July Updates and Promotions


So I realized I haven’t written an update post (or any sort of post) since April. Woops. My bad. 😉

One of my goals this summer is to give this site an overhaul, or possibly make a new site and transfer everything over. Although I have a soft spot for this blog because it’s my baby, haha, and where I started my self-publishing journey, I’d like something that looks more professional, and with more of a focus on my books rather than blogging. I will still, of course, blog from time to time, but I don’t really have the time anymore to blog as often as I used to. (Although, to be fair, I’m not sure I ever really had the time…I was just procrastinating from my dissertation, bahaha…..)

But, until then, this will still be the go-to place for writing and book updates. Speaking of which, I have a little summer promotion going on I’d like to plug.

I’ve enrolled all of the installments in the Reborn series (thus far) into Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale promotion (because it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere), which runs through July 31, 2017. Sign up for Smashwords (it’s free!) to check out a lot of great e-books at reduced prices.

Reborn, Relapse, and Reclaim are all 50% off (coupon code: SSW50). The novella Revenge is free (coupon code: SW100).

The codes will only work on Smashwords, but it’s easy and free to sign up!

Happy July, and happy reading!

~S.L.~

Obligatory New Year’s Resolutions Post


I realized my last post was two months ago, and a New Year’s resolutions post seemed like the perfect excuse to give you guys an update. I had a relaxing and fun Christmas and New Year’s and cleared my head of any sort of day job or writing-related work. It was a much needed break, and now I’m feeling refreshed and ready to get back into various projects. And I had more time for reading–I finished the second Vampire Academy book, Frostbite, by Richelle Mead, and started reading a non-fiction book that’s pretty interesting: Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough (I highly recommend for all of you education/social sciences/public health nerds out there). Since I completely failed to achieve my Goodreads goal of reading 25 books this past year (I read 15…oops), I kept the same goal for 2016, so we’ll see how that goes. I read a lot, I just haven’t made time for as much pleasure reading or reviewing lately.

Now, the part you’ve been waiting for (maybe): my writing/publishing goals for 2016. If you follow this blog or my Facebook page, you are probably already somewhat aware of these, but I figure if I put them in writing it will be additional motivation for me. First, I want to publish Revenge as an e-book novella–aiming for this summer. (You can read the first draft of it on my blog for free here.) Before I’m happy enough to publish it, it’s going to need some editing/re-working, and I have some ideas to beef it up so that I can actually call it a novella, which I think run from about 17-40K (at least according to Wikipedia). It’s a little over 11,000 words now, and my goal is to get it up to about 20K. I just really haven’t felt like editing lately, which is weird for me because I usually enjoy it.

Actually (and sorry in advance that I’m about to go on a tangent), I’ve been feeling really frustrated for the past few months regarding my writing projects. Mostly because of the editing thing. Ugh. At the beginning of fall I had a nice rhythm going for writing the third book in the Reborn series, and got about 38K written. Then I realized it was dragging/boring, that there were parts I wanted to cut completely, and that’s when I lost my rhythm, even though I still had the rest of the book mapped out in my head. So I decided to revise the beginning before writing the rest of it, but that just made me more frustrated. Looking back at it now, I feel like I didn’t even change that much of it, although I did rearrange chunks of it and added some more action earlier on. But there are still parts I’m going to take out entirely, and then I’ll have to fill in the gaps…and I just don’t wanna right now, lol.

I’m pretty sure I had this phase with the first two books, too, and every time I feel like I’m never going to get over it and the book is never going to get finished. But then I do get over it, and it does get finished. So really I have nothing to worry about (and neither do you!).

Instead of continuing to slog through the edits to Part One, I’ve decided to just plunge ahead and finish the entire first draft this January/February. I just want to write–get the word vomit out first–without thinking too much about it. Then I’ll worry about the specific parts that need more help/attention later. Right now the word count is about 48K. My goal is to write at least 500-1000 words every day in January. That way, if I have a particularly busy day or just a bad writing day, I can at least get 500 words out and then be done with it for that day. On a better day, I’ll exceed the 1000-word goal, and at this pace I’ll be able to finish it this winter.

Except sometimes I think about all of the things that are still going to happen in the book. And then I get discouraged again.

Whine whine whine.

I know I’ve been keeping a lot of the details of Book Three under wraps. It has a title now, but I’m not ready to reveal it. I don’t think it will change, but it might. I’m itching to share a rough excerpt or two, but I’m also resisting that because I’m still changing stuff. I know all of this sounds super discouraging (lol), but I still think I can get it out this fall. I’m in the same place I was with Relapse back in 2014, and I was still able to get that out at the beginning of December the same year. But if you’re getting really impatient with me, feel free to let me know, haha. That will “light the fire” under me. Otherwise it’s not like I have a publisher breathing down my neck about deadlines, which for the most part I like…but then again, sometimes it’s nice to have the extra push.

That’s all for now. Until next time, here’s a picture of a unicorn.

Tuesday Check In


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

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

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

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

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

“Siobhan and the Magical Rutabaga”

 

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

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

 

Relapse Release Part Dos and Updates


Just a quick post to check in and remind all Smashwords, Nook, Apple, and other non-Kindle e-book users that Relapse will be available for your e-readers next week! I’m aiming for a release date of Tuesday, June 2…which should be fine, but I know that, after I upload Relapse to Smashwords, there might be some lag time while the other platforms get updated. I’ll try to post updates and links once Relapse goes live on various sites. So get excited!!! 🙂 And thanks for being patient. I think in the future I will just go ahead and release my books to all platforms rather than being exclusive to Kindle for the first few months. Seems like the fair thing to do at this point. For the first few days of its release, Relapse will be $0.99, so get it while it’s hot. 😉

Before I prepared Relapse for publication via Smashwords, I read through it again and also re-edited the pdf (for Createspace) and Kindle versions. There wasn’t anything terrible, but I did catch a few typos and misplaced punctuation. (There was one cringe-worthy mistake. I had changed a small detail toward the end before I released it to Amazon last December, but I guess I forgot to update some of the related dialogue. Woops. That’s what happens when you change things last-minute. I don’t know if anyone else caught it, but it’s fixed now, anyway!) So I’ve also updated the Kindle version, which should go live soon, and am in the process of updating the paperback version as well. Plus, now that I kind of know what I’m doing this time around, making the updates and re-formatting Relapse for Smashwords didn’t take too long. (To be honest, I always dread the formatting part. It’s my least favorite part of being a self-published author. It’s not even that it takes that long–it’s just tedious. Maybe one day I’ll make enough money to pay a minion to do it for me. I’d like to do that right now, haha, but I’m not sure anyone would respond to the job ad: “Minion needed to assist independent author. Must be willing to accept payment in the form of food and hugs.”)

Okay, now for the part of this post I want to avoid…but I won’t, lol. I feel like I’m (over)due for an update about the next book in the series, but honestly I don’t have a whole lot to announce right now. I wish I did. It’s not that I’m not working on stuff, but I’m still more in the early planning stages than in the throes of writing anything. I’m jumping around between projects and outlining/updating notes/starting to write. I’m also at that point where I write something then immediately hate it afterwards and want to start over. I know in my head what’s coming next, but it’s been hard getting it down anywhere.

What I do know is (and I think I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it might be worth saying again), although Siobhan and Jasper’s story isn’t over, I’m also going to focus on some of the other characters. And, even though I set up the ending of Relapse to make some room to do this, I’m still a little reluctant to do so because I don’t know how people will feel about it. Although I’ve gotten enough positive feedback about Carly’s subplot in Relapse that I think you won’t mind a book just about her…? I guess since I’m the writer, it’s really up to me, lol…I have to go where my imagination and characters are taking me. Still, it’s hard starting a series in the era of binge-reading…I feel like I should have the whole series out at once so that people can just read all of them, but I didn’t plan it out that way. I might try to do that with the next couple of books, especially now that I’m done with school…work on several at the same time so that the time between release dates is shorter.

This post is starting to get a bit rambly, haha. I guess what I’m trying to ‘fess up to is that I don’t have a publication date for the next book in the Reborn series yet. I do know that there is likely going to be one novel (or novella) about Carly, one focusing on Anna, and two more about Siobhan. I have some ideas for titles, but none of this is set in stone. I’d like to have something out by the end of October–really just so I can have a Halloween release date–but I can’t make any promises yet. I’ll keep you posted. I don’t like making excuses for myself (but I’m going to, anyway, lol)…between my defense and graduating, the past few months have flown by, and things didn’t really slow down as much as I thought they would afterwards. We’re trying to get this other paper out the door, and I’m going to a conference next week, and looking for a job, and I’m moving soon–not sure to where, either, so I have to figure out that, too. Ugh.

So, first thing’s first: Relapse has been formatted for Smashwords and will release next week. Check. Next, I will be figuring out those other things and hopefully have more to say in the coming weeks.

Last but not least, Happy Memorial Day! Take some time out of your (hopefully) day off to remember the brave men and women who have served our country.

*****

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

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

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

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

 reborncoverbig

Checking In


Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Just a few quick updates and things, and probably the last post for awhile…or, at least, until after April 17th. Or maybe not, since I frequently get the urge to update social media and the good ol’ blog when I’m procrastinating. (But, seriously, if you catch me on here you should yell at me to get off and do my work.)

Last week was my spring “break,” over which I did work, although I didn’t get quite as much done as I’d planned. Instead my laptop crashed mid-week. As in crashed, to the floor, because it fell off my couch…onto carpet, and it really didn’t fall that hard, but apparently it was enough to screw up the hard drive. I knew it wasn’t good when the computer started beeping at me and wouldn’t reboot.

Anywho, my three-year-old laptop now has a brand spankin’ new hard drive, and I didn’t lose anything vitally important (like, you know, my dissertation) because I back that shit up. Although I am mad at myself for losing some book-related notes and things, which I thought I had backed up, but apparently I hadn’t gotten around to it in a while. It really wasn’t that much, and I was planning to make more detailed notes and get reorganized anyway…but still. Kinda mad at myself. Oh well. It’s like a fresh start…a clean slate. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Okay, we’ll get to the update part now, I promise:

1. For Kindle users: Because I like to play around with the prices of my books to see what will happen, Relapse will be on sale tomorrow, Wednesday March 18 through March 20 for $0.99! And it’s always free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Get it here. On a related note, Relapse is enrolled in KDP Select right now and has to be exclusive to Amazon until the enrollment period expires. Which brings us to…

2. For Nook and all other ebook users: I’ll make Relapse available to all other platforms Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

Also, thanks to everyone who downloaded Reborn for Nook and iBooks during my last promotion a few weeks ago. To be honest, I hadn’t sold many copies through these other platforms (not nearly as many as I have through Amazon, and I’ve heard similar stories from other indie authors). But I had never really tried the free promotion thing on Smashwords, and when I did it boosted sales way beyond my expectations. I mean, I know people like free stuff–I do, too–but still, I didn’t expect to give away 400+ copies. And, at this point, I really just want to reach more readers and build my audience, so every little bit helps! Plus, it boosted sales post-promotion, too. So, I just wanted to say thanks…and, if you find yourself with a free minute or two, I would love you forever if you left a review on Barnes & Noble! And now you have Relapse to look forward to in a few months! 😉

Checking In


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

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

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

rose quote

What’s Next?


This is sort of my overdue update/New Year’s resolution post. Although I haven’t really made concrete resolutions so much as general goals. I don’t like making specific resolutions because then I feel guilty when I don’t actually do them, lol. In particular, I want to share with you my plans for upcoming projects. Relapse doesn’t so much end in a major cliffhanger, but it definitely has some loose ends, so you may be wondering: What’s next for the Reborn series?

The short answer is: Er, I dunno…..

But that’s not entirely true. Hence, the longer answer:

I have lots of ideas for future books (yay!). Right now most of them are still jumbled up in my head, so I have to put them down into a plan/outline. I’ve known almost since I started writing Reborn where the series was headed, especially as far as Siobhan’s story is concerned. But I’ve since realized that I also want to focus on some of the other characters. For instance, I really want to go into Anna’s story in more depth. She may just get her own book, or at least be the principle POV in the next book. I also left things hanging with Carly at the end of Relapse, so I want to pick up her story again. Siobhan’s story obviously isn’t over, either–I’ve hinted that she has some special abilities compared to the other halflings, but we still don’t know why. Well, I know why. 😉

I just can’t decide how I want to split all of this up. I could alternate a few POVs within one book, like I did in Relapse, or I might write the third book about Siobhan and then a few novellas focusing on these other characters…and then maybe release a few things around the same time. I just really don’t know how I want to do it right now. My goal over the next few months or so is to get my notes organized and do some outlining to figure all of this out.

But I’m not allowed to write anything yet, haha. I have to concentrate all of that brain power/energy on finishing up what I need to in order to graduate first. I’m so close. Between school stuff and putting the finishing touches on Relapse and promoting it, I got kind of burned out at the end of last semester. For some reason, I didn’t think I would–I guess because the editing and marketing stuff, even though it’s work in one way, it’s also a lot of fun, at least for me. But by the time winter break rolled around, I was just…done, haha. I didn’t do or think about anything over break. I had two weeks off this time, which was nice.

By the way, the reason I’m not allowing myself to do the actual writing yet is because once I get into the zone, it’s hard to get out. I get really obsessed with it. I’m obsessed with this whole thing, anyway…it’s hard for me to resist doing at least something related to it, whether it’s updating notes or the Facebook page or whatever. I also have a growing pile of awesome books to read and review for fellow indie authors, which I’m starting to make a dent in. I think one of the best parts of this has been helping fellow writers with their projects and reading incredible books I might not otherwise have gotten the chance to read. It’s also forced me to read outside of my YA/NA/paranormal romance/urban fantasy comfort zone, which is good, too.

I seem to be rambling a lot, but haven’t actually recorded any goals yet. So, here we go:

1. Finish dissertation.

2. Find a big kid job.

3. Get caught up on reviews.

4. Continue to update book-related notes and do some serious outlining.

5. Solidify details of next project. And then tell all of you about it!

I guess my point is, there is definitely more to come from the Reborn series, so stay tuned. In the coming months, I’ll have a better idea of installments and release dates and announce those when I have it all figured out. Thanks for being with me at the beginning of this journey, and for your patience. 🙂 And please feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the comments.

*****

Relapse on Amazon.

Relapse on Goodreads.

Release Week Wrap Up


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

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

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

Reborn: The Encounter

Relapse: Prologue

Relapse: Chapter One

*****

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

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

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

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

Character Profile: Carly


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

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

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

*****

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Carly Dragonjac

Age: Early 20s

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

Major: Math

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

Species: Demigod

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

Other relationships:

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

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

Obstacles:

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

Strengths:

  • Intelligent
  • Loyal
  • Doesn’t give up easily

Weaknesses:

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

Hobbies:

  • House Manager for Gamma Lambda Phi

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

*****

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

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

“Oh, good! You’re not dead!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gulp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He pouts. “Kneel…please?”

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

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

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

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Relapse: Chapter One


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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tears sting my eyes. “I can’t—”

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What were you dreaming about?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure enough, the seat is empty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Right,” I mutter. “Going to class?”

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

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

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

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

“I’m still paying for that?”

“You double-crossed me—”

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

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

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

“I don’t think so.”

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

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

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

*****

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