Welcome to Velvet, Az.

It’s release day! I’m so excited to bring you a meaningful story that has nothing to do with Covid or politics, or anything else we’ve had an overdose of.
So that you can decide whether or not this story appeals to you, I’ve posted the first chapter of the book below the description (It’s YA fiction, but told through multiple viewpoints, adult included. Everyone, teen and above, will enjoy this story).

For the past eighteen years, the town of Velvet has been under a holiday curse. For them, Thanksgiving is not about turkey and family. It’s about the Nightmares.

Five days before Thanksgiving, the curse arrives early, sending a menagerie of characters on a search for answers. It begins with Boone, a seventeen-year-old who was raised by an ageless eccentric, Nick, a man in the midst of a breakdown, and Toni, a girl who won’t let any man get closer than three feet.

As answers unfold, suspicions arise, and the power behind the curse is a surprise no one could have imagined.

Welcome to Velvet, Az

Boone/Saturday Night

My best friend is no girl next door. She’s a one-person parade sitting against the antiquated phone booth, barely visible in the eight o’clock twilight. Gray hooded coat, blood-red shirt ending in two violent points past her cuffs, trying so hard to look like anything but the china doll inside.
Wait ‘til Toni sees what this town will offer her during the holidays. She’ll think no more of her idle masquerade, poor girl. Unless she follows instructions. But I know she won’t.
Maybe she’ll think more of me. On second thought, I may become the thing of her nightmares. I’m the last person to want to mark her with that kind of fear. Anything but that. I slow my stride, not wanting to startle her.
In a snap, a stream of light catches her. She springs to her feet, her eyes squinting at the approaching headlights. Must be the new guy. He’s early.
One of his tires throws a rock at a lamp post as he pulls to a stop in front of my friend and the red phone booth. Toni’s expression resembles the one she wore the first day she walked into school. She was the new kid: half-emo, half-crafter, trying to present herself as a don’t-mess-with-me fashion statement. But it was the end of summer, and we all looked like Halloween, as we always do. By the time she had taken her third step into the classroom her face reverberated with that of every new kid: a big, hairy slap in the face.
I push my hood back and reach Toni, still caught in the high beams. After an awkward pause, we shuffle outside their glare.
Nice ride. Custom hubcaps, tires made for pavement. He’s not getting out of his car. Toni spots me from the corner of her eye, trying to do it so I don’t notice, fear sliding from her face. She brings out the fists she had stuffed into her pockets, stretches out her fingers and curls them into white-knuckled angry balls.
She doesn’t know that I know. I know more about, well, everyone than they know about me. And what I understand about Toni is that she resents the fact that she has a small frame despite lifting weights five days a week. I know her warrior princess clothes with their blood-red accents, her sharply angled hair and her frequently balled fists are about someone who hurt her before she moved here. The only reason she tolerates me is because I keep a respectable three foot distance from her most of the time.
The car door opens. A Nike shoe, approximately size eleven, touches the ground, gets pulled back up, banged free from its more than likely first taste of loose dirt, then slowly lowers to the ground again: toe, ball, heel. The second foot appears, pressing to the ground like this activity is a grand science experiment, as if there is a formula to contain Arizona dust. This guy’s going to be a fun guest.
My fingers quickly spread inside my coat pocket to make room as I type dirtphobia into my cell and text it to my dad.
A hand grips the top of the car door, and judging by the sketchy lantern light, it looks free of manual labor or wedding ring. His forearm is fairly well-developed. Two things cross my mind: Miss Daniels will be finding excuses to visit the camp now, which reminds me I have a speech to make next week. Crap. I pull two antacids from my pocket and pop them in my mouth, chew them, savor the quenching of the fire in my stomach.
The second thing? Toni had scooted next to me as soon as she saw his size eleven shoes. So it was a guy who hurt her. I figured—it explains things. Maybe he had dirtphobia like this guy. She does something she hasn’t done in the two months I’ve known her and moves deeper into the three-foot safety zone. Is it appropriate to allow myself to smile? I don’t.
She speaks quietly. “Are you expecting a guest tonight?”
“It’s why I couldn’t walk you home from school. I had to get the Marley Cabin ready.”
“Forgiven. But you know it’s me who walks you home, right?”
I bump Toni’s fist with my own and try to keep reality from showing up on my face.
Back to the car. The slowest emergence from a vehicle ever to happen is playing itself out in front of us. His hands look no older than thirty-something. Another body part emerges—his head. Medium brown hair tousled to the side. He stops again. He didn’t request handicapped accommodations, and he said he’s been here before, so it can’t be Velvet’s idiosyncrasies making him nervous. Unless…
I try to imagine myself a guest and scan the town like I didn’t grow up here. I guess the flickering lanterns are unusual, although most say it bridges the gap between the old buildings and the new. Maybe the diner without a name? I lean my head back. A few years ago, a guest told me without any other street lights to dull the night sky, the bright stars can be unnerving if you tend to have a vivid imagination. But I doubt that’s the case with this guy. It’s either the phone booth, or me and Toni.
I take a nauseating step outside of my comfort zone and greet him with a wave, smiling like a 1950s teenager. “Hi. Are you Nick? My name’s Boone—I’m with Velvet Camp Cabins. Our signs were damaged a few nights ago, so the owner asked that I meet you in case you needed help finding your cabin.” He raises his eyebrows at me, which pries the usual explanation from my lips. “My dad’s the caretaker.”
“Uh, yeah. Thanks.” He holds up his phone. “My app quit. It’s been awhile…I don’t exactly remember how to get there.”
I figured. He must have camped here as a kid. He probably won’t make it past November. “Two miles down the road.” I point west where the road disappears into the pines and darkness. “Turn left at the wagon wheel. That road leads directly into the camp.”
Nick rakes me and Toni with his gaze. He stands, crosses his arms and speaks with a don’t-BS- me accent. “Why don’t you ride with me, so I don’t get lost.”
Toni shoves past me. “Fine,” and climbs into the back seat. “Oh, sorry.” She hangs her feet outside the car and bangs her shoes against each other three times. “There’s no place like clean.”
Nick looks at me.
“She’s sympathizing with you.”
“Uh huh.”
His car’s a smooth ride, even when we reach the potholes. No rattles, immaculate interior, smells like cologne. It’ll all be undone within the week. At the first lengthy washboard he slows to a retiree’s pace and swears. “Sorry,” he mumbles.
“You get used to it,” Toni says. “And before long you’ll remember where they are so you can drive around them. Where are you from?”
Nick clears his throat like he’s going to answer, but doesn’t. I warn him about the upcoming pothole he doesn’t have the clearance for and he swears again, swerving.
“Whose responsibility is it to take care of this road?” Goes the second question our more particular guests ask.
“It doesn’t matter. All it takes is one good rainstorm to roughen it up.”
“It’s a vacation destination.” He presses harder into the gas pedal. “They should at least pave it.”
Eager to dump the small talk, I attempt to find the reason behind his visit. It’ll make things easier for when the time comes. “Did you, by any chance, camp here as a child?”
Nick nods. “Good memories.” He glances at me in the rear view mirror, but I see a ghost in his eyes before he zones in on the camp entrance. “Wow.”
We come to a complete stop in front of the welcome arch strung with large bulb lights. Above them, each letter in Velvet Camp Cabins is lined with battery operated tea lights. Two blue bows cascade down either side.
“My dad’s birthday party’s tonight. All guests are invited.”
“Turning a decade older I take it?” Nick chuckles and drives through the arch. The whole town is already here, thirty minutes into the celebration that will last most of the night. He’ll receive more gifts than will fit in our house, most of which will go to the needy throughout the coming week. There’s no one like my dad.
“Not exactly. Why don’t you come down after you get settled and see for yourself?”
He ignores my offer. Nick chose Marley Cabin, the farthest cabin from the others, edging the forest. Probably the one he stayed in as a kid, although it looks nothing like it did after my dad remodeled it. Whimsical man that he is, he added a loft and left all the carved initials in the wooden beams from fifty years of campers.
“Perfect.” Nick drops his backpack on the front step and smiles at us. “You know, I thought you guys were messing with me back there. No uniforms, no name tags.” A pause fills the space between us—one where he tries not to stare. He takes the key I hand him and shoulders his bag again. “I guess small towns live up to the unconventional stereotype, right?”
Good for him he didn’t wait for an honest answer. He walks into his cabin with a “See ya around.”
“How old is your dad anyway?” Toni and I take our spaces outside her three-foot comfort bubble as we walk toward the Parlor—the old mess hall my dad renamed to sound less casual.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure he knows.”
“I would ask how that’s possible, but I suppose you don’t know that either.”
“Dr. Wynn said he’ll tell me soon.”
“Why the mystery? He’s your dad. A bit—”
She takes three whole minutes to say what she’s chewing on as we leave all ten cabins behind and stand outside the Parlor. “I really love your dad, Boone. I hate it when outsiders say stuff about him.”
“It’s nice to hear you feel like one of us now.”
She looks up at me, pushes her hood from her face. “Weirdos together, right?” She unzips her coat and pulls out a fabric-wrapped gift, tied with a blue ribbon. “I made him something. I hope he likes it.” Hard as stone when threatened, sweet as honey when safe.
“I know he will, let’s go.”
I pull open the wooden doors to the people of Velvet.

Hello From the Shadows

I keep finding myself another few months from my last blog post, wondering if I’m in an alternate universe where time mocks all my efforts to get back to writing.

How many of you have day jobs? You probably go through seasons where you’re understaffed, overworked and coming away with a paycheck that doesn’t reflect the energy/family time you’ve sacrificed to “fill in.”

Well, my season of overworking has been much like hitchhiking on a turtle. It keeps going and going at a painfully unproductive pace. I need a wormhole, friends.

However, the time I’ve had away from writing has blossomed with new ideas. I’m considering switching gears to enter the general market. My current genre of faith-based speculative fiction has been fulfilling, but it’s a genre so obscure that I’m not connecting with enough of a readership.

I want to write more real-world, living-this-hard-life themes while keeping the undeniable magic. I have ideas for fiction and one non-fiction.
Thank you all, for your patience and for sticking with me. In this fast-paced world where our attention spans are compared to that of goldfish, you guys are highly valued.

As a thank you—that I’m only alerting those reading my blog—I’m offering the kindle version of ILLUME for FREE, today only. So far, readers consider it my best work and the best of the series. If you’re a tactile person it’s also in paperback now, yay!

I’ll be back, taking you along on my research journey, soon! Happy Tuesday!


My friends!

I have more to say than just this, and I’ll be back next week with some encouragement, but as I’m in between writing and the Son’s karate lessons, I’ll leave you with this today.

I finally finished the third book in the City of Light series. Here are the first two paragraphs which you don’t want to read unless you’ve read the other two. By the way, WAKE (#1) is permanently free on Barnes and Noble. Here.



He stands in a cloud of ash, his long hair ruddy and dry at the ends like wild grasses blown by seasons of wind. His eyes are slivers of rich bark, his arms browned by colonies of freckles. A cord of stones hangs from his neck, and although no ghosts materialize from its powers, he captures my attention like a specter from my past—the man I think is my father.
I tug my shirt over my mouth to keep the fire residue from choking me and take one step toward him. Nearly as large as Luke, he places a thick hand over his heart, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say stars slipped into his eyes from the remains of night just to shine on me. He smiles with closed lips, a near perfect reflection of the way my mother smiled when I woke each morning. You’d think they’d had a whole lifetime together sharing a smile like that. I can’t imagine why she never told me about him.


The link for ILLUME is here. I hope you love it–it’s for you, after all.

Happy Wednesday, and see you soon!




Good Tuesday to you, friends!

Spring is creeping inside Arizona, which I’m LOVING! For those of you still battling winter in the east, I’m thinking about you, and hoping some blossoms and warmth are headed your way.
Right now, I’m in the middle of spring break with the family which has presented a very good picture of reality for me. I need to finish my book before the minions are out of school for the summer. So I’ll be taking a bit of time off from the blog before summer blasts me with a lot of heat and noise.
Aaaannd…I’ll finally be working on a long overdue newsletter for those of you who have signed up. For quick updates, check in on my facebook page, otherwise–I’ll see you at the completion of my first draft of ILLUME.
Loves and hugs!



I went to elementary school in the 80’s when bullying was thought of as an elective. That meant if someone elected to pick on you and you complained to the teacher about it, you would be promptly reminded how close you were to the end of the day, and with that, the teacher turned away as if that small nugget of counseling was all they had to offer. I suppose it was.
Wuzzle was the nickname of the girl who tried to strong-arm me on the bus. She was stocky to my slight, bronzed to my pale, and thought I’d be an easy target on which to display her superiority.
But this was the country where cowboys could speak the language of artists, and ballerinas could be both feminine and beasts. There are fewer limits where there are fewer assumptions.

So as she tried to pin my arms down, I remembered how my ballet teacher told us that dancers were some of the strongest people in the world because we weren’t reliant on machines and steps to sculpt our muscles—we used what we had—our own bodies. Sometimes we forget the value of what we already have.
In ballet, you not only hold your arms up for the majority of the class, but you reach farther than you came in reaching, and use them to frame a story for the audience. What’s not obvious is the effort it takes just to hold your arms up for an hour, and the strength it takes to rise to your toes time and again.
With all the stretching, ballerinas’ muscles don’t bulk up as they would if built in the gym, so this way, they not only reach beyond their limits, but the work that goes into the dance doesn’t get lost to the story.
Wuzzle gave up after a good ten minutes. My arms couldn’t be pinned by an amateur elective-taker. Reality for those who judge without looking a little deeper. But our struggle wasn’t for nothing—we became friends after that, and chose to sit by each other on the bus from that day forward.
I try to remember that as I face struggles—what do I already have in me? Will I let myself reach a little farther…because with the spirit in me, I can. So can you.

Blessings for your Tuesday.

I’m offering a few of my books free for a few days–The first two in The City of Light series, YA dystopian fiction.

Go here for Wake

Go here for Wild

Misfit Rebels

It’s been suggested that I should warn readers about WILD. How they’ll be plunged right into the story, hot on the heels of Wake. How this series brings a different way of thinking than many novels-after-God’s-heart.

Wild is the second book in the City of Light series, although the light is not traditional. Like many authors, I often use the art of story to explore my own questions. For this series, they are: how closely should we adhere to the strictures of our culture?
Should our faith align with those strictures?
What if what we call wild living is the exact opposite of freedom?

A few weeks ago, my pastor showed our congregation a video of Jedidiah Jenkins, a man who decided to quit his job and live on his bicycle for a year while he traveled. His reason being that our lives get robbed of time when we establish a routine. But when we break from that repetition, we become more alert—fascinated with the world, just like a child learns things for the first time with eyes wide open. So I guess my overall question is this: are we living as freely as we were designed to live?

I take my characters, Luke and Monet, on a journey where they have no reference for God, artistic expression, or the history of the world. These things they begin to discover in book 1, which leads them to leave their restrictive city, and walk into the Wild in book 2. It’s not merely rebellion, which brings me back to the question of wild living. Rebellion can be born from many things, but what I search for in Wild is not about anger, revenge, or fitting into a something that just looks different—it’s about exploring a new life outside of what’s expected of us.

Monet and Luke have to rediscover who they are as individuals, and if their relationship is based on something real, or from childhood trauma. When a horrific event occurs, they must take their friends, a former teacher and an old enemy with them on a journey of survival, where they go in search of the world they never knew.

Is life with God just a set of commandments, or are we looking with our eyes wide open? Are we asking Him about our jobs, the church, our dependence on the media, and where He is in all of it? Do we feel the need to ask our culture permission to change? If we look closely at His Book, we see a God who works from a vast array of creativity. Who is more Wild?

If you are so inclined, WILD is available for review on StoryCartel for a few more days.

It’s as Wild as usual–or not.

Here comes the beginning of school with the eclipse shadowing the Dr’s appointments, the sports, the everything but me getting work done. But Mythical books, my supporter of old, has graciously hosted me on their blog today. Read about why my newest book Wild is not your usual story. Continue reading…

The Summer Files: Day….something

Wow. Is the sun shining? I’ve been formatting books for the past few weeks…I might have come up for a few gulps of air.
Anyway, at long last, Wild, the second in the City of Light series is out today! Instead of just telling you about it, I’ll do better.

1. Wake, the first book is free today and for the next several days.
2. The first chapter of Wild is posted below.

Happy Tuesday!



Our new life begins in a mass grave—one in which our parents’ bodies lie. Bones dried from the sun, voices silenced by the mud Luke smears over my skin. I catch his hand in mine, wishing the night wouldn’t hide his blue eyes. “Is this necessary?”
“Yes, quiet.” He points above us to where the sound of horse hooves approach. I escaped Titus to gain freedom, but suddenly I don’t feel free. Luke pours water from his flask to make more mud, then smears it over his face and hands, where his deer skin doesn’t cover him.
A heavy footstep above us splatters dirt clods into The Chasm, and we cover our heads and hug the wall. Mountain Men in hand-me-down boots line the cliff, casting a wicked glow from their torches.
When the light falls on the edge of a rib cage jutting from the earth between me and Luke I press my fist over my mouth.
It could have held the heart of someone I loved.
I squeeze my eyes shut, keeping still until I hear them leave. One by one, the Mountain Men grunt, spit or curse, then mount their horses and trot away. I raise my eyelids again and whisper, “How do we climb out of here?”
“With sunlight.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“They roam the hills all night. It’ll be safer at dawn.” He unfolds himself from our hiding place and stretches—I hear the familiar pop in his back. “There’s a place farther down, without all the company.”
I try to step where he steps, but the moonlight shies away from the depths of The Chasm. My boot crunches down on something. I bite my lip and wipe my tread on the ground and shuffle behind Luke until we come to a hollow dug for two. “You’ve hidden here before?”
After we curl up on the damp ground, he pulls the deer skin over me. I try not to imagine the deer it might have belonged to and push it far enough away to where I smell more of Luke than the hide. I lie with my back to him, feeling awkward now that the lines between friendship and something more have gone unresolved. His voice comes to me, low and tired. “I’ve been here a week, trying to figure out how to get you out of The Seed. Mountain Men have been surrounding The City a few weeks now.”
The night has cooled the summer day into blanket weather. I scoot closer to Luke and let my own troubled week spill from my lips into his ears: imprisonment in my own home; surviving The Seed, where Preston and his father tormented me; fearing for Luke’s life. I suppose our parents and grandparents that were dumped here had lived similar stories. We rebelled against the laws and searched for God, discovering He existed after all. The artists, like Luke, tried communicating Him to the people of Titus, through various forms of art. Many who didn’t manage to escape into the Wild ended up in this pile of bones the city calls rehabilitation.
“Preston hunted me because I betrayed him to the Mountain Men—chased me through the orchards like it was a game. He’s just like his dad, and would have killed me if I hadn’t gone through the glass.”
“Don’t worry—I have plans for him.” There’s an edge to Luke’s voice—like a scar in the tone. He folds his arm around my waist. “I made contact with Galeo after Orca took you to The Seed. He told me how Preston treated you.” I jump when a few sets of hooves snap and crunch their way along The Chasm’s rim. Luke squeezes my arm. “Javelina. Can’t you smell them?”
“No. How can you possibly smell them from here?”
“It’s astonishing how living in the Wild sharpens the senses. We become like the animals.”
“Can you smell the jackfruit tree I hid in?”
“Sour onions…where you hid from Preston?”
“Um hmm.”
“Then I smell the man I’m going to kill.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s dead. Didn’t you see us fall from The Seed?”
“You survived.”
I turn my face to the stars above. “This doesn’t sound like you.”
“The City will fall soon. Unless The Triad—and Preston—is replaced, it won’t survive. The people won’t survive.”
The euphoria that filled me when I survived the fall from The Seed is steadily leaving me. We’re finally together. Despite the dangerous path we’re on, I think I can finally rest for the night. I turn over and bury my face in Luke’s shirt, both familiar and foreign. My eyes lose their focus as The Chasm swallows me into the deep of night.
It seems like all I did was blink and exhale, but the next time I open my eyes, our hollow is swallowing a spoonful of morning light. Luke sits across from me, stretched out in full sun, his face still dirtied by his mud disguise. He smiles.
I sit up to take it all in. His hair still lifts away from his face, although it looks lighter than its darker city shades. Only a month separates us, but his eyes look five years removed from me. Wild. Wise and Wild. I touch my own face, wondering if trauma has done the same to me.
“You’ve never looked better. Here, put these on.”
He tosses a pair of boots at my feet. They’re soft and pliable, surely too delicate for living outdoors. Laces crisscross all the way up the sides. Caressing the smooth material, I pull it to my cheek until I catch the scent and throw them back down. “Skin?”
“From the same skin you slept under last night.” He scoots close to me. “It doesn’t take long to get used to wearing it. It’s like air—we need it.”
“They don’t look like they could handle a hike.”
“Their durability won’t be your first surprise, and the Watchdogs won’t find your tracks as easily. Put them on; it’s time to go.”
“And these?” I pull off my old boots, staring at the sturdy rubber tread, dropping them when I see shards of bone pressed into the tread.
“Bury them.”
I do so without arguing, quickly lacing my new boots when Luke grips his shoulder and groans.
“Let me see it.” I step behind him, pushing his vest aside. A deep red scar runs from mid-back to his right shoulder blade: Preston’s parting gift. “How deep does it run?”
“Down to misery some days.”
I look at him leaning over, catching his breath against the pain. Luke rarely complains of pain—the only time I’ve seen him like this was when he burned his arms trying to pull his mother from the museum fire. I stare in the direction of Titus. “Surely he’s dead.”
Luke says nothing more until we’ve left The Chasm three miles behind. Collapsing in the shade of several oak trees, we drink from his flask. My hip aches from the explosion in The Seed, but walking is more bearable than it was yesterday. Still, I lay on my stronger side, wipe my forehead with my tattered sleeve and stare at Luke, trying to become familiar with him again. His eyes roam our surroundings as we rest, eventually falling on me. His mouth curves into a slight smile, then falls again. “How bad did he hurt you?”
“He tried to break my foot to keep me from escaping.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
A wave of heat surges across my face and neck. I look down, remembering how Preston stared at me with a brazen appetite. “Surprisingly, no.”
Tension melts from his face as he leans against a mound of leaves and other forest debris. “We get a new life, Monet.” His face is set in bold lines; no smile lifts his mouth, but his eyes gleam when I meet them. “You and I.”
“Tell me. How do families fare in the Wild?” I swallow and lean hard against the ground. He moves so close to me I feel his warmth, then lowers his eyes to mine, capturing me in a decision. “They live on courage, not fear.”
“I can do that.”
He smiles and curls his hands around my arms. “The weeks have changed you.”
“And you.” I touch his jaw, so tight. He looks away.
We jerks our heads toward a sharp snap in the woods west of us. Before any words register in my mind, Luke pulls me from daylight toward the mound he leaned against moments ago. He grabs a branch at the base of the heap, and lifts it up with the entire blanket of forest debris attached and pushes me inside the manmade nook.
“Don’t make a sound.” He pulls the lid of leaves over us and we wait. Inside our hideaway, the darkness assaults me; I’m not claustrophobic, but the thought of living like prey, dressed in the skin of prey, wraps around my chest like a vice. I take a deep breath to calm myself and wonder if the Wild Ones are civilized at all.
As we lie within the droppings of trees and animals, I realize I’m letting absolute logic take hold again, as if the smell of Titus still clings to me. I know better. I breathe in and out, slowing my lungs and let myself enjoy being stuffed next to Luke. His shoulder firm against mine, his fearless nature strength for my fearful one. I am free. I am free.
Luke lifts a corner of our roof, edging his face near the opening.
That’s when I smell it. A Mountain man. I scoot close to warn Luke, but again, he reacts faster. Whipping his legs in front of him, he catches a pair of battered boots and sweeps the intruder to his back.
Our cover flies back and Luke bolts outside and grabs the man by the shirt, pulling him close enough to see every granule of filth on his face. “What do you want?”
“What we all want.” The man coughs and turns his head toward me, grinning. “Her.”
Luke spares a second to glance at me, eyebrows lifted—just long enough for the man to break from Luke’s hold and sidestep far enough to pull a long knife from the sheath strapped to his leg.
“Preston said he killed you. Kid’s a liar just like his Dad was.”
“Was?” I stand near Luke, pluck a branch from the ground. I grip it with both hands, trying to look like I know what to do with it.
The man grins, wide and yellow. “We disposed of’m. Threw him in the Chasm ‘bout an hour ago. Right about where you two cuddled up last night.”

His eyes cling to me, bees to honey. I wave the branch across my body as if to disengage his train of thought, but they adhere to me, sliding down my neck, my waist. Luke seizes the man’s wrist and slams it against the tree until he drops his knife. Like an angry sting, the man brings his opposite arm down on Luke’s, breaking free. Backing away, they circle each other. Luke’s shoulder stiffens ever so slightly, and I see his left hand flex to cradle the pain, but he keeps it down—I see it because I know Luke so well, but the Mountain Man’s eyes have been trained for survival because as soon as he reads Luke’s body language, he pounces.
The branch is heavy in my struggle to swing it high, but I do it anyway, thrashing it against a leg, an arm. But my clumsy attempts don’t help Luke. Finally, they separate enough for me to attempt a blow to the man’s chest. I lift the branch to gain momentum, but it catches on the tree behind me. I lose my balance and fall between them.
The Mountain Man grabs me by the hair, pulling me to my feet. The shock of it makes me gasp, and I fling my hands to his to pry them from my hair. I accidentally poke his eye and then do it again after I hear him cry out. My hair goes slack.
Luke brushes me aside and grips the man by the back of his neck and arm, shoving him headfirst into the tree. The man doesn’t even grunt when he falls. His mouth hangs open, catching the last red stream of life trickling from his forehead.
“You killed him.” I gape at Luke, only three weeks in the Wild like he breathed it in to his very cells.
He gives his deed no mind, but asks, “What did he mean?”
I stare at the man, dead on the ground, wondering why it bothers me after spending the night in The Chasm. Perhaps a life in the process of leaving is less definite than a pile of broken bones.
“Tell me,” Luke says.
I find Luke’s face, hard again. “Didn’t you hear Hep when you came through the quad to get me?”
He shakes his head.
“He leads the Mountain Men. They took over The Seed right before I escaped. He…” I feel my face flush and look away. “He wants me. He offered the city a reward for bringing me to him.”
“We need to get home.”
“What about him?” I tilt my head toward the Mountain Man.
“The cats will take care of it.”
He stops underneath an oak and looks at me. The words catch in my throat when I see the hard set of his jaw relax. He puts his hands on my shoulders, pulling me into his embrace. We take a minute to stay there, locked in the bond we used to keep the fear away when we were citizens of Titus. It is then, in the worn folds of his cotton shirt peeking from his vest, that I catch his old familiar scent. Metal. “You’re sculpting out here?”
He pulls away, grins and starts walking. “Peter found my welder when he was watching for you at the old house. Not much metal out here, but a few scavenged scraps keep me busy.”
“What will you make now that you’re free?”
He runs a hand over my hair and I fall in step beside him. “Maybe a door handle for a new home?”
“There are houses?”
“No. No houses. Just home.”
Home. Is it more than shelter then?
The sun is aimed deadly high when we get there, and if it wasn’t for a merciful breeze it would have baked us long before we reached our haven. When Luke stops and raises his arm in front of us, all I see is a cliff at our feet and a creek beyond. But just beyond the tip of Luke’s fingers, right where he points at the canopy of trees inside the walls of the cliff below us, something’s not quite right.

The Line on the Wild Side

For some reason, I thought I would have much more time to write once my kids attended full-time school. They won’t have that many activities, I thought.
I guess shaving a month from summer vacation gave them room for all the half-days.
And being a charter school, there is no bus. I bet if I added up the hours I spent in my car the last year or two I could have driven to Disneyland at least twice. But I don’t need to go that distance for a ride, I mean, my life is one giant spinning tea cup as it is.
I do love my kids’ school though—fine art, drama, music, and at least one opera…
…concerts during the day, concerts at night…are the tires smoking?
What day job?

Does anyone else get stuck behind the retiree driving 5-10 miles under the speed limit when they’re running late (Do they need to go shopping this early?)? On those days, I get to the school so late it takes 20-30 minutes of line-waiting to reach my kids.
But hey! We can read books in line, right? I read an entire anthology this school year while waiting in line.
At the end of the day, it’s worth the wait. The education C and N gets is invaluable, whether it’s in class, on stage or on the playground.
Speaking of waiting, people have been asking me about the progress of my book, the second in the City of Light Series. It’s coming, I promise. After a few final tweaks, it should be ready to go (Should anyone be interested in receiving an ARC, shoot me an email at srossbooks@gmail.com). The name, you say?


(that’s the opposite of waiting in line).

Happy Tuesday friends.

Vote Here

A publisher told a class I once attended that he could tell when a manuscript had been written by a teen rather than an adult. It isn’t the quality of writing that gives it away—copious amounts of formal education makes a storyteller not—it’s the human experience: falling in love, becoming a parent, losing a loved one; living long enough to have experienced the depths of life. It’s after experiencing the heart of what their story is about that a writer can take the science and art and weave it together with the kind of scars we received from boldly living.

“If you haven’t experienced your story in deep doses”, he said, “You better research the heck out of it to make it believable because readers want to connect with truth.”

So even though I haven’t lived in a dystopian society like I created in Wake where expressive art was outlawed, I have been undervalued by teachers because they hadn’t experienced art in its true form. There have been times when I painted a canvas with inspiration I know didn’t come from me—I’ve been in a class where a student refused to paint a particular subject because of the truth of what it might have revealed in him. I don’t know the power of art because of what a few authority figures have told me—I know it because I’ve lived it.bd86b164-3e87-407b-a0e6-aac08c725442

So when the elections rolled around, and our choices were limited to OMG! and YOU’RE KIDDING! I started mulling over the wisdom of the candidates—that’s how I vote, because an eloquent speaker or a horrible speaker are just speakers; I don’t care how well or how poorly they speak, I want to know what they KNOW. What have they lived through that makes me think they will lead with the fruits of their experiences?

When I had finally finished with my core subjects in college and was free to study art, my boss at the time commented on how I had no “real” classes left. Why then, I wondered, did she see the importance of hanging a particular painting where it was the first thing she looked at every day? Somehow, she had missed the connection. This is what I ponder when candidates discuss whether or not a fetus is a “real” baby, or if certain ethnic groups should suffer for the sins of a few because even the innocent are a “real” threat. If faith isn’t a factor for a candidate (it is for some, but we all know professing a faith is a campaign strategy), and science hasn’t gotten far enough to give answers to the hard questions…what kind of deep living do they draw their conclusions from?

What do you think? Let’s lend an ear during the debate tonight—maybe we’ll be able to discern the wisdom from the speech.