Book Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh


Back cover summary: “Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.”

***

I’ve been bad about writing reviews lately (well, bad about reading outside of work, period), but I absolutely have to tell fellow YA paranormal, horror, and romance fans about this book by Kelly Creagh. It’s the first in a trilogy, and, although it seems like she’s been enjoying some success, I don’t think nearly enough people know about this book. So I want to spread the word.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I got this book from the library last weekend. (As an aside, I checked out a new library–I LOVE libraries–but didn’t know where anything was yet so had to ask someone where the YA section was. The librarian started prattling on about the summer YA reading list, and I got the feeling they thought I was looking for some books for a kid or something. Nope, I’m just in my late 20s and still read young adult books…and if you’re one of the people playing Pokemon Go right now, you have no room to judge…)

Anyway, I recognized this book from Goodreads and decided to give it a go. I mean, the book summary sounded intriguing if a little predictable, and I wasn’t sure how the Edgar Allan Poe spin would play out, even though it seems like a unique twist for a YA book. Plus, Varen Nethers has to be the bestest character name ever. So, excited but not sure what to expect, I checked it out of the library.

And Ms. Creagh completely sucked me in.

I guess I’m so pleasantly surprised because Nevermore did not have to be this good. The cheerleader/goth “forbidden” high school romance that forms the premise is probably overdone, but Kelly Creagh writes it in such a way that feels fresh and not corny, for lack of a better word. (At least in my opinion). Nevermore opens with the main character, unlikely heroine Isobel Lanley, getting partnered with king of the goths Varen for an English class project. (They decide to do theirs on Poe, of course, Varen’s favorite writer.) Varen and Isobel butt heads for much of the first third of the book or so. She’s still hanging with the popular crowd and dating one of the football players (Brad), but when her “crew” starts to turn on Varen and Brad becomes disturbingly jealous of the fact she has to do this project with Varen, Isobel starts to see that maybe her so-called “friends” really aren’t that great. Throughout the course of the project, she finds herself more intrigued by Varen and drawn into his world, which turns out to be stranger and more twisted than she ever expected.

I thought the tension between Isobel and Varen was great, although it took them a little long to start discovering their feelings for each other for my taste. And, although Varen is your typical dark-and-broody anti-hero (as find out, he kind of has a good reason to be), he’s not mean to Isobel or so forgone that leaves you wondering why she would be interested in him in the first place. He’s somewhat sarcastic in the beginning, and at one point he tells her she’s “not his type,” but it’s more of a mutual dislike (Isobel’s not great to him in the beginning, either). Brad is the real creep. In general I just really liked the characters in this book. Isobel starts off as being the stereotypical, bubbly cheerleader but changes a lot throughout Nevermore. No matter what’s thrown her way, she never stops fighting. One of my other favorite characters was her locker neighbor/new best friend Gwen, who really pops off the page and is just hilarious.

All in all, I would say this is the perfect book for high school readers who enjoy paranormal, horror, and romance. And also for old people like me who also enjoy YA books. 😉 Seriously, though, it’s a pretty balanced mix of horror, humor, and romance. Not so scary as to make you leave a light on at night, but it definitely as some creepy parts. And I just really liked Creagh’s writing style. It’s a dark but beautiful debut novel.

Nevermore isn’t totally without some problems. It’s 500+ pages and, even though it’s still an easy read, I felt like it could have been a little shorter. Like I said, the romantic tension between Isobel and Varen takes a little too long to build up, and is pretty understated (there’s a desperate kiss at one point, but that’s pretty much it). Then again, it is a YA book, so that’s age-appropriate. (I’ll admit, I used to write more YA-oriented stories, but then transitioned to New Adult so that I could write sexier scenes, teehee). Also toward the beginning there’s a chapter broken up with some long passages from The Red Masque of Death as Isobel is reading through The Complete Works of EAP that really pulled me out of the story. I mean, gotta love Poe, but it was a little much. Luckily, it didn’t become a “thing” throughout the book. Otherwise, I really liked the Poe-inspired world she created in this book.

But, at the end of it all, I loved Nevermore and can’t wait to read the next two (Creagh leaves you hanging at the end of book 1). A well-deserved 5 stars!

WIP Wednesday for September 2


So, it’s been two months since my last brief update post, and…one year since my last “official” WIP (work-in-progress) Wednesday post, lol. I haven’t been completely unproductive during that time…I just haven’t been blogging as much. I recently posted a short update to the “My Books” section of this blog, so some of this is a repeat of that. I originally created WIP Wednesday to keep you all updated as to what I’m working on. Since I sort of disappeared (well, from social media) for the last few months, I think we’re due for an update.

However, I’m not going to blog as consistently as I used to so I can concentrate on writing instead. When you self-publish, you have to play writer (obviously), but also editor and promoter, in addition to all of those annoying little things I wish I could delegate to someone else, ha (mostly the layout/formatting stuff). Thankfully, I have several beta readers as well as some smart friends and family members who help me edit. It’s always a good idea to have a fresh set of eyes read your work, even though I still give it a final read through for final touches. My point is…and yes, I promise there is a point to my rambling about this…sometimes these roles start to blend together, and activities like promotion start to take over from the most important part: the writing. So this fall, it’s all about the writing–the characters, the relationships, the world-building, resolving old conflicts, creating new ones, and–one of my favorites–the plot twist.

Right now, I’m working on the third installment of the Reborn series, which takes a break from Siobhan and Jasper’s rollercoaster of a relationship to focus on Siobhan’s sorority sister, Carly. It doesn’t have a title yet…I have one in mind, but it still might change so I’m resisting the urge to share it yet. Without giving away too many spoilers from Relapse, there’s a time jump toward the end where clearly a lot of stuff went down, and you find out what that stuff was in Book Three. This is the story of how Carly saves her sorority, learning the hard way that becoming a leader means making some tough choices and personal sacrifices. Carly really comes into her own in this book. In Reborn, she’s just one of Siobhan’s sorority sisters, quick with a sarcastic comeback but easily talked into things by her friends. She faces some personal demons in Relapse and comes out of her shell a little bit, opening herself up to the possibility of love. In Book Three, Carly meets every challenge and obstacle with determination and courage. And, unlike some of the other characters, Carly isn’t as easily seduced by the promise of power or thrill of danger.

Book Three also continues the story of Carly’s relationship with the trickster god Dolos, although, like many of the relationships in this series, it gets very rocky. In Relapse, their relationship took a pivotal step forward–in this book, it will take about ten steps back. I’m just warning you, haha. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t often like reading or writing about relationships in which the characters end up happily ever after with  everything tied up in a neat little bow in the end. I’m much more interested in the will-they-or-won’t-they part, or even the should-they-or-shouldn’t-they. (One example is Elena and Damon’s relationship in The Vampire Diaries. They had the same dynamic in the book, but right now I’m thinking about the TV show. I much preferred it when Elena was with Stefan lusting after Damon from afar, lol. It’s the whole forbidden/temptation aspect: Damon is Stefan’s brother, and usually the bad one out of the two. As soon as Elena and Damon finally got together, I was bored.) Just thought I’d let you all know where I’m coming from with this. It’s the way I’m writing right now…that could change in the future. Also, I hope that, in future books, all of my characters will get their happy endings. (But, sometimes, the messy ending is the ending, and it’s up to the reader to imagine where it could have gone/where he or she would want it to go. Isn’t that what fanfiction is for?)

I’m about 16,000 words into this project. I don’t really have a word count goal for it, except that it will be a little longer than Reborn, perhaps a bit shorter than Relapse. I used to think it was going to be a novella until I realized all of the places I could take it. It took me awhile to really get this project underway, but in the end, I’m glad that I waited. I’ve worked out a lot of the plot kinks in my head, and it’s going in a much better direction now than it would have if I would have started writing it a few months ago. I have the major conflicts and turning points in mind, but right now I’m just writing without using much of an outline, just seeing where the characters and story want to take me. They usually end up going in another direction, anyway, even when I do try to use an outline…

My other goal is to do more bouncing between projects so you don’t have to wait a bajillion years for the next installment to release. I myself am a very impatient person, and I know how frustrating it can be to wait. I also know you may be wondering where I’m going with Siobhan’s story–what makes her so unique compared to the other halflings, and whether she’ll bounce back from the darkness she succumbed to at the end of Relapse. So I’m getting that project underway, soon, too.

But get excited for Carly’s book, because it’s going to be awesome, and will probably incorporate more elements from gothic fiction and horror than its predecessors do. Most of it takes place as night, and some of it after-hours at a creepy amusement park. I’m listening mostly to Melanie Martinez’s Cry Baby album while I’m writing this, which just has so many awesome songs on it, my favorite of which is below. She’s just my new favorite person.

In other news: You can now follow me on Pinterest! It was supposed to be so I could save inspirational pins for characters, places, fashion, etc., but right now it seems my Tom Hiddleston board is seeing the most action…..

*****

Melanie Martinez, “Soap”

Tuesday Check In


Hi all, and happy almost July! 😉 This is just one of my quick check in posts. First off, I have another giveaway happening on Goodreads for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Relapse. It’s open to U.S. residents only through the end of the day on Sunday, July 5. (One day I’ll be able to offer these giveaways to readers abroad, when I have money or something.) You can enter here.

For my fellow indie authors, I thought I’d share the results of my first giveaway of Reborn through Goodreads. I’ve prattled on about marketing before on this blog, but really my basic marketing strategy so far is to try a bunch of things and see if they work, lol. Although I’m by no means an expert, I like to share what I find out in hopes that a fellow author might find it useful. I mean, that’s how I pick up all of my book pimping ideas–from seeing what both traditionally published and indie authors do, how they get the word out about their books. I wanted to try another avenue for my giveaways to reach a wider audience than my Facebook page (although I’ll continue to hold them on there, too). The fact that Facebook hides everything now has made it a little harder. Also, I may have read an article that said indie goddess superstar Colleen Hoover’s first novel made it big after she did a giveaway on Goodreads, lol. The skeptic in me realizes that probably a lot of people have tried this and have NOT become instant indie god/dess superstars. I’m pretty sure Colleen Hoover is made of magic.

Anyway, the point is that I tried it. Here’s what happened, and what you might notice, too, if you try it. 1. A lot of people will enter the giveaway. I’m not even sure how people find out about these things, but over the 5 day giveaway, I had 407 people enter, which didn’t seem too shabby. 2. Also, you’ll see a spike in the “to read” shelf for your book because I *think* Goodreads requires you to add it so you can enter the giveaway. 3. I had a few downloads and Goodreads ratings trickle in for Reborn, and picked up a couple more followers. What I don’t know yet is if the winner will actually rate/review the book after she reads it. It would be really awesome to get a review out of it–then again, I’m always wary of getting reviews on Goodreads. (I’m still bracing myself for the day when someone goes off on a long hate tangent about one of my books. As a woman writing fairly sexy books, I feel that this is somehow, unfortunately, inevitable. Though I guess, as they say, any publicity is good publicity…)

So, the jury is still out on whether the Goodreads giveaway will help with reviews and spreading the word about Reborn. Nevertheless, I opened up the giveaway for Relapse this week. I’ll write a follow-up post about all of this at some point. Otherwise, July’s experiment is to not do any other pricing promotions or anything like that (well, except for this giveaway). I play around with the prices of my books a lot, but for now they are going to remain steady. (FYI, Reborn is $1.99, and Relapse is $2.99. Both are now available through all ebook platforms.) I’m going to TRY to focus less on marketing, and more on writing.

Speaking of writing…I am writing, I swear. I have a lot of other life stuff going on right now (ch-ch-ch-ch-changes), but I’m fitting in some planning and writing here and there. I have some ideas for the titles of the rest of the series and pounded out a few book summaries last night. I don’t know if anyone else is like this, but sometimes it helps me to write a draft of a back cover-type book summary before I write the book. It helps me to be more focused from the start–otherwise, I end up having subplots galore. (I’m still afraid that sometimes Relapse has too many subplots…) For titles, I am attempting to stick to words starting with “re-” so that they have some sort of common thread, but was really drawing a blank for a while. I tried to brainstorm “r” words with my mom, the former English teacher, who also helps me edit, but all she came up with was “rutabaga.” I guess in the next book Siobhan could eat a magical rutabaga that gives her more special powers. (Don’t worry, I’m not calling the next book Rutabaga.)

“Siobhan and the Magical Rutabaga”

 

Otherwise, I’ve been spending my summer finishing up work with my current adviser, getting some reading in, and watching season four of Game of Thrones. (I know, I’m a little behind.) And Poldark on Masterpiece Theatre. Mostly because of Aidan Turner (who, by the way, also played Kili in the recent string of Hobbit movies). There are also a lot of other good things about the show, like some interesting characters and a plot and stuff.

Anyway, those are all of the updates I have. Happy Fourth of July, and enjoy the long weekend!

 

Checking In


This is just a short post to say hi and Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy the day with your loved ones. And, if you’re a fellow single lady (or gent), make sure to treat yourself!

I wanted to use up my last free day while Relapse is enrolled in KDP Select, so it’s free through the end of the day today! It’s the perfect read for Valentine’s Day…well, if you like your romances dark with a side of twisted. You can download it here and add it on Goodreads here.

Have anything special planned for the day! Feel free to share in the comments! I have a lot of work to do today, so I’m living vicariously through you. 😉

rose quote

Release Week Wrap Up


As many of you probably know by now, since it’s all I’ve been talking about for like a week and a half, Relapse, the sequel to Reborn, released last Tuesday! It was a great week, and at the end of it I had my friends over to celebrate, complete with jello salad (and other more edible fare), drinks, and a (probably really awkward) reading of the sexiest chapter in Reborn.

Right now, the ebook version Relapse is exclusive to Kindle so that I can use the promotional thingies (to use the technical term). Get it here. It’s available in paperback now through Amazon as well. Having the paperback version just makes it feel more real, you know? In the new year, it will also be available through Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc. If you’ve read Relapse, feel free to leave a rating and/or review on Amazon or its Goodreads page.

And, if you don’t know what the Reborn series is all about, check out the character profiles and excerpts floating around this blog. Here are a few teasers:

Reborn: The Encounter

Relapse: Prologue

Relapse: Chapter One

*****

relapsecoverJasper might be gone for good, but Siobhan can’t escape the memory of him.

Or, rather, Psyche’s memories of him—memories of a kinder, gentler man, not the one who lied and manipulated her. She should have tried harder to reach him—to save Jasper from the darkness consuming him. Guilt—maybe that’s the reason why she still sees his face everywhere she turns. That, or she’s going crazy.

And Siobhan really doesn’t have time to lose her mind. Her best friend is in love with their enemy and is addicted to an alien drug. The Alpha Rhos blame her sorority for their sister’s death and take their quest for vengeance too far. Desperate, the Gamma Lambda Phis call on the help of the most deceitful Olympian of all, making her a promise they’re not even sure they can keep.

Once again, Siobhan finds herself not knowing who she can turn to or who she can trust. She comes to realize that her greatest enemy is the darkness within herself.

Character Profile: Carly


Note to future self: Don’t set a book release date for right after a holiday, if only because it’s not very conducive to marketing. I was either in a food coma or shopping over the weekend. (I don’t shop on Black Friday, though. The crowds just aren’t worth it to me. Actually, watching the Black Friday brawls on TV makes me kind of sad for humanity, lol…) Anyway, I had a wonderful long weekend with my family. And to all of my friends in the US: I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, too! 🙂

Relapse releases on Tuesday, so here’s the last character profile I wanted to post. You can add Relapse on Goodreads here and pre-order it for Kindle here.

You may remember Carly as one of Siobhan’s sorority sisters in Gamma Lambda Phi. She’s a secondary narrator in Relapse, so you’ll get more of a glimpse into her own adventures and the dark secrets she’s kept from her sisters. Here’s her profile, followed by a short excerpt. 😉

*****

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Carly Dragonjac

Age: Early 20s

Occupation: Student at fictional college Thurston University in Shadesburg, PA

Major: Math

Physical Description: Caramel-colored, curly hair; baby blue eyes; white, dove-like wings

Species: Demigod

Relationship Status: In a relationship with Alec, one of the Sigma Iota brothers

Other relationships:

  • Victoria’s roommate
  • Gamma Lambda Phi sisters Siobhan and Tanya

Goals: In Relapse, Carly finds herself trapped on another world, as the captive of an attractive but capricious dark prince. Her primary goal is to escape.

Obstacles:

The prince won’t let her leave unless she can complete the three tasks he’s given her. Also, he’s crazy hot. (Carly may have a slight case of Stockholm Syndrome…..)

Strengths:

  • Intelligent
  • Loyal
  • Doesn’t give up easily

Weaknesses:

  • Gullible/naïve
  • Tends to go along with what her friends do/say
  • Avoids confrontation

Hobbies:

  • House Manager for Gamma Lambda Phi

Superpower: One of Nike’s guardians of the walls between universes

*****

The next thing I remember is waking up on this floor.

I put a hand to my forehead. The throbbing has stopped. So has the dripping sound. I lost count, anyway. I slowly start to sit up again, and this time I’m able to straighten up completely without getting dizzy.

“Oh, good! You’re not dead!”

The voice prickles my skin like a winter breeze. I stop breathing.

Forgetting to be careful, I look around frantically for the source of the relieved, if slightly mocking, voice. A wave of nausea surges through me. My head spins.

“You had me scared for a minute there. I’d be pretty pissed if my gift had kicked the bucket before I got a chance to play with her. Corpses aren’t really my thing. I prefer my women…alive.”

“Glad I live up to such high standards,” I mutter, swallowing the retort along with the bile rising in the back of my throat.

“My disciples have done well,” he continues. “It has been a long time, but the ritual has finally been honored again. A virgin sacrifice has been sent to me.”

“I’m not a virgin,” I mutter defensively. I’ve been sitting cross-legged in my pink mini-dress and quickly tuck my legs to the side. I can see him now under the dim light from the candelabras lining the wall. The shadows of their flames flicker across his face like black serpent tongues. He lounges on the other side of the room in an enormous, ancient-looking throne with an iron frame and black satin cushions. His head is tilted to the side, supported by one finger as he considers me.

“Where are we?” I ask him. Dang it, my voice is quivering.

He holds his arms above his head as if to embrace the ceiling, spreading hands encased in finger-cut leather gloves. “You are in the realm of the gods.” He jumps down to his feet. Muscles bunch underneath snug, black leather pants as he prowls toward me. Decorative silver chains hang from an open vest, crisscrossing chiseled abs as hard as the marble floor I’m sitting on. His gait is predatory and agile, like a panther patrolling his jungle. Or getting ready to pounce on his lunch. Which is me.

I gulp.

As he comes closer, the shadows leave his face. His skin shimmers a faint gold under the candlelight. He has high cheekbones, a strong, square jaw and brilliant green eyes. His short, white blonde hair sticks up every which way on his head like thousands of needle-thin icicles. He looks about my age, but if he’s an Olympian, he could have been born before humankind even existed.

“You think I’m sexy,” he teases. “And I must say, I am not disappointed, either.” He’s suddenly inches away from me, his mesmerizing green eyes holding mine steady. Those eyes…there’s something familiar about them, even though I know I’ve never seen him before in my life. Stooping, he takes two fingers and traces my cheek. I flinch and shiver. Even his touch is cold. “You are exquisite, Carly.”

I’ve heard cute. Hot, on occasion. But exquisite? Give me a break. “Who are you?”

He drops his hand and straightens up, towering over me. “I am the spawn of darkness, and night’s son; I am anything and anyone.”

“And I’m a little teapot,” I snap. I try to keep my voice steady even as my insides are churning. I can almost hear the voices of the Sigma Iotas chanting: O Master of darkness, blood and carnage…“Tell me your name.”

There it is!” he barks in triumph. He doubles over, shaking with laughter. “I knew she’d be feisty! I knew it! I knew it!”

While his hysterical laughter ricochets off the walls and ceiling, I sigh and get shakily to my feet. The heel of one of my shoes is broken. I take them off. “Just give me something to call you.”

He smiles wickedly and puts his hands on his hips. “Master.”

I guess I set myself up for that one. “I’m not calling you that.” I glance around at the walls without moving my head, looking for a way out, but all I see is charcoal gray rock.

“I am master of this place, and you are mine. Kneel before your master, human scum!”

“I’m not exactly human.” And I’m not scum.

“Ah, I see it now.” I feel naked as he studies me. His eyes pierce straight through to the place where my soul used to be. “You’re a demigoddess. One of Nike’s descendants. Now, kneel, halfling.”

I keep my bare feet planted firmly on the floor. “No.”

He pouts. “Kneel…please?”

“This is ridiculous.” I turn and walk up to the wall behind me. I press my palms to it and feel around for cracks in its cold, bumpy surface. There has to be a way out of here.

Suddenly, he presses his body into me, shoving me up against the wall. His hands smack the rock on either side of me. The metal clasps and chains of his vest bite into my back. Something hard brushes up against my tailbone. His chilly breath tickles my ear. He smells like—well, I’m not exactly sure. The scent reminds me of being outside after it’s just snowed—fresh, sharp and slightly bitter. It’s not unpleasant.

“Kneel,” he whispers in a voice that, for a moment, makes me want to sink obediently to my knees.

relapsecover

Relapse: Chapter One


Here’s a teaser for your Tuesday: Chapter One of Relapse, the sequel to Reborn! The release date is exactly a week from now, Tuesday December 2. It’s coming up so fast, yikes!!!

I’ve also posted the prologue, which you can read here.

*****

I’m standing in the middle of a congested ballroom, surrounded by an endless swirl of color and laughter.

This place tugs at the far reaches of my mind. I pause to get my bearings, but the movement of dancing couples jostles me continuously forward. Above us, a chandelier hangs from a domed glass ceiling, dripping diamonds. Beyond it, the sky is midnight blue and littered with stars.

I peer into the crowd and spy a dark head making its way toward me. Without even glancing in his direction, the revelers part to give him room, quickly sidestepping to avoid the brush of his broad, feathery white wings. Muscle ripples down his chest and abdomen until it meets the white loincloth tied around his hips. His skin shimmers a faint gold, his eyes the dark blue of the sky above us. Those eyes meet mine, and a warm smile spreads on his face.

“I thought you were gone,” I tell him once he’s within earshot. My feet are poised to carry me into his arms, but something holds me back.

The corners of his mouth waver slightly. “I was. I am. You know that, Psyche.”

“But you’re here now. Just like I remember.” This time I extend tentative fingers and trail them down his chest. “White and golden. Like an angel. My Eros.”

He gently catches my wrist, lowering my hand. “I’m gone for good this time. You have to let me go.”

“I don’t want to.” I reach for him again, my hands grasping nothing but air even though he hasn’t moved. “I miss you.”

“That wasn’t me,” he insists. “That was the darkest version of me, with everything good and noble stripped away. I died with you, Psyche. You have to let me go.”

Tears sting my eyes. “I can’t—”

“Yes, you can. You’re the strongest person I know.” His smile is gone, in its place a fiercely determined frown. “You must.”

“But I…” I falter as everything starts to melt away—the ballroom, the dancers, the light, the colors, and my sweet, golden prince—

Two arms envelop me from behind, drawing me against a wall of muscle and heat. I crane my neck and glimpse the sheen of pale skin and the shadowy fringe of black feathers in the suddenly dark room. His hands slide possessively up my legs and hips, and I give an involuntary gasp and shudder, my heart racing in excitement even as a chill rakes my spine.

His breath is hot on my ear. “I don’t want you to forget me. I won’t let you—”

 

I jolt awake, panting, and bring my hand to my forehead to wipe away the perspiration beading there. Sweat soaks the underarms of my pajama shirt. I scramble to sit up and look over to Tanya’s side of the room. Her bed is empty, the sheets rumpled, the pillow gone.

As I make my bed, I try to salvage the fading images of the dream. All I can recall is a twisted mixture of memory and nightmare, and two faces of the same man—one pale, one faintly golden. And hands—his hands—and the pain and pleasure of those hands as they claimed me—

Diving into the bathroom, I turn on the shower and stick my face under the ice cold water.

Shivering but fully awake, I slip on a pair of skinny jeans, a stretchy red tank top and a zip-up hoodie, then go downstairs. The floorboards protest underneath my feet, their groans magnified in our quiet sorority house. At first, I think the living room is empty, until I see the platinum blonde ponytail peeking out from beneath a dark blue blanket on the couch. The blanket stirs, and my roommate Tanya emerges, stretching her arms over her head.

“Good morning, Twin,” she yawns when she sees me. Not only are Tanya and I roommates, but we have the same big sister, so in sorority lingo we’re “twins.” Our big sister, Victoria, is our chapter president—and also just happens to be the goddess of victory.

“You slept down here,” I realize, sitting down at the kitchen table.

Tanya nods. “You were talking in your sleep.”

My hand flies to my mouth. “Oh, my God. I’m so sorry. What…what did I say?”

“It was nothing. Don’t worry about it.” Throwing the blanket to the side, she gets up and paces toward the stairs, avoiding my gaze.

“It couldn’t have been nothing,” I persist. “What did I say?”

Tanya pauses at the foot of the stairs. “It was mostly gibberish. But a few times you called out for…for him.

I open my mouth to reply, but all I can manage is an almost soundless, “Oh.”

“What were you dreaming about?”

“I don’t know,” I say quickly, my face burning. “I mean, I don’t remember it.”

Tanya shrugs. “Well, I’m going to take a shower.” Her brown eyes narrow at me. “Are you alright?” She glances at the clock on the entertainment console, and a light bulb goes off in her head. “It’s Wednesday. You have Eric’s class. I thought you were dropping it.”

“I decided to tough it out,” I tell her. Tanya raises her eyebrows. “Okay, Victoria practically begged me to stay in it. To keep an eye on Dr. Mars for her.”

“That’s a little risky. He can’t be too happy with us for—”

“For deporting his son to Olympus? Yeah, probably not.” I sigh, shaking my head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. This is our first class since the ritual. Dr. Mars canceled Monday’s class. He was probably too busy plotting his revenge to play everyone’s favorite history professor.”

“Don’t go if you really don’t want to,” Tanya says. “I’m sure Victoria will understand.”

“I’ll be fine. It’s not like he’s going to do anything to me in front of an auditorium full of people, anyway. I hope,” I add under my breath.

“If you say so. Just be careful.” She turns and runs upstairs. I fold my arms on the table and lay my head down on top of them. I hate keeping things from Tanya, but I’d rather her think the only thing bothering me is having to face Dr. Mars in World Myths and Legends.

A couple of days ago, a few drops of ambrosia in my coffee brought back an onslaught of repressed memories from my past life as Psyche: a young woman so beautiful she captured the heart of Eros, the Ancient Greek’s paragon of love and desire, and sparked the ire of his mother, Aphrodite. Psyche’s memories transport me back to a time long before I was born, to a place I swear I’ve never been—yet remember just as vividly as my childhood home in Laurel. Closing my eyes, I can almost feel Eros’s rock hard chest trapping me against the warm sands of an alien beach. (An almost embarrassingly large quantity of the memories are of us having sex.) Her memories were once only able to break through in my dreams, but now they are always a part of me. And the dreams themselves are as intense as ever.

I haven’t told anyone that I got the memories back. No one in my sorority knows. Not even Anna knows, and she was sitting right there when it happened. I spent the rest of our coffee date trying to convince her to stay away from Eric. She got mad at me and stormed off. The opportunity to tell her hasn’t come up again.

Lifting my head, I force myself to get up and go into the kitchen to grab some breakfast. After a bowl of cereal, I head out into a cool but sunny morning. Even though I trudge as slowly as possible across the Greek Quadrangle to campus, I still enter Frasier Hall with five minutes to spare. Taking a deep breath, I push through the double doors of the lecture hall.

The first person I see when I step inside is Jasper.

He’s sitting in the third row with his black dress shoes kicked up on the back of the seat in front of him. I squeeze my eyes shut. It’s like the first day of class all over again, when I saw Jasper for the first time in six years. Thumping heart. Sweating palms. Short, gasping breaths. The only difference is, now that I’ve taken enough ambrosia to fully awaken my Olympian heritage, I don’t have to wrestle with wings threatening to tear out of my back at any moment. I’m in control of them. I’m in control. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Like when I thought I saw him coming out of the library while I was waiting for Anna. He’s not even here. I let a breath I hadn’t even realized I was holding whistle out slowly and open my eyes.

Sure enough, the seat is empty.

I walk up the center aisle and sit in the back.

At the front of the room, Dr. Mars opens a black leather briefcase, his thick hands emerging with a text book and a slim folder. His charcoal black hair looks like he just combed his fingers through it a few times before coming in today. The beard framing his deep frown is fuller and wilder than the last time I saw him. He’s less like a calendar lumberjack and even more like the rough, rugged kind you might find hurling an axe into a tree. The look makes me think of pine trees, log cabins and flannel shirts, although if he lets that beard grow any longer, he’s going to look like those guys on Duck Dynasty.

His dark eyes swallow all the light from the room as they sweep it. “We’re starting,” he booms, and the buzz of voices around me fades. He clears his throat before continuing, his lips a flat, pale line. “Before we dive into today’s lecture, I’d like to introduce Pat. She’s the teaching assistant for one of my other classes and will be taking over the TA duties for this class as well.”

As though she just stepped out of thin air, Apate is suddenly standing next to Dr. Mars. She’s all milky white skin, obsidian hair, fishnet stockings and black leather—like a vampire hooker. Confused whispers and a few feminine gasps of dismay go up around the room. Several of the guys move forward in their seats, eyes glued to the front of the room with renewed interest. Apate absently plays with the gold chain at her neck. From this distance, I can’t be sure, but I think it’s the same shield necklace she wore that night in Jasper’s office.

“I hold office hours Wednesdays and Fridays, six to seven, at the library.” She gives a coy tug of her lower lip with her teeth. “Or by…appointment.” Smirking, she takes a seat in the front row.

“Thanks, Pat. Let’s move on.” Dr. Mars takes his place behind the podium. “As those of you who have actually done the reading know, today’s lecture topic is: evil.” An ironic smile flickers at the corners of his mouth. “Or, rather, the various myths that sought to explain why there is evil in the world. They are stories about giving into temptation. About the allure of doing what you’re told not to do. Of men and women defying their god.” He pauses to glance down at his notes, turning the page.

“To many Christians, the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis explains the origin of sin,” he continues. “Most of you may already be familiar with this one. God creates the first man and woman. He drops them in the Garden of Eden and forbids them to eat the fruit of a particular tree. So, naturally, Eve takes the word of a talking snake and eats the forbidden fruit anyway.” Dr. Mars’s smile cracks wider, and a few people snicker. “She offers some to Adam, and they realize, ‘Oh, shit, we’re naked,’ and cover up their naughty parts with fig leaves.” More laughter. “Then they hear God walking around the garden and hide from Him because they’re ashamed. God knows they have sinned and, as punishment, banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.”

Dr. Mars tilts his head to the side, his forehead creased as though he’s deep in thought. “Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of the story,” he decides with a smile and a wink. “I may have left out a detail or two, like the serpent telling Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would open her eyes and make her as wise as God. Again, it’s a story of rebellion—of doing what you’re not supposed to do—and a story about lust. In this case, Eve’s lust for knowledge, to know what her God knows.

“The Greek myth also shares this theme of insatiable curiosity and temptation. I’m sure you’re already sick of hearing me prattle on, so I’ll let Pat tell this one. Pat?” Dr. Mars says. He nods at Apate, and she gets up hesitantly, turning to face the auditorium again. Her smug grin is gone. Instead, her incisors dig into her lower lip as her feline green eyes dart from face to face. She balls her hands into fists at her sides.

Clearing her throat, Apate says, “I guess the Greek story really begins with Prometheus, an immortal who loved humans and sometimes served as a mediator between them and his fellow gods. In one instance, he was asked to divide up a sacrificial bull between men—and at this point, they were all men,” she adds with an eye roll, “—and the gods. Prometheus tricked the gods into taking a bag of the bull’s bones while the men got the best cut of meat. Zeus was…pretty pissed. He punished them by withholding the gift of fire, but Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus and smuggled it to Earth.

“At this point, Zeus was livid. He tortured Prometheus and cursed him and his descendants. To punish mankind, he had an evil, irresistible gift in mind. He had his son, the craftsman Hephaestus, create the first woman in the image of the goddesses. The Olympians gave Pandora many gifts—everything from beautiful clothes and jewelry to grace, charm and feminine wiles. As a final gift, the gods gave her…” The word catches in Apate’s throat, and she has to clear it again. She shuts her eyes for a moment and takes a deep, calming breath. Reopening them, she continues, “They gave her a jar to take to mankind. Inside the jar, the goddess Nyx had locked away the spirits of evil: deceit, suffering, doom, old age, strife, retribution, blame and violent death.

“You can see where this is going. It’s always a woman’s fault.” Apate recovers her nerve and scowls, giving another roll of her eyes. The snide remark makes me like her for a full two seconds. “Pandora arrived on Earth, her curiosity over the contents of the jar growing and growing until she couldn’t take it anymore and opened it. The spirits escaped, bringing evil, pain and suffering to humankind.” Apate straightens her shoulders, looking pleased with herself. “The end.”

“Thanks again, Pat,” Dr. Mars tells her, and she slips back into her seat. “I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase ‘Pandora’s box’ before. When you ‘open Pandora’s box,’ you do something that seems insignificant, but turns out to have severe and far-reaching consequences.

“Well, that’s enough of story time. Let’s talk about this paper that’s due next week.”

At the end of class, I rush out of the door without so much as a glance at Dr. Mars or Apate, letting the crowd of students filling up the hall absorb me. Up ahead, I glimpse black and gold plaid as a familiar tall, slender figure walks against the current of students. Her glossy brown hair ripples around her face when her hazel eyes flicker to my face. She quickly turns on her heel and starts walking away.

“Anna. Anna!” I shout, stopping in the middle of the hall. I hear a few annoyed grumbles as people skirt around me.

Anna jumps and whirls back around. “Siobhan. Hey!” she calls out, closing the gap between us in a few long strides. “I didn’t see you there!”

“Right,” I mutter. “Going to class?”

“No, actually I was on my way to…see Eric,” she falters, pointing down the hall at the room I just ran out of. “Never mind.” She whips past me and walks up to the double doors, catching one just before it swings completely shut.

“Don’t go in there!” I hiss, coming up beside her. “Let’s go somewhere and talk. Hear me out.” Anna opens her mouth to protest

That was mean!” Apate’s voice shrieks from inside the auditorium. Anna and I freeze.

Eric’s responding chuckle is cool, amused. “But well-deserved.”

“I’m still paying for that?”

“You double-crossed me—”

“And I’ve more than made up for it! I think you owe me now.”

“You want something, Apate? Out with it.” The sound of Dr. Mars’s thunderous voice reverberates through my chest. I look up and down the hall, but it’s emptied out.

“You know what I want,” Apate insists in a quieter tone, the words quivering slightly. “Don’t make me beg. I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to. Please. Let Dolos go.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I’ll do anything you say. I promise. Just let my brother go. He’s suffering. Just please let him—” The sound of metal slicing through wood chokes off the rest of Apate’s plea.

“What part of you are mine don’t you understand?” Dr. Mars growls. His words are punctuated by the soft, shuddering sobs of Apate biting back tears. “Until I decide your services are no longer required, you, are, mine.”

Apate gives a sharp cry of pain. “I am not yours or anybody else’s. I look out for myself and my brother. Screw you.” Boot heels smack the floor inside, growing louder as they approach the door. Anna releases the handle in panic, and the door closes with a loud click. We stumble away from it and take off for the nearest exit.

*****

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Character Profile: Jimmy Wallace


With only a few weeks left until Relapse releases on Tuesday, December 2, let’s get reacquainted with some of the characters.

I thought I already had a profile up for Jimmy, but I guess I must have taken it down at some point. You probably remember Jimmy as Siobhan’s old flame from high school. Their love starts to rekindle in Reborn, but Siobhan’s growing attraction for Jasper gets in the way. I guess, if you include Max, Reborn sort of has a love quadrangle. Things get even more complicated in Relapse when Apate decides to make Jimmy her latest boy toy. So, really, it’s a love…web? A web of love and lies…

Jimmy
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

James (Jimmy) Wallace

Age: Early twenties

Hometown: Laurel, Pennsylvania

Occupation: Bartender; lead singer of punk rock band Search and Destroy

Physical Description: Short, dark brown hair; hazel eyes; square jaw; lips usually set in a stubborn pout; aversion to wearing shirts

Species: Demigod

Relationship Status: It’s complicated

Other relationships:

Goals:

  • To be a famous rock star
  • To repair his relationship with high school sweetheart Siobhan

Obstacles:

  • His rocky history with Siobhan
  • Siobhan has other suitors: Max, but the real obstacle is Jasper

Strengths:

  • Talented musician and singer
  • Supernatural healing abilities
  • Trustworthy
  • Funny/a goofball (likes doing impressions)

Flaws:

  • Impulsive (wild stage antics, cuts himself during performances)
  • Rock star ego

Hobbies:

  • Performing
  • Partying

Inspiration: Iggy Pop

Who would play him in a movie: There really isn’t an actor who resembles the Jimmy I have pictured in my head, but my best pick would be Glee’s Mark Salling.

*****

My heart beats wildly in my chest. “Friends do not hug like this.”

Jimmy moves one of his hands to my chin so that he can tilt it up. “Friends don’t kiss like this, either.”

Character Profile: Anna Wallace


With only three weeks left (!!!!!) until Relapse releases on Tuesday, December 2, let’s get reacquainted with some of the characters. I’ve already posted character profiles for Siobhan, Jasper, Apate, and Peter. Tonight, the spotlight is on:

freedigitalphotos.netAnna Wallace

Age: Early 20s

Hometown: Laurel, Pennsylvania

Occupation: Student at fictional college Thurston University in Shadesburg, PA

Major: Music education

Physical Description: Very tall; slim; tan skin; long, dark brown hair; hazel eyes

Species: Demigod

Love interest: World Myths and Legends professor Dr. Eric Mars

Other relationships:

Motivation:

In Reborn, Anna wanted to learn to trust Siobhan so they could be friends again. They still have problems trusting each other in the upcoming sequel, especially since Anna started dating Eric. In Relapse, Anna finds the addictive pull of the Olympian world harder and harder to resist.

Strengths:

Cautious, practical, shrewd, loyal

Weaknesses:

Naive and impressionable

Hobbies: Music is her life.

Superpower: You’ll see…..

Who would play her in a movie: My pick is Gossip Girl alumna Leighton Meester

Anna on her feelings for Eric:

“I love him. I know you think I’m crazy, but I love him…..he warned me not to try to change him because I won’t be able to. And to be honest, I wouldn’t want to change him. I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s sexy as hell. He’s intelligent, ambitious, spontaneous—and the sex. Oh, my God. The sex.” 😉

Relapse: Prologue


As a special Halloween week treat, I’ve decided to release the prologue of Relapse!!! Please keep in mind that this is the version before the final copy-edit, although I don’t think there are any egregious errors.

You’ll quickly pick up on the fact that this isn’t written from Siobhan’s POV, but most of the book is from her POV, so don’t fret. 😉 You may remember Apate as one of Eric’s minions and the goddess of trickery. I posted a character profile for her awhile back. She’s kind of becoming a demanding character…I’m pretty sure she wants a bigger part in the next book, or maybe even her own book. (Oh, look, I’m starting to talk about my characters like they’re real people now.)

Anyway, without further ado, the prologue of Relapse:

*****

I throw open the door to The End, thunder crashing behind me as I duck inside. Closing my black umbrella sends a shower of water droplets onto the gunmetal gray tiles. I stride up to the bar through a haze of dim lighting and cigarette smoke.

As I perch on the black leather cushion of one of the bar stools, I catch a glimpse of myself in the horizontal mirror lining the back wall. A black mini dress clings to me like a second skin, its plunging neckline dipping even further as I sit down. Silky hair falls in an obsidian curtain around my pale face, cascading down my shoulders to brush the swells of my breasts. My green eyes shine as brilliant as emeralds even in this dull light.

I look hot.

“Apate.”

At the sound of my name, I abandon my reflection and look over at the pair of sunglasses glowering at me from behind the bar.

“Hey, Lou,” I say, curving my lips into a wicked smile. “That is what you’re going by these days?”

Lou raises an eyebrow. “I thought I told you and lover boy to stay out of my bar.” He furiously wipes out a shot glass with a white rag.

I let my grin fall into an exaggerated pout. “That hurts my fweelings.” As I cross my legs, the hem of my dress rides up, revealing a few more inches of fishnet stockings and thigh. “A Dark and Stormy, please.”

Lou slams the shot glass down so hard I’m surprised it doesn’t shatter. He makes a point of dropping the damp rag in front of me before turning to mix the drink. His thick, curly dark brown hair bristles as he shakes his head slowly back and forth, muttering to himself. The muscles of his arms twitch underneath his black t-shirt as he pours and stirs. Tight jeans hug his hips and taut buttocks. Light from a single naked bulb dangling from the ceiling glints off the silver, winged-shaped spurs on the backs of his black leather cowboy boots.

“Nice ass,” I call over to him.

He spins around, picks up the rag and plants my drink down in its place, ice cubes clinking against the glass. “You get one drink. Then I want you out. Eros, too—if he’s here.” Lou’s head scans the crowded room.

“He’s not. That’s why I’m here.” I scoot in closer to the bar and lower my voice. “He’s on the other side. I need you to send a message to him.”

Lou’s head had started shaking before I could even finish the sentence. “No can do.”

I suck up some of the cocktail through the stirrer, the ginger beer prickling my throat as it slides down. “You can, and you will. It’s only kind of your job.”

Lou chuckles. “I don’t work for you, honey. And even if I did, I can’t risk it. The membrane between the universes is thinning. All of the traffic back and forth over the last six years has made it unstable. Any more—even the slightest disturbance—and it may break down completely. All thanks to you and your…friends.”

“Anytime.” I finish the drink in two more gulps, and then shove the empty glass toward him, a stamp of wine red lipstick on the rim. “Thanks for the drink.” I set a one dollar bill on the counter.

“That drink is seven bucks.”

“Give me a break, Lou,” I plead. “You know I’m a poor grad student.”

Lou purses his lips, jaw trembling. He takes the bill and shoves it in his pocket.

“Oh, and thanks for your help,” I add as I pop off the stool.

There’s a hesitant pause before he says, “I didn’t help you.”

“You’ve helped me more than you know.” I wink, and Lou shudders as though I’ve just slapped him. “’Bye, Lou.”

“Good riddance,” he grumbles behind me.

My eyes dart from table to table as I search for a glimpse of bright red hair. I catch a few of the patrons considering me over their drinks, bloodshot eyes climbing up my body. Only one pair of wandering eyes actually makes me pause and look over. They belong to a boy leaning against the wall, balancing a guitar against his hip.

Once his hazel eyes reach my face, I catch his gaze and welcome him with a smile. His Adam’s apple bobs as he gulps, the defiant frown on his face deepening. Now I remember: He’s the lead singer of that band that always plays here—Psycho’s friend. Eros hates him. I think he’s kind of cute. He might be a fun new toy to play with, but I can’t let myself get distracted. I need to find Sam. Reluctantly, I break eye contact with him and continue to weave my way between tables.

Barking laughter coming from a corner booth pricks my ears. Sam and five of his Sigma Iota brothers are crammed into it, guffawing over mugs of beer and slapping each other hi-fives across the table. The one called Alec sees me first, his laughter dying in his throat with a choking noise. He rakes his black hair out of his dark, almond-shaped eyes and sits up a little straighter.

“Pat,” Alec says loudly. The others stop laughing and turn to watch me pull up a chair on the end, next to Sam.

“Hello, boys.” I give them a sheepish, toothless smile and a small wave. “Please, don’t mind lil’ old me—Sam and I just have some business to discuss.”

They hesitate for a moment, exchanging uncertain glances. Alec blinks rapidly a few times and shakes his head before continuing with whatever conversation I interrupted. “So, anyway, Carly and I are in the basement, right—”

“Did you guys do it yet?” one of the brothers cuts him off.

“No, this isn’t—”

“Of course they didn’t,” another puts in. He’s stuffed in the booth between Alec and the wall, his belly peeking out from beneath his polo shirt, straining against the button of his jeans. “She’s a frigid bitch.”

Alec’s mouth falls open in disgust. “Bro, that’s my girl you’re talking about. Have some respect.”

“I thought the Gammas were supposed to be sluts. Their social chair is fucking, like, three guys right now—” The last word dies on the fat one’s lips. He opens his mouth to say more, but no words come out. The brothers look on in panic as he clutches his throat, his lips flapping futilely.

“What the hell, Pat!” Alec cries.

I roll my eyes. “Relax, bro.”

“Fix him! Give him his voice back!”

“He’s fine,” I insist. “He just thinks he’s lost his voice.”

“Well, whatever it is you’re doing—stop!” Alec pleads.

“Just a second,” I promise. Keeping the noose of my illusion slung tightly around the boy’s throat, I lean into Sam. “I found a way to get Eros back,” I whisper, letting my lips brush against Sam’s ear. He shivers as my fingers graze the back of his carrot red hair.

“You did?” His breath hitches in his throat.

I put two fingers under his chin and lift his freckled face up to meet mine. “I’m up here, sweetie.” Without looking away, I reach into my black sequined purse and pull out a folded up piece of yellowed paper. “A ritual. An ancient ritual that will allow us to open up a portal from this side to wherever Eros is.”  Sam’s hand clutches the edge of the table. I pry it off and gently place the note in his palm, closing his fingers around it. “There’s just one, tiny caveat.”

Sam’s blue eyes glance down at his fist, then back up at me. “What’s that?”

“The ritual will require…a sacrifice.”

*****

Relapse releases December 2, 2014!!!

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