Author Newsletter


Happy…Tuesday, dearies. (I had to double-check that it was, indeed, Tuesday before I typed that.)

This is just a quick post to announce my new author newsletter. It has been on my mind to start one for some time, but I guess it took a pandemic for me to actually do it…

I’ll be moving most of my book announcements to the newsletter and also plan to share exclusive excerpts and such from works-in-progress. Sign up below so you don’t miss anything! As always, we will only use your information to send you book-related updates and marketing via the newsletter, and we won’t share your information with others.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And happy reading. ❤

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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.

 

Revenge is Up!


Well, I knocked at least one thing off of my to do list: Revenge is now available for $0.99 for Kindle and on Smashwords! Right now it’s in pending review limbo land for premium status on Smashwords, but once it’s approved there it will become available through Apple, Kobo, and the other e-book distributors.

I’m also running a giveaway on my Facebook page and here through 11:59 pm tonight (Sunday). If you’d like a free review copy of Revenge, either message my Facebook page (because I don’t think Facebook will let me contact individual people through the page) or email urge2write@gmail.com. If you’ve read Revenge (even the previous version that was up on this blog) and have a moment or two, I’d appreciate an honest review. You can leave it on Amazon or Goodreads.

Besides the novella, Revenge also contains a previously unreleased excerpt about Anna and Eric and a sneak peek of Reclaim.

Check out the cover art (by the awesome H.N. Sieverding) and synopsis below!

*****

revenge_sl_stacy_cover_fullSynopsis:

Genie Cho was ambitious, a dedicated student, and–as president of her sorority, Alpha Rho–a promising leader. Until she made some new, otherworldly–and dangerous–friends. They opened her up to a world of magic, a world where everyone had special powers. They promised her eternal life. But something went wrong, and Genie wound up dead.

Her untimely death has shaken all of her sorority sisters, but hits Rebecca Grey especially hard. Ever since her roommate’s passing, Rebecca’s sleepless nights have been filled with nightmares. Rebecca even thinks she hears Genie’s voice sometimes, calling out for help. Although some of her sisters remain skeptical, Rebecca is convinced that Genie’s ghost is still out there somewhere and needs their help to move on.

Join Rebecca and the Alpha Rhos on their journey to lay Genie’s spirit to rest, a quest that takes them beyond the safety and comfort of their sorority house to the gates of the Underworld.

WIP Wednesday for October 14, 2015


Transcript:

Hey guys, for my monthly update post, I’ve decided to do a vlog. I have a few general updates about what I’ve been working on, and then I have a special announcement just in time for Halloween!

First off, as many of you know, I’ve primarily been working on book three in the Reborn series. This is “Carly’s book” as I’ve been calling it. It’s told entirely from Carly’s POV at this point. Right now, it still doesn’t have a firm title. I had a title I thought I liked and then decided I didn’t, so it’s back to being “Carly’s book,” but I know I’ll figure it out! I was working on it pretty steadily for awhile, and then I sort of took a brief break from it. I’ve sort of been hopping around projects recently, but right now it stands at around 38K, so it’s about a little more than a third of the way done, I think. I like to split my books up into three parts, so that means right now that part one is finished, plus a little more. I had mentioned on the announcements part of my blog that I was aiming for a 2016 release date, which I’m still definitely on track for. To be honest, I’m aiming right now for a release date sometime in October of next year, which I know is a long time to wait, but for whatever reason–to go along with the theme and the atmosphere in Carly’s book–I’m planning to release it around Halloween. But, I am also a very impatient person, so if it’s ready before then–if it’s edited and has a pretty cover and I feel like it’s ready to go, I will try to release it before then. But it will still likely come out next fall.

As I’ve said, I’ve been hopping between projects, and another project I’ve started is a book from Anna’s point-of-view–mostly from Anna’s point-of-view, I should say. I’ve always wanted to write a book that focused on her. As you might remember in Reborn and Relapse, she is Siobhan’s good friend from high school, and in Reborn they have sort of a reunion and reconciliation–there are a lot of “r-e” words that could be possible titles I guess. Anyway, I had ideas for it but have always struggled to start it. Well, I finally wrote a beginning for it that I liked. So, right now, it’s in the very preliminary stages. I don’t really know where it’s going–I have no idea when I would even release it–maybe, if all goes well, around the same time as the third book. We’ll see. This would also a book that I think would be told partially from Peter’s point-of-view. I think it would be really fun to get inside Peter’s head–he’s a fun character, and there’s a lot more you’ll find out about him in upcoming books besides him just being sort of the comic relief and Anna’s friend and Jimmy’s bandmate. But, anyway, like I said, very preliminary, could be some exciting stuff.

But, the special announcement I wanted to tell you all tonight is that I have a little surprise planned for the week of Halloween. Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I wanted to do something cool for it, and I’ve been working on a short story to celebrate the season. “The season”–I make it sound like Christmas, but it’s Halloween, and that’s okay because I love Halloween, and I want you all to be in the spirit of Halloween, too. It’s a little ghost story–like I said, just a short story set in the Reborn world, and it’s told from Rebecca’s perspective. You might remember that Rebecca is in one of the other sororities on Siobhan’s campus, Alpha Rho. The Alpha Rhos and Gamma Lambda Phis don’t really get along, but this short story is focusing solely on them. It’s bringing some closure to their plot arc in the first two books.

If you’ve read Reborn, you know that one of the Alpha Rho sisters dies toward the end, and this is where the ghost story comes in, and it’s a story about sisterhood and forgiveness. It’s about 4600 words right now. I’m hoping it will be about 10,000 words when I’m ready to publish it. And by publish it, I mean it will actually only appear on my blog. They’re short installments, so it should be easy to read on your computer, and…I think that’s just about it. I’ll start releasing the installments on Sunday, October 25th. So it has sort of 10 short chapters that I’ll release one or two at a time over the course of the week leading up to Halloween. It’s not going to be super scary or anything, just a little dark–maybe a little sinister–nothing that’s going to give you nightmares. At least I hope not.

Again, it’s about Rebecca, the Alpha Rhos, Genie, and it’s called Revenge. And I’ll start posting it Sunday, October 25th, so last week of the month, all the way up to Halloween. I hope you’re excited for it. I just thought it would be a little treat in between time while I know you’re waiting for book three to come out. I’ll try to keep posting updates monthly. I used to blog a lot more than I do. I haven’t really been doing that lately, just haven’t been in the mood as much lately, also a time thing. But I definitely can manage monthly check-ins. So, until then, happy reading, and Happy Halloween!

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

Coming to a Bookshelf Near You: Star Eyes


This is my response to today’s Daily Prompt: Coming to a BookShelf Near You.

“Write a summary of the book you’ve always wanted to write for the back cover of its dust jacket.”

Here’s a book summary I wrote for my YA book, Star Eyes:

 

There’s something different about Celeste Lowe. Her friends sense it. Strangers are awed and terrified by it. Even her parents suspect it. And it’s not just the metallic sheen of her blond hair or her silver-blue eyes.

Celeste has a secret: She can move objects with her mind, without touching them. She can’t tell anyone her secret, so she never let’s anyone get too close –until Dave. Handsome, smart, normal Dave. Since she met Dave, she’s finding it harder and harder to keep her secret.

But then Hazri shows up. He’s not human, and he tells her that neither is she. They’re members of a highly advanced species from another world. To their people, she’s a VIP –the daughter of the ruling family. Not only that, but she’s already been promised to someone else…him.

Celeste finds herself caught between two worlds: The one she never really felt she was a part of (until Dave), and the one where she truly belongs. But is this world everything Hazri claims it to be, or does it have a secret of its own? Are his people –their people –behind the disappearances of her best friend and so many other humans? Which world does she choose?

And does she have a choice?

The Devil Inside: Part II


II.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’re on the roof.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Devil Inside: Part I


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

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

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

 The Devil Inside

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

I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Devil Inside Part II >>

Book Review: Into the Dreaming


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Starry Eyed”


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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

“What are they doing?” Ava wondered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tyler looked up. Celeste heard Ava inhale sharply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you looking at?” Dave asked.

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

Finally, Celeste saw it.

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

“What is it?” she wondered out loud.           

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

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

“A what?”

“An Unidentified Flying Object.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No problem. See you tomorrow.”

Copyright 2012 by S. L. Stacy