Music Video Monday: Radiohead “Creep”


Thursday’s “Guilty Pleasures” episode of Glee reminded me of how awesome this song is, although I didn’t really like what they did with it. Don’t get me wrong; I think this song could potentially work well in a rock musical/opera performance. It could have even worked on Glee if their interpretation had been a little more “angsty” and sinister. However, they made it too glamorous, and it didn’t seem to go with the situation (Rachel breaking up with her NYADA boyfriend, who is also apparently a gigolo).

The song reminds me of high school and of one of my all-time favorite fictional couples of my own creation, Ava and Tyler. Tyler is the outcast, and Ava is sort of a goody-two-shoes and definitely a bossy know-it-all. So since Music Video Monday is supposed to be about musical influences/inspiration, I’ve decided to include a little excerpt, which takes place at a high school dance. (After perusing Star Eyes for this excerpt, I really really want to work on this story again. But there’s never any time. Can someone please just pay me write stories, please???) After the excerpt, I’ve embedded videos of the Radiohead original and Glee cover, if you missed it.

***

“Shall we?” Tyler asked playfully, and he offered Ava his hand.

She took it, and together they walked out onto the crowded dance floor. He wrapped his arms carefully around her waist as she slung her arms around his neck. For a few moments, they swayed in awkward silence.

“I like your dress,” Tyler finally said, his eyes sweeping over her strapless fuchsia dress.

“Um, thanks,” she said hesitantly. “I tried to find an all-black dress, but this was the only one I tried on that my friends actually liked,” she added with a laugh.

“Do you like it?” he wondered.

“Of course. I was just worried that you might not like it.”

He shook his head and chuckled. “I’m not anti-pink,” he assured her. “I just want people to be themselves. ” He reached over and brushed aside one of her brown curls. “And you look beautiful. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to say it, but I’m better at expressing myself in writing than talking.”

“I understand. The way you’ve treated me tonight is more important than what you say. But it’s nice to hear it,” she said as an afterthought, but, when she noticed his intent stare, she wondered if he had heard anything she’d just said.

His face leaned in closer to hers, and she felt his hands tighten in apprehension around her waist. Ava’s heart pounded so loudly she was afraid that Tyler could hear it. She leaned in more towards him and closed her eyes.

For VDay: A Romantic Excerpt


Since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow (but mostly since I haven’t written anything new), here is a romantic post from my young adult novel, Star Eyes. I’ve posted an excerpt or two before (here’s one), and now that I’ve reread this chapter I’m tempted to post the whole thing. But I’ll try to stay focused on new writing (unless someone tells me that they’d really like to read the rest of it!).

In this excerpt, you will meet the two young men in love with our protagonist, Celeste Lowe: Hazri, a handsome alien from another world (although he looks human) and Dave, a normal human teenager. Yes, this story involves a lurve triangle, which I know at least one of my followers hates (lol!). But hey, I was writing about love triangles before Stephanie Meyer made it cool.

***

Celeste was still grounded Friday night, but she decided to make the best of it. It was supposed to be a clear night, so she set up her telescope on the small balcony outside her bedroom. She glanced at the star chart she had printed off the Internet and then bent over the eyepiece.

“I did not think I would find you here.”

Celeste nearly leaped out of her skin. She spun around to see Hazri standing behind her. In faded jeans and a red and white striped polo, it looked like someone had cut him out of a Tommy Hilfiger catalog. She wondered where he was getting his human wardrobe.

She felt the gentle nudge of his telepathic voice. I went to the mall. I also…how do I want to say this? I get a kick out of startling you.

The expression sounded awkward coming from him, especially telepathically. What do you want? she asked him, exasperated.

I thought that humans felt compelled to socialize on weekend nights, but I am glad you are here, he said. I have another memory to share with you.

Celeste had been afraid of this. She knew that at some point Hazri would be back to share more of their history with her, but she didn’t want anything to do with it anymore.

I’m not in the mood. She tried to make the tone of the thought as vicious as possible. Whatever it is you want to share with me, I don’t care. I don’t want to know.

You cannot avoid this. It is your heritage. It is your destiny.

“I don’t care!” she exploded, unable to contain her feelings in a mere thought. “Just leave me alone! I don’t ever want to see you again!”

“Celeste, what’s wrong?”

She was startled again, this time from the sound of Dave’s voice. She hadn’t even noticed him come out onto the balcony. He walked over to her.

“Is he bothering you?” Dave asked her, putting a protective arm around her shaking shoulders. “I think you should go,” he said to Hazri. He pulled Celeste closer to him.

“I am not bothering her,” Hazri said. His icy gaze locked with Celeste’s. “She was just overreacting.”

“Just go!” Celeste yelled.

Hazri’s lips were pursed, but he acquiesced, “I will see myself out.” He went into her bedroom as though he were going to go downstairs and leave the normal way, but Celeste knew he was alerting the mothership to transport him back.

“What happened? Did he try to hurt you?” Dave asked. He drew Celeste into his arms. Her heart was still beating wildly in her chest.

“No. How did you get up here? My parents let you in?” she asked in disbelief.

“I think they felt bad for me. I looked so dejected when they told me you were grounded that they let me in. I’m not even kidding,” he insisted when she looked at him doubtfully. “They let what’s-his-face in. Why wouldn’t they let me see you?”

Celeste didn’t know what to say. Well, that wasn’t exactly true –she knew what she wanted to say. She was about to stop herself and think it over first, but she was tired of thinking everything through. She let her mouth open to say what she knew she shouldn’t tell him.

Everything.

“Dave. There’s something…there’s a lot I have to tell you,” she said, pulling out of the embrace.

He reluctantly let her go. “What is it?”

“Let’s go inside,” she suggested. “You’ll want to be sitting down for this.”

He nodded. Celeste picked up the sky chart and led the way back inside.

 ***

“So you’re telekinetic.” It was a statement of fact, not an uncertain question. Dave was sitting on the edge of Celeste’s bed, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. Celeste was pacing back and forth as she talked.

“Don’t worry. I can prove it,” she told him earnestly.

“You don’t have to. I believe you,” he said.

Celeste shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Are you watching closely?” Her eye had caught something shiny on her bureau. Her crystal paperweight gleamed invitingly under the ceiling light. Extending her arm for effect, Celeste wrapped her mind around the paperweight like an invisible hand and lifted it off of the dresser. She guided it through the air and let it fall into Dave’s lap.

Dave’s intelligent green eyes had grown wider and wider as he watched the paperweight drift in his direction. Now, he took it in his hands and held it up to his face.

“Whoa. That was sweet,” he exclaimed.

Celeste laughed. “Sweet? I’ve never heard you say that before.” With a swift sweep of her gaze, the paperweight flew out of his hands. She returned it to its spot beside her jewelry box.

“I figured this was a special occasion,” he said, smiling wryly. “Have you always been able to do that?”

“Ever since I was little.” Celeste studied him warily. Was that a glint of fear in his eyes? Was his laugh a little nervous?

“That’s what you were talking about,” he suddenly realized. He straightened up. “At Jamie’s party, when you said that you were different.”

She nodded. “But there’s more. I’m also telepathic.”

“You’ll have to prove that one, too,” he said, but he was grinning. “I’m thinking of a number from one to infinity.”

“I can’t just automatically read your mind,” she explained. “I mean, I could read it if I tried, but I have to concentrate on making a connection between my mind and yours. You would be able to feel my presence in your head.”

He stood up. “Do it.”

“What? Dave, no,” she protested. “It might make you sick. It’s really disorienting if you’re not used to it.”

“Celeste, I don’t care.” He cupped her chin with his hand. “I want to feel what it’s like. I don’t have anything to hide from you. I wish you could hear what I was thinking about you all the time.”

She searched his gaze. It was steady and honest. He was serious. Keeping their eyes locked, she extended her mind out again like she had to Jamie. It was like psychic energy was flowing out of her to embrace his mind, body and soul.

Are you feeling O.K? Celeste wondered. She could tell he was a little queasy, but his mind felt calm. Even though he was holding her, she didn’t even notice anymore. They were both absorbed in each other’s thoughts. It was exciting. And it felt right.

You told me once that you saw me around before we actually started talking, she recalled as the memory of their failure of a first date crept back into her mind.  When was the first time you saw me?

 Dave allowed the memory to surface. Celeste saw herself sitting alone in the school library. She was listening to her iPod and was writing something down in a notebook. Celeste had no idea what she had been working on at the time, but she realized that it was a memory from winter of last year. Her white down jacket was draped over the back of the chair.

She slowly started to see herself as Dave saw her. A wistful-looking girl with pretty hair that fell in front of her face like a silver-white curtain when she leaned over to scribble in the notebook. She glanced in his direction and then returned to the paper, but her eyes had shone like blue gemstones. She was beautiful, but it wasn’t just that. Focus, determination and goodness radiated from her.

That’s how you see me? She wouldn’t notice it until the connection was broken, but her cheeks were wet with tears. How had she never seen him before a few weeks ago? Now it felt like she had known him forever, and that they should never be apart. Who knew that I’d have to be sent clear across the universe to find my soul mate?

She could sense that this thought had confused Dave. She didn’t fight the memories that swam into her mind.

She walked into her kitchen, seeing Hazri for the first time. He told her that she wasn’t human, that they were from the planet Mondra and that she was a princess. She took out her mental box of concealed memories and remembered connecting with Jamie’s mind and seeing her aboard the Mondrian mothership. She vividly recalled the genetic experiment the Mondrians had performed on Jamie. She let the fears that had been building up inside of her spill over.

They’re abducting humans and introducing genetic mutations into them. They’re not good people. But I’m one of them. I’m not a good person, Dave. I’m not the good person you think I am.

Celeste retracted her mind from his. Uncontrollable tears ran down her face. Dave was holding her face in his hands, and his forehead was pressed against hers.

“Stop it,” he pleaded with her. “You are a good person. You’re the best person I’ve ever known, Celeste. It doesn’t matter what they do. You aren’t really one of them. You were raised by loving parents, and that’s how you learned to be who you are.”

As he was talking, he kissed her furiously in between sentences and wiped away her tears with his thumbs. Celeste eventually calmed down, but Dave still held her.

“Now you know everything,” she said. “I’m really glad it all came out like that, actually. At least you know I’m not crazy.”

“I would have believed you anyway, and you know that,” he insisted. “But seriously. That was really beautiful. Thank you for sharing your abilities with me.”

“So you’re not going to run away?” Celeste said.

Dave shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere. I know you’re not like them, Celeste. You’re good.” He kissed her again, gently this time. The kiss sent a chill down Celeste’s spine while a pleasant wave of warmth surged up her abdomen.

When they pulled away, reality set in again. “I have to save her,” Celeste said, meaning Jamie. “I’m the only one who knows where she is. I’m just not sure how to do it.”

“Maybe you’ll think of something,” Dave said. “I know it’s already been a week, but just give it more time. Don’t do anything rash.”

“I won’t. I don’t even know if there’s anything I can do but keep an eye on her. Well not an eye, but…you know what I mean.”

Dave chuckled softly and nodded. “There really is nothing that would keep me away from you,” he assured her again. “I love you.”

Celeste was so relieved to hear those words that she hugged him tightly and buried her face in his shoulder. He didn’t really have to say it out loud, though. Love and acceptance had radiated from him when their minds were connected.

Copyright 2013 by S. L. Stacy

Sunday Showdown: Fever v. Iced


In case I haven’t made it clear on this blog, I am a huge Karen Marie Moning fanatic, and over my break I finally read her newest novel set in the Fever world, Iced. For tonight’s showdown, I thought I would do something similar to what I did for P. C. Cast’s two very different series, House of Night and Elphame’s Choice: I will give a small summary of both and then give a little more detail about what I liked and didn’t like about Iced. However, the Iced review does contain some Fever spoilers, so it is more geared towards those who have read Fever but have yet to read Iced. The Fever series is going to be a tought act to follow, so I will reserve judgment about which series wins until she’s finished Dani O’Malley’s tale (but so far, so good!)

1. The Fever series follows MacKayla Lane and her transformation from a Southern, carefree blonde bombshell into an ass-kicking sidhe-seer/Fae hunter. In book one (Darkfever), MacKayla departs for Ireland to investigate the murder of her twin sister Alina, who was studying abroad in Dublin, and her journey there (sorry for the cliché) drastically changes her life forever. She gets drawn into a world parallel to our own where the Seelie (light) and Unseelie (dark) Fae courts clash, and becomes the puppet of Jericho Barrons, the enigmatic owner of Barrons Books and Baubles, on his hunt for an ancient tome. And that’s just a brief summary of Darkfever -so much happens in this series that it’s impossible to cram it into one measly paragraph of one blog post. I wouldn’t want to ruin the many twists and surprises Moning has in store for her readers, anyway. I will add though that it’s an expert merging of genres: Fever starts out as a murder mystery until it sweeps the reader up into a world where Irish folklore is real while also incorporating urban fantasy and even science fiction elements. If you haven’t, I highly recommend the Fever series -it rises above formulaic genre fiction (not that there’s anything wrong with formula fiction).

OK, I need to stop myself before I get even further invested in this tangent and move on to:

2. Iced is the first book in Moning’s series dedicated to Dani “Mega” O’Malley, Mac’s volatile fourteen-year-old ex-bff. (If you haven’t read the Fever series yet, I recommend to stop reading this review. Now. OK -I warned you…)

It picks up right where  Shadowfever leaves off: the sidhe-seers have just trapped Cruce, the Unseelie Prince who has absorbed the Sinsar Dubh, beneath their abbey. The charismatic Scottish Highlander Christian MacKelter is undergoing a painstaking transformation to replace the fourth Unseelie prince. And Dani and Mac are on the outs ever since Mac found out that Dani was involved in her twin sister’s death. When Dani isn’t slaying Unseelie with the Sword of Light, you may find her spying on the “sidhe-sheep” at the abbey, hanging out with teenage genius Dancer in one of their many well-stocked hideouts around Dublin, ad avoiding Mac. Dani has also been avoiding Ryodan, the morally ambiguous owner of Chester’s club, ever since he offered her a job -but as we know, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid Ryodan. So in much the same way as Mac started out as Barrons’ Sinsar Dubh tracker in Darkfever, Dani becomes Ryodan’s helper in solving their own mystery: Why are parts of Dublin being mysteriously “iced,” and who is responsible? Is the perpetrator human? Fae? What do these places, if anything, have in common? Again, the mystery, urban fantasy and sci-fi genres merge in Iced.

I would say the most obvious difference between the Fever series and Iced is that Fever was the story of the events that led to the creation of this new world where the walls are down and human and Fae coexist; now, Moning is delving into this world more deeply. Her characters face the problems of living in a post-apocalyptic world (someone is hoarding all of the food that was left in the grocery stores) and encounter new mysteries and enemies, while still trying to keep Cruce confined below the abbey. The book is primarily told from Dani’s perspective, but Christian and the new leader of the sidhe-seers lend their POVs as well. I was worried that Dani’s narration would be entirely written in her accent and slang, which worked in Fever but might get annoying in an entire book, but it’s toned down and very readable. Her grammar is still atrocious (I guess because she’s young and missed out on school?) and some of the slang carries through. In these aspects Moning maintains Dani’s unique voice.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Dani is a very believable character, especially as the protagonist of Iced. It worked when she was simply Mac’s rather reckless sidekick, but I didn’t buy into the whole arrogant, self-absorbed preteen act as much in this book. It’s almost like Moning takes it a bit too far for it to be believable, even though Dani isn’t your average fourteen-year-old. Now that I’m reflecting on it, Dani may be a bit of a sociopath in the beginning (perhaps this is too strong of a diagnosis) since she doesn’t seem to feel remorse or think about how her actions affect other people. However, you can tell she starts to grow out of this, especially where Mac and Alina are concerned.

I also didn’t care for the fact that Ryodan and especially Christian, both adult men, seem to be infatuated with Dani. It’s a little something I like to call creepy. Saying that (sorry, I don’t have the book in front of me, so this is not a direct quote) they can see the incredible woman Dani will be one day does not make it okay. And anyway, it’s pretty clear that their fascination with her doesn’t stop there; there’s a scene when she’s in her underwear and both of them are, uh, clearly aroused. At one point Christian even says to Dani that he isn’t a pedophile, and she isn’t a child -except that she is. (Although Christian is turning into a lecherous Unseelie prince, so perhaps this is all part of his spiral into evil.) I am certainly not saying that I think the author condones pedophilia, just that it was a very controversial and, to repeat, creepy element in the book. (To add to the creepy, I’ve decided that Into the Night is Christian and Dani’s theme song, because everything should have an 80s theme song.) It also becomes clear (if not to Dani, at least to the reader) that Dancer has a thing for her as well, which is decidedly less creepy since he is seventeen.

Now, on Dancer (on Prancer, on Vixen…no, wait…): Dancer is becoming one of my favorite characters in this world. I love that Dani looks up to Dancer, who reminds me of a younger version of Big Bang’s Leonard if he were thrust into Dublin after the walls fell. As Dani narrates, Dancer doesn’t have any “superpowers” like her and Ryodan, but he’s survived the wall crash through his resourcefulness and “super brain.” Moning hints that Dancer has some secrets of his own, which I hope we will unravel as the series continues. As a scientist, it also makes me happy that Moning’s explanations of some of the science-y elements of the book are not totally off the mark. (I’m not proud of it, but I’ve become one of those people who ruins movies for other people when they are scientifically inaccurate. Which is like all the time.)

I also really enjoyed how Moning played with Jo’s character. In the Fever books Jo was supposed to be plain, maybe even borderline dowdy, but in Iced she starts working at Chester’s -Ryodan’s tactic for keeping Dani in line. If Dani screws up, she has to worry about Ryodan taking it out on Jo. Thus, Jo transforms from a plain Jane into a sexy waitress with “glitter between her boobs,” and it all seems kind of glamorous until you remember that she’s dressed up in what sounds like a Catholic school girl uniform catering to Chester’s seedy Unseelie patrons. One image I loved is when Jo watches Ryodan on the staircase nodding to whichever lucky gal he chooses to, um, make love to that night. (I know that Ryodan doesn’t “make love,” but I don’t really feel like using a certain verb today.) I kind of want Ryodan to nod at me, even though he’s not quite Jericho Barrons. In fact, I had a much more vivid image of Barrons in my mind than I have of Ryodan. He has some big shoes to fill.

And throughout the search for whatever is “icing” Dublin, Christian’s obsessing over Dani, Dani’s slaughtering of Unseelie and Ryodan’s nodding at attractive waitresses, Moning still interperses some very humorous moments. One part that had me laughing at loud was when Dani, Jo, Ryodan, Lor, etc. are arguing over Dani’s Ipod playlist. What a great moment Moning dreamed up: Humans and supernatural beings fighting over whether to listen to Linkin Park, Adele or Jimmy Hendrix (and at a point in which they have much bigger things to worry about.)

Finally, unlike some other reviews I’ve read, I didn’t really mind Dani being fourteen for this book, although I hope she grows up in the rest. Then Moning can pursue her relationship with Ryodan without it being so, again for lack of a better word, creepy. I’m sure Ryodan is going to turn out to be the Barrons to her Mac, so to speak. All in all, and despite parts of my above critique, I really enjoyed Iced. Dani’s storyline and the various subplots (I haven’t touched on all of them here) really drew me in; it was fast-paced and had a very creative premise.

P. C. Cast Series Showdown


I finally, finally finished reading one of P. C. Cast’s books set in Partholon, Elphame’s Choice. So tonight’s Sunday Showdown is more of a book review and comparison/contrast of her Partholon books and vampyre saga The House of Night. I’m not really picking a winner since they are two very different series, but feel free to share your favorite in the comments. But if you haven’t gotten around to exploring either world, read on to find out a little more about these books.

(Also, on an unrelated note: I’m still working on my next Once Upon A Time fanfiction adventure, so please click here to take my poll of your favorite potential couples!)

And now, on to the showdown:

1. House of Night

The House of Night world is much like our own, except vampyres exist alongside humans, and everybody knows it. Those human adolescents that already have vampyre DNA are marked by Trackers, which begins their transition into adult vampyrehood. This is what happens to Zoey Redbird, who transfers to a high school for vampryes, the highly esteemed House of Night. But Zoey isn’t just a normal fledgling; she has been chosen by her goddess to be a leader among her kind. The first two books (which unfortunately is all I’ve read so far) follow Zoey’s adventures with her new group of friends, unresolved issues with her old life, and battles with new, supernatural enemies. These books are cowritten by P. C. and her daughter Kristin. If you enjoy young adult vampyre books, you’ll enjoy the House of Night books. They’re a satisfactory mix of  Egyptian-based mythology, dark vampyre lore and quirky humor.

2. Elphame’s Choice

When I picked up this book, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I had  never read one of P. C.’s Partholon books, and the cover and tagline were vague. (And misleading. The tagline makes it sound like there are vampyres in the book. It’s a similar idea, but they are blood-sucking, winged demons. And the girl on the cover doesn’t look like what Elphame is supposed to look like.)

One similarity between this book and the House of Night series is that Elphame is another young adult that has been especially favored by her goddess, in this case Epona. It’s refreshing that P. C.’s societies are matriarchal. As a fawn and Epona’s Chosen, Elphame has always felt like an outsider, until she travels to MacCallan Castle and works to restore it to its former glory. At her new home, she befriends Brenna, a Healer disfigured from a tragic accident, and the centaur Huntress Brighid, and she finally starts to feel like she’s a part of something rather than just a distant symbol to be worshipped. In the forests surrounding MacCallan Castle, she also meets her soulmate, Lochlan, a human-Fomorian demon hybrid. She struggles with how to present her forbidden lover to her kingdom, which drove the Fomorian species from Partholon hundreds of years prior.

Overall, I enjoyed Elphame’s Choice, although if you’re familiar with the House of Night series you must prepare yourself for a completely different P. C. Cast. This book has an omniscient narrator, which I sometimes found annoying since it jumps between perspectives rather abruptly, and the prose is very formal and long-winded. But P. C. creates very complex and sympathetic characters. My favorite was Brenna, the tiny Healer who captures the heart and soul of Elphame’s dashing brother. (Although, as P. C. constantly describes the meek Brenna as letting her hair fall over the disfigured part of her face, she sometimes started to sound like Emo Brenna, but that is neither here nor there.) I also really liked the human-Fomorian hybrids and would have liked to have seen a lot more of them. Also, as Elphame’s Choice was published by Harlequin Teen (which I didn’t even know existed until now), things do heat up in several parts of the book…which I’m totally ok with, but I know that some people don’t like.

Really, the biggest criticism I have of any of P. C.’s books is that they never completely draw me in. I never feel like the worlds she creates completely engulf me so that I cannot put the book down. But as I said, it was pretty enjoyable, and I would recommend it to fans of fantasy and paranormal romance.

Working Title: “Title”


Well, I wanted to keep to my Sunday, sometimes-Thursday, Friday posting schedule, but didn’t have time to write anything new, insightful or nerdy. So instead, I perused My Documents for a sample of my old writing. I decided to go with a document named “Something,” which contained the Prologue and first chapter I wrote to a planned book with the tentative title “Title.” I think it’s pretty cute…it’s another Greek myth-inspired story (which I apparently subconsciously gravitate to) and depicts a nostalgic Calypso talking to her friend, Dewdrop. (The most adorable name ever, if I do say so myself.)

***

She stood where the beach met the crisp blue water. Digging her feet into the yellow sand, she curled her toes and allowed it to seep between them, wet and rough. Beyond her, the waves rolled like sheets of blue silk billowing in the salty air. Her hair, the color of the golden beach, blew across her face and briefly obscured her forlorn expression. Then, she brushed the hair out of her face to reveal her sad, teardrop-shaped eyes once more.

“Calypso!” a high, clear voice behind her called. Calypso did not turn to acknowledge the voice and still did not turn when a girl appeared beside her. She was young and small, and her long, auburn hair was plaited into hundreds of small braids. She wore a white dress tied at the waist with a yellow cord. Noticing Calypso’s intent gaze, she followed it into the blue distance where it was hard to tell where the ocean ended and the sky began.

“Calypso, what’s wrong?” she persisted and hugged the woman’s petite waist. Calypso sighed and stroked the girl’s hair.

“Oh, Dewdrop,” she said as the girl retracted her arms. Calpyso sat down and patted the sand beside her so that Dewdrop would do the same. “No one ever comes to my island anymore. No one ever comes.”

What are you talking about?” Dewdrop wondered. “The others visit you all the time. Hera, Aphrodite, Aries…everybody loves it here. It’s a beautiful island.”

“I do not mean them,” she replied curtly and diverted her gaze to the ocean again. “They do not come to see me, Dewdrop. As you said –it is a beautiful island. The most beautiful. I’m talking about people. People used to come here.”

“People? From where?”

“From everywhere.” For the first time that afternoon, a small, wistful grin appeared on Calypso’s lovely face. “Explorers would come, travelers, sometimes men going to war –what strong, handsome men used to come here.” Dewdrop narrowed her eyes in confusion as Calypso continued nostalgically. “They would come, and we would entertain them here, give them food and shelter. And sometimes I would just…”

“Just what?” Dewdrop pressed.

“Just keep them here,” Calypso said, laughing musically. Dewdrop laughed too, although she wasn’t entirely sure what Calypso meant.

“Ah, yes, I miss those days,” Calypso confessed. “There was always excitement and anticipation, wondering who was going to come next. But then fewer and fewer came, and the ones that did come tried to hurt us and would not let us help them. And then one day, no one came. No one has come for ages.”

A tear trickled from one of Calypso’s aquamarine eyes. “It’s okay,” Dewdrop assured her. “I’m sure someday someone will come again.”

“Perhaps.” Calypso picked up the hem of her flimsy purple dress as she rose. Dewdrop scrambled to her feet as well. “Perhaps not. Come on –let’s go back.” They glided swiftly over the sand, away from where the sun broke the ocean into a thousand tiny blue diamonds. Above, the sky was clear and cloudless.

Halloween Special: Mad Scientist Showdown


This showdown has exploded, expanding from two to a handful of mad, neurotic fictional scientists. They’re all tied in my book – special in their own way, as the cliché goes. Who’s your favorite?

1. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the original mad scientist. In Shelley’s gothic magnum opus, Dr. Victor Frankenstein must traverse the world in pursuit of his runaway creation. This is one of my favorite pieces of classic literature. Besides its obvious impact on the horror genre, it has also influenced science fiction, prompting us to ponder the question of what really makes us human. Nowadays, the monster is often mistakenly referred to as Frankenstein in pop culture, to the horror of literary nerds everywhere.

2. Dr. Whale (***SPOILER ALERT***), as we now know, is Once Upon A Time’s version of Frankenstein. In Season 1, we got to know him as the (hot) asshole that didn’t call Mary Margaret back after a one night stand. In tonight’s episode, Dr. Whale tries to bring back Regina’s love, Daniel, back to life in hopes that she will repay this favor by sending him back to his own world. But the resurrected Daniel is not the stable boy Regina once fell in the love, although he makes one sexy monster. The episode also takes us back to Queen Regina’s first encounter with Dr. Whale/Victor, in which he deceives her into thinking he is trying to bring Daniel back to life, when all he really wants is an enchanted heart from her world. (I may have to go off on a tangent about this episode in another post, it gave me so many fan-gasms.) Quote of the Night: When Victor says, “It’s not magic…it’s science.” Science, ftw.

3. Dr. Frank-N-Furter is just a sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania and the mad, alien scientist of The Rocky Horror Show. Brad and Janet are just looking for a phone, but their strait-laced world is turned upside down (inside out?) by Frank. And in just seven days, he’ll make a man out of his own creation, sexy blond boy toy Rocky Horror. It’s just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right…let’s do the time warp again!

4. Dr. Horrible is played by the versatile Neil Patrick Harris in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. He has a PhD in Horribleness and is vying for a spot in the Evil League of Evil. He runs a pretty tight schedule, what with hatching his evil plans and clashing with his nemesis Captain Hammer, all the while admiring his crush Penny from afar. Sadly, but perhaps not too surprisingly given it’s a Joss Whedon creation, we see Dr. Horrible live up to his title by the end of this web series.

5. Fringe’s Dr. Walter Bishop has gone from bad scientist (during his days when he and business partner William Bell tested psychic children in his laboratory) to quirky mad scientist. He’s riddled with idiosyncracies and seems to have experimented with drugs in the 70s, but he is driven and obsessive when it comes to his work. The brilliant John Noble portrays this neurotic scientist with grace and great comedic timing as well as playing his counterpart in the parallel universe, “Walternate.”

 

Can you think of any others? And Happy Halloween (Eve Eve Eve)!

The Devil Inside: Part II


II.

“I am sorry about Lord Gaston, m’lady,” Belle’s maid, Constance, says to her later as she is helping Belle out of her wedding dress.

“Thank you, Constance,” Belle replies politely. I am not, she wants to add, but holds her tongue. Belle gingerly steps out of the gown and shimmies into a mauve-colored dress, which is just as pretty and feminine but more comfortable.

“Is Lord Gaston still downstairs?” Belle wonders as Constance is fastening the dress in the back. She had seen him talking to her father before going upstairs to change.

“No, m’lady. He told your father that he is off to pay a visit to that wicked hermit, Rumpelstiltskin.”

Belle freezes. “What?” she whispers. She recovers herself quickly and pulls away from Constance. “I need out of this dress. Now,” she commands with uncharacteristic harshness. “I want to put on my riding clothes.”

Constance’s sky blue eyes look surprised, but she nods and goes to Belle’s closet. “As you wish, m’lady.”

In mere minutes, Belle has changed clothes for the third time. She pulls a blue cape around her shoulders and runs downstairs to the stables, rushing past her father even as he’s saying her name. “Not now, Papa!” she calls over her shoulder. At the stables, she readies Chestnut and launches herself into the leather saddle, adjusting the reins in her milk white hands.

“Where’re you going in such a hurry, Miss Belle?” the stable boy asks her in a panicked voice, still watching her, dumbfounded, from the corner of the stall.

“It is no concern of yours, Brandon,” she tells him. She hates being brusque with sweet, reliable Brandon, but she’s on a mission. She has to get to Rumpelstiltskin’s before…before something terrible happens. Belle isn’t sure who she’s more afraid for: Rumpel or Gaston. Her hands are sweaty on the reins and her heart pounds so loudly in her chest she wonders if Brandon can hear it. Taking a deep breath, she murmurs “Good girl, Chestnut,” before jerking the reins and sending Chestnut charging onto the path through the Dark Forest.

The chilly mid-morning air whips at her face, but Belle urges Chestnut on, determination surging through her body, through her hands and fingers, to the powerful legs of her beautiful brown horse. She abruptly skids Chestnut to a halt when they reach Rumpelstiltskin’s house. The house seems quiet and dark. After gracefully dismounting Chestnut, Belle tethers her to one of the wooden fence posts. She removes the hood of her cloak and approaches the front door with some trepidation. Even though she knows she must stop Gaston, the last time she was here Rumpel told her that he did not love her as she had assumed – he had called her a “warm body.” He does not want you here, whispers Doubt in the back of her mind. He does not love you. Why even bother? Go home and forget about him. But most of her doesn’t really believe that Rumpel was using her, and it is this that propels her forward.

Belle turns the knob and pushes on the front door. It opens with a loud creak, making her jump back. She waits a few moments, but doesn’t hear any answering noises, so she tiptoes inside and gently closes the door behind her. As always, the house is vast and magnificent, more like a museum than a place to call home. And quiet. So quiet.

“Hello?” Belle shouts, her voice sounding even louder than she had intended against the eerie silence. She removes her cloak and tosses it on one of the burgundy chairs. Quick exploration of the first floor confirms that there’s no one there, so she ascends the grand staircase, not caring anymore if her black riding boots cause the stairs to creak.

“Hello? Rumpel?” she calls, but there’s no answer. Am I too late? she wonders, her brow creasing with concern. Belle checks all of the rooms, but there’s no Rumpel, no Gaston. Maybe Constance was wrong. Maybe Gaston simply went home to sulk, and Rumpel was out being his mischievous self, making deals and doing magic…

That’s when she hears the strangled cry. Belle starts at the sound of it and rushes back to the room she’s just inspected, the master bedroom. It’s still empty, of course. The cry was unmistakably her Rumpel, but where had it come from? Then, she hears another, deeper voice shouting, and she realizes it’s drifting in from outside through the open window.

They’re on the roof.

Prying open the window the rest of the way, Belle crawls out onto the flat part of the roof. Now she can hear the scraping of boots against the shingles, and Gaston bellowing, “You stay away from her, you hear me? You worthless, undeserving little –”

“Rumpel!” It comes out as a terrified shriek when Belle sees them at the edge of the roof. Rumpel is scrambling to keep his footing, and Gaston has his sword poised underneath Rumpel’s chin. “Gaston, let him go! Please!”

“Stay out of this, Belle!” Gaston growls at her, his stance unwavering. “This coward is not the man for you! He is barely a man!”

“Gaston, please!” Belle knows how ridiculous she sounds, how pathetic and desperate, but, with no weapon or magic of her own, she doesn’t know what else to do except to beg Gaston to stop. “Please let him go. I love him,” she sobs, unable to hold back the tears that have started to pour down her face. Through the haze of her tears, she sees Rumpelstiltskin looking at her now instead of at his attacker, but she can’t read his expression. “I love him.”

Gaston glances back at her, seeming to hesitate. Finally, Belle relaxes as she watches Gaston withdraw his sword and return it to its sheath. “I hope to God you know what you are doing, Belle –”

Belle is looking at Gaston, listening to his fervent pleas, so only out of the corner of her eye does she see something skitter along the rooftop and into Rumpel’s eager, outstretched hand, which clutches the object and raises it behind Gaston –

“Rumpel, no!” Belle now implores her love, but it’s too late; Gaston staggers forward, Rumpelstiltskin’s dagger sticking out of his back. He collapses, his forehead smacking against the roof, blood gushing from the wound. Belle kneels down beside him and cradles his head in her arms, but his eyes are closed and he has stopped breathing. Whether it was only from the injury itself, the magic within the dagger or a combination of both, Belle isn’t sure, but Gaston is already dead.

For a moment, Belle cannot find words. Although impulsive and even sometimes aggressive, Gaston was a good man, a  man she would have gladly married if she hadn’t already found her one, true love.

To her surprise, her cheeks are dry now, and she can’t cry anymore. Belle shakes her head slowly. “What have you done, Rumpel?” Her voice is small but filled with despair and exasperation. She looks up at him. Although he would never rival Gaston in breadth and height in life, Rumpelstiltskin seems to tower over Gaston’s lifeless body. He cocks his head to one side, appearing more confused than repentant.

“He was trying to come between us, my love,” Rumpel tells her as though it should be the most obvious thing in the world to her. “He was trying to kill me. I was defending myself. Us,” he insists, taking a step toward her. Belle automatically shrinks away from his proffered hand.

“He was just threatening you!” she yells, throwing all of the anger and hurt building up inside of her into her words. “He had put his sword away, was about to leave us alone! He could not defend himself. And anyway, he would not have actually killed you, he was not a –” Belle clamps her mouth shut so that she doesn’t blurt the word she’s thinking of. Rumpel’s face falls and he drops his hand.

“A what, Belle?” he hisses. Belle flinches as he yanks the dagger from Gaston’s back. It drips blood onto Gaston’s midnight blue coat, forming little purple blotches. “Gaston was not a what?”

“A monster!” she finishes reluctantly, not meeting his gaze.

“What, like me?” Rumpel spits at her. Then, he emits one of his strangled, high-pitched cackles. Belle usually finds his laugh endearing, but right now it sends chills up her spine. “I am a monster, love. A beast, if you will. You never really understood that, did you, that you were in love with a beast?” He walks around Gaston and bends down so that they’re face-to-face. Belle is forced to look him in the eye, now, and she sees that the man she thought she had brought back to life through their lovemaking and heartfelt talks in the library is gone. His eyes shine only with hatred.

“I’m going now,” Belle whispers, standing up and walking deliberately back to the open window. Without looking back at him, she adds, “I did love you, you know. And I know you loved me, too.” She pauses for Rumpelstiltskin’s response, but when he doesn’t speak she ducks back through the window. As soon as Belle’s feet hit the floor, she breaks out into a run and doesn’t stop until she reaches Chestnut. She realizes she has forgotten her cloak, but untethers and mounts Chestnut anyway, goading the horse back into the Dark Forest, never looking back.

The Devil Inside: Part I


Trying my hand at fanfic – I hope you enjoy this short story even if you aren’t a fan of the show it’s based on, “Once Upon A Time.” I feel like this is really the end of a story (or maybe the middle?), but it’s what came to me; perhaps one day I’ll write the rest of it. (It also turned out kind of depressing, so I’m sorry for that too!)

In keeping with my new theme of naming stories after 80s pop songs, this one is called The Devil Inside. I’m splitting it up into two posts because it got kind of long…you can find the link to Part II at the end!

[I must state that I do not own the rights to these characters. This piece is based off of events that occurred in Episode 12, “Skin Deep,” in season one of ABC’s “Once Upon A Time.”]

 The Devil Inside

In the first season of the Once Upon a Time tv series version of Beauty and the Beast, the lovely Belle becomes the prisoner of the wicked Rumpelstiltskin. Rumpel and Belle grow closer throughout the episode until they finally kiss; however, Rumpel breaks the kiss and kicks Belle out when he suspects that she is trying to break the curse that gives him his powers. In my version, this never happens; in fact, Rumpel and Belle do way more than just kiss many, many times. While Rumpel turns Gaston into a rose in the OUAT episode, Gaston is still alive in my version, and he comes to Rumpel’s castle to rescue Belle. Rumpel lets Belle leave with Gaston, insisting that he never had true feelings for her and was only using her for sex. Belle reluctantly returns home with Gaston, and this short story picks up the morning of their wedding day.

I.

Belle studies herself carefully in the mirror. Her long, white silk gown fits her body snugly while still maintaining some semblance of modesty, and her maid has woven small white and pale pink flowers throughout her dark brown tresses. She watches a tear roll slowly down her reflection’s cheek. This is my wedding, she thinks to herself. Should I not be happier?

“You look breathtaking,” a deep, masculine voice rumbles behind her. Belle jumps, startled, then whirls around.

“Gaston! You should not be in here,” she gasps, making futile attempts to cover her wedding gown with her dainty, pale hands. “You know it is bad luck to see the bride in her wedding dress!”

“A silly superstition,” he insists, strolling further into her bedchamber. He stops short and peers at her glistening cheeks. “Have you been crying?” he asks her softly.

“What?” Belle hurriedly wipes her cheeks dry with the back of her hand. “A little,” she confesses. “Tears of happiness.” But her voice cracks when she says this last part.

Gaston looks at her doubtfully and sits on the foot of her bed, crossing his ankles. She can’t help but notice how handsome he looks –imposing, in his midnight blue uniform and black boots, but handsome.

“You do not love me, do you, Belle?” he asks her, his bluntness catching her off guard.

“I –why –that is just not true,” Belle stammers, but she can’t look him in his hazel eyes.

“I know it is,” Gaston counters. “I have realized it for some time, I think, but I did not want to admit it to myself.”

Belle is about to protest again, but then her shoulders sag and she shakes her head sadly. “I am so sorry, Gaston. You are such a wonderful, kind man, and you are most deserving of a woman who can return your love. Do you love me?” she wonders, her voice barely above a whisper.

He finally catches her gaze and holds it steadily. “With all my heart,” he says.

Belle comes around to sit beside him on the bed, brushing aside any feeling of guilt over this breach of propriety. “What are we going to do?”

“Well, it is going to disappoint a lot of people, but…we are going to go into the church, shoulders back and heads held high, and let our guests know that the wedding is off.” Belle can’t help but smile at his words; Gaston’s tone makes it sound like it will be the easiest thing in the world.

“Belle, there is something I simply must know, if you will not mind my prying,” Gaston continues, suddenly standing and facing her squarely. “Do you love another?”

Belle feels a blush creep onto her cheeks. “Yes.” The word is barely above a whisper.

“Is it…Rumpelstiltskin?” Gaston gulps before uttering the name, and then says it as if it pains him to do so.

“Yes,” Belle repeats, this time more loudly and with more conviction. Yes, she’s fallen in love with Rumpelstiltskin. How is it any of Gaston’s business?

“Belle, may I make a request?” Without waiting for her reply, Gaston proceeds, “I am willing to accept that you do not return my love, and I do not wish to marry someone that is not in love with me. I wish you only the best and hope that you do find your one, true love.

“But please, please do not let that one, true love be that horrid Rumpelstiltskin.” Now Gaston is kneeling before her, taking her hand as though to propose marriage again. Pleading with her. “No matter how much you wish it otherwise, he will always be monstrous, wicked, and less than a man. Give your heart to someone kind, loving and good. Someone that deserves it.”

Belle yanks her hand away from his and jumps to her feet. “I appreciate your concern, Gaston,” she says through gritted teeth, “but I will love whomever I damn well please.”

For a moment, they are both silent, staring at each other, daring the other to speak. Finally, Gaston rises and crosses the room to the door.

“Then do as you please,” he says coolly from the doorway, his back turned to her. “May I request that you join me at the church as soon as possible so we can inform our guests that there is to be no wedding.”

Belle’s tenacity caves as she watches Gaston leave, wishing that they had left things on better terms. She goes back to the mirror and angrily rips the delicate flowers from her hair. They fall and pepper the floor around her like a pinkish white snow.

The Devil Inside Part II >>

Book Review: Into the Dreaming


In case I haven’t mentioned it before (but I know I have!), I am a HUGE aficionado of Karen Marie Moning. Her Fever series is one of the best series I have picked up since Harry Potter and trumps all of the other book series that have hit mega-popularity in recent years (Twilight, Fifty Shades, even The Hunger Games). Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to reading her Highlander novels yet, although these are on my to-read list (time traveling sexy Scotsmen? Heck yes!). But Into the Dreaming was my first taste into the world of her Highlanders, and although its novellas didn’t hook me as much as the Fever books did, they were still enjoyable, fast reads.

In the forward, Ms. Moning talks about how, upon writing Into the Dreaming, she first realized there was a darker story that needed to be told involving the Seelie/Unseelie mythology. This, of course, led to her MacKayla Lane novels. Into the Dreaming tells the story of Aedan, a Highlander who allows the Unseelie King to keep him in captivity for five years in exchange for the safety of his family. What he doesn’t know is that five years really means five years in Fairy, equal to 500 Earth years. The centuries in Fairy eventually breaks Aedan, and he becomes the Unseelie King’s minion, Vengeance. However, the Seelie Queen has a plan to free Vengeance/Aedan and sends Jane, Aedan’s soul mate back in time to Scotland to remind him what it means to be human and love.

Other treats in Into the Dreaming include a proposal for a book she never ended up getting published called Ghost of a Chance, an excerpt from Kiss of the Highlander, and what Moning calls The Dark Highlander – Lite. Lite is the first draft of this particular Highlander novel that didn’t meet Moning’s dark vision for the story. There are elements of a darker story in the Lite version; however, the interactions between Dageus and Elisabeth are adorable if anything else. If Dageus is even sexier and more dangerous in the published version, I can’t wait to read it!

In general, I love how Moning’s books are centered around strong, female characters. Although I haven’t read the full versions of the above Highlander novels yet, their main female characters are both successful in academia. (In Kiss, Gwen is a prominent physicist, and in Dark Elisabeth is a graduate student in psychology at Harvard.) And of course, the Fever series follows blond bombshell MacKayla Lane’s transformation from a carefree bartender into a bad ass, street-wise sidhe-seer and Unseelie slayer.

So basically: Strong female lead + insanely sexy man from overseas + sex + Irish folklore + sex + plot twists and turns + sex = Karen Marie Moning. Read all of her books. Now.

…But before you do, if you haven’t taken the time to do so yet, please help me pick a name for my character Jimmy’s band in The Wild Ones by taking the poll here.

“Starry Eyed”


I haven’t been listening to the radio much this summer. When I do, I’m usually in my car, and it’s usually to one of my city’s two pop music stations. You can not listen to pop radio for two months and then hear the same songs when you tune into it again.

However, today I discovered Ellie Goulding while in my car, listening to the radio. I had heard the name, knew she was a singer, but hadn’t really given her music much thought. Then I heard “Lights,” and realized what a different (different good) voice and unique style she has. She almost reminds me of those Indie rock psychedelic bands like MGMT, only she’s a solo act (and a girl).

While exploring her songs on YouTube, I came across the video for Starry Eyed. (Watch it here.) Another great song by her, but what really struck me is how much it reminded me of one of the few books I’ve actually finished writing, Star Eyes. Especially with this video, it’s like the frickin’ theme song. So, I decided to post one of the chapters from Star Eyes before I return to focusing on The Wild Ones. Perhaps at some point I’ll even post Star Eyes in its entirety, although I wanted to play around with the POV and verb tenses first.

(BTW, if some of the characters sound familiar, they are the same characters mentioned in my first post -Ava, Tyler, and Celeste. So this is basically some back story to that excerpt, which would appear in a sequel.)

Also, please feel free to rate (above) and/or like (below) my posts. 🙂 I love getting feedback.

***

Monday night was crisp with the onset of autumn. Celeste kept the passenger side window of Ava’s car open to let the cool night air hit her face. A distinct feeling always overwhelmed her when fall arrived, a mixture of anticipation and tranquility as she watched the leaves on the trees change from green to gold.

“It looks like something’s going on at the park,” Ava said. Celeste snapped out of her reverie. She was surprised they had made it to Hickory Park already; Ava was navigating the side streets at about fifteen miles per hour, her hands gripping the steering wheel precisely at the ten and two o’clock positions. As the car turned the corner, the headlights swept over a small crowd gathered in the middle of the park.

Ava parked and popped the trunk, and they climbed out of the car. Celeste lifted her telescope out of the trunk and slammed it shut. They crept to the edge where the sidewalk met the grass.

“What are they doing?” Ava wondered.

“I think they’re doing the same thing we were planning to do,” Celeste realized. People had broken off into twos and threes and were setting up telescopes all around the park. Some had binoculars like the pair Celeste wore around her neck and were already scanning the black and blue sky.

Celeste sensed movement out of the corner of her eye. Someone was walking toward them.

“I thought that was you,” Dave said as he got closer. “I didn’t know you were in the Astronomy Club.” He had his hands in the pockets of his brown leather jacket.

Celeste knew that Ava was looking from Dave to her in confusion, but Celeste couldn’t speak. Was it possible for your heart to leap up into your throat?

When Celeste still hadn’t said anything, Ava said, “We didn’t know there was an Astronomy Club, actually. We come here all the time. I’m Ava,” she said and stuck out her hand expectantly.  It was one of Ava’s many gestures that usually intimated people their age. Dave, however, shook it amiably.

“Dave. I guess you don’t remember me,” he said to Celeste. He laughed, but his smile was uncertain.

“I remember you,” Celeste finally said. “Dave has A.P. Chem with Mr. Brightman,” she explained to Ava. “I met him doing my make up lab last Friday.”

Ava gave an exaggerated nod to show Celeste that she remembered. “So, since when do we have an Astronomy Club?” Ava asked him.

“It’s something new Mr. Landau is starting this year,” Dave said. “He’s the physics teacher. That’s who’s mostly here right now, our physics class. But come on. You should join us.”

He started to walk away. Celeste and Ava looked at each other before following.

His telescope was already set up. Someone was bent over it, adjusting the field of view.

“This is Tyler,” Dave said. “Tyler, this is Celeste and Ava.”

Tyler looked up. Celeste heard Ava inhale sharply.

“I know you.” Ava pointed an accusatory finger at Tyler. “You’re that guy who bumped into me today in the hall after lunch!”

Tyler’s face remained impassive. He was still wearing his black trench coat, only this time Celeste noticed it was worn over a pair of baggy black jeans and a black shirt. Even his fingernails were painted black. “I guess I really didn’t care enough at the time to actually remember it now,” he said without feeling.

There was a moment of awkward silence. “So. Anything in particular you guys want to look at?” Celeste asked. She looked up at the sky, where pinprick white stars were popping out one by one.

“We’re supposed to focus on constellations tonight,” Dave told her. “Here.” He handed her a paperback book that had a picture of the Milky Way on its cover. She flipped through it, and then handed it to Ava, who was holding her hands out eagerly.

“I see one,” Celeste said. She pointed at a patch of sky fringed by the rust-colored leaves of two maple trees. The others followed her gaze. “Cygnus, the swan. It looks like a cross.”

“It says in here that we should be able to see –” Ava started to say, but Dave talked over her.

“If that’s Cygnus, then that must be Lyra next to it,” Dave said. He came to stand by Celeste. “One of the Greek myths says that, after Orpheus was murdered, he was turned into a swan and placed in the sky beside his lyre.”

Celeste felt herself smiling. “Wow. I didn’t think anyone was as interested in this stuff as I am,” she said.

“I love astronomy,” he exclaimed, but she detected a note of embarrassment in the way he said it. “Thinking about what’s out there –that we’re really just a tiny planet floating in one solar system of one galaxy out of countless more –it helps me put life in perspective.”

“Are any of you listening to what I’m saying?” Ava said as though she were talking to a couple of misbehaving children. She closed the book, marking the page with her finger, and crossed her arms.

 “Hey. What’s that?” Tyler said suddenly. He was pointing again at Cygnus. Celeste didn’t see anything right away. She glanced back at him, about to tell him so, but she stopped when she saw his dark eyes widen and fill with awe. Without looking down, he removed a small, silver digital camera from his coat pocket.

“What are you looking at?” Dave asked.

“See? See that light up there? This is amazing,” he gasped. “Do you know how many nights I search the skies, hoping to see one? It’s always when you least expect it.”

Finally, Celeste saw it.

At first, she didn’t understand what she was seeing. There was a distant, perfectly oval-shaped white light traveling smoothly and swiftly across the sky.

“What is it?” she wondered out loud.           

“A shooting star,” Ava said. “Come on –why don’t we do what we came here to do? I found the Cygnus page in this book –”

“That’s not a shooting star,” Tyler insisted. “It’s a U.F.O.”

“A what?”

“An Unidentified Flying Object.”

“I know what ‘U.F.O.’ stands for,” Ava shot back. “I was being skeptical.”

“Just because we say it’s a U.F.O. doesn’t mean it has little green men on it,” Dave said, although Tyler seemed to be convinced otherwise. “It just means that we don’t know what it is. It’s definitely not a shooting star, though.”

They watched it for several minutes. To Celeste, its movement was too purposeful to be a shooting star. She didn’t know why her heart was pounding so loudly in her chest.

“You know, we have one of the highest instances of U.F.O. sightings in the world. Not just the United States, the world,” Tyler emphasized.

“Why would you know something like that?” Ava said.

“Because I read up on and follow paranormal activity. You’re a feature editor for The Voice, aren’t you?” His tone was exasperated as he feverishly snapped picture after picture.

“I knew you were on the staff. You’re the Tyler that writes ‘Dark Corners,’” Celeste realized.

“Yes, I am.” His voice lost its impatience when he addressed Celeste. “And this is going to make a great article. Shit, where’d it go?”

They searched the sky, but the U.F.O. had disappeared. Celeste peered at the faces of the other students, but it didn’t seem like anyone else had seen the extraordinary light.

“All right, everybody,” Mr. Landau called out an hour later. “Time to pack up. Thanks for coming out everyone.”

“We should do this again sometime,” Dave said to Celeste as he disassembled his telescope. “With or without the Astronomy Club. What’s your number?” He fished his cell phone out of his pocket. She hesitated, but then recited it to him.

“Call me so that I have your number,” she told him. A minute later, the chorus of “Strangers in the Night” sounded in her purse. She took out her phone to save his number.

“Frank Sinatra,” Dave commented, cracking a half smile. “Nice.”

“Ready to go?” Ava asked her pointedly. Celeste nodded.

“It was nice seeing you again,” she said. “It was nice meeting you, Tyler.”

“Have a good one,” Dave said as she and Ava headed for the car.

“So, what did you think of our U.F.O.?” Celeste asked once she and Ava were in the car. She made sure to say the last word with as much skepticism as possible.

“I still think it was probably just a meteor or a reflection or something,” Ava said. “Why? What do you think it was?”

Celeste shrugged. “I don’t know. You’re probably right.” But she did wonder whether it was the kind of U.F.O. with little green men on it. For some reason, Tyler’s fun fact had lodged itself in her mind. Why would their small, unsuspecting town of all places have so many U.F.O. sightings?

“Here you go,” Ava said. Celeste jumped. She hadn’t realized that Ava had pulled up to the curb in front of her house. The lights were still on in the living room.

“Thanks for the ride. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said and opened her door.

“No problem. See you tomorrow.”

Copyright 2012 by S. L. Stacy