Teaser Thursday- Where No One Knows

“You okay?”

I hadn’t even heard the waitress walk over to me. Or sensed her. If I was going to take care of myself, I had to pay more attention. I forced a smile and turned away from the window. “Yeah. Just really hungry. And thinking too much.”

“It happens.” She set down a huge glass of cola and a wrapped straw. “I figured you’d probably want this while you’re waiting for your food. So you’re stopping off the bus. Where are you heading to?”

“East.” The word popped out without me even thinking about it, and right away I knew it was the right answer. I’d already come east from home to this place. West would either take me home or to California. I couldn’t go to the first and had no interest in the second.

“You have family back east?” she asked.

“Hey, Sadie, more coffee,” one of the guys at the counter called.

I bristled a little. He could have at least been polite to her.

Sadie didn’t seem to mind. “Be right there, Jimmy. Hold your grapefruit.”

The guy laughed, and so did most of the other people at the counter. Sadie shrugged at me. “Sorry. Have to go to work. God forbid these guys don’t get their caffeine. I’ll be back in a few with your food.”

“No problem.” I was glad she’d been distracted. It saved me from figuring out how to avoid answering her question.

My stomach growled so loudly everyone else must have heard it. The little packets of jam on the table looked pretty darn good, and I picked one up. It would have been better than no food at all.

Before I could open it, Sadie set a plate in front of me and smiled, then walked away. The burger smelled way better than jam, and I had to force myself not to wolf the whole thing down.

I took my time eating, partly because I didn’t want to make myself sick by chowing down too fast and partly because the sooner I finished, the sooner I’d have to go back to the motel. My stuff was there. I’d barely been able to get it out of my mother’s house, and I wasn’t about to lose it now because of some creep with grabby hands. Before I went back, though, I had to make sure I was calm enough not to burn the place to the ground.

Sadie started toward my table a couple of times. Each time, someone at the counter or one of the other booths called to her to bring them something before she had a chance to say anything to me. The constant interruptions would have been funny if I hadn’t wondered whether I made them happen somehow. I’d done it before. Wanted someone to do something, or not to do something, so bad I could almost taste it, and then it occurred. I hoped I hadn’t really made them do anything. I didn’t want to have power over anyone. Too many people with power abused it.

I finally finished eating. When I stood up, Sadie came over. “I’ll take care of the plates and stuff, hon. You should get out of here. Your food’s covered.”

“I have money.”

“You need to go.”

I looked into her eyes to argue again, and an invisible force shoved me into her head. Suddenly I saw what she saw. Someone was hunting for me. More than one person. They weren’t close yet, but the longer I stayed in town, the more likely they’d find me. And the longer I stayed in the diner, the more likely someone would remember me and be able to tell my pursuers where I was.

My heart pounded. The people’s faces weren’t visible in the image I picked up from Sadie. I had a pretty good idea, though. Gene and his buddies must have decided on the eye-for-an-eye option after all.

They wouldn’t give up until they found me. Which meant I wouldn’t be safe anywhere. The farther I went from home, the less chance they’d succeed, but I would never be completely safe.

Teaser Thursday- Reunion

From an unpublished novel.

Mom started to argue but took a breath instead. “It’s your choice.” Then she spotted the envelope. “Oh, good. I was hoping that would come today.” She looked at me. “Laura, you weren’t planning to open that, were you?”

I was really good at looking guilty. Not so good at lying. “I thought about it. Why are you getting a letter from there?”

Mom opened the letter and handed it to me. “Since you seem to think you have to know. Just don’t say anything to Adam.”

She sounded angry but I sensed she wasn’t. It had been hard for her not to tell my brother and me about this. I read the letter out loud. “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Walker, I’m so pleased that you’ve chosen to rent my cottage for a month. I will meet you there at noon on June twenty-second. To reach the cottage…” I trailed off, not seeing the point in reading the directions, and looked at Mom. “We’re going to be there for a month?”

“It won’t be that bad, Laura. We’ll be right on the lake, so you’ll be able to go swimming, and there are other kids your age around-”

“Mom. I didn’t mean it was a bad thing.” It was a wonderful thing as far as I was concerned. My grandparents lived near where the cottage was. Better yet, Dominic and Phil would be nearby. “Mom, do you think I’d be able to visit Dominic while we’re up there?”

“That’s the one who stayed here overnight back around Christmas?” she asked. I nodded. “I don’t see why not. Do you know where he lives?”

“Not exactly. Somewhere in the city near Grandma and Grandpa.” I wasn’t worried about finding Dominic. When I’d first gotten to know him I’d discovered that if I concentrated on wanting to see him, he’d find me. I hoped it would still work. Dominic had become the closest I had to an older brother and I hadn’t seen him since Christmas. Plus I wanted to see Phil and I wasn’t sure I’d dare to go to his house without Dominic.

“Well, we’ll try to arrange it.” Mom took the letter and put it back in the envelope. “Didn’t you have other friends up there last summer? Grandma said you’d met a few people. We’ll try to make sure you get to see all of them.”

I hadn’t really made any other friends there but I didn’t think I should tell Mom that my only friends were two guys who were more than three years older than me. “Yeah. That’d be cool.”

“Did you have…” Mom shook her head. “Of course you didn’t have homework.”

“Actually, I did. History. Wait, don’t tell me. Better get started so I’ll have it out of the way.”

Mom pretended to glare. “You know, just because you’re psychic doesn’t mean you know everything.”

“No kidding. If I knew everything I wouldn’t have to do the research for this history paper.” I went into my living room and got my backpack, then went to my room.

The Waiting Game

Another book has been submitted. And now the waiting begins again.

Waiting is a necessary part of the whole “being a writer” thing. You have to wait for the book to be finished before you can revise and edit it. Of course, in that case, you aren’t just waiting. You’re writing. At least I hope you are, because if not, the book isn’t ever going to be finished.

You have to wait until you have the revisions and edits finished before you can submit the book. Once it’s submitted, you have to wait to find out if it’s been accepted. If it’s been accepted, you have to wait for edits. And cover art. And other things the publisher will send you. You have to wait what might seem like a really long time for the book to see the light of day.

If the book is rejected, you have to wait to find another publisher or agent to send it to. Or wait until you decide not to try it again. Or wait until you do another bunch of revisions and edits to try to address whatever made the first publisher or agent reject it.

When it’s published, you have to wait for reviews and royalty statements and checks.

A lot of things in life are all about waiting. Writing isn’t any different. Every good thing takes time, and having a book out there in the world with your name on the cover is definitely a good thing!

One Publisher Basket…

Currently, I’m only working with one publisher. They’re a great publisher, but sometimes I get a little worried about having all my eggs in one basket, so to speak. On the romance side of the publishing business, I’ve been watching a number of publishers, including two that were at the forefront of digital romance publishing, go out of business, and take authors’ dreams, money, and books along with them.

I haven’t seen that as much on the YA side of things, other than YA imprints of the aforementioned romance publishers. And I know my current publisher is solid. But I was burned by three of the publisher closings I mentioned above, and two of those were ones I thought were solid. So I’m a little more cautious than when I first started out.

I definitely plan on writing and submitting things to my current publisher as long as they let me. But I’m thinking it might be a good idea to try getting in with another publisher as well, maybe with the book that was recently rejected. (I can fix things…)  That way, I wouldn’t have everything in one place.

Then again, with so many small presses and digital publishers falling apart lately, I don’t know whether I would be able to find another publisher that I could count on.

It’s something to think about, especially because I really like the book that was recently rejected and I’d like to keep trying to find it a home. But I’m not going to make a snap decision about anything.

What I’m Working On

I’m currently working on revising another of my out-of-print novels to send to another publisher. This one is interesting to work on. It’s different from most of my books.

For one thing, there’s sexual content in this one. Not explicit, but it is there on the page, rather than just being mentioned or not happening at all. And it happens between a 15-year-old and someone who claims to be in his early 20s. (It’s portrayed as being predatory and unhealthy; that’s part of the point of the book.)

For another, this is a direct tie-in with one of my adult romance series (which is also now out of print). I had a series about the world’s only gay vegan werewolf and his mate, the pack Alpha. Something in the Alpha’s backstory struck me as good YA fiction fodder, so with the publisher’s agreement I wrote the book and they published it under their children’s/YA imprint. The official story was that “Jo Ramsey” was a fan of “Karenna Colcroft” and got Karenna’s permission to write the book.

(Some people still don’t realize that I’m both of those authors…)

The book has its disturbing bits. I remember how badly I triggered myself writing the scene where the main character, Tobias, realizes that the older guy he’s crushing on actually intends to harm him. But it also has what, in my opinion, is some pretty good writing.

I don’t know what the future holds for the book. I will be submitting it to a new publisher, but there’s no guarantee they’ll accept it. It remains to be seen. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the revising.

Teaser Thursday- Dolphins in the Mud

“You said you cared about me,” he said in a warning tone.

I refused to let him intimidate me. There wasn’t much he could do to me or himself in a hospital room. If he tried, all I would have to do was open the door and yell for help. “I do care. That’s why I’m saying this. You’re going to get better, physically and mentally, whether you want to or not.”

As soon as I said it, I knew that was bullshit. Of course he wouldn’t get better if he didn’t want to. Even if they put him on meds and forced him to go to therapy, he still had to want to be healthier in order for anything to work. Maybe he wouldn’t figure that out.

“No one can make me do anything I don’t want to do.” He laughed. “I sound like a little kid. I used to say that to my mother. It pissed her off.”

“Yeah, I don’t think parents like it when their kids say things like that.” I glanced at the door, hoping it would open and Mr. Silver would walk in and say it was time for me to leave. This conversation was going around in circles, and I was starting to feel even more uncomfortable. I had no idea whether I was saying any of the right things to him, or if I was making everything worse.

“I do want to get better,” he said. “Having broken bones sucks. So does being crazy.”

“You aren’t crazy,” I said. “Bipolar isn’t crazy. It just means there’s a glitch in your brain.” That was sort of how Dad had described autism to me after Cece’s diagnosis. I figured it applied just as well to bipolar as it did to autism. “That’s what the medication is for, to fix the glitch.”

“Mom won’t come to see me.” Another couple of tears headed down his cheeks. “Dad said she told him she’s tired of me playing games, and she isn’t going to let me manipulate her.”

It ticked me off that Noah’s father had told him that. Bad enough that his mother had said it. Noah didn’t need to know. Mr. Silver should have kept it to himself. I didn’t think either of Noah’s parents understood what was going on. All they knew was their kid had something wrong with him. That made them feel like bad parents, and they couldn’t see how hard it was for Noah.

Just the way Mom had always been with Cece.

“Maybe she’ll come see you while you’re in the other hospital,” I said.

He shook his head. “She thinks I’m faking all this. That I just jumped off the stairs to get attention, and that there’s nothing wrong with me. She wants Dad to bring me home and keep a better eye on me or something.”

“That stinks.”

“Yeah.” He looked like he was close to crying. “Mom and I’ve never gotten along anyway. She always complains about how much work I am. That’s why she doesn’t always travel with Dad and me.” He sighed. “You don’t want to hear all that anyway. I’m going to be in the hospital for probably a couple months, Wayne said. Are you and I still…?” He trailed off, like he didn’t know what to call our relationship.

Neither did I anymore. “We’re still friends,” I said. “Other than that, I can’t answer you. I don’t know.”

“Yeah, I figured that’s what you’d say.” He forced a smile. “That’s okay. When I’m all sane again, we can talk about it, right?”

“Sure.” I didn’t know if talking would change anything. Getting rid of the mental image of him falling to the floor would take a long time. Even if he got the help he needed, I doubted I’d ever be able to trust that he wouldn’t do something like that again.

I already had a sister who needed me to help take care of her. I couldn’t handle having to take care of a boyfriend too. But I didn’t tell Noah that. I didn’t want to set him off again.

“Cool.”

The door opened and Mr. Silver came back in. “Noah, you should get some rest. Chris, thank you for stopping by.”

He sounded kind of pissed, so I guessed Dad’s conversation with him hadn’t had any effect. I was grateful that he’d interrupted, anyway. “No problem. Noah, I’ll talk to you sometime, okay?” That was the most commitment I was willing to make. I didn’t know when he’d be out of the hospital, or whether he’d go back to Wellfleet afterward. Or whether I would get past what he’d done enough to be around him again where there weren’t doctors and nurses ready to step in if something happened.

“Yeah, sometime.” Noah lay back and closed his eyes.

I left. I had nothing more to say.

Teaser Thursday- Midnight Chat

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I made it through the rest of Friday. At work, Talia and I were friendly when we had to talk to each other. When we first got there, she asked me again why Rob and I hadn’t been in class, and I told her all I knew was that Rob had gone home. She let the subject drop. She probably didn’t even care what happened to Rob. She just wanted to make sure I didn’t blame her for anything else. For the rest of my shift, I avoided her as much as I could.

After work, I watched TV with Dad and Olin, but I gave up after a while because my brain wouldn’t shut up long enough for me to pay attention to the shows. I was stuck again on the news about the kid in Wyoming. I hadn’t heard any more about him, so I still didn’t know why he’d done it, assuming anyone had managed to find out.

Maybe he’d been like Rob right up until he picked up the gun. Maybe people had told him to toughen up or had said he didn’t need help. His friends and family might not have noticed anything was wrong, or they might have wanted to believe they were imagining it. Just like I wanted to believe Rob was okay.

If Olin hadn’t been around, I would have talked to Dad about my concerns. Then again, he might have called Rob’s parents, which wouldn’t have done Rob any favors. Even though he knew how Rob’s father and Lee-Anne were, he probably still believed they would help Rob if they found out other people were worried.

I knew better. I didn’t want to think about what Rob was dealing with at home tonight. His dad was probably going off on him again, ranting and not giving Rob a chance to defend himself. And of course Lee-Anne would be backing up everything Rob’s father said.

I finally went to bed around eleven, but I couldn’t sleep. For over an hour, I lay with my eyes closed, trying and failing to shut off my thoughts.

My phone buzzed, and I immediately grabbed it. It couldn’t have been anyone other than Rob, even though I didn’t understand why his parents had given him back his phone so soon.

Hi, Mira.

Hi. Are you okay?

His answer took a couple of minutes to show up.

Define okay. I’m home. Father and his wife doing usual. Blaming me. I whine. I’m weak. Same old. Can’t leave my room but still want to see you tomorrow. They gave back my phone at least.

Good. I wanted him to come over too, but I didn’t see how if he wasn’t allowed to leave his room. Then again, since his parents had changed their minds about his phone, maybe they would change their minds about this too.

You want to see me, right?

Yeah. Of course.

Just checking.

He shouldn’t have needed to check. He knew I was his friend. Nothing would change that.

Are you still there?

Yeah. Sorry. Thinking. I hadn’t even taken a minute to reply. He was twitchier than usual. I couldn’t blame him, but if he wasn’t going to give me time to type my answers, it would get annoying.

I’m thinking too. Need to find a way so stuff like this stops happening.

My chest tightened. I sat up and tried to breathe more easily. He hadn’t said anything threatening. Only his usual thing about wanting to stop the bullying. But all I could think was that the kid in Wyoming might have said the same kind of thing.

The news story had gotten to me. That was all. I had to let go of it.

Release Week- Midnight Chat

My newest novel, Midnight Chat, releases tomorrow from Harmony Ink Press!

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The story was inspired by a song…my own song, “Midnight Chat.” (Available on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify… links at the end of the post.) I wrote the song nearly two years ago now, after a too-long drive through rush-hour traffic to the home of a then-friend who was working with me on some music things. During that drive, I was listening to my Spotify playlist, and one of the songs, “I Don’t Like Mondays,” caught my attention.

I started musing about the subject of that song, someone who committed a school shooting apparently out of sheer boredom. And then thought about an incident about a year and a half earlier in which a girl turned a friend of hers in to police after he threatened to destroy a school from which he’d been expelled.

The words started rolling around in my brain, and by the time I reached my friend’s house, I had composed nearly the entire song. And not long after, I had the seeds of the novel firmly in my brain, with Mira MacDonald practically shouting at me to tell her story. So I did.

Recognizing when a friend of yours needs more help than you can give is difficult for anyone. When the friend takes a course that could lead to tragedy, it’s even more difficult. Mira faces some tough decisions in trying to help her best friend Rob cope with bullies, neglectful parents, and an undiagnosed mental illness, and the ultimate choice she has to make is something no one should have to decide. But she makes it nonetheless.

I hope you’ll check out the book, the trailer (which will be up later this week, and includes the song), and the single, on Amazon.com, iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify.

Teaser Thursday- Totality

From the never-published 8th book of the Reality Shift series.

On Thursday afternoons, Shanna and I usually got together for her healing lessons. She’d shown an aptitude for energy healing and had become my first—and so far only—student shortly after we’d met. We didn’t always have lessons on Thursdays, though; sometimes the time we spent together ended up being conversations about things that were concerning her, and other times she had a healing session herself. But all of it counted as part of her learning.

I knew those afternoons were important to her, and I tried to keep the time available even if something else was going on. I’d arranged my work schedule to allow Thursday afternoons off. I couldn’t do anything about holidays, of course, but the week of Thanksgiving she and I had met on a different day, and I had no reason not to do the same this time. “This afternoon will be fine,” I said. “Do you have anything in particular that you want to work on, or just continue studying healing?”

“I’m not sure yet,” she said slowly. “I thought about asking you if I could talk to Tethys, but I’m not sure I have anything specific to ask her.”

“Well, if you come up with some questions between now and this afternoon, let me know,” I replied. “We could definitely do a session; I haven’t channeled for anyone for a while, and I could use the practice.”

“Okay.” She sounded reluctant, and I didn’t expect her to come up with any questions. She always seemed frightened when she spoke to Tethys, though Tethys was certainly not frightening. But I could understand why talking to a being of light intimidated Shanna; she’d had enough trouble believing she was worthy of talking to the spirit guides and light being who worked with her. “Do you want to get some breakfast?” she asked.

“I brought fruit bars,” I said.

Shanna grinned. “Then can we go eat them?”

“Absolutely.”

We went into the cafeteria. I chose to keep quiet about how pleased I was that Shanna had asked for one of the vegan fruit bars I almost always brought with me for breakfast. I’d been bringing two, one for me and one for Shanna, since she and I had become friends, and she’d gone from refusing to take one in September to actually asking for one now. For her, that was huge, since she’d learned from the way her parents had treated her that she should never ask for anything. If I said anything, though, she would be embarrassed, even if what I said was intended as a compliment.

We sat at our usual table in the cafeteria and I took the fruit bars out of my backpack. Shanna had just opened hers when Ken came over to the table. “I want to talk to you, Shanna,” he said, sounding angry.

“I don’t want to talk to you.” Shanna didn’t look at him, but the look in her eyes and her energy field indicated it was out of anger rather than the fear she’d shown around him before.

“Then just listen,” he ordered.

“I don’t want to listen to you either,” Shanna said firmly. “Let me try this in a way that you’ll understand. I don’t want you anywhere near me. Leave me alone.”

“You don’t have to be that way,” Ken said in a wheedling tone. “Shanna, we were friends before. Maybe I should never have asked you out; I think that screwed up our friendship, and I’m sorry about that. I’d like to be friends again.”

Now Shanna looked up at him. I ate my fruit bar, trying to act as though I wasn’t paying attention to their conversation, but I was ready if Shanna needed help. “You want to be friends?” Shanna said incredulously. “You tried to convince everyone that you dumped me because I whine too much. You tried to tell them that there was something seriously wrong with me and that was why you didn’t want to see me anymore. I broke up with you because you were too pushy and too jealous, and you tried to make everyone think it was my fault. And you think I’d be friends with you again after that?”

“No one believed me,” he pointed out.

“Because you were lying, and everyone knew it,” she said, her voice rising. “Everyone had seen how you were acting toward me. Just get away from me, Ken, before I say something I’d rather not say.”

Teaser Thursday- Cutting Cords

From book 3 of the now out-of-print Reality Shift series.

I arrived at school before the custodian unlocked the doors, so I sat on one of the benches outside to wait. Since the beginning of school, I’d become used to hanging around out there in the mornings. Some days, they’d unlocked the doors by the time I arrived. Depending on how the nights went, sometimes I reached the school too early. I didn’t know what I’d do when the weather turned cold. Waiting outside during our winters wouldn’t be pleasant.

I’d only been there a few minutes when Jonah showed up, walking up the path with his long, dark brown ponytail hanging over his backpack. The light in his blue eyes showed even from a distance. My heart gave its usual happy little jump when I saw him, and I told it to knock it off.

“You aren’t usually here this early,” I said as he sat beside me on the bench.

“What happened last night?” he asked abruptly.

I stared at him, trying to sort out whether I’d done something to make him angry. After a few seconds, I decided I hadn’t. Jonah tended to be pretty up front about his feelings. If I’d upset him somehow, he’d tell me.

Which meant I had no clue what he had on his mind. “What are you talking about?”

He set his backpack on the ground. “You can’t answer a question with a question, Shanna. Last night around eleven thirty, I had a really strong feeling that something went wrong with you. If I hadn’t known you’d get in trouble, I would have called to find out if you were okay. What happened?”

He’d known about my parents’ fight and Mom’s dragging me out of bed. Maybe not the details, but he’d known something. It didn’t even make sense. Jonah had a psychic-y way of knowing things; I’d seen that. Whenever we spent time together, he knew whether something bothered me or had happened. This time, he’d known from half a mile away. It shouldn’t have even been possible. “What do you mean, a strong feeling?” I asked, hoping my question would make him forget his.

Of course that didn’t work. He sighed. “Question with a question again. I mean that when something’s upsetting or hurting my friends, I can feel it. And you’re a good friend of mine. Again, what happened?”

I tried to process the “good friend” part.  I’d only known Jonah about a month and a half, since the beginning of school. So far, he’d become the best friend I’d ever had. I just had trouble believing he’d think of me that way. Friends I’d had in the past had never thought as highly of me as I did of them, so they didn’t usually stay my friends for long.

“I’m waiting,” Jonah said patiently after a minute or so. “You don’t have to talk about it, of course. I’m just concerned, Shanna. You have a bruise on your energy field, too.”

“I bumped my head,” I mumbled. My hair covered where the mop handle had hit me, so he didn’t see any bumps or anything. Of course, every injury showed in my energy field.

Jonah looked closely at me. Oh, yeah. Lies showed up in people’s energy fields too. I looked away. “Must have been a pretty hard bump,” he commented.

“Yeah.” I glanced at him out of the corners of my eyes, unable to look him in the face. Most of the time, I told Jonah the truth about my life. However, lying about the stuff Mom did had become so much a part of me that I did it without thinking. “It still hurts.”

He reached toward me. Instinctively, I shrank back. Hands reaching for me didn’t usually mean anything good.

“Shanna, I’m not going to hurt you.” He gently put his hands on my head, exactly where Mom had hit me.

I flinched before I realized it didn’t hurt. Only warmth from Jonah’s hands, more than just body heat, touched me. Energy, flowing from the universe, through him, into me.