Thursday, October 23, 2014

Interview: Beacon of Sound by R.M. Garry

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?

I come from a very diverse cultural background. My mother is French and Guadeloupian and my father is Haitian. I am the proud mother of three boys who my entire family calls the wolf pack. My boys are loving, adventurous, intelligent, and live to make me laugh. I have been married for 12 years and spend my free time harassing my husband. 

What is it about the paranormal, in particular vampires, that fascinates you so much?

The paranormal world is all about the power of secrets. You don’t know you are being hunted unless someone tells you. Vampires and other paranormal creatures are powerful but can be weakened by the right man or woman.  The Beacons are not vampires, but they come very close.

What inspired you to write this book?

My cultural background and hometown inspired this story. Immokalee Florida is a small migrant community that is full of diverse cultures, good food, and hidden adventures.

Please tell us about your latest release.

Beacon of Sound is a story that reveals how people can avoid the truth even if it is wrapped in bright green paper. Marie DeLou has spent years living behind the illusion of a perfect life. She is so convinced that her world is perfect that she ignores the truth until it is too late.  The story is complicated, romantic, erotic, and funny.

Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?

I loved writing Marie’s character. She is sarcastic, stubborn, and sexy. She is my idea of a perfect woman.

What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?

My favorite scene is when Marie is given the opportunity to play a Stradivarius cello. When it comes to cellos, Marie is worse than a man sitting in a fully nude strip club. She is greedy and will even avoid using good sense just to get her hands on a cello. Basically, she sets herself up for failure in the scene with the cello.  Marie can play the cello as long as she sits on someone’s lap. In her mind, she is a professional and can play sitting on a man’s lap. Yeah, right Marie.

With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs, that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book, need to be aware of? Can these books be read as stand alones?

Beacon of Sound is the first book in a five-book series. Each book can be read alone as long as the reader reads the character names and definitions at the end of the book. There will be recaps about each character in the next books. Readers who plan on following the series, keep an eye on the guardian Ethera aka the great Ether. She has a lot of dangerous secrets.

Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they?

Marie is an extreme version of me and my best friend combined. I mixed both of our insane personalities and came up with Marie DeLou. I am stubborn, sarcastic, and sometimes impulsive. My best friend is the same plus loves food.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

I usually read the section I am working on to my husband or email it to my book club. Their feedback helps me move past my writer's block. If all else fails, I eat chocolate and drink plum wine.

Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals?

How do you define weird? I have jumped out of bed a 3 a.m. to write something down so I won’t forget to put it in my story. Is that weird?

(RR- I think that's normal for an author LOL I do it all the time)

Do you write in different genres?

I am currently sticking to paranormal, romance, and fantasy. I may tackle different genres in the future. Currently, I don’t have the patience required to write a mystery or historical. I am always eager to give my readers all the answers.

Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres?

I just follow my stories. Sometimes, the stories lead to different genres and I respect my work enough to just let it happen.

When did you consider yourself a writer?

I have been writing since childhood but did not consider myself a writer until I published Beacon of Sound. I didn’t give into the stories until I ignored my fears and decided to give my work to the world.

What are your guilty pleasures in life?

Takara Plum wine must always be present in my house. It is a guilty pleasure I refuse to give up. I love dark chocolate and will do anything to get it. My husband takes full advantage of my weakness for wine and chocolates. Honestly, I would trade the best chocolate in the world for a good massage. I love massages.

Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?

I am currently finishing my Masters in mental health counseling. I also make jewelry when I am not writing. My family is my primary passion in life.

Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?

I love to read on my couch with a cup of Earl Grey Moonlight tea and a thick comforter across my legs.

What can readers expect next from you?

I am currently working on Hearts Unbound. It is a contemporary romance with a small paranormal element.  Ramon lost his wife tragically and refuses to move on. He tries to hold on to her memory while his mind and body want to love Sophia. It is a story full of laughs and tears, but they eventually figure it out.

Beacon Holiday is the first novella in the Noir Dera Series. The story gives you more info about Marie and the rest of the Beacons. True to form, Marie causes all kinds of chaos in this novella.

Beacon of Sound
The Noir Dera     
Book 1
R.M. Garry

Genre: Paranormal Romance

ISBN: 9781310047725

Number of pages: 247
Word Count: 86,260

Cover Artist: Brandi Doane McCann

Book Description:

There is no way to fight desire and destiny. Marie is going to learn that the only way to win is to give in.

Marie DeLou has everything a successful counselor could ever want. Her mental health practice is thriving and she can help most clients without trying. In addition to a great career, she’s married to a sexy, doting neurologist. Marie has convinced herself that her perfect life is quiet and nothing will change it. Little does she know that a freight train of a man named Patrick Alvang is about to tear right through her quiet existence and turn the world as she knows it upside down.

Prince Patrick Alvang of the Noir Dera has one job to do. His mission is to reveal the truth to Marie and save her from the danger lurking within her walls. The plan is simple that is, until he gets to know the damsel in distress and decides he wants to devour her instead. Saying that Marie is stubborn would be an understatement, so he’ll have to play dirty if he wants to save the damsel and claim Marie as his Na-Ou. Saving a reluctant woman is hard work, but Patrick is sure to enjoy every last erotic second of his undertaking.

ARe     Amazon    BN  Smashwords   Google Play

Ahmose Sept Anno held her daughter’s hand close. They were completing a nightly ritual. Her young daughter Marie loved to take long walks and they always walked in the park or open field behind the aquatic complex. The scent of freshly cut grass and nature always left them feeling peaceful, and her young daughter needed to walk in order to remain calm. At the age of 12 the child had already shown amazing power through music.

Marie could recreate any sound she had ever heard on any instrument. While she clung to the cello as if it was her very breath, she took every opportunity to touch all instruments. Ahmose took her to Naples once a week to play the piano at a studio. From the small, migrant community of Immokalee in which they called home, the journey usually took about an hour. It was worth the long drive because the joy and light in Marie's eyes filled Ahmose with love.
She had been raising Marie alone since she fled her homeland with her mother and house sisters. They had all since split in hopes of hiding from the darkness that was out for their blood and power. Ahmose’s mother spent hours weaving spells from the wind in order to preempt any strikes against them. They had both decided that Marie would be encouraged to pursue her passion for music but would never be allowed to learn about the significance of her power.  As long as Marie did not open herself to the Ether, no one would know of her existence. Every time Marie asked about her abilities, they just told her she was special and loved by all Gods.
No matter how much she masked her powers, Ahmose knew danger was only a heartbeat away. She and her mother both felt it, and every day they felt the dark powers in Immokalee growing. Something had finally caught up with them. They worked even harder to protect Marie. Ahmose was not afraid of dying; she was afraid that both her and Gran would be killed leaving Marie at the mercy of the Dera, and she could never allow that to happen. Once this walk was over, she would double her efforts and pull more power from the new God they now served.
After hiding in Haiti, their powers had been recognized by the Haitian Vodou Loa Loko. He was the only God that could make an individual a Hougan or Mambo. He had borne witness to their past and had blessed them with power, protection, and safe passage to the United States. They could never reveal their power to others or attempt to reconnect with their former God the Ether. If they chose to break that vow, they would be left open to danger and never allowed back into the fold of power.
For many reasons, Marie's powers had to be suppressed. They would have to willingly sacrifice themselves in order to help Marie gain her full powers. They would have to return to the Ether and leave Marie behind, and they were not willing to do that. As long as they both lived, the young, powerful musician that she had given birth to would be safe and remain alive.
"Mommy, did you hear me?” Marie's soft voice floated to her ears.
"Yes, dearest, I heard you. What instrument do you want to play now?” Ahmose replied.
"I had a dream about an Erhu. The music was so beautiful and sad, and the woman playing it had glowing eyes. She looked as though she wanted to cry but had to hold it in. The Erhu was crying for her and telling the world of her sadness.”
 Ahmose drew in a sharp breath. The instruments were starting to call Marie, she thought. They were showing her the future. The Erhu is a Chinese violin. It had been used for centuries by different ethnic groups in China and throughout the world to convey emotions through music. Their neighbor Lan Yi had only played the instrument once in Marie’s presence but Marie was able to recognize it in a dream.
Before she could speak, she heard the sound of walking thunder.
The thunder was not coming from the sky; it was more of a thundering vibration that was coming towards them. Her heart began to race. They were here, and they were going to take Marie away. She had to protect Marie.
"Run daughter! Do not question me, just run!” Ahmose cried out.
 They began to run and Ahmose called to the Vodou Loa Loko and began to draw on her powers as a mambo. She called for a spell of protection which descended upon her as she began to run faster.
Ahmose had a moment of relief that was immediately shattered as she realized that Marie was not covered by her protection. Loko would only protect the Hougans and Mambos, and Marie had not yet been inducted into that life. She would be protected while the life of her daughter was drained.
"Manman, what is that?” asked Marie. “I hear dark music. It is so scary.”
"Hush my daughter. I will protect you.”
Without warning, Ahmose and Marie were frozen still. Dark hands wrapped around Ahmose’s throat and she began to wheeze. The hands squeezed tighter and tighter. Marie saw the hands and began to cry.
"Rete w ap toufe l'! Stop, you’re choking her! Mommy, mommy!” screamed Marie as Ahmose called more power.
The hands around her throat began to ease. A second pair of hands began to close around Marie's throat. Ahmose did not think or hesitate.
"Do not cry daughter. Let the Erhu cry for you!”
 Ahmose called forward her power of Earth.  “I call on the power of Earth. Bind and protect my daughter, Marie Sept Anno.  I open myself to the Ether. May its blessing be upon my daughter, the Beacon.”
There was a sound of fibers ripping as dark brown waves poured from the Sky and into Ahmose. She immediately shot her hands forward and ripped through the dark body strangling Marie. Marie started to wheeze, then caught her breath.  The dark powers began to disappear except for one. She heard a familiar voice say, "What shall be our payment, Loko? Your mambo has broken her vow. You must pay the cost of her treason.” The figure then began to laugh.
Ahmose was prepared and knew what was coming. In an instant, her protective shields vanished and the dark hands returned to her throat. "I shall finally have your power, Beacon of Earth.” Ahmose would never let her powers be drained; she made her final sacrifice for her daughter. "Thank you, Loko, for your protection. My family will never be able to repay you. I take my punishment freely for breaking my vow.”
She looked at Marie and whispered, "I love you, Marie, daughter of my land.”
"Mommy, what are you saying? Let her go, please let her go!”
Ahmose looked to the sky as her throat began to close. "I call to the Ether, return me to your peace. Take Marie, the beacon of my womb, as my gift and sacrifice. Send my power to your first daughter, my mother. May it be there when she’s ready to receive your blessings? Oh great Ether, return me home.”
A flash of light hit the sky and blue power poured into Marie. Ahmose took one last breath and died. The dark power left her body in a heap on the ground as the figure of a woman shrouded by darkness moved towards Marie with malevolent intent.  As she got close, a strong wind blew her away. The wind wrapped itself around Marie who was lying on top of her mother's body. "Manman, please wake up! It’s okay, you can breathe now. The mean lady is gone.” The wind blew in Marie's ears and whispered "Don't cry daughter; let the Erhu cry for you.”
Marie began to shiver as waves of blue light began to flow from her body. A sad melody filled the air,itair, it was the music of an Erhu.   Jia Peng Fang's “Cherry Blossoms” could be heard throughout the field and down the block. Marie shook and shivered but she never cried. She felt the wind return and her body was lifted off of her mother. Ahmose’s body rose up into the air and began to turn into brown waves and wind. The waves mixed with the wind and started floating away as the music grew louder. The brown waves wound themselves around Marie and lifted her up. After a few minutes, she was place on the ground and the waves disappeared into the sky. Marie laid down and did not get up. She waited in that very spot, hoping to wake up from this nightmare.
Femi Sept Anno felt the moment her daughter left the mortal plain. She felt her heart breaking. She put her fist to her mouth and held back her tears. She called out to the winds, "Find my granddaughter!” The winds obeyed and took her to Marie. She found Marie lying on the ground. Ahmose was gone. "Marie! Come to me! Let me take you home.”  It was then that Marie opened her eyes as Femi saw something that she had prayed to never see in her granddaughter's eyes.  The innocent girl she loved was gone. Sadness, fear, and hopelessness were the only things left in her brown, almost mortal eyes. She lifted her granddaughter into her arms and went home. This was only the beginning. One day she would have to give up the mortal world in order to protect Marie. Until that time, they would go home.

About the Author:

R.M. Garry lives with her three male children a.k.a the wolf pack and her husband of 12 years.

Writing allows her to maintain her sanity while juggling her world.

Her goal is to give readers a brief escape from the realities of their world.

When she isn’t writing, R.M. is reading and keeping up with her favorite authors. 

For updates and book information readers can visit

Twitter: @authorrmgarry


Interview and Giveaway Alien Attachments by Sabine Priestley

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?

I’ve always been a geek. I grew up watching Lost in Space and Star Trek (probably dating my self there J). When the writing bug hit, it hit hard and I was reading a lot of Gini Koch. She’s got a great Alien series Sci-Fi Rom and I just had to create my own world.

Please tell us about your latest release.

Alien Attachments is about a woman who discovers she has amazing powers called psi. Along with the psi, she discovers aliens are out there and some of them are really hot. There’s a lot of action, an undeniable bond, a crumbling empire and some steamy sex.

Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?

Names either come to me right away or I struggle with them. Right now, for example, I’m fleshing out a thriller. I know my characters fairly well at this point, but none of them have names. I need to nail them down pretty soon. For me, it’s more of a gut feeling. I’ll know it when I find it. I think the only thing I would add is that I have to make sure there aren’t too many similar sounding names in the same story. That leads to unnecessary confusion.

Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?

Fortunately no. Each one has a strong personality and comes across easily to me.

Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?

It’s definitely more organic for me. They develop as the story progresses.

What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?

One of my favorites to write was the scene near the beginning were these nasty Torogs go after Dani and Jared. This is where she realizes that aliens are real, they’re on Earth and they’re trying to kill her. Good times!

What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes?

I recently interviewed a local police chief. That was cool. In the near future I’ll be going to the Sheriffs headquarters where they keep the homicide evidence and the morgue. Obviously these things weren’t for my Alien Attachments series J

With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs, that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book, need to be aware of? Can these books be read as stand alones?

The books are designed to be read sequentially however I’m trying really hard to make sure that each book is a satisfying read in and of itself. The biggest arc has to do with the Portal Masters and an alternate form of psi. That all comes to a head in book three.

Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they?

Does my wishing I had psi count? I write strong female characters and I like to think I fit that description.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

That’s when my characters aren’t talking to me. I hate that. It usually means I’m trying to push them in a direction they don’t want to go. I can usually fix it by changing the direction of the scene. If that doesn’t work I have to walk away for a day or two. They eventually start talking again.

Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals?

Not really. Unless you count writing while standing up. I try to stand as much as possible.

Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres?

I find it invigorating.

When did you consider yourself a writer?

That’s a good question. Before I was published I used to feel almost guilty calling myself a writer. Especially when I got that question “Have you published anything?” I eventually sorted it out. You spend that many hours writing and you’re a bloody writer.

What are your guilty pleasures in life?

Chocolate and wine.

Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?

Travel. I love seeing different cultures and trying different food. I love the beach and long walks. I also enjoy making stuff. I’m currently fiddeling around with seashells, tiny little people and resin.

What can readers expect next from you?

Books two and three of the Alien Attachments series and that thriller J

Where can readers find you on the web?

Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?

Here’s a bit from the scene I mention above. Dani’s talking to Jared who is a human support agent for the aliens.

“Earth Protector? You’re kidding right?”
“No. Pretty much what it sounds like. Cliche as it may be, we are not alone in the universe.”
Dani held Jared’s gaze. She’d heard what he said, but couldn’t process the words. They sat on her brain like little beings, patiently waiting to be let in. Knock, knock. Dani let out a nervous laugh. Maybe if I ignore them, they’ll go away. Jared didn’t blink. Or maybe not.
“So you’re not an EP?”
“Nah, I’m human, just like you. I’m what they call a Support Agent, or SA for short. I do what I can for Ian and the other EPs, but I’m based with Ian.”
“So you’re a spy.”
“Support agent, not secret agent,” Jared said. “Although, we are a secret.”
“You’re a spy for aliens.”
“Stop it. It’s not like that.”

Alien Attachments
Book One
Sabine Priestley

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Publisher: Lyrical Press an imprint of Kensington Books

Date of Publication: Aug 18th, 2014

ISBN:  9781616505660

Word Count: 73K

Cover Artist: Renee Rocco

Book Description:

Finding one’s psi-mate is something every Sandarian hopes for, but when Ian Cavacent accidentally starts the bonding process with the Earthling, Dani, he has to fight his desire with every ounce of his being. If the process is completed, it would be both political and financial suicide for Ian and his family.

A natural klutz, Dani somehow always manages to land on her feet and win those mixed martial arts matches she’s so fond of. At home on Cat Island her balance is thrown when bazillionaire Ian takes notice.

Unfortunately some butt-ugly Torog aliens also take notice sending her life spiraling out of control and into Ian’s arms. But Dani isn’t the type of woman to let some alien voodoo decide her future or her mate…no matter how gorgeous the man is or how much pleasure he gives her.

For centuries the Cavacents have mined Earth for a precious element, carnium, while protecting the planet from other alien species.

Thanks to the Torogs, Dani and Ian must flee to Sandaria. As Dani learns to use her newfound psi powers, the empire crumbles around them.

Will their love be strong enough to keep them alive and get them back to Earth?

Available at Amazon BN Kensington Kobo Google Play iBooks


Waves of pleasure radiated out from his touch. She looked up into his eyes. They truly were the greenest eyes she’d ever seen and as she watched, they began to glow.
Oh, shit. Dani took a slow, shaky breath. She stood in the arms of an alien and this was the point of no return. Did she want to return?
His thumb brushed her lower lip.
The heat in her grew.
Her name was a rumbling growl that reverberated deep inside. She tingled everywhere.
He leaned forward, his mouth brushed her ear. “I’ll leave if you want me to, just say the word.”
He kissed her neck, tentatively, questioningly.  The heat of his lips melted any resolve she may have harbored. The thought of him leaving her now, in this state, was unbearable. Aroused on every level, she reached her arms around his neck and pressed against him.
This must be a dream. She moaned as he nipped his way down her neck causing little sparks of pain. Her entire body rippled with the effect. If I wake up now, I’m killing the person responsible.

About the Author:

Geek. Mother of teens. Wife to her very own alien.

Lover of sun, sand, science, and the stars.

Sabine lives in Florida with her husband, kids, cats and whole mess of characters in her head.


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September 29 Spotlight
CBY Book Club

September 30 Character Interview
Eden Ashe

October 1 Spotlight
Lisa’s World of Books

October 2 Spotlight
Anya Breton Author's Blog

October 3 Spotlight
Geeks In High School

October 6 Interview
Eclipse Reviews

October 7 Spotlight
Houston Havens  

October 8 Interview
Viviana, Enchantress Of Books

October 9 Spotlight and review
Words of Wisdom from The Scarf Princess

October 10 Spotlight
Booklover Sue 

October 13 Character Interview
Darkest Cravings

October 14 Interview and review
In Between The Pages 

October 15 Spotlight
Share My Destiny

October 16 Spotlight
Soaring Eagle Publicity

October 17 Spotlight
Emma Weylin

October 20 Interview
Pembroke Sinclair.  

October 21 Spotlight
Books N Pearls 

October 21 Spotlight
Sizzling Book Blog    

October 22 Review
Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock

October 23 Interview
Fang-tastic Books

October 24 Spotlight and review
Vampire Romance Books

October 27 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Guest blog, Excerpt and Giveaway: The Zodiac Collector by Laura Diamond

Top Ten Favorite Witchy-Type Movies

I’ve always loved paranormal stories with lots of magic and fantasy creatures, particularly vamps, witches, unicorns, and anything Halloween-related.

Here are my TOP TEN FAVORITE WITCHY-TYPE MOVIES, in no particular order:

1) Hocus Pocus—can you say Bette Midler’s lipstick? “I put a spell on you!”

2) The Witches—the book was written by Roald Dahl—awesome. Plus, imagine stumbling upon a witch meeting and being turned into a mouse when they capture you. Scary!

3) The Harry Potter series—I mean, really, how can I NOT mention this?

4) Wizard of Oz—“I’ll get you, my pretty…and your little dog too!” (I kind of feel bad for the Wicked Witch, particularly after seeing Wicked.)

5) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—the White Witch is so chilling I shivered during her scenes (Tilda Swinton is such a talented actress).

6) The Craft—I am a fan of Fairuza Balk and wish she’d make a comeback.

7) Stardust—the book was written by Neil Gaiman. Need I say more? Yes? Ok. The movie is AWESOME. ;)

8) Practical Magic—a movie for grown-ups, but super sweet and who doesn’t love a story with Girl Power?

9) Maleficent—Angelina Jolie—gorgeous and frightening…and the story is pretty touching too.

10) Charmed—I know it’s a TV series, but I totally dig it (Piper is my favorite sister).

How’d I do? Do you agree with my list? What are your favorite witchy-type movies and why?

The Zodiac Collector
Laura Diamond

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Date of Publication: September 23, 2014

ISBN: 1937053636

Number of pages: 314
Word Count: 70,000

Cover Artist: Lisa Amowitz

Book Description:

For almost-16 year-old Anne Devans, the annual Renaissance Faire means three things--her dad spending weeks in the smithy, her bipolar mom doing some manic costume making, and another ruined birthday for her and her twin sister, Mary.

This year, Anne wants things to be different, and she's going to do things her way. On the eve of the Faire, Anne, along with a reluctant Mary, conjures up a spell that will make their 16th birthday party a whirlwind event. Little do they know that it's a literal request.

After the mini tornado in their room subsides, the girls realize they've invoked the power of the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux. That's the good news. The bad news is they also caught the attention of a sorceress named Zeena who has been collecting children born under each Zodiac Sign to enhance her power. Once she captures Anne and Mary, Gemini twins, the entire Zodiac, and the world, will be hers.

Anne leads the fight against Zeena, but her one-sided decisions could throw them into a world so far from home, even the Renaissance Faire would seem like a brilliant vacation. Between managing their new Zodiac powers, dodging their manic mother and trying to stop Zeena, they'll get a 16th birthday they'll never forget.

Available at Amazon    BN   Kobo   Book Depository


The Renaissance Faire wrecks my birthday every year. A month before the actors and merchants arrive to transform Hopewell Falls Park into a sixteenth-century towne—yes, with an “e”—Mom stops taking her lithium. Within forty-eight hours she’s higher than a prom queen accepting her crown. As the best seamstress east of the Appalachian Trail, she thinks it’s her duty to stay awake for days, surviving on double espressos and cigarettes, to make the royal court’s costumes. She says mania makes her more productive, but all it does is turn her into a raging beast that puts Sauron, the Basilisk, and the Kraken all to shame.

Her internet business, Devans’s Dazzling Dresses, caters to the Renaissance crowd and occupies her all year long, but our local faire gives her the most sales.

“These orders came in months ago. Why wait until the last minute to finish them?” I hover near the doorway to the living room—a.k.a. Mom’s studio—and try not to choke on the stagnant air. A wheeze plays at my lungs. I finger the inhaler that I always carry in case I have to take a puff.

The room has the best natural lighting in the whole house. A large bay window, stretching from floor to ceiling, is the envy of every do-it-yourself crafter on the block. I dream about curling up on the seat cushion with a book and a cup of hot chocolate, but Mom never lets anybody in there. No. Matter. What.

I’d need to wear a gas mask, anyway, to prevent an asthma attack.

Heavy-metal music throttles my eardrums. I resist the urge to clap my palms over my ears. Mom says she can draw energy from the sound waves. She thinks the bands create their music specifically for her. No amount of lithium makes that go away.

“What else am I supposed to do? This is how I create.” Her blue eyes spark with fury as she takes a drag on her cigarette. Two inches of ash hang on the end. It’s beyond me how it doesn’t fall off and burn the fabric she’s working on. At least the dry cleaner can erase the smoky stench from her masterpiece after it’s done. She throws a pincushion at me and returns to her ironing. “Now get out of here. Don’t you have finals to study for or something?”

“But Mary’s and my birthday is coming up and I wanted to talk to you—” My voice squeaks and tears burn at my eyes.

Her head snaps up, sending wild-colored curls swaying with agitation. “I’m. Working.”

I can’t even get two sentences out and she’s in attack mode. My stomach twists on itself as instinct claws at my chest, begging for clean air. Ask quickly and get out. That’s the plan. I lick my dry lips. “We’re turning sixteen. It’s important.”

She plucks the cigarette from her mouth and pulverizes it in a nearby ashtray. Her nicotine-stained fingers shake, fumbling to light another one. It takes two flicks for the lighter to ignite. Her cheeks hollow out as she sucks in along drag. She holds it in for a few seconds, eyes closed in fleeting bliss, and blows it out. The lines of her face—webbing crows’ feet, jagged wrinkles across her forehead, arcs from her nose to the corners of her lips—deepen. Pale gray fog surrounds her like she’s a smoldering dragon working up to the big explosion of fire.

“Everything’s about you and your sister, isn’t it? Well, did it ever occur to you that the work I do helps pay the bills around here? I don’t see you bringing in a paycheck.”

“Whatever.” Like a defenseless knight who’s lost his courage, I retreat. I storm upstairs, my ever-ready puffer in one hand while I wave away the haze of smoke with the other. The whole house smells like stale nicotine and my asthma is flaring like Jenny Johnson’s face that time she farted in gym class. I slam the door behind me.

“You interrupted Mom, didn’t you?” My ever-perceptive twin, Mary, guesses right. She removes her earbuds and sets aside her biology textbook.

“No.” I take a hit from my inhaler and flop on my paisley bedspread. Doesn’t matter that I stare at the ceiling. Her accusation crashes over me like a tsunami. I roll on my side to face her. “Yes.”

She runs her hands through her curly espresso-colored hair and glares at me with her jade eyes. “Why?”

“Why not? We’ve never had a real, disaster-free birthday party because of the Renaissance Faire. Isn’t it about time?” I refuse to surrender to her disapproval. She’d never challenge Mom. At least I try. My Papillon dog, Castor, leaps on the bed. The fringe of his sable ears flutter like streamers as he licks my cheeks.

Mary averts her gaze and picks up his brother, Pollux. It was Mom’s idea to name them after the Gemini twins. She called it “kitschy.” Pfft. Amazing she didn’t name us after them.

“Well?” I sit up. Castor’s and Pollux’s dark eyes stare at me with sympathy. The cozy bedroom is their safe haven as much as it is ours.

“The more you bother her, the less likely it is we’ll get a party. I bet she won’t bake a cake this year, either.” She presses her chin against Pollux’s head.

“So it’s my fault we won’t get a party?”

She winces. “I didn’t say that.”

Regret presses on my shoulders and slides down my spine to nestle in my gut like a snake. It coils in my stomach, tail rattling with agitation. “I don’t mean to make things worse.”

“I know,” she barely whispers.

I take a deep breath and imagine the regret snake spontaneously combusting and evaporating into nothingness. Better than having it strike and lodge its fangs into my liver. “What kind of cake would you want?”

“It would be cool to have a tiered one, with piping and flowers. Maybe even edible pearl candies or something.”

The corner of her mouth hitches up.

Mary likes pretty things. I prefer edgy. “What about one with a knight beheading a dragon on top? Blood-red icing can trail down the sides and pool around the base.”

She scrunches her nose and scratches behind Pollux’s ear. “Gross. Maybe we can get a Papillon cake. It’d be so cute.”

It’s not a bad idea.

Her half-smile fades. “Doesn’t matter. Mom won’t go for any of it.”

“It’s so unfair.” Amped on the pain of injustice, I launch myself to my feet and pace our bedroom, from our window overlooking the wooded park across the street, to the desk we share on the other side. The braided rug between our twin beds massages my bare feet.

“Yeah, and what are you going to do about it? Nothing, that’s what.” Mary cradles Pollux in her arms and carries him to his doggie bed. After gently lowering him to the round cushion, she stares at her closet, gaze scanning every inch, and taps her chin. Sucking on her bottom lip, she falls into an OCD trance, and I’ve lost any chance at wrangling her back into the conversation about Mom.

About the Author:

Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist and author of all things young adult paranormal, dystopian, and horror. She’s a lucid dreamer, meaning she can direct her dreams while they’re happening. When she’s awake, she pens stories from her dreams and shares them with her readers.

Laura has many published titles including the Pride Series (New Pride, Shifting Pride, soon to be re-released, and Tsavo Pride), the Endure Series (Endure and Evoke, soon to be re-released), The Zodiac Collector, a novella Sunset Moon in the Lore anthology, and several shorts stories. When she’s not writing, she is working at the hospital, blogging at Author Laura Diamond–Lucid Dreamer, and renovating her 225+ year old fixer-upper mansion.

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