March 18, 2015
Malay A. Upadhyay
I’ve only known Malay for a short while, but I can already tell you that this guy thinks DEEP. Like my favorite existentialists, Malay commits his fiction to the belief that individuals have the power to alter their existence but with unusual consequences. What lies beneath the surface is something that we, as human beings, cannot but help to toy with. In Malay’s case what lies beneath, what can be found just behind the curtain, is not one but two or more possible realities. The question always, is which one is the better one?
About the author
Malay A. Upadhyay grew up in the Eastern provinces of paradoxical
India. It was a childhood of anomalies – a different spacetime, where he could not understand a friend’s passion for books on one hand even as he wrote for school elocution on the other. Recently back to contemporary Earth, he conceived many of the techno-economic ideas described in his book – Kalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea – at Bocconi University in Milano. His Blog of a Fly subscribes to the elusively effervescent, ephemeral connection among beings across space and time. That is after all, a belief that underlies every piece of literature ever written.
The Book In His Own Words
Every choice we make leads to its own unique consequence. To change the consequence, therefore, one must travel back in time to change the choice. But what if such change, instead of altering our future, simply created another – one that came to exist simultaneously with our world?
This is a story of how one such moment of love led to two parallel futures; a story of how your choices have an impact far beyond the world you know; a phenomenon that we had sensed, and wished for, all along. Set in Italy, while one timeline scales a city of the future where not just people but also things like money evolve, the other cradles itself in an amalgamation of contemporary Europe with ingredients of a new age. Step by step, the story embarks on a journey in a parallel world that we all live in but rarely see.
Q & A
What inspires you to write?
Experiences, and the ideas they generate to understand how things around us function on different levels. I try to learn something every day and what I write intends more to document these than to simply entertain with a good story.
Do you listen to or talk to to your characters? (You aren’t alone 🙂 How do you interact with your characters while you are writing?
Certainly. My characters are a mix of three things: an overview to begin with, an inspiration from people I know, which gives them a shape, and their reactions which begin to unfold in each scene and situation as the story progresses, for it lends a level of detail that you could not have imagined at the beginning.
What advice would you give other writers?
There is no specific rule or method to go about a story. It just needs diligence for as long as it takes to write, and a balance of thought – to ensure that you go with the flow without losing sight of where you are going.
How did you decide to publish your books?* What influenced your to publish with a publisher or go the self-publishing route?
I researched a bit to understand how the process of submissions works. I was lucky to have found an agent – Emerantia Antonia Parnall-Gilbert of Gilbert Literary Agency – who was receptive of new authors and clearly told me how arduous the path was going to be, and the risks involved therein. I will simply suggest new authors to be patient in their search and analysis of online information, to check how the submission process works with publishers in the country they wish to publish in, and to verify publishers/agents by checking them in any of the renowned literary database.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?*
In the medium-term, I think it will strongly be determined by the digital innovations in place. Whether as a mix of sounds, imagery, weblinks or simply the way books are read, both the phenomenon of internet-of-things and the evolution of mobile gadgets will determine how ebooks change. However, the traditional paperbacks would continue to hold fort, albeit with changes in how they are discovered in online and offline stores.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I blog as a Fly. That’s one! The other is my habit of taking incessant notes as and when ideas arrive, most of which happen during a re-enactment of conversations that characters may have in the story.
What inspired the book?
The futuristic ideas for Kalki Evian came to me during my time at Bocconi University in Milano. However, I am more drawn towards subtle romance in any story. That is primarily because I find it to be the most natural form of conduct between characters. It lends the strongest incentives to their actions and gifts a sense of beauty to any plot under any circumstance. It is also what makes the characters human, and the story, regardless the genre, have a soul. That is how the plot took shape.
Thanks for stopping by.
For More Malay, look here:
Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/kalkievian
Bookgoodies link for Country-specific Amazon sites: http://bookgoodies.com/a/1625261888
Link to Book at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24919828-kalki-evian?ac=1
Link to Print Book at Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kalki-evian-malay-upadhyay/1121223836?ean=9781625261885
Link To Author Page On Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/malayupadhyay
Link to Author Page on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/malayupadhyay
March 2, 2015
Solstice Author Rachael Stapleton
Fresh off her blog tour, author Rachael Stapleton takes a well earned rest…digging herself out from under a mountain of late winter Ontario snow. I don’t expect her to rest for long. Ms Stapleton is working on the third instalment in The Temple of Indra Series. Here are books 1 and 2.
Reviewed December 2014
Rachael Stapleton’s Temple of Indra’s Jewel crackles with a vitality I’ve not seen since E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Centred on the adventures/misadventures of Sophia Marcil, a sexy librarian who divides her days between spirited time travels and harrowing investigations into “murders most foul”, Stapleton’s heroine is engaging, funny, and unapologetic in her pursuits. If she isn’t having sex, Marcil dreams about it. As a modern day woman in love with a hunky Irishman, or an 18th century princess of Monaco pursued by suitors either odious or dreamy, Marcil has a great time and so does this reader. Rarely have I come across a writer less self-conscious than Stapleton who’s breezy, in your face style tells it like it is. It’s not all fun and games. Indra has a dark side with abusive villains that have no compunction about pushing people off cliffs or depriving them of their eyes. This is the first in a series. Can’t wait to see what Sophia and Stapleton get up to in the next installment.
Get it Feb. 3, 2015 on Amazon or at Solstice Publishing
An Advance Review
The second instalment in Rachael Stapleton’s sprawling Temple of Indra Series, The Curse of the Purple Delhi Sapphire finds time-travelling erstwhile librarian Sophia Marcil celebrating her engagement to hunky Cullen O’Kelley. Trouble is, her engagement ring contains a centre stone that’s all too familiar—a purple sapphire from a suite of cursed jewels. Once on her finger, the ring takes her from Ireland to Toronto to England and back again. At various times occupying the body of a child, a malevolent teen and a heinous villain, who continues to track her and the jewel from the first book, Sophia is forced to think and act on her feet, with a little romance in between. Colorful and layered, Curse co opts an astonishing cast with shifting time frames and multiple points of view. The villain, nasty as ever, makes a dramatic entrance, spilling blood and driving this reader to wonder if the wretch will finally get what’s coming to him. But first, I had to figure out who he was masquerading as in the present. Plenty of twists, a sprinkle of humor and a whodunit with a surprising ending, Curse reminds me of great old story-telling, but with a fresh and vital voice. Hello again, Miss Stapleton.
February 28, 2015
Solstice Author David K. Bryant
The Solstice family of authors are to be congratulated for their community support–they are always there for each another. I should know, becoming one of the group a little under two months ago. It’s been a whirl wind with a learning curve that at times threatens nosebleeds. I nonetheless carry on, because I’ve got good friends behind me with lots of advice and positive vibes. David K. Bryant is one such cheerleader, and the pressure to live up to his expectations is exhilirating, because HIS stuff is that good. Have a look:
TREAD CAREFULLY ON THE SEA
FIRST BOOK BY DAVID K. BRYANT
Buy link: http://amzn.to/1zs9ebu
Step up the gangplank to an adventure tale set in the 18th Century, when the world made its money from conquest and slavery, pirates were the muggers of the sea lanes and life was fragile – with violence and disease never far away.
Tread Carefully on the Sea is the first novel by retired journalist David K. Bryant. Packed with historical atmosphere, it will take you on a voyage from Jamaica to the “New World” of the American colonies. The action comes as rapidly as the horrors in a ghost train, starting with the kidnapping of an aristocratic young woman on the night of her 21st birthday party by Captain Flint’s crew.
Amidst conspiracy, murder, cannonades, bare-knuckle boxing, disease and a devastating storm, there is the chance for all the main characters to reveal the better or worse sides of their natures. This is a swashbuckle, yes, but it’s also a story about the strengths and weaknesses of believable human beings.
“I’ve written an escapist yarn in the tradition of high adventure but in much more user-friendly language than the old classics,” says David K. Bryant. “It’s exciting, involving, a bit tear-jerking and is pure adventure and romance.”
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THE MAIN CHARACTERS
Captain Flint is a lonely man. His education, intelligence and wit leave him isolated amongst the pirate crew who sail with him. He feels more affinity with the hostages who are brought aboard his ship but he becomes trapped by the need to escape the consequences of the kidnap and the challenge to his leadership from one of his officers. Flint kills and schemes his way out of several dangers but there are two threats from which he cannot escape. The first is the failing health that he refuses to accept. The second is the scale of his own success as a criminal. He will never be left in peace to enjoy the proceeds of his piracy. In this story we learn what finally happens to him.
Captain Michael Townsend is the model of a disciplined and dutiful Navy officer. He is also a man haunted by something in his past; something that could ruin his future. The decisions forced upon Townsend by the kidnapping help him to resolve his inner conflicts but jeopardize the survival of those he wishes to protect. Townsend’s instincts are to put duty first but will duty deny him happiness?
Jessica Trelawny is the spirited niece of the Governor of Jamaica. She hates the conformity of 18th century society. Soon after she is snatched away from her home she puts her rebellious nature to work against the pirates. Captain Flint learns to admire her — and to regret that she ever came aboard his ship.
Jessica’s maid Libby becomes a prisoner simply because she is with her mistress at the time of the kidnap. She plays a major role in the fight-back against the pirates. Does she bring into use special talents inherited from her African origin — or is she simply a very clever woman?
Patrick O’Hara began life in the squalor of the Irish famine and by a fluke became an officer in the Royal Navy. He is thrust into a vicious bare-knuckle fight aboard the pirate ship. Whether or not O’Hara wins, the legacy of the fight is a power struggle threatening the survival of Captain Flint himself.
The Walrus is the huge black galleon stolen by Flint from a Spanish captain. It has a pivotal role in the narrative and a heart-rending demise when Captain Flint’s voyage of crime comes to an end.
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As the shirt was removed, her eyes came level with a huge tattoo of an eagle on his chest. Ridiculously, that gave her renewed terror, as though the tattoo was worse than the man. There was certainly menace from the eagle. It stared at her, its talons outstretched and its wings spread wide. It looked prepared to pounce right out of his chest and claw at her face.
The cry that would have brought forth a dozen soldiers was about to leave the governor’s tongue – but remained unleashed as the pirate warned: “I wouldn’t do that, Governor, for the sake of your niece’s health.”
“Did you get the name of the ship?” demanded the governor.
“It was the Walrus, Sir,” the messenger replied.
“Captain Flint,” said Trelawny, and for the moment that was all he did say.
One of the stories that had evoked within the Royal Navy a sneaking admiration for the pirate chieftain was that he had captured a big Spanish galleon and made it his own. Now Townsend could see in front of him the confirmation of that audacity. The big ship sat on the ocean like she owned it.
“Britain came to this part of the world to find riches. It was very successful in doing so but it had a major problem. It was shipping around so many slaves and so much merchandise that it didn’t have sufficient military resources to protect its new-found wealth. So what did it do about the policing of its trade routes and the protection of places like Jamaica? It found it convenient to encourage the people you would call pirates…You had better hope that the King never turns against the Royal Navy in the same way that he turned against the privateers.
Reeling and with blood dripping down his face, O’Hara got up on one knee, then the other. By the time he was on his feet, Hugh was charging forward like a stag in the rutting season. Another head butt was imminent.
Flint bent his knees and placed his hands on them so that his face came level with Townsend’s. “That’s it, then” barked the pirate captain. “You don’t agree to my proposal. I don’t agree to yours. Our fates are intertwined.”
She didn’t close her eyes and her brain pitifully tried to distract her from reality by registering that the gunman was left-handed. His finger was going back with the trigger. Spontaneously, she said a few words of her native Ashanti. The phrase had been taught to her by Queen Nanny: “Do not fear death any more than you fear life.” If Libby was going to die, she wanted those to be the last words she said.
Tread Carefully on the Sea by David K. Bryant
Buy link: http://amzn.to/1zs9ebu
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DAVID K. BRYANT – BIOGRAPHY
I started writing fiction after retiring from journalism and public relations. I suppose the books waited their turn during all the years I wrote articles, features, speeches and promotional material for other people. My career included running a district office for a daily newspaper, helping to introduce professional PR into the British police service and promoting a major parliamentary Bill for Margaret Thatcher’s government.
I live in Somerset, one of the nicest counties in England, and am blessed with a wonderful family. My wife Stephanie and I have been married for forty years. We are proud of our two children Matthew and Melanie, grandson Henry, son-in-law Jamie and daughter-in-law Fleur.
Tread Carefully on the Sea – the background
I was seven years old or thereabouts and I walked round the garden reading Treasure Island. When I got to the bit about the musket and cutlass battle I was so engrossed I walked into a tree. I was proud of my bleeding nose – I imagined I got it in a fight with a pirate.
What intrigued me most about that classic book by Robert Louis Stevenson were all the references to Captain Flint, a pirate king who was brutal, intimidating and quite likely an alcoholic – yet obviously very clever.
Without Flint there would have been no Treasure Island for he was the man who had buried the Treasure on the Island. Yet in that book we hear about Flint only in reminiscences from some of the protagonists because Flint is dead by the time the story begins.
Stevenson’s narrative tells us Flint took six men ashore with him to stash the loot. But, having apparently murdered the others, only Flint came back to the ship, giving him the security of being the only man who knew where the cache was.
There had to be a story around that. For me, Flint deserved a biography of his own. What’s more, it should answer all those other questions posed by Treasure Island. If, as Stevenson tells us, Long John Silver had lost his leg in the same broadside as Old Pew lost his ‘deadlights’, what were the circumstances of that broadside? And how come that Billy Bones, the first mate, came into possession of Flint’s map where X marked the spot of the buried loot?
It’s taken me a long time but now I have supplied my own answers. I hope you enjoy them and I hope you identify with the experiences of the other characters I’ve created when you read Tread Carefully on the Sea.
INTERVIEW WITH DEBORAH MELANIE
Thanks to my friend Deborah Melanie for interviewing me.
Deborah is at http://londoncatreviewsanddesign.blogspot.co.uk/
Can you tell us how to came to be an author? Has it been an easy or difficult journey?
It’s a journey I didn’t know I was going to make. I spent my career in journalism and public relations, writing reams of stuff for other people. During that time I made one attempt at a book, a pirate story. Many years later I read it to my young son. Then in about 2010 when he was in his twenties he asked to read it again. I was ashamed to give him the sub-standard original so I set about re-writing it. It became Tread Carefully on the Sea, which has now been published by Solstice. It’s my first published book – at the age of 68.
What motivates you as an author?
This should be a simple question to answer but it’s got me stumped. Hoping not to sound trite, I think I want to produce something that people will enjoy. I want it to be good in terms of making sense, being exciting, having some originality and a believable set of characters. I think it’s important to create characters who readers can associate with, feel their emotions, understand their faults – and like.
How do you deal with rejection and setbacks as an author?
I think I can boast that I deal with them well. I approached 370 literary agents with Tread Carefully on the Sea. But I wasn’t going to give up until there was nobody left to try. Then I started sending to indie publishers who took direct submissions and Solstice took me on. God bless Mel Massey-Maroni (my editor-in-chief).
How do you deal with writer’s block?
While it’s very frustrating, I think you have to wait. All of a sudden when your mind is totally elsewhere, you’ll get an idea of how to continue your story. I think it’s worth always carrying a notepad around and writing down thoughts whenever they occur to you. And if you can’t write at that particular moment because you’re driving or something, then keep repeating the idea inside your head so you don’t forget it.
Do you have any motivational books or websites which you find useful from time to time?
I am so glad there is a thing called the internet because it answers so many questions. Motivational books – The Odyssey, one of the oldest bits of literature around. It’s about a guy who spends ten years encountering all the dangers of reality and fantasy yet he never gives up.
Who has been the biggest influence upon your writing?
My dear brother Ray. He helped me get into journalism and he was an author himself. His main work was published in the 1980s and is still available from Amazon. It’s called Warriors of the Dragon Gold and is based on the Bayeux Tapestry. Ray died far too early.
Tell us about a typical day for you. Do you have any special routines which you strictly keep to?
I’m retired so my time is my own and a lot of it is spend hitting the keys I’m hitting now. I make a conscious effort not to leave my wife an ‘author widow’. But she’s very understanding and helpful with the books.
How have family and friends reacted to you as an author? Are they supportive?
Yes, they are supportive. They make constructive suggestions and have stopped me falling into a few traps.
Do you have a muse? If so, please could you tell us a little about him/her?
No, I don’t think so.
Going forwards as an author, what do you realistically hope to accomplish?
Recognition for being good. I’m not being conceited and saying I am good, but I would love the world to judge me so – and enjoy my work.
February 23, 2015
Solstice Author K.C. Sprayberry
Coming of Age
Coming of age books target teens transitioning from childhood to being an adult. Many of my YA novels deal with the psychological issues teens face as they make transition and take on challenges in an ever changing world.
Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in Northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond.
Contact K.C. Sprayberry:
Manic Readers: http://www.manicreaders.com/KCSprayberry/
Lost & Scared:
Shane knows they’re alive…
Keri isn’t so sure
When their younger twin siblings were murdered by their cold-blooded father, Shane and Keri’s own twin connection deepened. Their father shamed Shane and Keri into silence, and then went on to bring four more children into a house shuddering under the weight of his unpredictable temper.
Ten years later, what should have been a regular visitation turns into a horrific nightmare. Trapped in the Superstition Mountains with an addicted and dangerous father, Keri’s faith and determination wavers, but she knows she must save her brothers and sisters and return all of them to the home they love.
She now faces one insurmountable obstacle. He can’t afford to let her go.
The window in my bedroom that I share with my two younger brothers overlooks Main Street. I angle my head, so I can attempt to see where my twin is.
“See Keri?” Axe, my best bud, asks.
“Nope. But I do see a bunch of cars leaving.” I face him and grin. “That means she’s on her way back.”
“Great. We can leave now.”
“Looks that way.”
He and I race down the stairs. The normal noise of a large family during winter holiday break greets me, along with what can only be described as evil snickering. We come around the corner, shoving and pushing to see which one of us gets to the bottom first, with me gaining an inch on my bud.
“Yes!” I pump a fist and hop down the last three steps, the satisfaction of proving once and for all that I’m the best pass receiver on our team.
“I am so going to beat you one of these days,” he says.
We knuckle bump and clown around.
“Ready when you are, honey,” a strange female voice says.
“Huh?” I turn around.
A woman who looks like a million miles of bad road stands beside the open front door. Before I can ask who she is and what she’s doing in our house, a series of loud bangs precedes the sound of a cat yowling. That noise sends fear shivers through every inch of my body, and I don’t scare all that easily.
“What the heck?” Axe pushes me aside. “What’s going on, Shane?”
“Don’t know.” I point at the woman. “Who are you?”
“Jake’s honey-poo,” she purrs.
That response is wrong on so many levels, beginning with Jake is my dad’s name. The last time I checked he was still married to my mom.
“Who are you two handsome hunks?”
Gross. Sick. Yuck! She sounds just like Scooter when he catches a mouse.
Softly Say Goodbye:
Erin Sellers, an eighteen-year-old high school senior, hates teen drinking. She and her three friends – Bill, her guy, Shari and Jake – decide to use Twitter to stop a group, the Kewl Krew, from using their high school as the local bar. But the members of this group are just as determined to stop anyone from messing up their fun. Despite veiled threats to her safety, Erin continues her crusade.
To make matters worse for her, the stress of school and extracurricular work mounts and suddenly, shockingly, booze-fueled tragedy strikes. Erin is now under greater pressure as she spends all hours to produce a mural and other work to commemorate the death of a teen friend. Bill, Jake and Shari support her in all this…
But more tragedy lurks nearby… until it’s time to softly say goodbye.
The sound of liquid gurgling and a thunk distracts me as my art teacher, Mr. Janks, says he has a major announcement. An overwhelming urge prods me to confront the offender, but she’ll deny my accusation, even though everyone in the vicinity knows she just chugged some vodka.
Do it! My hands clench into fists. Tell Laura to quit!
High school drunks totally piss me off. The urge to deal with the offender overcomes common sense. I start to turn around to give her a piece of my mind but stare in shock at my teacher instead.
A week before Valentine’s Day, the most romantic day of the year, I want to throw my books into the nearest trashcan and run until my legs give out. Here I am, sitting in my art class, and Mr. Janks announces we have to do a term project but not just any term project. Oh no! We have to develop a major project like cleaning up the Rec Center’s playground and painting a mural on the huge cylinders kids climb all over. Worse, I swear I heard something about a video. Who has time to do all that and a video?
Julie Bond grew up in Europe as a military brat. She found her very first permanent home in Landry, GA as a teen going into high school. Almost four years later, she’s having pre-graduation jitters and flashing back to an incident of school violence she experienced in Europe. She attempts to convince herself that it can never happen again, but continually finds herself flashing back to that day no matter how hard she tries.
The people around her present any number of problems for Julie, and she’s hard put to keep from drowning under all the issues. Then Michael–a cool guy she’s had a crush on for the last three years—returns from traveling the US as a photographer, and Julie now has one more thing to distract her as she prepares to leave high school. One thing she firmly believes in: no one will ever invade her classroom with violence again.
Once again, the impossible happens. Once again, she’s in a classroom with a madman holding a gun. Once again, she must survive.
The German word for attention echoes through my head as I sit in the last French class I’ll ever take. In an instant, the comforting cream-colored walls of Landry High School vanish. I’m crouched under a table with tears streaming down my face. Three men and two women point huge, black automatic weapons at my classmates.
It’s not real! I’m almost eighteen – not five.
The thud of something hitting the floor brings me back to the present. A stick-thin woman with a nose resembling a buzzard’s beak fluffs her jet-black hair. She tugs at her flower print dress and stares right at me.
“Si content pour avoir votre attention, Juliette.”
Grrrr! Doesn’t she get how much I hate that name!
My hands curl into fists, until my chewed fingernails cut into my palms. This woman belongs in the present, but the sight of her dredges up my past – a past I thought was firmly hidden.
The event, as I refer to that time, happened almost thirteen years ago at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Terrorists determined to free one of their compatriots chose my kindergarten classroom for their hostages. They left scars I try very hard to bury, but they slip out at unguarded moments.
Where U @:
Trea Jones has always known the bitterness of bigotry and abject poverty. Her half-Cherokee daddy disappeared thirteen years ago on the pretense of getting milk. Mama has done nothing but mourn his loss, and she blames Trea for that. Now that she’s starting her senior year of high school, Trea hopes for something better, but she doesn’t hold out much hope.
She loosens up on some of her rules. Her guy, Dave, proves to her that she is worthy of everything the others have. The last day of classes prior to the winter break, she’s ready to share some stupendous news with Dave, but tragedy intervenes when her daddy texts while driving a bus. Trea is left wondering if she can ever be free of a curse that heaps a lot of bad luck on her whenever good things happen to her.
Where U @
The text is from my guy, Dave Woods. It’s a code, a way for him to help me feel better about everything. Mostly, it’s his way of showing me that he cares.
Kitchen. I roll my eyes. Cleaning.
Want to come do mine?
His return text sends me into a fit of giggles. That’s something only he can accomplish.
More code, and this one sends fear shivers up and down my spine. I am in no way ready for school, but I’ll have to go tomorrow, no matter what.
I text him back, slide my phone into a pocket, and open the door to a floor to ceiling pantry. To put away the last of the dishes, I have to step into a room that is narrower than a shoebox.
The same reaction overtakes me that I experience every single night, as soon as my foot moves through the doorway. Cold sweat rolls down my back. I can’t catch my breath, and the walls feel like they’re squeezing the life out of me.
I dump the dishes on their stacks and back out fast.
“I want to get on Facebook!” Mama screeches. “It’s my turn to use it!”
I race into the living room, the four steps seeming to take forever. My eyes widen in horror as I watch the laptop I’ve used since sixth grade swing back and forth between her and Granny. All three hundred pounds of my mama is putting up a darned good fight. Granny isn’t giving up, either, despite swaying and nearly stumbling as she tries to reclaim the computer that is supposed to be mine.
“Ya ain’t gonna take up all our time tonight,” Granny squalls. “Give me that computer. All my friends are awaitin’ for me to show up for our nightly chat.”
Dare I say something? Can I take control, and reassert ownership of the computer? Its banged and dinged case gives testament to the nightly arguments by these two women. They claim they raised me as best they can, despite our family having the worst reputation in town, and they have the right to take whatever I have for their own enjoyment.
Remember the last time. It took me a week to get the laptop working again.
The warning has no effect. Tonight is special in several ways.
A lot of my life can be defined by the expression “the way it is.” The first is my looks, from my daddy. His half-Cherokee blood popped out real good in me, from my mid-back length inky black hair, to my always tan skin. This leads to the worst kind of nastiness not only from more than a few people in town, but also from Mama when she’s in a foul mood.
The Wrong One:
One by one, the residents of Landry, Georgia gave up on finding Lyssa Winders alive. It had, after all, been fourteen years since she vanished. The men who invaded her home left behind the bodies of those she loved with all her heart. Only one person never gave up and still searches for Lyssa. Kyle Tinker battles his own demons from that night, when he hid like a coward instead of running for help. Their eighteenth birthday looms on the horizon, and Kyle is determined to bring Lyssa home.
Meanwhile, Kim Tinker is having trouble understanding her dreams about a pretty blonde girl—she has no idea that these dreams are of her life as Lyssa Winters. She also hears a guy who has recently started talking to her–in her head. All Kim wants is to get away from a family which hates her, but doing it safely is the one thing which eludes her.
On the day of the Freedom Festival, Kyle sees the girl he never thought he’d see again. And Lyssa finds the one person she’s protected for the last fourteen years on their shared birthday.
Four-year-old Lyssa Winders landed with a thump on her living room floor. Her bottom hurt from the hard wood, and her head ached from all the yelling and shouting she’d been hearing. Nothing made sense. She just wanted this to stop.
Her parents, Auntie Keisha, Nana Brandy, and Grandpa Monty kneeled in front of her. They had their hands on the back of their heads, and they looked very scared.
“Gonna talk now, Jack?” the stinky man asked. He had carried her out of the safety of her bedroom and dumped her on the floor. “Or do I hurt your kid?”
Stinky jerked Lyssa to her feet. She couldn’t run. He held her tight in front of his nasty smelling body.
“She’s just a baby,” Daddy said. “Don’t hurt Lyssa. Let her go. She won’t tell anyone anything.” He stared at her with scared eyes. “Right, baby? You won’t say anything.” She nodded, and her daddy faced Stinky. “See, she agreed. Just let her go.”
“Nope.” A man near her laughed.
She turned her head and saw her puppy. Rags crept out from behind the sofa. His tail stood straight in the air, and he made growly noises in his throat.
Lyssa swallowed hard. Rags couldn’t come any closer. Stinky had a gun. He had a horribly tight grip on her shoulder.
She looked around the room and saw two more bad men. They both had guns. One was Quiet—he hadn’t said anything. The other’s voice was low and growly.
Giving names to the bad men didn’t make it any easier for Lyssa. All she wanted was her safe bedroom, and her best friend, Kyle Tinker.
“Please?” Mommy begged. “Leave Lyssa alone. She didn’t do anything to you.”
Her fat tummy stretched out like one of her play balls, like Auntie Bec’s had done at the Freedom Festival. They were both going to have babies. Auntie Bec was at the hospital right now so the doctor could help her baby come out of hiding. Mommy wasn’t supposed to have her babies, a boy and a girl, Erich and Erin, until next week. Lyssa gulped.
Who will stop the bad men if Mommy and Daddy can’t?
Lisa is so ready for a break from the grueling first semester of college. Along with five other friends, she returns to Landry, and hopes to have nothing but fun. Within days, one of the group is the victim of a vindictive stalker, and Lisa herself is now in the man’s sights. No matter what she does, she can’t shake this person.
Fred has a little problem, but he figures he can take care of it himself, if he achieves fame with his folk rock band, Olney-Oak Lane Sounds. Then he happens to see this beautiful woman, who turns out to be just like every other woman he’s met. He takes care of her, and is immediately drawn to Lisa. No one will get between Fred and Lisa, absolutely no one.
On Christmas Eve, Lisa has to fight for her life and sanity after Fred kidnaps her. She turns out to be very different from the other women, in a way he never figured.
Christine Zephyr puts the keys to her mom’s Volkswagen Beetle in the visor, shoves her bag under the seat, and casts a worried glance at the three small white boxes on the passenger seat.
These started appearing a few days ago, balanced on the ledge of her bedroom window. She’d called the police, but couldn’t turn them in, until today. Now, she has to ask her friends’ advice before going to the police again.
“It’s not happening.” She cups her belly, feeling the tiny bump there, proving that she really is four months pregnant. “There’s so much that I have to tell them, especially how this isn’t the biggest mistake of my life.” Her smile is soft, loving. “Oh, Maia, my perfect little angel. I know that you’re a girl, even though everyone will say I can’t, but I just know you are. Jason already loves you as much as I do.”
An image of the guy she loves with all her heart rises up. She takes courage from it and looks at the boxes again. Christine wipes away an anxious tear and gets out of the little car, leaving the door open. She parked in the smaller lot at the lake, to avoid anyone who might be here. Not that anyone will be, with snow already falling, but she doesn’t want to run into anyone who might brave the weather.
Alex Starkey is a normal teenager with unfortunate initials. Initials which have been his nemesis his entire life. Initials matter when all the kids call each other by them instead using their names.
If that isn’t awkward enough, there’s Payne, who’s made a career out of bullying kids he thinks deserve it. Alex’s inits make him a target. Alex can deal with that on his own, until Payne crosses the line and tries to force him into doing things with long-range consequences. That’s when Alex stands up and faces him down.
The first Wednesday in August arrives not with the promise of a day spent in the Recreation Center’s pool. No lazy afternoon will float past while I play baseball or football with my buds. Band camp ended a couple of weeks ago, so sleeping until noon is no longer a luxury I indulge in.
Although I know what day it is, I revel in a dream – where I’m Mr. America. I flex my muscles, strut around a stage, and blow away the competition. This is my victory, my way of showing everyone that I’m the best.
All the problems in my life fly away. No one gives me any kind of trouble about my inits, they don’t dare.
Nobody messes with Mr. America.
A foreign sound invades my dreams; a constant blaring that demands I respond to its call, telling me that my summer fun has ended. Here I am, fifteen, and my future holds no fun at all.
My sixteenth birthday comes next May, and it can’t get here fast enough. Sixteen means a driver’s license, after I con Mom and Dad into a learner’s permit. Then again, that might be a little hard to accomplish. My brother, Roger, had to renew his permit, after failing his driving test not once, not twice, but a grand total of five times. Seems old Roger, known as RAS, just can’t get it right when the examiner tells him to use his turn signal.
Total football hero, and he can’t follow directions. No big info reveal there! RAS never does anything the way he’s supposed to, unless he can’t get around it.
How does that affect my ability to learn how to drive? My parents believe that RAS needs to finish getting his license before I can start driving. Life just is not fair.