Excerpt: The Visitor


Happy Monday!

I’ve been going through some old drafts of things I started and then put aside, trying to decide what writing project to work on next and what excerpt I could post on the blog. Some were too R-rated (lol), another I felt was potentially too dark, but this one seemed just right. 🙂 It’s really just backstory, so I don’t know if it will ever make its way into a book, but I wrote it when I was thinking about Carly’s bad ass grandma, and about who her biological father is (the one who left their mother when they were young). Sounds scumbag-ish, but like always in the Reborn world, nothing is as it first appears…..

This is some Carly family backstory, related to events that happened in Reclaim (Reborn Book #3). (I recommend *not* reading it if you haven’t read Reclaim and are planning to, because it will spoil parts of it.) And please keep in mind this was mostly for my notes so it’s very rough, but I thought readers of the series would enjoy it. Happy reading!

*****

Image result for someone knocking on a doorUpstate New York, eleven years ago

Darlene Vignovich was just beginning to doze off when there was a loud, urgent knocking at the front door.

She gave a shudder, paper-thin eyelids flying open, and sat straight up in her chair. Placing a gnarled, wrinkled hand on either chair arm, she hoisted herself to standing, then, grabbing her cane from where it was propped up against the end table, propelled herself toward the door. Three more loud, demanding knocks sounded on the other side. She thought about alerting her husband, who was out back tending to his rose bushes (as always), deciding against it a moment later. From the sudden, inexplicable drop in temperature in the room, and the way the breath left her lips in small, white puffs, she already knew who stood on the other side of that door.

She knew she could handle him.

“You,” she said after unlatching and pulling the door open. She kept the screen door locked, meeting the pair of bright, blue eyes on the other side of it with a steely resolve. They belonged to a very tall man with a strong-looking but slim body, a head of salt-and-pepper hair and beard to match, and those keen blue eyes peering out of a tan face lined with age. He looked to be about fifty, but each time Darlene had seen him over her long life he had looked the same. The first time their paths had crossed she had been eighteen and a freshman in college, and she had thought him an old man, albeit a distinguished one. Now that she was an old woman, he looked younger and more appealing than ever.

“Where do you get off, dropping by here unexpectedly,” Darlene snapped, jabbing her cane in his direction. “You should have called first.”

“Darlene.” He said her name patiently, imploringly, and spread his arms in an apologetic manner, palms out to face her. “You’re the one that invited me here.”

“I know that,” she spat, spittle flying through the air, collecting on the glass pane of the door in tiny round droplets. “I’m not senile, just old.” Although sometimes she wondered about that, herself. Sometimes she got confused. Usually, it was small things. Calling one of her granddaughters by her daughter’s name. Looking in the fridge for the sugar, and in the cupboard for the milk. But sometimes it was bigger things. The two worlds, two realities she had forced apart her entire life had, at some point, floated back together and now bled into each other, like squirts of blue and green dye mixing in a bowl of water.

“Darlene. Open the door,” the visitor beseeched her calmly.

After a moment’s stubborn pause, Darlene obliged, unlocking and opening the screen door.

One shiny black dress shoe, then the other, crossed the threshold, clapping over the hardwood floor. His dark suit was snug and well-tailored, the outline of muscle much too prominent for someone his age visible underneath the expensive material. Underneath, he wore a crisp white shirt and a purple tie.

“You should have called,” Darlene scolded him again, shuffling over to perch on the edge of a couch cushion. He sat down in the arm chair she had vacated moments ago, reclining it back slightly, making himself at home. “Hannah and the girls will be here soon. If they see you…”

“They won’t,” he assured her, drumming long, elegant fingers on his thigh. “They’ll never know I was here, will go on believing I left their mother, abandoned them.”

“You did,” she reminded him.

“Only because you demanded it of me.”

“You would have left eventually, anyway. That’s what your kind do. Spread your seed on this world and then bolt.”

“My kind?” The corner of his mouth ticked upward. Despite herself, Darlene always thought the man had a nice mouth. There was a sensuous curve to his lips, and they were a nice, smooth pale pink, like the peonies that grew in her garden. “It’s your kind too, Darlene. Our blood runs through your veins.”

Even though she already knew this—he had told her and her sorority sisters this sixty years ago—Darlene still shivered, the hairs on her forearms pricking. “Yes. Demon blood does run through them. But so does human blood. And that is where I derive my strength from.”

“Demon blood.” The visitor rolled those too-blue eyes. “We’re not demons. We are not evil. We are simply more…advanced. If anything, we’re angels. Gods.”

Darlene’s head of tight, white curls sliced to the right, then the left. “God has nothing to do with the likes of you. Living so long, being so beautiful, so…alluring…that can’t be God’s work. It is Satan’s. It is an abomination.”

“Is that what you would call your granddaughters?” He leaned forward in the chair, eyes deepening to an icier shade of blue. The temperature in the room took a nosedive, and Darlene felt little tendrils of frost collecting in her nose, on her eyelashes. “Abominations? Your ‘tainted’ blood flows through their veins. So does mine.”

“Carly and Diane will never know of this world,” she insisted, embracing herself. She didn’t want her daughter’s ex-husband to catch her shivering, but she couldn’t help it. His easily sparked temper had thrown them into a freezer. “I have made sure of that.”

“You won’t be around to protect them forever.” His reminder chilled her even further. “They’ll be out in the world, on their own. Just like you, they will gravitate toward the sisterhood. They will discover their heritage. Their destiny.”

“No.” She shook her head again. “I won’t let that happen.”

All at once, the temperature in the room rose again, the frost clinging to her eyelids and nostrils melting. The visitor sat back in the chair again, raking a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair. “You don’t have to leave them,” he continued in a calmer, kinder tone. “You know that. I can give you more ambrosia. It will awaken the rest of your…demon”—he sneered the word—“blood, give you practically eternal life. But you won’t have to leave Hannah, or your granddaughters.”

Darlene extended a hand to the top of her cane, feeling the grooves in the wood with her fingers. “I don’t want to leave them. But, one day, I’ll have to. That is the natural order of things. The circle of life. I won’t destroy my soul, even for eternal life.”

He sighed. “That’s my Darlene, always so damn moral.”

Darlene nodded once, stiffly. “That’s right. So, did you bring it? Do you have what I requested?” He’d better not have come empty handed.

Nodding and reaching into his suit jacket, her former son-in-law pulled out a black velvet, drawstring bag, seeming to weigh it in his hand before handing it to her. Darlene accepted it, resting the bag on her lap and opening it up, peering inside.

“This is it?” she asked, still unable to believe it. To trust him. “This will seal the rift that’s on the outskirts of my property?”

“That, and this.” He reached back into his jacket, this time emerging with a piece of yellowed parchment. “This is the ritual that will close the tear. Permanently.”

“Good.” Accepting the parchment from him, Darlene gingerly folded it in half and tucked it inside her robe. She pulled on the drawstrings, closing the black velvet pouch. “I’m not sure what’s out there, but there’s something on the other side of that rift. I can hear them sometimes, crying. Screaming.” More demons, she assumed, but she wasn’t about to bring that up in front of him again. There was no point. The rift would be repaired soon, and everything would be back to normal. “What do you think could cause such a thing?” she asked, almost as an afterthought. “I thought the walls the guardians erected long ago were supposed to be full-proof.”

“They are quite sturdy,” he agreed, “but can occasionally weaken and fail from natural wear and tear. But it’s nothing to worry about. That should do the trick.” He nodded toward the bag still sitting in her lap. Darlene wasn’t sure she believed that the anomaly was “nothing to worry about,” but she didn’t pursue that either. Hannah and the girls would be there soon. It was time for him to go.

He seemed to understand this, bringing the recliner forward again and getting to his feet, adjusting his tie as he strode toward the door. “Don’t bother getting up, Darlene.” He waved a hand in her direction just as she was making to push up onto her feet with her cane. “I can see myself out.”

But before he left, he turned again, one hand on the door, the other fisted at his side. “My daughters do not have evil inside of them. They have my people’s magic. Power. You don’t want me to be a part of their lives? Fine. I’ll stay away. But do not shelter them. Don’t deny them their heritage. Like you, like Hannah—though she doesn’t know it—they are guardians. And they are so much more. If you don’t tell them, they will find out some other way. I guarantee it. The Fates will guide them to their destiny. But it’s better that you prepare them. Think about it.”

With that, he pushed through the screen door, pulling it closed behind him much too hard, causing the glass pane to shudder and rattle. Heaving a sigh, Darlene set the black velvet pouch containing the object capable of mending the walls-between-worlds on the couch before getting up to close and lock the heavy oak door. Feeling suddenly breathless, she turned, leaning her back against the cool wood of the door, closing her eyes. He was right about one thing. Maybe she should tell Carly and Diane. Everything.

A moment later, she shook her head, going back over to the couch to retrieve the bag. She would need time to learn how to use the object inside properly and to practice the ritual. Until then, she would hide it away from her granddaughters’ inquisitive eyes. No, she decided, shuffling up the stairs. It was best Carly and Diane only knew the world they were used to. One that was safe. Normal. No demons, no parallel worlds, no magic. They would never know about the guardians, nor who their father really was.

She would make sure of it.

 

Cover Reveal: The Awakened by Sara Elizabeth Santana


Happy Saturday! Today I’m happy to be a part of the cover reveal for The Awakened, a YA science fiction novel by Sara Elizabeth Santana. I “met” Sara through her blog, What A Nerd Girl Says, and I’m super excited for Sara and her new book! The official release date is December 1, 2015, so make sure to mark your calendars. It will be available in Kindle and paperback formats, and preorder will be available for the Kindle edition! I think the cover looks pretty fab:

Official Awakened Cover

Synopsis:

Zoey Valentine is concerned with two things: surviving the multitude of self-defense classes her dad makes her take and avoiding Ash Matthews.

That is, until the Z virus hits, wiping out a third of the population in a matter of weeks. If that weren’t frightening enough, the bodies of the victims disappear and suddenly reappear, awakened from their dead state. They’re faster, smarter, and they work together to get the one thing they crave, human flesh.

The United States is in a panic and then the government decides the unthinkable: to bomb every major city overrun with the awakened.

Now Zoey is on the run, with her dad and Ash, desperate to find a place of safety amongst the ruined remains of the country.

Add The Awakened on Goodreads.

***

Author Bio:

Sara Elizabeth Santana is a young adult and new adult fiction writer. She has worked as a smoothie artist, Disneyland cast member, restaurant supervisor, nanny, photographer, pizza delivery driver and barista but writing is what she loves most. Her first story was written at age nine. She runs her own nerd girl/book review blog, What A Nerd Girl Says. Her favorite books are a tie between Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling and Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce. She lives in Southern California with her dad, five siblings and two dogs. Her debut novel is The Awakened.

You can also visit Sara at her website.

Official Awakened Paperback Cover

Character Profile: Jasper Hart


Who is the handsome, mysterious and elegant Jasper Hart?

Tonight, as another shameless plug for my romantic urban fantasy novel Reborn, I’m reposting this character profile for one of Siobhan’s love interest Jasper Hart. [To those of you who had the misfortune honor (sorry, I’m feelin’ silly tonight) of reading the earliest version of Reborn, Jasper has undergone a surname change. It’s still a clue as to his true identity, but I kinda, maybe changed the underlying mythology of the book…..]

ID-10012562Jasper Hart

From: Reborn (paranormal romance, urban fantasy)

Character Type: Antihero

Age: Really old, but he looks about late-twenties (of course)

Physical Description: Tall; shoulder-length, slightly wavy dark hair; midnight blue eyes; well-built with magnificent black wings

Species: Alien from a parallel universe

Occupation: PhD student in the history department; teaching assistant for World Myths and Legends

Relationship Status: Widower

Love interest: Siobhan

Goals: To win Siobhan’s trust and heart

Obstacles:

  • Farrah, Siobhan’s sorority’s nosey new house mother (who probably isn’t human, either)
  • Siobhan’s stubbornness and independence

Strengths: Physical strength and power; seductive; persuasive

Flaws: Arrogant; chauvinistic

Enjoys:

  • Learning about new cultures
  • Flying around the city at night
  • Enticing Siobhan
  • Brooding

Inspiration: Ville Valo, HIM frontman

“You belong to…”

You belong to me. I know that’s what he wants to say, but after a pause he corrects himself.

“We belong together. I love you. You believe me, don’t you?”

***

Book cover black

 

Book of the Week: The Darkest Powers Trilogy


I’m starting yet another new type of post -Book of the Week -an idea I’m borrowing from WhatANerdGirlSays. (You can find her most recent Book of the Week about Obsidian here.) Hopefully this will motivate me to do some more reading this summer outside of the usual science-y things I read for my research.

This week I have a fun new series I’ve been dying to tell you about (I just haven’t had the time). Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy (The Summoning, The Awakening, and The Reckoning) is  my most recent guilty pleasure and is now one of my all-time favorite series in this genre. These are the first of Armstrong’s books that I’ve read, but they won’t be the last. (I believe she usually writes adult fiction.) I also had some pangs of nostalgia reading them because they reminded me of old school L. J. Smith. In fact, the plot is reminiscent of Smith’s Dark Visions trilogy. (I’m not at all saying they’re a rip off, just that there are some similarities. I mean, it’s really difficult to come up with a completely fresh idea. What I really look for is how successful the author can put a new twist on what might be not an utterly original idea.) Especially if you are an L. J. Smith fan, you will love these books. They are young-adult-paranormal-romance-perfection.

Summary: Our heroine (and aspiring screenplay writer) Chloe is sent to a home for “disturbed” teenagers after having a public “meltdown” at her high school. At Lyle House, she is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Chloe soon realizes that her “schizophrenia” is actually a true supernatural ability: She is a necromancer; not only capable of seeing ghosts, but also raising the dead. Several of her housemates turn out to be supernaturals as well. This secret new world of the supernaturals is home to necromancers, witches, sorcerers, psychics, werewolves and demi-demons -as well as those of their own kind that want to tamper with the special abilities of supernaturals. This series is packed with action, plot twists and subtle sexual tension. (It is, after all, a young adult book…don’t want it getting too racy…)

Despite her diagnosis at Lyle House, it’s clear at the beginning that Chloe can “see dead people.” Honestly, in the first few chapters, I wasn’t sure I could really get into the whole “necromancer” thing, but I’m glad I stuck with it because I ended up loving it. It was a nice break from the normal paranormal fair (and by that I mean vampires). It’s told from Chloe’s POV, so we get a lot of insight into her inner struggle with her abilities. Although these books aren’t character-driven, most of the main characters change throughout the series as their experiences shape them. And Kelley Armstrong is simply talented at writing fast-paced, suspenseful fiction.

Some of you will love this, some of you will hate it (I LOVED it), but there is a love triangle in the books between Chloe and two foster brothers who are also at Lyle House: Derek and Simon. First of all -OK, I keep throwing around the word “loved,” so let’s change it up a bit -I was OBSESSED with Derek. Just like many fictional bad boys, Derek is mysterious, brood-y, and does NOT play well with others, except for maybe Simon. As Ms. Armstrong makes clear in the books, Derek and Simon may not be related by blood, but they are brothers and friends in the truest sense. Chloe gets along more easily with the amiable, good-looking Simon, while she and Derek clash at almost every turn.

My favorite thing about Derek, though, is that he’s not supposed to be stereotypically handsome. In fact, especially in The Summoning, puberty is not being kind to this boy. As the series progresses, Derek grows out of this, but he’s still no Damon Salvatore. 😉 I just found it refreshing. Then again, it’s not like he’s totally hideous or something, either…let’s just say, he works out…

Not gonna lie, probably the biggest reason I loved these books was the Derek/Chloe dynamic. I don’t know if this trilogy inspired any Simon/Chloe shippers, but I was all about Derek and Chloe. (What should we call them? Dloe? Chlerek?) I also really loved the plot twists Armstrong throws at her readers, leaving them questioning who the characters can really trust. The only thing that didn’t work for me is the whole Chloe-wants-to-be-a-screenwriter aspect. It just seemed really forced. It was more natural in the last installment, but in the other two it felt like Chloe was talking about movies or how she would turn something that just happened into a scene in a movie in every other paragraph. Perhaps it’s because I can’t relate to it, but in my opinion it was overdone. Chloe likes movies. I got it the first hundred times.

But other than this personal pet peeve, I highly recommend The Darkest Powers trilogy if you are looking for a quick, fun, and at times sexy escape. I liked them so much I wish I had bought them instead of borrowing them from the library. That is a big deal for me. I don’t buy books that often unless I am absolutely sure I will reread them, and even then I don’t usually end up reading them again. I read the last book twice before returning it to the library because I didn’t want them to end. Luckily, Armstrong has another young adult trilogy called Darkness Rising, which I think is in the same world as Powers, although with a different set of characters.

Friday Fictioneers Take One


This is the first time I’m trying one of these Friday Fictioneers photo prompts. The photo is below, and my piece is after that. The challenge is to get it down to 100 words, although it’s not required.

I don’t know what made me want to write it from first-person-plural, but it was a fun experiment. So it’s either a group hiding out, or Gollum…..

Copyright-Janet Webb

 

Genre: Science fiction, apocalyptic

Inside

Inside we wait for the explosions to stop.

Outside the sky is thick and gray with veins of red fire. But in here everything is pitch dark. We can barely see our hands as we reach for each other.

Last night she came. We had to ask her to leave. There’s no more room and not enough rations. When she wouldn’t, we had to make her. We try not to think about it now and hope that the war will stay out.

Finally the earth stills and we can uncover our ears. When we emerge, it’s all gone.

Word Count – 98

 

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.

I Actually Do Read Thought-Provoking Books Sometimes (I Swear)


I know that on this blog I often review “blockbuster” books (I’ve reviewed all three Fifty Shades books) and go off on tangents about YA books I love, usually of the paranormal romance genre. But I have, and do, read books for the fantastical and sometimes disturbing worlds they explore, to understand their dynamic, flawed characters and to absorb their insights about the universe and humanity. I’m particularly fond of science fiction novels (and movies, and TV shows, but we’ll save those lists for another time), so here is a list of my Top Five Six Science Fiction Books:

5. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Yes, this book has spawned some pretty cringe-worthy pop culture phenomena, like the name of CBS’s reality show Big Brother. And although the year 1984 was nothing like the dystopia created in Orwell’s book, its themes of privacy, freedom and rebellion are timeless. Orwell also had great foresight, such as the fictional language of Newspeak which basically involves smooshing English words together. Minus the sinister agenda of controlling thought and communication part, this definitely reminds me of how technology is influencing our language and communication today. #deepthoughts

4. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

This is one of those classics you’re required to read in high school -and you should read it, because it’s awesome. Bradbury is another visionary science fiction writer: In a future in which firemen start fires and burn books, people are glued to their wall-sized TVs and drift off to sleep listening to little shell-like music players in their ears. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this book, but those images have stuck with me. Fahrenheit 451 in part speaks to a fear that technology may threaten our ability and desire to think and communicate and learn, an idea that I don’t really agree with except when shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo become popular. It’s also a book that comes to my mind, at least, whenever I hear about a book being banned, such as in a school, or any whisperings of censorship.

3. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

This book is kind of crazy and is written in a style that suggests Huxley pounded it out after an overdose of coffee (or speed). But I love it. The future that Huxley predicts is absolutely terrifying. Everyone is created especially for their specific station in life, everyone knows their place, and most of the characters are fine with it. Many spend their days popping soma and participating in orgies. Although the novel focuses on Bernard and Lenina in the beginning, it really becomes about the “savage” John and how he confronts the strange world outside of his Reservation. “O! brave new world, That has such people in’t.”

2. Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead

And my top five became my top six, because I couldn’t leave out either of these books. I’m not even sure how to classify Ender’s Game…it’s not quite a children’s book, but not quite a YA book either, reading-level wise. And yet it appeals to older readers as well. It’s both an entertaining book about the trials of a very young, talented boy at the Battle School and an exploration of Ender’s character, who for a young boy is startlingly ambitious and uncompassionate. There’s even a bit of a twist ending.

Ender is a very different man in the sequel, in which he has become the Speaker for the Dead; at funerals, he is tasked with speaking honestly, no sugar-coating, about the life of the deceased. In this book, Ender has an appreciation and empathy for life, both human and alien. Although there are many intriguing characters and subplots in Speaker for the Dead, the main story line is of the mystery of the Pequeninos, the native pig-like but intelligent species of the planet Lusitania, which humans have colonized. (The Pequeninos deliver some surprises at the end.) Card successfully writes another page-turner while also conveying some pretty profound ideas and creating imperfect but (mostly) still likeable characters.

1. Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land

I’m going to throw around the word “profound” again, but seriously, Stranger in a Strang Land is a must-read sci-fi classic. Similar to John in Brave New World, Heinlein thrusts Valentine, who was raised by Martians and only knows of Martian customs and culture, into our society. I like that aspect of both books – writing about our world through the eyes of an outsider. And Valentine’s transformation throughout the book is stunning and perhaps somewhat outlandish. He starts out as this man-boy discovering Earth and what it means to be human, but by the end of the book (spoiler alert?) his Martian “ways” have spread and he’s become the Jesus-like figurehead of a new religion or spirituality. There’s also a fair amount of sex sprinkled throughout the book. Unconventional sex always seems to be a part of our looming dystopian future.

What are your favorite sci-fi/dystopian novels?

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)!

That’s So Deep


I’ve been looking through My Documents on my computer to fine old stuff I could post while I wait for inspiration to strike, and I found this gem: A short story I wrote in high school called “chatroom.” It’s about an Internet wedding, and I wrote it at a time when I was reading authors like Bradbury and Huxley and thought I was writing really profound science fiction.

One of my all time favorite classic science fiction books.

Re-reading it, I instantly realized that a question one of the characters asked doesn’t really make any sense for the setting. Also, I didn’t have very good foresight – I mean, do people go on chatrooms anymore? I feel like most people text – sometimes I use Facebook chat or gchat.

But I am ever grateful to the Barbaric Yawp for actually publishing it – the only time I’ve ever had my fiction published outside of school. So, without further ado, I present to you, in its original form:

chatroom 2341829366273189515635101011111111

02:50:26 05/04/66

bestmanforhire6328: is she coming

JacObcd15: she should b soon

bestmanforhire6328: the ceremonys supposed 2 start at 3. 10 min.

JacObcd15: dont worry shell b here

mrsM52000: 😦 if she doesnt get on itll b all ur fault, jacob. have u done nething 2 make her mad

mrM834962w: now, sweetheart, im sure jacobs just as nervous as we r, rn’t u, son

JacObcd15: its alright, sir, i understand her concerns, she has a right 2 her opinions

mrsM52000: thats right, i do. c, matthew? at least sum1 understands me

mrM834962w: dont worry dear it wont b long now

JacObcd15: what times it now

bestmanforhire6328: 2:53

JacObcd15: i wish shed get on already

mrsM52000: youve done sumthing, i know u did sumthing…o y did i let her marry such a fool, matthew? my beautiful diane is marrying a fool.

mrM834962w: itll b ok vanessa. remember what ur parents said when we got engaged

mrsM52000: yah n they were right

bridesmaidforhire01: 🙂 what a beautiful wedding this has turned out 2 b! both sets of parents, brothers sisters, all here! ive never been in 1 so big

daveyk400: yah, altho carrie, once again, failed 2 show

misterpanderson8: dont put ur sister down, dave, u know how busy she gets with the kids

daveyk400: n that barbarian she calls a husband

daveyk400: its a good thing she didnt come after that stunt she pulled. a church wedding –no1 does that nemore.

daveyk400: u cant just invite ppl 2 ur house thinking theyll come when theres a computer right in front of them. n meeting her husband be4 hand…

mrspanderson53: it was a very sneaky trick, very shameful, but chris turned out 2 b quite the cutie, didn’t he, pete

misterpanderson8: yeh, unfortunately. she glowed on her wedding day, tho, rita, actually glowed

mindymad2066: u mean she was happy? on her wedding day?

mindymad2066: ive heard of feeling panic or nevous but not happy

bestmanforhire6328: go figure. prolly cuz she met the guy 1st

mindymad2066: i guess seeing each other in person isnt the worst thing thats ever been done.

mindymad2066: i had a friend who married this guy who sent her a pic be4 they tied the knot

daveyk400: a pic? what a jerk

mindymad2066: hoping shed send him one no doubt

dianemanderson25 has entered.

bestmanforhire6328:  🙂

dianemanderson25:  im here, everybudy, ready 2 start

reverendonline0003: whenever u r

JacObcd15: were ready

reverendonline0003: ladies n gents we r gathered here 2day 2 witness the union of jacob anderson and diane madison in holy matrimony

reverendonline0003:  1st did u get ur rings in the mail

JacObcd15:  yup, got mine right here

dianemanderson25:  yeh

reverendonline0003:  k, u may put them on. now, jacob, do u take this woman, diane, 2 b ur lawful wedded wife, 4 richer or 4 poorer, in sickness n in health, as long as u both shall live

JacObcd15: i do

reverendonline0003:  n diane, do u take this man, jacob, 2 b ur lawful wedded husband, 4 richer or 4 poorer, in sickness n in health, as long as u both shall live

dianemanderson25:  i do

bridesmaidforhire01: 😦 its so beautiful

reverendonline0003: u may kiss the bride

JacObcd15:  *kiss kiss* 🙂

dianemanderson25:  kiss kiss* 🙂

 reverendonline0003 has left the room.

Copyright 2012 by S. L. Stacy