no. You deserved to know why I ran away to nursing school so suddenly, why I didn’t visit, why I hardly ever called.”

“It was Dad’s cheating, wasn’t it?”

Lindsay gave him an incredulous look. “You knew?”

Her little brother shrugged, staring intently at the dancing flame. “Not right away. After you left, Mom and Dad started arguing a lot. They stopped whenever I walked into the room, but I listened at the door once and heard everything.”

“I caught him having lunch with the other woman,” Lindsay said. “I saw the way he smiled at her. I knew they weren’t coworkers or friends. I confronted him about it later that day, told him to break it off or I’d tell Mom. He begged me to keep his secret. He wanted me to lie to you guys and I just couldn’t do that.”

Kyle nodded. “I understand.”

Her grip around him tightened momentarily. “You okay?”

He scoffed. “Our parents are going to get divorced. Are you okay?”

“No. . .but I’m glad it’s out in the open. Maybe I’ll be able to stay with you and Mom once this is all over.”

If this is ever over,” Kyle said miserably.

“Hey, don’t say that. Mom and Dad will pay the ransom. We’ll be out of here in no time.”
I hope. 
When she woke up, there was light in the cellar and not just the glow from the lamp.

Two men with masks crouched by the fifth hostage, murmuring to each other as they wrapped a clean bandage around her knee and gave her some medicine. A third man stood directly below the opened trap door in the ceiling, guarding the rope ladder. A fourth man stocked a small cooler with ice not too far away from the corner Avery had retreated to. A fifth man tossed a few rolled up sleeping bags onto the floor and eyed Bailey, who slept in another corner. A sixth man pointed the barrel of a gun at Lindsay’s face.

She went cross-eyed looking at it. Then her gaze slid up to meet the bright blue eyes barely visible through the holes in the mask. The heat of anger spread down the length of Lindsay’s body. The beast within reacted. It wanted to kill this man, to tear him apart with its teeth.

The stranger put a finger to his lips and gestured to the gun.

“We could use some hot food and a couple of pillows,” she said. “A little light would be nice too. I get it; you’re trying to scare us senseless by having us wake up to darkness. You’ve accomplished your goal already. Now let’s be adults.”

“Shut up! This isn’t a hotel service,” the man said with only a hint of an accent. He turned to his lackeys. “Hurry the hell up.”

They rushed to do as they were told.

“Leave some extra bandages and painkillers. I’ll make sure your injured hostage doesn’t get an infection and die before her family pays the ransom,” Lindsay said. “I’m a nurse.”

“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?” He hit her across the face with the butt of his gun.

Her head jerked to the side, her neck popping painfully and her whole face throbbing. She slowly turned to look at him, pulling her lips back to expose her fangs. A growl filled the space between them, low and menacing.

The man stepped back. “Holy shit.”

“Jules?” Avery murmured groggily.

Lindsay reined in her anger and shut her mouth, willing the beast to retreat. It wasn’t easy. She was one day closer to the full moon. Pretty soon, she would have no control over it whatsoever. The thought made her stomach clench in fear. I have to get out of here!

Avery sat up, going from sleepy to nonchalant. “Morning, gents.”

The men pulled out their weapons.

Avery held his hands up. “Whoa, calm down.”

Kyle woke with a start and huddled closer to Lindsay. She gripped his hand, heart skipping in her chest. Everything will be fine. Everything will be fine.

“You just scared us, that’s all,” Avery said.

None of the men in masks said a word. They backed away from their hostages, guns raised. It wasn’t until all the men had climbed up the ladder and had closed the trap door behind them that Bailey started crying. Lindsay hadn’t noticed the teen had awakened until Bailey sucked in a long ragged breath and sobbed.

Lindsay reached up to wipe the fresh blood from her face.

“Lindsay, you’re hurt!” Kyle gasped.

Avery scrambled to his feet and ran to her. “Those bastards!” When he was close enough, he reached out to tentatively touch the cut across her cheekbone. There was nowhere else to look but at his face, not crinkled in amusement, not lazy and indifferent, but open and vulnerable and real. It was like turning back the clock to four months ago, when they were still together, when she believed he’d never do anything to hurt her. Pressure built around her throat. The world blurred around his face and then tears cascaded down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” Avery whispered.

She could almost believe he wasn’t talking about her cheek. From the way he was looking at her, he could’ve been reading her mind and apologizing for breaking her heart. She turned away and hurriedly dabbed at her tears.

Avery let his hand fall back to his side, adopting a hollow expression. Before anyone could say a word, the unconscious hostage sat up and screamed. Avery dashed over to her. Bailey yelped. Kyle jumped with a girlish shriek. Lindsay stumbled to her feet, ignoring the pain that raced up her shin. It wasn’t sharp enough to send her sprawling but it did slow her down.

“Calm down. It’s okay, it’s okay,” Avery said soothingly.

Her face was frantic with pain. “My knee! Oh, God, my knee! Wait a sec…” She looked around, short hair bouncing. “Where’s Dev? Who are you? What’s going on?”

“D-Dev as in Deveron Bo, the actor?” Bailey raced over to join them. “You’re his girlfriend, aren’t you? Cordelia Ridge.”

“Whoa, Cordi Ridge the model? It’s very nice to meet you!” Avery said.

“Yeah, I’m Cordi. Who the hell are you?” She moved her hands as if to grip her knee, but then paused. Her teary eyes widened. “Oh, God, my knee’s killing me.”

“Just take it easy,” Lindsay said, kneeling beside her and holding out placating hands. “We’re not going to hurt you. Kyle, can you get me some ice?”

Her brother raced to the cooler to obey.

“I want you to breathe deeply and listen very carefully to what I’m going to tell you, okay?” Lindsay said.

The grimacing woman nodded and leaned back against the wall, biting her lip.

“My name is Lindsay Whittaker. I’m a nurse. I’m going to take care of you. We’re pretty sure we’re being held for ransom. Thanks, Kyle.” She took the ice cubes and placed them on the thin blanket lying next to Cordelia. “We should be all right if we keep our heads. Once the kidnappers have what they want, they’ll let us go. I’m willing to bet we’ll be home by tomorrow night at the latest.” Lindsay tore out the section of the blanket around the ice cubes and twisted the ends together. “Hold still. This might hurt.”

Cordelia recoiled from the ice. “Are you sure that’ll help?”

“It’ll make the swelling go down. I promise. ” Lindsay applied little pressure but kept the ice over the model’s knee. “Can you remember anything that happened before you were taken?”

Cordelia nodded. “I was with Dev. We had lunch and then he drove me home. Men in masks jumped out of the bushes as soon as he drove away. They. . .They grabbed me.” Tears streamed down her face. “I struggled. A neighbor tried to intervene, but they shot my knee and threw me over their shoulders before he could reach us. They shoved me into the backseat of a van, where a guy was waiting with a syringe. Whatever they gave me knocked me out and. . .well, now I’m here. What kind of monsters would—?” She noticed the kids and made a strange little sound of outrage. “You poor things! What’re you doing here?”

“Paying for our rich parents’ success, apparently,” Bailey said with an odd chuckle.

“But you’re. . .Kelly Dune’s daughter, right? How did you get kidnapped? Don’t you have your own security guards?”

Bailey sighed. “I have a boyfriend. My mom doesn’t know and neither do the guards. I go to Zumba three times a week and sneak away from the guards before the class is over to visit him. I was leaving his house when those guys with masks took me.” She scowled at her fellow hostages, suddenly defensive. “I wouldn’t have had to sneak around if my mom would trust me more.”

“Parents. They think they know what’s best, but just end up choking the life out of you.” Avery must’ve seen the questions on their faces because he adopted a tired smile. “Not a story you would want to hear.”

“Were your parents abusive?” Kyle asked, serious and curious all at once.

“Not unless you consider abandonment abuse.”

Kyle lowered his gaze. “Oh. Sorry. . .”

Avery forced a smile and stood. “Don’t sweat it, little man. It’s not a big deal. I’m going to go see what’s in the ice chest. Anybody want anything?”

Kyle and Bailey jumped at the opportunity to get some food.

“Bring something for me and Cordi, won’t you?” Lindsay asked, gently rubbing her shin.

Kyle nodded and jogged after Bailey.

Cordelia threw Lindsay a quizzical look. “Why do you think he’s here? I mean, if he doesn’t have a rich family. . .”

Lindsay had no answer for her.


 

To prevent spontaneous combustion:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077XYDGKS/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=sl1&tag=tirgeapubli09-20&linkId=cb1f31cb67d0f46d8068e258f8860c5c

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B077XYDGKS/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=sl1&tag=kemberleeshor-21&linkId=2ddb60b7420ede928c9322fd1d39b5b6

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/764629

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/in-the-dark/id1321654138?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/in-the-dark-94

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/in-the-dark-daniel-fox/1123728398?ean=2940154642689

Family and work

Finding myself with nothing specific to blog about, I decided to just recap on my week thus far.

Last weekend I got to spend time with my family. We all pitched in to rent a cabin in Munds Park, Arizona, where we could spend the weekend together. Before this, it had been a year since we’d all been together. It was a special time of food, games, puzzles, and a watered down version of Dungeons and Dragons which included every geeky thing imaginable (from sonic screwdrivers, to Lord of the Rings riddles, to Star Wars quotes, to Indiana Jokes traps). Ezra did a great job as Dungeon Master.

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From left to right: My big brother (Ezra), his wife (Ceceilia), and their two boys (Micah age 3, and Thomas age 1). My “little” brother (Joe). My big sister (Anna) and her boyfriend (Ivan). Me and my husband. My parents (Becky and Isidro) are the ones sitting down, of course.

My sister got to give me her notes on my latest WIP in person. That’s always fun. I always get thrown back in time, to when we’d sit in our room (me in the swivel chair by the desk, her on the bed), discussing ideas for our stories. We were just girls with dreams back then. Now she’s got a Bachelor’s in English Literature and I’m a published author. Who would’ve thought?

My sister-in-law was amazing, doing all of the cooking while defusing any little tantrums her sons had (which were few but still!).

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I also got to play and get lots of cuddles from my nephews. Yes, they’re adorable and they love their Auntie Becca. Be jealous.

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And then we came right back home to begin another week of work. Back to sitting duty for my husband, and receptionist work and book promotion for me.

In the Dark was published yesterday, by the way. Hooray!

I’ve been looking forward to this since the day I signed the contract for it but was super disappointed when I found out how many people pre-ordered it.

tenor

I guess because my first book did so well, I assumed that the second one would be just as popular. I’m doing all the same things for In the Dark as I did for I Dare You to Love Me, the one difference being the book reviews. I Dare You to Love Me had reviews up on Amazon the day it was released, thus boosting its popularity. I was only able to acquire one review for In the Dark‘s release date. Others are coming, though. I can only hope that they’ll be positive and spark the interest of more readers.

In the mean time, I’m utilizing reader and author groups on Facebook and Twitter, posting quotes, snippets of reviews, and links to purchase. Three times a week. Of course, I’m using this blog too. I’ve heard conflicting opinions on whether hosting contests and giveaways are still popular ways to inspire interest. My publisher recommended talking about the book and any other books I’m working on, but I’m not sure how to do that without giving too much away…

Night Owl Reviews is putting together packages of bookmarks, thin coasters, business cards, and short excerpts to mail to their readers. They’re currently looking for romance authors to provide some of these promo items for them to mail and I’d love to get all over that. I’m just waiting for the next paycheck. Because it costs some money to sign up. That’s the hardest thing, I’ve found. A lot of promotional services cost money these days and I’m living on a budget.

Anyone have any suggestions on free, effective ways to promote? I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have on the subject. What are some things that have worked for you, authors? What are some things that have spurred your interest in a book, readers?

End of the semester reflections

To quote Albus Dumbledore, “Another year…gone.” Only in this case it’s a semester. I took my usual three classes and managed to swing “A”s in all. (Thank God.)

Intermediate Fiction was by far the most challenging because the teacher had us writing a new short story every month. It tested my creativity, forced me to think outside the box. But I’m thankful for this because it yielded some surprisingly good results, with “Entering the Deep” and “To Kill a Vampire” especially. My teacher also had us students giving each other detailed feedback on our stories. There was a form with questions we had to fill out, which made us stop to think about what we just read. I’m not the greatest when it comes to critiquing. I read books for enjoyment, not with the intent to break them down or analyze them. And short stories have never been my cup of tea, mostly because they lack that character development and fluff of a full blown novel (which I love so much). So giving good feedback was also a challenge for me. But, once again, I’m thankful for this. It helped me develop good critiquing skills.

Planning and Structuring the Novel was great. As the title might suggest, we students were given the opportunity to submit excerpts from our current works in progress to receive constructive criticism from classmates and our instructor. This kind of feedback wasn’t as specific as the feedback I received for my short stories, but I was made aware of some important plot issues with “The Andromeda’s Ghost.” (This is a science-fiction novel I’ve been working on. I’ve posted an excerpt or two on the blog in the past.) This novel is my first attempt at science-fiction so it was great to hear that I was doing a good job so far. My instructor’s thoughts especially were helpful. There’s just something about working alongside an impartial adult, who has studied writing and literature, and genuinely likes your work…I’m going to miss discussing my story with that man.

My Portfolio class was filled with more feedback. I basically submitted all of the short stories I was thinking about putting in my portfolio and the teacher, the Director of the Creative Writing Program, gave me his thoughts. In order to get my Certificate of Completion for the Creative Writing Program at Phoenix College, I have to submit a portfolio with 12-15 pages of original work from two different genres, a letter of intent stating my writing goals, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher. I was asked to provide three copies of this, so I can only assume that the director of the program and two mystery people will be reading my work and making the final decision.

Naturally, I agonized over which stories to submit. The three stories I wrote this semester are my favorites out of my little stack of shorts, but they’re all at least 12 pages long, maybe more. I’d only be able to include one. I’ve written a few poems but I didn’t feel confident turning in any of those. (Although, now that I think about it, I could’ve totally turned in my prose poem about public speaking! Dang it! Oh, well…) In the end, I went with a horror story I wrote last semester and the mermaid story I wrote more recently. Combined, they fell within the page limit so it worked out. For better or worse, I’ve mailed it in. Now all I can do is wait.

I’m not technically done with the program yet. I have one more reading class I have to take, but it’s not available until the summer of 2018. I emailed the director of the program, thinking I’d have to wait to turn in my portfolio. He said I didn’t have to wait. He seemed to think I had a shot at that certificate, which was encouraging to hear.

So my schooling is pretty much over. I’ll be going back for that one class in the summer, but then I’ll be done! [insert girlish shriek of excitement here]

I still don’t know if I want to get a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. A part of me thinks I won’t need it. Another part of me is terrified that I’ll totally flop as an author and I’ll need a backup plan. I do okay in school but it’s not something I want to do for the next four to eight years of my life. I want to be focusing on kids and my writing during that time. But life is…well…to quote Forrest Gump, “Life [is] like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.” I could do really good as an author, really bad, or just mediocre. I want to be prepared for all of those outcomes. I want to have a plan. That’s who I am; a planner. So what will I do if, by this time next year, I can’t make a living off my writing? Do I keep at it? Do I get my Bachelor’s and try to get a job at a publishing company? Do I pick another major?

The thing is, I can’t think of anything else I’d want to study. Sure, for a while I thought it would be cool to be an interpreter. I enjoyed learning American Sign Language and all about the deaf community. But when my job conflicted with the scheduling of the interpreter’s program at Phoenix College, I wasn’t devastated that I had to give it up. I would be devastated if I had to give up writing. But I love reading and writing. I feel like getting my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing will make me start to hate these things I love so much…

Uuuuuggggghhhhhh.

It takes effort to trust that everything is going to be fine so long as I do my best. It’s hard for me to be okay with the fact that I don’t have all the answers. It helps that I have a great, merciful God who doesn’t mind repeating that He has everything under control. It also helps that it’s Christmas time and I have family to distract me. Tonight, my husband and I will be flying to Wisconsin to spend the holiday with his mother and brothers. I’m so looking forward to seeing them and having my first white Christmas. Another semester is over. It’s time to celebrate. That’s what I need to be focusing on right now. After the holidays, I’ll be working on book promotion and finishing that science-fiction novel. What comes after that can be decided later.

If I don’t post anything else before the new year, let me just say Merry Christmas to you all. See you in 2018!

Book highlight

Hello everyone!

I took a hiatus from the blog due to Thanksgiving madness and my husband finally having his knee surgery. (He tore his meniscus a few weeks ago.) But I’m back now and hoping to continue my routine of posting once a week. To start off, I’m helping a fellow Tirgearr author with some book promotion. Scroll down for more details!

Author Bio:

Author Photo Christy Nicholas

Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, is an author, artist and accountant. After she failed to become an airline pilot, she quit her ceaseless pursuit of careers that begin with ‘A’, and decided to concentrate on her writing. Since she has Project Completion Disorder, she is one of the few authors with NO unfinished novels.

Christy has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she’s a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were.

She wants to expose the incredible beauty in this world, hidden beneath the everyday grime of familiarity and habit, and share it with others. She uses characters out of time and places infused with magic and myth.

Her newest book, Misfortune of Vision, is a historical fantasy set in 12th century Ireland. It’s the fourth book in The Druid’s Brooch Series.

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Blurb:

Prophecy can be dangerous.

In 12th century Ireland, Orlagh has been Seer to her king for forty years. He doesn’t want to hear her prophecies of war and destruction, and dismisses her efforts to warn him. Therefore, she is determined to fulfill her own quest: to find a worthy heir for her magical brooch.

In the course of events, she must pass judgment on a thief, escape a Norman war camp, and battle wits with a Fae lord. She receives some prophecy of her own and enlists the help of a grizzled old warrior, who happens to be a long–time friend.

 

 

Links:

Publisher Site: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Nicholas_Christy/index.htm

Author Website: http://www.greendragonartist.com

Blog: http://www.greendragonartist.net

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/greendragonauthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/greendragon9