New! Friday Featured Author: Shehanne Moore


First off, I hope everyone here in the U. S. had a lovely Fourth of July, and Happy Friday to all of you! I’m very excited to bring you this new weekly feature I’ve christened the Friday Featured Author. I’ve seen my blogger friends run similar features on their blogs (so if some of these questions look familiar to you, I may have borrowed some of them…) and decided it would be a great way to introduce my followers to some amazing people.

This week I’m super excited to bring you historical romance writer Shehanne Moore, author of The Unraveling of Lady Fury (which you can find on Amazon here). You can find her at any of the links below, and stay tuned for a teaser from Lady Fury at the end of the interview!

Blogs: Furious Unravelings, Where Worlds Collide, Shehanne Moore

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,

***

SL: What inspired you to start your blog?

s.mooreSM: That having Social Media was 30 percent of Etopia Press’s decision to sign an author and I had just been signed. That was a pretty big inspiration. A sharp learning curve too. But authors do need social media these days if they want to sell and it’s been fantastic getting to know so many people.

SL: When did you first start writing stories?

SM: At the age of seven. I designed this lovely cover for my book, The Hoare House Mystery. Of course I had no idea of places of ill-repute. This was a perfectly respectable house.  Very useful for firelighters too—the paper it was written on anyway, as was a lot of other paper I wrote on. I was always writing. When I was about sixteen my friends started reading some of my—what were probably long historical novellas—and they liked them, which was very encouraging. I still have these stories. I managed to save them from the flames.  But what was nice even then was it gave me an idea of what worked, what didn’t, what kind of characters tended to be the biggest draw.

SL: Who or what most inspires your writing?

SM: You mean what hottie? Seriously, I’m often attracted to places. I tend to start the story because of  flashed idea but after that places are important to me. Often when I am visiting somewhere I can’t help imagining the kind of people who would have lived there, that the place is speaking to me in some way. My forthcoming book is inspired by Glencoe one of the most beautiful places in Scotland and the scene of a massacre in 1692. It has such rugged beauty.

Lady FurySL: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

SM: Firstly be prepared for a hard journey. The rejection rate, even for people with a book out there, is enough to make you never put pen to paper. Behind every ‘overnight’ success story lurks years of fixing your teeth up to get the next kicking. But it is possible to get there, so secondly, study your market, study what publishers are looking for. I am not talking here about the next big thing. No-one can predict that. I am talking basics, for example, if the publisher says the word length is 75 thousand. That’s it.  Don’t go sending them your twice that tome just because you spent five years labouring and crafting every one of these words.  You will be in for a disappointment. I get into rows here about whether writing can be taught. Certainly you have to study the type of writing, the type of prose you are using for the type of book. You wouldn’t write a genre romance without a HEA, no matter how enticing, how different that may seem, not to mention, you’ve read some publisher’s blurb where they say they are looking for something new, something different. It’s not that kind of different they want.  Do you know what Goal, Motivation Conflict is? A lot of talented aspiring writers fall down on that one, painting beautifully crafted word pictures, going nowhere. Do you know about head-hopping?  That’s the kind of honing of the craft you need to do.  But my biggest piece of advice is never ever give up. To succeed you need to believe in yourself.

SL: Tell me about your current work-in-progress and what your plans are for it.

SM: I’m writing another historical romance, this one set in England in 1809 which I see as part of a series.  I have finished it but am just trying to make sure it is entirely in Etopia’s House Style. My editor may have already requested it off the pitch, I have been told that Etopia still reject 7 out of 10 manuscripts that have passed that first test, been pulled from the slush pile or are recommended by your assigned editor.  So I don’t assume anything. My editor still has to like it enough to send it up the line with a recommendation.

SL: If you could be bffs (best friends forever) with any fictional character, who would it be?

SM: Lol. Rhett Butler. Scarlett was bad to him!

SL: What is your ultimate goal as a writer?

SM: Probably to be able to keep having ideas, keep writing, keep selling. In some ways, getting that first book out is hard but knowing the one after and the one after are in the bag, so to speak, is what counts.

SL: What are some of your favorite blogs to follow?

SM: Ottoman Dandy (this is actually a very unusual fashion blog), Lady or Not, a brilliantly funny blog, so is A Day in the Life of Shareen A., while Catherine Cavendish is always interesting.

But I also love those of certain authors who give a lot back to other bloggers and authors, Susan Arden, Noelle Clark, Charley Descoteaux and Antonia Van Zandt.  While I accept that branding is all important, I don’t personally want clobbered with it.  So, for me, a turn off is an author or blogger who just wants to shout themselves. You see… I admire this generous thing you are doing here! It is something to thank you for.

SL: Why, thank you and your welcome, I’m happy to have you on here! 😛

SL: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

SM: Lying on a beach sipping marguerites…….not!

SL: If you could be anything you wanted (besides a writer lol), what would you be and why?

SM: I have never wanted to be anything else. There you go.

***

Fury sat down and dipped the quill into the ink. She detected the faintest trace of nerves. It must be the fact Thomas lay in the cellar. Why else would a man, so great, so stalwart, so worldly as Captain Flint be nervous of her?

“Well, yes,” she said, listening to the pleasing scratch of the nib on the soft paper. “Babies are not always made in a night. Of course, you wouldn’t know that, being you. It will take time.”

“All the more reason then to just get going. After all this time, sweetheart, you don’t know how eager I am.”

He strode across the tiled floor and the ink trailed a long dark path across the paper as he dragged her to her feet. Had it blobbed it might have been something to worry about. But she was very set on this. And calm. As calm as one could be having this man in her bedroom, knowing what was coming next out of dire necessity, her husband in a box in the cellar and her cast off, potential lovers on their way out the door.

“No, James.” She held a hand up between their lips. “There will be no kissing.”

“No kissing? Why in hell not?”

It displaced her calm to see him grin. She would have preferred that he was indignant. Especially as he was a man who thought he could settle all his arguments—with women anyway—with a kiss. But she kept her face cold, blank.

“Because.” In some ways she was cold. Cold with rage.

“Aw, come on Fury, didn’t you like my kissing? Hmm?” His breath, hot and male, brushed her fingertips. He wrapped his arms around her, splaying his hands across her back, so her hand might as well not have been there for all the protection it was.

But she was calm. Didn’t she have to get into bed with him after all? So, even the impulse to squirm was one she would squash. When she thought of all he had done to her, she would give him nothing. Not even the knowledge she found his proximity so unsettling that she sought to pull away.

“Your kissing was fine, in its way, I suppose. But kissing is a sign of affection.”

“How do you make that out?”

She knew exactly why he scratched his head. Their love-making had been torrid. It had been sensual. It had been shaming. And it had been absent of any affection. Certainly on his part. So, why on earth would a kiss be a sign of anything? To him anyway. She was the damn fool who had thought it had. Who even now was forced to concede the pleasure it would be to take her hand across his face to assist his understanding of her feelings. The impertinence of the damn man, the stinging ignorance.

“It just is.” She eased the distance between them a whisper. “So there will be none. Not now. Not at all.”

“All right then. Saves time. It means—”

“Rule two.” She saw his eyes freeze as he readied himself to yank off his shirt. She persisted anyway. Why not? In many ways she walked a tightrope here. If she paused it might be to her detriment. “You will be fully dressed at all times.”

“What? How the hell am I meant to—”

“James, I am sure you will manage. You managed plenty before. But I do not desire to look at your body before, during, or after. Nor in any shape or form wandering about this house in just your breeches. Is that understood?”

He dropped his hands from his shirt and glared, so he must have. “You wanted to look at it plenty before. In fact, it makes my head spin, just how often you—”

True. But that was then. “Rule three.” Clasping her fingers around the cool edge of the dressing table to create another inch of distance, she continued.

“Rule three? You mean there’s more?”

“I will not touch you in any place, intimate or otherwise. I will lie. You will perform.”

***

Thanks again to Ms. Moore for playing and to all of you for checking in with us! Come back next week for my interview with another one of my favorite people, Sara over at WhatANerdGirlSays. In the meantime, you can check out my interview from a while back with H. N. Sieverding, author and blogger over at Inside the Mind of a Fantasy Writer.

Book of the Week: The Immortal Highlander


I actually read The Immortal Highlander (Book 6 of Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series) a few months ago, but I never got around to reviewing it (a.k.a. going on an obsessed, fangirl rant), so it is this week’s book. You may remember that Adam Black and Darroc made my list of the Top 10 Bromances awhile back. But this post is dedicated to the entire book -every delicious page.

Summary: “BEWARE: lethally seductive alpha male of immense strength and dark eroticism, do not look at him. Do not touch him. Do not be tempted. Do not be seduced.

“With his long, black hair and dark, mesmerizing eyes, Adam Black is Trouble with a capital T. Immortal, arrogant, and intensely sensual, he is the consummate seducer, free to roam across time and continents in pursuit of his insatiable desires. That is, until a curse strips him of his immortality and makes him invisible, a cruel fate for so irresistible a man. With his very life at stake, Adam’s only hope for survival is in the hands of the one woman who can actually see him.

“Enter law student Gabrielle O’Callaghan, who is cursed with the ability to see both worlds: Mortal and Faery. From the moment she lays eyes on this stunning male, Gabby is certain of one thing: He could be her undoing. Thus begins a long, dangerous seduction. Because despite his powerful strength and unquenchable hungers, Adam refuses to take a woman by force. Instead, he will tease his way into Gabby’s bed and make her want him just as he wants her.

“Now, no matter how hard Gabby tries to avoid him, Adam is everywhere, invisible to all but her—perched atop her office cubicle in too-tight jeans, whispering softly from behind the stacks of the law library, stealing her breath away with his knowing smile…all the while tempting her with the promise of unimaginable pleasure in his arms. But soon danger will intrude on this sensual dance. For as Adam’s quest to regain his immortality plunges them into a world of timeless magic and the deadly politics of the Faery queen’s court, the price of surrender could be their very lives. Unless they can thwart the conspiracy that threatens both mortal and Faery realms…and give them a shot at a destiny few mortals ever know: glorious, wondrous, endless love.”

***

Before reading Immortal, I did read The Spell of the Highlander. (Yes, it’s Book 7. Yes, I’m reading them in reverse order. More about that later.) But I didn’t post anything about Spell because, although I enjoyed it and it still showcased Moning’s talent for expertly combining elements of romance, fantasy and mythology, it wasn’t my favorite of her books.

Immortal is a different story. (Pun intended?) It has the traditional formula of a romance novel, of course, but it lays the framework for her Fever series, which means it’s a little bit dark and full of meddling Fae. I was really disappointed when I read Spell and the Fae only cropped up a few times. Immortal was exactly what I was craving. In this case, our Highlander is actually a Fae trapped in his Highlander glamour when Queen Aoibheal punishes him by taking away his immortality. Gabby is a sidhe-seer and is the only one who can see Adam. She tries to resist him, but Adam Black is persistent in getting Gabby to help him so that he can return to his immortal form -and in getting Gabby for himself. Their dynamic is so entertaining, full of that typical love-hate tension, but the way Moning develops it, it feels fresh and exciting.

And in the background, we have Darroc trying to get Adam Black and his little sidhe-seer out of the way so that he can blinde-side Aoibheal and free the Unseelie from their prison. It was so much fun reading about Darroc as a Fae and the threads of what later transformed into Moning’s much beloved Fever series. I guess one could call it a prequel. I just love how Moning’s Fae are these majestic, epic characters operating in the background, tinkering (and sometimes more than tinkering) with the order of things on Earth, unbeknownst to humans. I don’t know why, I’m just obsessed with the idea, and I love how Moning incorporates it.

There’s an unexpected twist towards the end of Immortal, and also a few pages that made me really scared and nervous for the ending, even though it’s formula fiction and we know how it has to end. But still, it scared me. Not only does Moning nicely wrap things up, at the end there’s a scene that will just make you “awwwww.” Ugh, again, so perfect. I want to be able to write like her…

 Beyond the fantasy and sexual tension, there’s a nice touch of “reality” in it, so to speak, because Gabby’s dealings with and feelings for Adam go against what she was taught as a young girl -go against everything she’s read about Adam in her family’s books. Namely, that her fantasies about a sexy Fae prince are wrong -that the Fae are to be avoided, and Adam Black is especially to be avoided. This element actually makes what is definitely a fantastical book feel a little more down-to-Earth. We have a young woman who is learning firsthand the truth about a person she was taught to fear. Sure, some of what her family said about the Fae is true, but there’s much more too it than that, and some of it stemmed from their own prejudice.

So, what did I not enjoy about this book? That would be nothing. Seriously, nothing. It was epic, and it made me want to read the Fever series again. Which needs to happen this summer. After I get done reading all of the other books on my summer reading list…

As a last note, although the Highlander books aren’t as connected as the Fever series -each book is distinct and focuses on a different couple -characters from past books do show up in the later books, mostly brothers Drustan and Dageus. I read Spell and Immortal first because they were available at the library, and she gives you enough background information that you don’t get confused when she brings in these old characters. So I personally don’t think it’s super necessary to read them in order; however, this would probably bother many of you, so of course go ahead and read them as they were meant to be read. 😉 My OCD did kick in and I realized I should read them in some order, so it looks like that will be reverse order. No, really, I have The Dark Highlander (Book 5) sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read…

Upcoming Books of the Week (in no particular order): The Dark Highlander, The Gathering (Kelley Armstrong), City of Bones (Cassandra Clare)

 Related Reads:

The Urge to Write: Isn’t it Bromantic?

The Urge to Write: Sunday Showdown: Fever versus Iced

The Readist: On Saying Goodbye to Your Favorite Characters

LittleDallilasBookshelf: Darkfever

Pure Textuality: Burned release date

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

Dirty Words


Soil? Soot? Mud?

No, not those dirt-y words.

I can’t even believe I’m writing this as I’m doing it. This post is rated M for Mature and N for Naughty.

I started to ponder this because I’m currently (finally) reading one of Karen Moning’s Highlander books. (I don’t know which number it is…but I know it’s not the first one. So it looks like I’m going to end up reading them out-of-order.) As much as I love Ms. Moning’s work, she uses the word “impaled” (for, you know) a lot in this book. And for me it’s just not a sexy word.

I’m not being prudish…there are other great words and phrases out there to describe sex, whether it your characters are making love or just plain ol’ fucking. Depending on what atmosphere you’re creating, a man can enter a woman, ease/slip/slide/slam into her, pump in and out of her, grind against her. (I’m sure you can think of other/better ones?) But impale just sounds painful.

And what should we call the tool with which he pleasures/takes/fills her/brings her to the brink? (She could also shatter/dissolve/unravel/come undone.) Although there are many rather obvious choices, sometimes the possibilities sound silly as you’re reading. On the other hand, for a smutty book penis sounds a bit medical. How about his cock/manhood/hardness/shaft? (I can’t believe I’m coming up with these without using the thesaurus on Microsoft Word. The smut is just pouring out of me tonight.)

Wet is of course often used to describe when the woman is ready for her man to impale her. But use its synonyms with caution because they can end up sounding icky rather than sexy: moist/damp/clammy (wait, no, don’t ever tell your man that you’re clammy for him.)

Romance writers: What do you think? What are the best words/phrases to use when writing about s-e-x?

Working Title: “Title”


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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

“People? From where?”

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

“Just what?” Dewdrop pressed.

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

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

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

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

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 >>

Sunday Showdown: Meg Ryan v. the 22-Year-Old Cocktail Waitress


After a busy week, yesterday I retreated to the warm and fuzzy black hole that is my couch with a serious case of the sniffles and popped in a few of my favorite movies – among them, my ultimate favorite romantic comedy, “You’ve Got Mail.” And now to go along with my cold, I have a serious case of the 90s.

With this post, I know I risk echoing Mindy Kaling’s rom com-obsessed character on her new show, “The Mindy Project” (which is awesome, by the way.) And I realize that nostalgia fills us with a deceptive longing for times gone by: Although we’d like to think so, music, movies, TV shows, etc. probably weren’t really any better back in the day, as much as we like to think so. Ascertaining that the pop culture of the past is better than today’s gives us a sense of superiority over more fledgling generations.

Despite this, I would like to argue that rom coms were, in fact, better in the 90s (at the risk of sounding like an old fart).

1. Meg Ryan

First off, I love Meg Ryan’s rom coms. I know that type-casting her in these roles probably cost her other, more challenging roles, but she is the quintessential 90s rom com heroine. Although “You’ve Got Mail” is my favorite, other adorable movies with her are “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Kate and Leopold,” and probably also “When Harry Met Sally,” which I admittedly have never watched (although I want to, just haven’t gotten around to it). Kathleen Kelly is beautiful, a bookworm and a career woman. She owns her family’s book store, Shop Around the Corner, and has aspirations to write children’s books. When her privately owned bookstore is threatened by the big, bad chain store Fox Books (ironic from today’s perspective since even those have been trumped by Amazon), she “goes to the mattresses” to try to save her business. Ultimately, she must gracefully close the Shop Around the Corner, but she emerges from this journey as an even more ambitious, self-motivated woman. Kathleen Kelly is a smart and strong leading lady, and “You’ve Got Mail” itself is as witty and intelligent as rom coms come. And of course, the dynamic between Ryan’s character and Tom Hanks’ Joe Fox is utterly adorable. Other pluses: Dave Chappelle plays Hanks’ bff, and Greg Kinnear’s technophobic Frank Navasky owns about a zillion typewriters.

2. The 22-Year-Old Cocktail Waitress

In case you were born circa 1995 or so and aren’t familiar with the sheer awesomeness that is “You’ve Got Mail,” the title of my post derives from one of Kathleen Kelly’s quips in response to finding out Joe Fox’s true identity: “‘Joe’? ‘Just call me Joe’? As if you were one of those stupid 22-year old girls with no last name? ‘Hi, I’m Kimberly!’ ‘Hi, I’m Janice!’ Don’t they know you’re supposed to have a last name? It’s like they’re an entire generation of cocktail waitresses.”

Although I have nothing against the rom com actresses of, ahem, my generation (I am in twenties), there is something lacking in more recent rom coms. Sure, they’re cute…I would watch “How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days” and “Letters to Juliet” more than once. But others, like the disappointing movie version of Sophie Kinsella’s witty book “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” depicts the main female character as the vapid, materialistic cocktail waitress suggested by the quote above. And, as much of a fan I am of the rest of the franchise, the second “Sex and the City” movie catered to a very similar idea. Gone are the ambitious career women who are able to balance work, life and love; in their place are ladies whose penchant for buying shoes they can’t afford isn’t really that funny anymore. And no, it’s not really Isla Fisher’s fault, but a combination of crappy writing and gearing of script towards an audience they believe exists due to the shenanigans of those around my age who are in the public eye (I’m looking at you, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian).

 

Or maybe it’s Sunday night, I’m still sick and hopped up on cold medicine and thinking way too deeply about this.

So, what do you think of 90s (or even 80s) rom coms versus those of today? Which are your favorites, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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