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Book Review – The Beloved Fire by Chelsii Klein - I was given the ARC of The Beloved Fire by Chelsii Klein in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed reading the book and writing the Book Review of The Beloved Fire. The Beloved Fire tells the story of Mikayla and her relationship with the supernatural. The base of the story stems from a challenge between the Angels and Demons of Heaven and Hell, respectively, and how Mikayla becomes a part of that challenge due to her previously unknown connections to the supernatural. Chelsii Klein did a marvelous job building the world of the Purgatory with its mansion, hallways, and the doorways that lead to various locations in Hell. I also enjoyed this fresh take on the supernatural genre and also how the author managed to bring in elements of romance and horror in equal measures. The book begins by introducing Mikayla as a confused 21-year-old girl looking for a good time at a party, while her overprotective best friend Ander tries to stop her. In the blink of an eye, Mikayla’s world is turned upside down and she wakes up in “Hell” literally and figuratively. Slowly, Mikayla meets the various characters who have been watching her for her whole life. She learns of the “true nature” of her blood and about the immortals who are invested in her life. In this new world, Mikayla meets the Dream Walker, Blake, with whom she seems to have past history. However, she is confused about her feelings for Blake, as his brother, James, whom she had met earlier at the party, holds some sort of a tug at her heartstrings. As events unfold, Mikayla tries to come to terms with her reality of her being in literal Hell as well as her newfound powers. When she meets Anock, the Prince of Hell, to whom she is apparently betrothed, she realizes that she is only a pawn in a game between the higher authorities of Heaven and Hell. Mikayla is an interesting character who comes across as any normal young girl of this century. When she is suddenly thrown into a series of frightening challenges she reacts accordingly. While the author has tried to write Mikayla as a strong character, she seems to wait around for the alpha-male characters like Blake, Ander, and James to come to save her. I would’ve liked to see her taking things into her own hands sooner than having to wait until the very near end to see that happening. It may be because this is the first of a series, but there was hardly any scope for character development. However, the pacing of the novel makes up for that by taking the story through an interesting journey towards the beginning of a series. I say this because at the end of the book you are left with some questions that you know will have to be answered in the upcoming books. The Beloved Fire sets the stage perfectly as the first installment for a series. For a debut novel, Chelsii Klein has done The Beloved Fire justice. The story and the characters are intriguing as is the fantastic world of the Purgatory set between Heaven and Hell. The writing has potential for improvement and the author could do well working with an editor. Overall, this book is a good read for all those who enjoy the paranormal romance/fantasy genre. The Beloved Fire is currently available on Kindle Unlimited for Free. Click HERE to grab a copy. You can also follow Chelsii Klein on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or Join Her Spoiler Group to stay updated on Books 2 and 3 of The Beloved Series. How to Instagram as an Author - As of 2019, Instagram is one of the top 10 social media platforms for engagement ranking second, behind only Facebook. Think about it, a platform for engagement that’s better than Twitter? Yep, you read that right! 5 Steps To Your Non-Fiction Story – Karina Monteiro - My first encounter with non-fiction was Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. I was in college when I read it. The book infused in me some of Michelangelo’s spunk, a keen interest in his sculptures, and inspired me to travel to Florence six years later. I’ve been writing non-fiction for the past five years – specifically, human interest stories for social impact or employee engagement. It’s been a long and arduous journey with its fair share of heartbreak and of course some wisdom. For what it’s worth, here’s what I learned: Start with one idea Brainstorm over an overarching theme or moral for your story. With non-fiction, you often discover information as you progress. More often than not, you find your story pulling in multiple directions. A clear idea to focus on gives you a big picture and helps you separate the wheat from the chaff to move in a clear direction. Establish an emotional hook An extremely hard lesson to learn. If you need people to care about what you say or in social impact parlance, change the way they think or act, get them to care. No amount of stats or reportage will help you achieve this. But a few other things can. Human interest stories. Start with your neighbor, or an unsung hero you know, or someone from an underrepresented/marginalized community, or even you. That’s what makes Humans of New York resonate with people the world over. Real-world examples of people who set up or changed the way things are/work. Whether it’s learning to trust your instinct, like we learned from the firefighter’s example in Blink, or learning from genius in Mavericks at Work, showing rather than telling, inspires reflection and action. Impact stories have always helped me raise funds for emergency response, or donations in kind and emphasize program outcomes. Research If you’re narrating a hero’s story, maybe a David V. Goliath story, speak to people closest to your protagonist. If it’s an issue or topic you’re exploring, speak to people at the heart of the matter or most affected. Know what you don’t know, and pursue it through focused interviews or archival footage from credible sources. A clear beginning, middle, and end Establish whether your story arc depicts a hero’s journey or a cautionary tale or is a cliff hanger. Sometimes, your initial idea evolves and becomes a whole new idea, or just changes. That’s okay. Now that you’ve established what your story is, where it’s heading, and why, keep going. Outline scenes or sequences in a spreadsheet or create a mind map. This helps structure your writing. I find that after I outline, I begin freewriting/pantsing. Whatever you do, stay true. Edit, edit, edit Non-fiction is whipped into shape at the edit table. In fact, sometimes, that’s when your story emerges. Of all your data points and notes, focus on content that is personal, relatable, and/or evokes curiosity. If there is one thing I cannot stress enough, find that common. Trust me, your readers will thank you for the surprise. At work, I usually have a peer review or a developmental review system in place for content I create; I do the same as a reviewer. In the writing community, I understand beta readers, critique partners and developmental editors help you add finishing touches and raise the bar with your story. So there you have it. I’ve always believed that fiction and non-fiction are based on the same principles. The only difference is reality and make-believe. Now that you know more, what do you think? My Journey to Becoming A Writer – Paul C. Thornton - “You’ll be dead in six months.” It was May 29, 1985. Those words started me on the path to become a writer. I just didn’t know it at the time. When I wrote my first book, a memoir intriguingly titled White Man’s Disease, I faithfully depicted the scene I vividly recalled where I was with my crying wife and the brain surgeon who said those words to me. White Man’s Disease was published 30 years after that scene took place. I became a writer at age 58. When I woke up on the morning of December 6, 2014, I had no plans to write a book. When I went to bed that night, I was a writer. December 6 was my oldest daughter Kina’s wedding day. In the months leading up to the wedding she would occasionally remind me of the father-of-the-bride’s obligation to address the wedding reception. “What am I supposed to talk about?” I would brusquely respond. I was not excited to speak to the room of friends, relatives, daughter’s friends I knew vaguely, and guests on my son-in-law’s side that I did not know at all. I do a fair amount of public speaking in my professional life, and am actually quite good at it, but it is something I have always just tolerated and never particularly enjoyed. “You’re supposed to talk about memories of me growing up,” Kina said. Generally, memories of a daughter growing up is an easy lift for most fathers: standard stuff like school sports anecdotes, first date and prom stories, trips to Disney. Yes, I covered all of that. However, for me the most powerful memory of Kina growing up wasn’t standard at all, and my speech would lack authenticity if I did not mention it. When Kina was six years old, and I was 29, I was stricken by trauma—the medical situation which caused the aforementioned brain surgeon to utter the “you’ll be dead in six months” phrase to my wife and me. Upon my discharge from the hospital after twelve hours of brain surgery and weeks of hospitalization, I had to work on regaining my normal faculties—to the extent possible—including relearning how to walk at a normal gait. So, every day little Kina would grab her seeming giant dad by the hand, and with a cane in my other hand we would walk my mom’s neighborhood in Long Island, NY. I incorporated the story about the walks with Kina in my wedding talk; but I went further. I needed to put context around the story; what led up to it, and amazingly, its aftermath. I say amazingly because I shared information at the wedding related to my convalescence and return to “normalcy” that I had hid and held inside for 30 years, out of shame and embarrassment—things my mom didn’t even know. Here’s the interesting thing: as I spoke, I could feel a huge burden lifting off my shoulders. The more I shared, the better I felt. It was liberating; cathartic; therapeutic. When the speech was over there “wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” I needed to hold on to that feeling I had when I was opening myself up to the wedding guests. I felt renewed, free, and empowered to be myself. So, I went back to my hotel room, got my iPad out and became a writer. I wrote everyday and it felt wonderful; like the wedding speech it was therapeutic. In fact, as White Man’s Disease approached completion a little over a year later, I underwent a little bit of a funk. Writing the book had become a passion, and I was worrying what life would be like without that passion. (Little did I know about the marketing effort that was in front of me—so my apprehension about my life being no longer heavily intertwined with White Man’s Disease was misplaced!) My six-year-old writing muse, Kina, all grown up White Man’s Disease was named Winner, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir, North Street Book Prize, a judged, independently published writing competition with a nice cash prize, and a few other perks. Winning Writers called White Man’s Disease “gripping and inspiring” in the press release announcing the award. Accolades, and more importantly, reader feedback provided me with validation, and that has enabled me to maintain the good feeling I felt when I was writing. Just as I did after I finished that talk at my daughter’s wedding, I wanted to hold on to that feeling. So, it was an easy decision to write another book. The Joy of Cruising is my new book, a narrative nonfiction journey featuring amazing cruise travelers—millennials to 90-something’s; Grammy winner, Poker Hall of Famer, winner of the TV series Last Comic Standing, to “ordinary” cruisers doing extraordinary things. The Joy of Cruising will fascinate anyone who has ever cruised, aspires to take a cruise, or just loves travel. The Joy of Cruising seems a stark departure from White Man’s Disease, yet at the heart of both books is passion, and how passionate people do wondrous things. Speaking of passion, I am passionate about writing. Besides the fact that writing enabled me to become comfortable with myself after living 30 years in a self-imposed confinement, it represents a way for this thoughtful, but off-the-charts introverted individual to communicate comfortably. And I crave validation from readers. Marketing a couple of books is very time-consuming for an independent author and I long to get back to writing. My new book: The Joy of Cruising While I am focused on marketing The Joy of Cruising right now the urge to write is gnawing at me. I had such a blast writing The Joy of Cruising, interviewing and telling the stories of the passionate cruisers that I featured, that I have begun to outline More Joy of Cruising. Sounds like a good reason for me to go book a cruise or two. You know, research. Interview with Literary Agent Eric Smith - One of the decisions I had to make as a debut author getting ready to hit the publishing world was the route I wanted to take: should I go traditonal, indie, or self-publish? I researched each route and found that they all have their own pros and cons. One of the most important aspects on traditional publishing was landing the right Literary Agent to represent your book to the publishing world. Finding an agent to represent you is not an easy task these days and if you are not well prepared it is near impossible. I figured, the best way to find out would be to ask Literary Agents themselves. In that spirit, I reached out to Eric Smith, a Literary Agent with PS Literary, an agency that represents a diverse list of internationally published, award-winning, bestselling and debut creators. Eric is also a Young Adult Author. His next novel, Don’t Read the Comments, will be published by Inkyard Press in January 2020. Click Here to Pre-order the book for very cute pins and bookplates! Follow Eric Smith on Twitter for more information. As much as I would’ve loved for this to have been an audio interview, Eric has a very busy schedule which meant that I had to do a written interview with him. Read on to find out what Eric has to say about traditional publishing, finding a literary agent, Writing Conferences, and more. Rashmi: In today’s marketplace, how difficult is it for a writer to succeed without an agent? Do you think every writer needs an agent? Eric: Honestly I think it depends on what your goals are as a writer, both for your career and your book. There are scores of wonderful indie presses out there who don’t require an agent, but for the most part, if you want your book to land at one of the larger publishing houses, you’ll need an agent to help you get it into the right hands. An agent’s job isn’t just to sell your book though. We help talk about your career as a writer. We discuss next projects. We make sure the publisher is handling everything they’re supposed to. We dig into contracts and keep track of your royalties. We’re there to support you and be in your corner. But some authors don’t need agents. Some self publish their books, some know their audience well enough to do their own thing, and sell to who they have to. It’s on the writer to know what they want for their career and books. Rashmi: What is a debut author’s chance of getting you as an agent? What are you looking for? Eric: Really high. I mean, every author had to debut at some point. There are debut novels selling and being announced every single day. All I’m looking for, when it comes to fiction, is a good story and a person I want to work with. There isn’t any special equation and list of things I need other than that. Give me a riveting tale, written by someone I want to support, and off we go. Non-fiction is different, as I’m looking for platform. An expert, someone who regularly publishes articles or essays, pieces in their field. That’s a whole other conversation though. Rashmi: What has been the highlight of your career as a Literary Agent? What makes you happy doing this for a living? Eric: The tricky thing about publishing, is that sometimes the biggest highlights of your career are still secrets that you can’t quite talk about yet. Ah, the joys of secrets. So the biggest thing is something that I still can’t quite dig into yet, but the ongoing highlights are when I get to give authors those phone calls, and let them know their book (or books!) is being published. Nothing beats that call. You get to make dreams come true, you know? And that’s probably what makes me happiest doing this for a living. Making those calls, and then seeing those books on the bookshelves. Going to the authors’ events, taking pictures, just being wildly proud and seeing them have their moments. You get to change someone’s life, and consequently, the lives of readers by introducing them to their work. It’s the best. Rashmi: Why should an author still hire an agent? It’s so easy to self-publish today, also there are a lot of disillusioned authors who are tired of asking agents and publishers to pick them, so what would be some of the advantages of working with an agent? Eric: Agents get you through to the bigger publishing houses, keep track of things in your career, and they also hustle to sell things like your foreign rights, sub rights, help with film and TV, you name it. If you’re ready to be your own publisher, do your own marketing and publicity, handle all of that huge picture stuff… self-publishing is fine! Plenty of people do it. But do it because you’re making a business decision. Rashmi: Even if an author hires an agent and traditionally publishes a book, he or she might still want to self-publish. Is that a possibility or would the contract with an agent be a hindrance to that? Or do agencies work with authors in this journey? Eric: Nope, it’s fine. Plenty of traditionally published authors put out short stories, novellas, novels, etc. in addition to the other books they are putting out there. Talk to your agent about your plans, of course. They might even be able to help you sell the audio book rights or something. Every agency is different though, so I can’t speak to whether or not agents will work with their writers on that particular journey. Rashmi: There’s a popular belief among authors that if they self-publish and demonstrate that their books can generate huge sells, a traditional publisher will take an interest in their work. Is this true? What’s the reality? Eric: Yeah I’m not sure where that came from. I think it’s because this has happened a few times, which is great! Good for those authors! But if this is your plan and tactic… it’s a bad one. Even with a ton of sales… maybe that just shows the agent you’ve hit everyone in your market? Again, self publishing is a business choice. You’re ready to be your own publisher. You’re ready to get your work out there. You aren’t doing it to snag an agent or a bigger publishing deal down the line. You’re doing it because you want to publish your own book. Rashmi: The biggest complaint I hear from authors who have traditionally published is that they are left holding the marketing bag. When you sign an author with a traditional publisher what should they expect as far as marketing? Eric: There’s no one answer here, it varies publisher to publisher. No matter the publisher, at the end of the day, you’re a team. There’s always going to be a lot of lifting on both sides, and if you aren’t interested in that, that’s going to be a bit of a problem. Talk to your agent about marketing and publicity, have open conversations with your publisher. Get an idea of what to expect, and how, if it isn’t delivering exactly what you want, you can work together to get to where you want things to be. Rashmi: What is it that makes an agent take notice of one author over another? Eric: It’s all about just writing a good query letter. And at the end of the day, the book just has to be good. Rashmi: When should authors start querying agents? Do agents normally represent the client book by book or on a career basis? Eric: When your book is finished and as polished as you can get it. I always tell my friends, if you’d feel comfortable with your book being on the shelf as-is, maybe you’re ready. And that varies agent to agent. Some are book by book, some are career. Rashmi: How effective is it to attend Writing Conferences as a writer who is querying? Do agents take a genuine interest and look for new talents? Eric: I think conferences are great places to make new writer friends and connections, which are arguably the most important thing about them. The community that surrounds publishing and writing makes the whole process a lot easier, both form a business side and a personal, emotional side. It’s a lot more fun when you have friends with you along the way. Agents take pitches at all of these things, but remember, you can pitch agents via email just as easily and effectively. I’ve signed one person at a conference, and tried to sign a few others, so they do work. But you can totally pitch via email. Conferences can be expensive. Sending queries via email is free. Thank you, Eric Smith, for agreeing to this interview and taking the time to answer my questions. I am sure this is helpful to aspiring authors, especially those embarking on the querying journey for the first time. Navigating Fantasy: A Breakdown of Subgenres - One of my favorite things about the fantasy genre is its versatility. Almost any type of story you want to read, you can add a fantastical element and transform it into an entirely new subgenre. If you’re writing a fantasy novel, it can be difficult to distinguish which subgenre the story falls into. This categorization is incredibly important in terms of picking the right literary agent, finding the best audience for your work, and deciding which platforms are the best places to promote your work. Today, I want to break down as many fantasy subgenres as I can and give an indication as to which stories fall into which categories. High/Epic Fantasy: The most prominent of the fantasy subgenres. If your book takes place in an entirely new world that you’ve built from scratch, this is the place for you. High Fantasy books are often long and complex, involving a wide cast of characters and big adventures that will shape the fate of the world you’ve created. The two terms “high” and “epic” are often used interchangeably, so it’s generally safe to assume if someone is looking for one, the other will suffice as a recommendation. Examples of high/epic fantasy include the Lord of the Rings series and the Game of Thrones series. Low Fantasy: Low fantasy novels take place in the real world or something very similar looking. Don’t confuse this with contemporary fantasy, which is almost like a subgenre of this subgenre. The characters in these books discover magical elements intertwined with the world around them, often hidden away from the typical person’s eye. The most prominent example of this would be the Harry Potter series. Portal Fantasy: This is one of my personal favorites because as a child, I was always hoping I could stumble across something that would transport me into a new magical world. In portal fantasy, a character gets swept away from the troubles or mundaneness of their world and into a new fantastical place where they will inevitably become mixed up in problems occurring there. Over the course of the novel, the character is often changed as a result of this journey, either returning home as a new person or choosing to stay in the fantasy world. Examples of these include the Chronicles of Narnia and my favorite story from my childhood, Peter Pan. Urban/Contemporary Fantasy: Often used interchangeably with low fantasy. Urban fantasy can also be contemporary fantasy, but is generally understood as a story set in a modern urban society that can either reside in the real world or something very similar to it. Contemporary fantasy is merely a fantasy set in the present-day modern world. One of my favorite book series falls into this category, Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones series. Paranormal Fantasy: Paranormal fantasies are also a subgenre of low fantasy, involving supernatural creatures as a key element in the novel. Some readers of this subgenre enjoy paranormal romances which includes the above elements and a romantic subplot, often with a relationship between one of the supernatural beings and a mortal. Most prominent example: Twilight (one of the most highly debated books I have ever read: the number of people still debating over this series is astonishing to me). Fairytale Retellings: Between the ages of eight and ten, these were my favorite types of fantasies. These fantasy stories are inspired by a traditional fairy tale or are heavily influenced by typical fairy tale elements or clichés. They can be contemporary, they can stretch out over entire series, or they can include a fairy tale entirely flipped on its head with new roles and new adventures. Stories like Ella Enchanted and movies like Tangled and Frozen are considered fairytale retellings. A few others to make note of….. Medieval Fantasy: Includes a setting with strong medieval influences or set during the medieval period. Historical Fantasy: Fantasy set in a historical period from the real world. Most likely an alternative version of history with fantastical elements or beings. Science Fantasy: A blending of science fiction and fantasy where the writer incorporates both fantastical elements and highly advanced technology. (You can do both!) Steampunk Fantasy: A blending of fantasy and steam-powered technology, often told in an industrial setting. Dark Fantasy: A blending of fantasy and horror where horrific elements play a major role in the novel. Romantic Fantasy: Fantasy with strong romantic elements. More of a blend between genres: the story most often will focus on the romance. Erotic Fantasy: Fantasy with explicit sexual situations. Enough said. I could make note of a handful of others, but this post would go on forever and take way too long to read. What you’ve seen above only covers the most prevalent subgenres that either I have encountered personally or that I can recognize out in the current book market. If you’re looking for a more complete list of every possible fantasy subgenre, I would recommend this link. I was incredibly blown away by the sheer number of possibilities! So much to write! So little time! Happy writing, friends. Mine – Part III - Mine – A Lucien Hawke Story – is a 3-part short story that is being published as a part of the Guest Blogging for Confessions of a Writeaholic. Read Part I and Part II if you haven’t already. Blackrose gasped. She covered her mouth. Kai showed no sign of acknowledging the noise. “I have the power to enter your dreams, your heart, and your mind. I hunger for love, Mike. I thrive on it.” “Freak.” Kai’s smile faded. He stared into Mike’s eyes. Kai pounced on Mike and bit into his neck. He ripped the flesh clean off the bone and swallowed. Mike fell to the floor, dead. The poor lad didn’t even have time to scream. The other three boys, however, did. “But I can live off human flesh too.” The incubus’s eyes fell on the panicking children. The boys screamed and cried, but their bodies didn’t move. Kai released an otherworldly roar. It sounded much like a lion’s roar melded with a crow’s cry. The incubus tackled the boys and tore their hearts out to feast. Splatter blood consumed the room and a red pool gathered at the monster’s feet. Walter’s gag reflex kicked in. He dry heaved and coughed up blood. Kai snapped his head up. Gabe, Blackrose, and Walter’s eyes widened like a deer in head lights. Gabe started to hyperventilate. Blackrose grabbed the boys and started to run. “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go! Kai stepped out from a corner in front of them. His clothes were soaked in blood. “You weren’t supposed to see that, Gabe.” “You murdered them,” Gabe swatched the blood dripping from Kai’s lips. “You ate them!” “All for you, Gabe. I would do anything for you.” “Why would I want that?!” “For your happiness. They bullied you.” “That’s not the way to do it.” Kai cocked his head, “But they will no longer bother you. This is proof that I am here for you.” “I don’t want a friend like you.” Gabe helped support Walter’s weight. “I’ve got to help my real friend home.” Gabe surprised himself with how calmly he was talking. He glanced at Blackrose. “I’m disappointed, Gabe. They aren’t your real friends. I’m all you need.” “I don’t need a monster for a friend.” “Look at the guts on you. When did you turn into such a badass?” Walter laughed until he started coughing and hacking blood. “Not now, Walt,” Gabe whispered. He worried Walt was becoming hysterical. Kai smiled. The creepy way his lips formed around his teeth made the three teens step back instinctively. “You summoned this monster, Gabe. You and that bag of bones you call a friend. We are bonded. You are mine.” The pieces clicked. Gabe scoffed. “You’re the one making him sick, aren’t you?” “What?” Walter tried to stand straight but stumbled back. “How is this bastard making me feel like this?” “An incubus is not of this… physical world. We need an anchor to remain. To do that, I need energy. Life.” Kaither looked down at Walter. “I must have his life energy until I have eaten enough from human to stay materialized in this world.” “What if you don’t?” “Then he will die while I live.” The three froze. Gabe pushed Walter behind him. “I won’t let that happen.” A devil’s tail appeared. Kai flipped his dark hair back and looked down at the three. “Such a pity. I dislike your resistance. We could be firm friends, Gabe.” He focused on Walter and Blackrose. “Perhaps these two are the problem. For some reason, you think they free you from your loneliness.” “They do.” Kai smirked. “But people always leave, right, Gabe?” Gabe grew quiet. Blackrose came to his side. “But sometimes, they come back.” Kai’s smirk faded. “Is that so?” “He’s not alone anymore.” A snarl escaped Kai’s lips. “You’re right. I’m here.” Kai lunged toward her. Gabe threw himself between. The two tumbled to the floor. “Blackrose! Run!” Blackrose and Walter ran up the basement stairs. “They won’t escape.” Kai jumped to his feet. Gabe grabbed Kai’s ankle. “Leave them alone!” “Let me go, Gabe.” “No.” “Then you give me no choice.” Kai tapped Gabe’s forehead. A blinding light filled Gabe’s vision. He felt like he was thrown into a pool of water. His chest constricted like he was drowning. “Sleep.” Cold air pricked Gabe’s skin. He stood in the same velvety blackness as his dream last night. It felt different this time. He felt trapped. Gabe held his hand out only to feel nothing. There was nothing but cold in this abyss; and emptiness. “Walter? Blackrose?” His voice echoed in the abyss. No one was around. He knew that. He could feel it in his soul. He was alone. “So dark. So alone.” Kai materialized out of the darkness. “This is your deepest fear, Gabe.” “How are you able to do this?” “I’ve told you. We are bonded. I know all of your fears. I can dive into your subconscious and I can force you to relive your darkest pains. Kai snapped his fingers. An ebony-skinned hand ran down Kai’s shoulder. A dark-toned woman stepped out from behind. Her curly hair gently fell onto her shoulders. “Mom…” Kai stroked her cheek. “She is beautiful.” “Don’t touch her.” “A shame she is not your real mother.” Kai looked past Gabe. Gabe turned to see his real mother standing behind him. His breath caught in his throat. He reached out to touch her. He had only seen pictures of her. “Your real mother died giving birth to you. She was the first one who knew that you were a plague among the humans. And so she escaped. She allowed herself to slip into that peaceful sleep because it meant not having to care for you.” “Those are lies.” Gabe couldn’t help the tears building up in his eyes. “You are the reason your father is in prison too. You killed your mother and he was devastated. Taking care of you, dealing with his guilt, and living in this unforgiving world left him no choice. He became a thief to make ends meet.” Kai smiled. “But all thieves get caught eventually.” “Stop it.” “You blamed yourself for both of their misfortunes. And you were right. You’re a curse. Even your adoptive father paid the price.” “That was an accident. His car flipped.” “Because you ran away and he went out to search for you.” Tears ran down Gabe’s cheeks. “Stop it.” “You know people get hurt around you. It’s why you always chose to stay alone. Anyone who gets close to you gets hurt. Your friendship with Walter ended because you caused his misfortune. And you knew it. He may have put up defensive barriers around you, but you went away because you knew he would only get hurt more if you stayed.” “It’s not true.” “People always leave is really people always get hurt around me.” Kai slowly approached Gabe. “But I won’t. I see the light in you. I will never leave. You can’t hurt me.” “I will. I want to.” “There is nothing you can do.” “None of this real.” Kai put his hand on Gabe’s shoulder. “I am here.” Gabe covered his ears and closed his eyes. “No! I hate you! I reject you! Hear me, Kaither! I reject you!” “Ready or not, here I come.” Blackrose and Walter ran down the hall. They pushed through the crowded halls. “Everyone! Run!” A girl screamed. Blackrose looked back. Blood had splattered over a set of lockers. The hall turned into a stampede as kids ran from source. Blackrose met Kai’s wild eyes. The incubus bit down on his victim. He threw the corpse aside and made his way toward them. Kai grabbed another student and tore into him. “I will feed on you all and remain in this world.” The herd of students knocked Blackrose and Walter onto the ground. They were kicked and stepped on. Kai stood over them. “Please…” Walter begged, “Don’t eat us.” Kai picked Walter off the ground. “Don’t worry. You’re of no concern.” He tossed Walter aside. Blackrose dragged herself a few feet away. “Gabe…” “My only concern is to get this thorn out of Gabe’s life.” Kai opened his mouth. Blackrose stared at the razor-sharp teeth. “Kai!” Kai stopped. He spun around. Gabe walked confidently toward them. “You will not harm her, Kai.” Kai roared. His otherworldly scream echoed through the hall. “I figured it out, Kai. You can no longer harm anyone.” Walter tried to pick himself up. “What’s going on?” “Names have power, right? Every time you called someone’s name, you seemed to have some kind of control over them. Knowing someone’s name givesgive you power over them. But the same is true to you. If someone knows your name, then they control you too.” Kai chuckled. “Yet it has not worked for you.” A smug smile came to Gabe’s lips. “I never called you by your name. But you had to tell me. It’s part of our bond. We must know each other’s name. You told me last night.” Kai grew quiet. “So I banish you now. You will return to wherever you came from and you will never return.” “Don’t do this, Gabe.” Fear filled Kai’s eyes. “I beg you, don’t return me to the darkness.” “But it’s where you thrive. So return there. Starting right now, I banish you, Kaither, from this world!” A blinding light flashed throughout the hall. The light dissipated. Gabe walked over to Blackrose and helped her to her feet. “Hi.” Blackrose smiled. “You really are a magnet for the strange.” “A little help over here, lovebirds?” Walter groaned. Gabe and Blackrose helped Walter up. They stared at the carnage left. The school now looked like a slaughterhouse. “What’s going to happen now,” Blackrose asked. “How do we explain this?” Gabe smiled. “I think whatever happens, we’ll be able to handle it. Together.” “Nah, I think I’m going to go back to ignoring you,” Walter joked. Gabe smacked his arm. “Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without you two.” Blackrose shrugged. “Seemed like you had it all handled.” “No. Because with you two around I wasn’t alone. I was stronger than I had ever been.” “Well, this team happened to stop a monster. I think we all earned a well-deserved rest.” I think after a good night’s rest, I will be up and about in no time,” Walter said. “In other words, let’s get the hell out of here and head home.” He looked at Gabe and Blackrose and smiled. “Together.” Gabe scoffed. “Oh please, you just want us to help carry you home.” “Damn straight. Let’s go.” The End Mine – Part II - Kai smiled. “Proof that our bond is real.” He ran his hand over Gabe's. His touch was gentle. It was welcoming. “I know your loneliness. I know your wish for connection. Your wish for acceptance. Your entire being screams it. I have felt this cry. I know you wish for a friend who understands.”
A few passing students caught the tender moment and burst into laughter. Gabe jerked his hand away. “But it's not you.” Gabe froze. He glanced down. “My hand...”
“My gift to you.” Mine – Part I - An eerie quiet loomed within the school halls. It was an unusually windy night for the end of summer. Gabe tried rubbing the goosebumps off his arm. The empty school was unsettling. Broken lockers creaked with each swing. Wind whistled. Shadows danced.
Gabe tried shaking off his nerves. “Why am I doing this?”
- Book Spotlight – Secrets Posted in: Book Reviews - CW shines the spotlight this week on Secrets - A Collection of Short Stories by Susan M Lane. Continue Reading