Monday, October 13, 2014

Fall Into Fantasy Giveaway!

From October 17 to the 31st, I'm taking part in the Fall Into Fantasy Giveaway. More than fifty fantasy books, adult and YA are up for grabs, along with baskets of swag!

The prize I'm offering is the ebook of Demon World, a YA novel in which a young man navigates vampires, demons, magic, secrets, crushes... and the scary world of high school... Here's the blurb:

Vincent has always known his fathers’ secret: they are both vampires, escaped from a fighting camp where they were forced to combat the demons that come to Earth from another dimension through a portal.

He’s also known he was special, brought into the world by his mother’s magic at the cost of her life. It gives him the strength, speed and acute senses of vampires without their weaknesses, a combination unheard of.

And he’s known that both facts were to be kept secret at all cost, lest his fathers be sent back to fight an endless battle, or he be studied like a lab rat for the rest of his life.

So, during his junior year in high school, when he receives an anonymous text message that hints someone knows, he’s determined to figure out who it is and how to keep them quiet before his fathers find out and decide they should all run and hide. This task, however, might be easier if his best friend didn’t suddenly show a deep interest in vampires, demons and fighting camps… and if the girl he has a crush on didn’t distract him so much…

Here are the two rafflecopter forms and lists of prizes... Be sure to get as many entries as you can so have a better chance of winning!


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Adult #1

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Summer for Love Blog Hop

Welcome to Angela Yseult's stop on the Summer for Love Blog Hop!

To celebrate the impending arrival of summer, I'd like to offer you a peek into my YA novella You Promised Me Two Years, as well as offer you the chance to win one of 3 ebooks, or one of the 6 giftcards in play with the Summer for Love Blog Hop! Keep reading for all the details!

In You Promised Me Two Years, Tyler is an interpreter, which means he deciphers the cryptic messages given by his Prophet and friend, Connor. As they spend the summer vacation together, Connor gives Tyler a very special birthday present...


By nightfall, at last, a black car came to pick up Tyler’s mother, Carol and Sophia, and took them to the airport. Tyler managed to maintain a smile as he waved goodbye, but not a second longer than that. Returning to the dining room where the cook had served them a veritable feast, he left the half-unwrapped pair of jeans on the table and served a generous portion of birthday cake onto the plate that had been set for Connor but that had remained unused. As he went up, he could hear muffled accords of violin, and his heart tightened a bit. How bad was it?

He knocked on the door almost hesitantly. Connor opened at once. His eyes seemed feverish, his hair mussed up from raking his fingers through it. For a brief instant, Tyler almost wanted to ask if he’d taken something, but already Connor was ushering him inside, taking the plate from him and setting it on the desk, perilously close to the edge.

“The clocks didn’t ring close enough,” he said, speaking very fast and sounding a little manic. Holding his violin and bow in one hand, he pushed and pulled Tyler to his bed with the other, making him sit down and then shoving a few pieces of paper into his hands. “Horses danced and still dance and waltzed but they stepped on their fingers.”

It made no sense for a moment, to the point that Tyler wondered if he’d lost his gift to interpret. And then Connor started playing, and everything became luminous.

Connor had forgotten about Tyler’s birthday, he said. How he—or Sophia—even knew about it, Tyler had no idea. Connor had forgotten, so he had no gift ready. So he’d written this piece of music. And it wasn’t very good—he said—but it was the best he could do on such short notice. And he’d written it down for Tyler, so even after Connor was gone, Tyler could still hold on to it.

The papers in Tyler’s hands were sheet music. Tyler had learned a bit of flute in his previous school, so he’d seen something like this before, but this was more intricate than anything he’d ever laid his eyes on, let alone played. He didn’t look at it long, though. How could he, when Connor was in front of him… playing was such an inadequate word for what he was doing right now.

It was like watching, hearing, feeling a universe come to life right in front of him; stars being born in myriads of colors, explosions that were true symphonies, heat like warm fingers curling over his heart. It lasted for hours, it seemed, but it was still much too short.

When Connor finally stopped, he was breathing hard. He blinked a few times, looked at Tyler, then frowned.

“Ty?” he breathed, and what he was asking in that small, pained voice was, Did you not like it at all? Is that why you’re crying?

Tyler hastily wiped his cheeks, feeling them heat up in embarrassment under his hands. He hadn’t even noticed he was crying.

“It was beautiful,” he said, even though ‘beautiful’ was so far from what he really meant. He just didn’t have a better word for it. “It’s the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. The most beautiful present I've ever been given. Thank you.”

Connor smiled, relief shining in his eyes. They shared the piece of cake that Tyler had brought up. And Tyler was oh, so glad that Connor couldn’t read anything beyond the surface of Tyler’s words, because he was pretty sure what he’d just said was, ‘I love you.’



To win your choice out of these 3 ebooks, just fill out the Rafflecopter giveaway. 
3 winners will be chosen. Good luck!
(you can click each cover to see what it is about) . .

(6) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Cards

Comment with your name and email to be entered into the Grand Prize drawing. Comments without name and email will not be counted. Commenting on each and every stop will increase your chances of winning.
Winners for the (6) Grand Prizes will be drawn and announced on THE ROMANCE TROUPE blog by June 10th.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Demon World - Chapter 2

Second chapter of Demon World.


Chapter 2 – In which my to-do list becomes scary

I didn’t try to talk to Mrs. Rinehart after class ended. I figured it was best to wait until school was over, when there wouldn’t be anyone around to hear me plead—or to see her cave in.

The rest of the day crawled by. Those two words and all the questions they had raised kept ringing through my mind. At lunch, I could barely eat a thing. My last three classes were a blur. I took a test in one of them; hopefully my answers wouldn’t be complete gibberish.

At long last, the dismissal bell rang. I rushed back to the second floor and found Mrs. Rinehart alone in her room. She took one look at me and shook her head as she returned her attention to the textbook in her hands.

“Don’t even try, Mr. Stevens. You knew the consequences when you chose to break the rules.”

The words hit me like a slap on the wrist, but I couldn’t give up that fast.

“I just wanted to make sure it was off,” I tried, and kept it at that. I can’t lie without blushing, but with any luck, she would just think I was upset.

She made a little sound in her throat, set the book on her desk, and sat down, her fingers linked in front of her. She was lower than me now, but somehow she managed to look like she was standing and looming over me. My father did the same trick, and it was never a good sign.

“Admirable that you would try to ensure my class wouldn’t be interrupted,” she said dryly. “Much less admirable that you had a phone with you when, per the student handbook, you are supposed to keep it in your locker.”

It was true that the rule was somewhere in the handbook, but I didn’t know a single student who didn’t keep their phone in their pocket or schoolbag. The teachers knew it, and they had stopped fighting that battle, keeping their ammunition for actual use of the phones during class. I wasn’t out of arguments, though. Maybe pointing out inconsistencies in her rules would soften her…

“But you let us use them when we meet for—”

“Viewpoint is an after-school club,” she cut in coolly. “Different standards apply.”

So much for that argument.

As I tried to decide what to say next, she watched me over the rim of her glasses. Her eyes were blue. I had never noticed before. At that moment, they looked extraordinarily like my father’s—Michael’s—when I did something I shouldn’t. It was the thought of what he would say, how disappointed he would be if I didn’t fix that text message thing and fast that pushed me to argue a little more.

“My dads both work late. They wouldn’t be able to come by before the evening. Maybe you could assign me detention instead. I’ll come in all week. Before and after school.”

I had practice after school just about every day and she knew it, so I hoped she would see how much of a punishment detention was for me. No such luck.

She pulled out a notepad and scribbled something as she said, “If they can’t come during regular hours, they can call me and arrange a meeting when it will be more convenient for them.”

She tore the first sheet off the notepad and handed it to me. I glanced at it, and saw two phone numbers as well as an email address. I dropped my head as I folded the sheet and slipped it in my pocket. Maybe the kicked-puppy-dog look…

She sighed quietly and leaned back in her chair.

“I’m sorry, Vincent. I don’t make exceptions to my rules. You know that.”

The worst thing was, I did know that, and I had known it when I had pulled the phone out. I just hadn’t cared. I couldn’t really be mad at her, not when I had taken a stupid chance. This was my own fault. I only hoped the same wasn’t true about the text message. I hadn’t slipped up, had I?

“I know.” I shrugged. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”

A half-smile curled her lips. “Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often. You’re a bright young man; one misstep doesn’t change that. Speaking of, did you think of a topic for tomorrow?”

I shook my head. “Not yet. I’m going to brainstorm with AJ tonight. Or I was supposed to. We usually talk about it over the phone.”

She snorted and rolled her eyes at me. “I’m sure you’ll do just fine without it. Have a good day.”

Last ditch effort, no result. I had lost this battle, and the war wasn’t off to a good start.

AJ was halfway to the ice rink when I caught up with him after a quick stop by my locker.

“Where have you been?” he asked without slowing down.


He grunted. “Lost cause, huh?”

“Yeah, but I had to try. I don’t know when my dads will be able to come get it.”


Honestly, I was disappointed by his reaction—or lack of it. I would have expected more sympathy from him, especially about losing my phone. He could hardly go more than a few minutes without checking his own—although I suppose he had more sense than me and he didn’t check it in English class.

Most of the team was already there when we entered the locker room. We got dressed then went out on the ice for a few warm-up laps before Coach B told us what he wanted from us for the day.

Usually, when I’m skating, everything else disappears. My mind clears, and my focus turns entirely to the stick in my hands, the other players around me—and of course the puck. Not today.

For just about everything else, my abilities were a pain to hide. Having a vampire for a father meant I was faster, stronger, had better reflexes and sharper senses than anyone—or at least, anyone human. But I couldn’t make use of any of those skills where people might notice. As a kid, I hated it. I could have won every race and every game of tag or hide and seek. I could have stopped every schoolyard bully that ever teased or mocked or hurt anyone. I could have, but I wasn’t supposed to.

My dads—Michael, mostly; he was the worrier—drilled it into me that being special meant being very careful not to draw attention to myself. If I did, their secret might be exposed, and if anyone discovered they were vampires, I would be taken away from them. That was the last thing I ever wanted to happen. So, I sometimes let my friends run faster than me. I let them win games.

The bully thing was different, and I found ways to get around that and teach a lesson or two to a couple of bad kids without ever getting in trouble, but that’s not the point.

The point is, all of that changed when I stepped onto the ice. I was six. I had asked to play baseball like my best friend at the time, but my dads weren’t too excited about the whole ‘sunny outdoors’ part. It was Lucas—my non-bio dad—who suggested hockey. We watched a few games on TV, and I agreed to give it a try. The practical side of it, and Lucas was nothing if not practical, was that it was played indoors, the local ice-rink had a covered parking, and the classes were in the evening. What neither Lucas nor I could have guessed was how much I would enjoy it.

The very first time I put skates on, I was hooked. After a few lessons, it turned into a passion. All of the things I had to hide outside the rink made me an excellent player on the ice, but no one suggested my skills were due to anything more than natural talent. Why would they? They’d have sounded crazy.

At first, Michael looked a little worried when my coaches or other parents raved about how good I was, but over the years he grew used to it. When I joined the high school team, Coach B started pushing me harder than any other player. He’d sworn he’d work to get me a college scholarship, and in exchange he counted on me to win him at least a couple championships. Fair deal from my point of view.

I suppose some people would have said my DNA gave me an unfair advantage if they had known—the same people who, twice this past season, had accused me of cheating and taking whatever drug of the day supposedly helped players perform better. But the thing was, I wasn’t taller or bigger than the average player, and I’d happily submit to doping tests if they’d only stop those stupid rumors. I had a natural advantage, sure, but I worked hard, too. Really hard. It just didn’t feel like work at all.

Or at least, not usually.

“Stevens! Wake up and start playing or I swear by all portals you’ll spend the next game on the bench!”

I flinched when Coach B yelled at me and barely missed tripping over my own skates. My face burning, I caught my balance just in time. Every pair of eyes in the rink was on me; I didn’t even need to look to know. Coach B had never benched me before. He had never yelled at me in the middle of practice, either. He had never needed to yell at me. Was I imagining the whispers behind my back?

AJ skated over to me and knocked twice against my helmet right over my forehead. “What’s wrong with you? Is it still about the fanged phone? It’s just a phone, man. You’ll get it back eventually. I’m sure your sweetie will wait.”

I didn’t reply and turned away, annoyed that he kept treating this like it was just some girl who had sent me a flirty text. I couldn’t tell him it was much more complicated than that. I couldn’t tell anyone: not my best friend, and not my dads. I’d need to tell them something to explain the phone situation, but at least for now, I wouldn’t mention that message to them. It had been sent to me, so I would deal with it myself.

I only wished I had any idea how to do that. But thinking about it while I was supposed to be skating wasn’t helping anything.

I tried to focus on the practice, at least enough to not get yelled at again, but judging from the glare Coach B offered me two hours later when practice ended, I remained less than stellar throughout. For the first time ever, I couldn’t manage to care. Getting benched would be a big deal. A really big deal. But it paled in comparison to the other threat hanging over my head—and my dads’.

I was still thinking about that when I climbed into AJ’s beat-up car. He picked me up in the morning and drove me home in the afternoon, and in exchange I gave him some gas money every so often.

“So what do you want to do for our next article?” he asked after a few minutes of driving. “We’re supposed to propose our topics tomorrow. The K’s are going to corner us like demons if we’ve got nothing.”

The K’s were Kurt and Kristen, respectively editor-in-chief and vice-editor of the school’s newspaper. AJ and I had joined the staff of the Viewpoint on a dare in the middle of our sophomore year, and we’d shared a byline since the beginning. We did the research together, I wrote the actual article, and AJ illustrated it with his own photographs or drawings. Neither of us ever actually said so, but it had gone from just a dare to something we both enjoyed. That, and it earned us extra credit in Mrs. Rinehart’s class.

“No clue,” I said with a sigh. “What about that article about the girls’ rugby team we talked about before?”

AJ had suggested that topic a few weeks earlier, and I knew exactly why. The captain of that team was pretty cute, and AJ had a thing for her. He had a thing for a lot of cute girls, to tell the truth. Unfortunately, the rugby team captain had recently started dating someone; I guess that put a damper on AJ’s interest in rugby, because he shrugged.

“I don’t know. We’ve done several sports articles. Maybe we could write about something else. Something more… serious?”

Like I didn’t have enough serious stuff in my life right then…

“More serious like what?” I asked, distracted.

The guy in the car in front of us was talking on his phone while driving. My usual mental response of ‘what a fanged idiot’ turned to something along the lines of, ‘I wish I had my cell phone.’ How was I going to get out of this mess without access to that text?

“How about vampires?”

My stomach leapt to my throat at AJ’s question, and I could taste bile on the back of my tongue.

“Vampires?” I repeated, choking up a bit.

“Yeah.” AJ didn’t notice how startled I was and kept driving as he explained what he meant, his thumbs beating excitedly on the steering wheel. “Did you know two students from our school volunteered to be turned three years ago? The summer before our freshman year. We could do a feature about them.”

“Volunteered?” Apparently, I was stuck on repeat mode. I tried to order my thoughts and regain some coherence. “I didn’t know people still volunteered.”

“Oh yeah, they totally do. I mean, it doesn’t happen all that often. They’ve got to be crazy to want fangs, right?”

He turned a quick look toward me then, and there was something odd in his eyes, like he wanted me to tell him that, no, I didn’t think only crazy people would want to be vampires. Except I did believe it. Not for the same reasons as everybody else, of course. People thought vampires were monsters. I knew that the true monsters were those who kept vampires in camps.

“Anyway,” he continued when I didn’t say anything, “I don’t think most people even know you can do it, so that could make a cool article.”

He was grinning by the time he finished. After his lack of reaction to my troubles, I had started to wonder what was wrong with him. It was nice to see him act more like himself again. But of all possible topics, why vampires? Why now?

“So?” he said when, after a few seconds, I still hadn’t replied. “What do you think?”

What did I think? I thought people who actually wanted to become vampires nowadays either knew nothing about what the life of a vampire was like in a fighting camp, or had mental issues that went a lot deeper than ‘crazy.’ I thought I’d rather write about anything else in the world when I’d just discovered someone knew about my own personal link to vampires. Mostly, I thought I had no desire to nix the topic right then and have AJ be upset with me. Thankfully, I didn’t have to: he was just turning into my street.

“I’m not sure,” I said as he drove up to my house. “I guess I need to sleep on it. Pick me up a few minutes early tomorrow and we can talk about it before first period?”

He made a vaguely affirmative sound, but his expression was somber again, almost disappointed. Most of the time, I was the one who suggested our topic, and I could imagine he would have liked a bit more enthusiasm from me when he had come up with what, for anyone else, would have been a great subject. For me, it just felt like it hit too close to home.

When I walked up to the front door a few moments later, I added one more line to my to-do list:

• Get one of my dads to get my phone back from Mrs. Rinehart.

• Solve the text-message mystery and convince whoever it was to promise they won’t tell what they know.

• Find an article topic good enough to distract AJ from his vampire idea.

Before all that, however, I was going to have a sword fight.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Demon World - Chapter 1

The first chapter from my new novel, Demon World.


Chapter 1 – In which stealth is an important skill

As a child, I never slipped and betrayed my fathers’ secret. When I did, I was almost seventeen, and it wasn’t an accident. I knew exactly what I was doing when I told her.

Or at least, I thought I knew what I was doing.

My dads used to ask me when I came home from school: did you talk to anyone about us? Did you say the ‘V word’ at all, for any reason?

The answer was always no. I mean, I talked about them sometimes, or even said the word I wasn’t supposed to use. Who doesn’t, really? It’s like trying not to use the word ‘demon’; it just comes up. But I never said it in connection with them. They’d had a lot of time to learn how to keep secrets, and they taught me well. Too well, maybe.

When this all started, telling their secret was the last thing I wanted to do. I knew how much trouble we’d all be in if the authorities heard about them—and me. Either I’d be sent to a lab to be studied like a freak, or I’d be shipped to a fighting camp with them. Neither option sounded appealing. Call me crazy, but I actually enjoyed having a normal life, or as normal as it could be with my dads being who they were.

One simple text message changed all that—and the course of my life.

I was pretty good at not checking my text messages at school. I was pretty good at following rules, period. Not getting the wrong kind of attention was part of the ‘keeping the secret’ deal. But that day, on my way to AP English, I checked my phone.

It was usually off, so the buzz startled me, and I checked it without thinking or breaking my stride. Crowded as the hallways were, slowing down was asking to be pushed around by the people behind you until you ended up with your nose against a locker—or inside one.

Next to me, AJ continued to go on about his kill numbers in Demon World the previous night, no doubt to convince me I should get the game so we could play as a team. I didn’t need to be convinced; I thought the game was cool. My dads… not so much. They had this thing about demons and how killing them wasn’t a game, even on a computer screen.

They’d killed enough of them in the real world to have the right to think that.

When I thumbed the phone open, I didn’t recognize the number. It wasn’t signed, either. Just two words on the small screen, and my heart first skipped a beat, then tried to cram a hundred more in the next two seconds. I felt as hot and out of breath as if I’d just finished a dozen of Coach B’s punishing skating drills. My legs continued to move forward, but they weighed as much as lead suddenly.

The message simply said “I know.”

For a second, I wondered what the message meant. But only for a second.

The thing was, I didn’t have many secrets. I had just the one. The secret of who my dads were—what they were—and by extension, who and what that made me.

So if someone thought they knew something about me, something special enough to send a cryptic text message, there really wasn’t anything else it could be about. The sender knew about my dads. And telling me that they knew like this couldn’t possibly be a good sign. It had to be a warning. Or maybe a threat. Maybe the next message would tell me what they wanted in exchange for being quiet. Maybe…

AJ shoulder-bumped me and jolted me out of my thoughts.

“Am I boring you that much?” he muttered. “What the bloody fangs is so important anyway?”

He made a grab for my phone. Any other time, it wouldn’t have been a problem. He was a few inches taller than me, but I had better reflexes than anyone I knew, except my dads. Not sure if it was genetics or magic at play but, hey, not complaining here. Now though, my head was buzzing with that message and the world of trouble it could spell for us, and I didn’t realize what he was doing until the phone was out of my hands.

“Give it back, AJ.”

He didn’t. Instead, he half-turned away, putting his backpack in my way so I couldn’t reach the phone.

“I know,” he read aloud, then turned a twisted grin back toward me. “Another message from one of your admirers, huh?”

Even in the crowded hallway, I caught a whiff of the jealousy that suddenly burst in his scent, and I had to stop myself from rubbing at my nose. To me, jealousy smelled like cayenne pepper, and it always made me want to sneeze. I usually tried to ignore scents unless I wanted to get a read on someone. I suppose deodorant, perfume, and BO are bad enough for regular noses, but with a nose like mine, you either learn to put it all in a box and ignore it, or you learn not to breathe. It was harder to ignore when it was something so sudden—even if not completely unexpected.

The phone numbers for the entire hockey team had been stolen from our coach—we thought—and posted online a few weeks earlier. We all got calls from giggly girls and ‘UR so HAWT’ text messages, but AJ didn’t get quite as many as the rest of us did. He never said anything directly, but his scent spoke volumes, and I quickly learned not to mention those calls to him; not that they mattered.

“So what does she know?” he insisted.

I gave him a hard look as I reached for the phone, and he let me have it back.

“No clue.” I turned off the phone and shoved it back in my pocket. “It must be a mistake.”

AJ let out a bark of laughter, and a couple of people in front of us looked back to see what he was laughing at.

“Vince, dude, you’re such a crappy liar.”

He’d told me as much a hundred times before. As often as I’d told him I hated to be called Vince. He only did it anymore when he was annoyed with me. At that moment, his annoyance or mine really didn’t matter on the scale of ‘things that have a potential to go through a portal in a hand-basket.’ What was I going to do about that message?

“Come on, what did you say to get an ‘I know’ in reply? Told her she was hot?”

“I didn’t say anything to anyone.”

I’d probably have to explain the same things to my dads when I told them about the message. Demon blood! They were going to flip. They’d want to know who it was. But who was it?

“I don’t even know if it’s a girl. I don’t know who it’s from.”

We had reached the bottleneck in front of Mrs. Rinehart’s room, and as we slowed down, AJ looked at me full on, as though searching for the lie on my face. He was right: I was a terrible liar. The only thing I could lie about as easily as I breathed was my fathers’ secret. Everything else… Well, it was like I used all my lying skills on this one thing, and I couldn’t lie with a straight face about any other topic. Which was why I didn’t keep secrets.

Whatever AJ saw on my face caused him to frown, then shrug. He stepped in front of me in the line, and with no one else to focus on, I was back to my quiet panicking. This was bad. This was very, very bad. If I’d been given a sword and told there was a demon waiting for me outside the school, I wouldn’t have been half as worried. I knew how to wield a sword, and I could, in theory, fight a demon. I might not be strong enough to kill it, but I could probably save my own skin. This, I had no idea how to deal with.

My body fully on automatic, I stopped on the threshold of the room for Mrs. Rinehart to do her visual inspection. My ID was around my neck, proclaiming to whoever cared to look that I was Vincent Stevens, Junior at Freemont High, my t-shirt was plain blue with no writing, my pants didn’t sag halfway to my knees, all of which earned me a stern nod of approval and the right to enter Mrs. Rinehart’s classroom.

Still caught up in my thoughts, I didn’t react immediately. She had given me the same evaluating glance every day for the past year and half, only now I couldn’t help but wonder: would she look at me any differently if she knew about me, about my dads? Would she refuse me entrance? Would she be scared? Disgusted? Angry?

“Mr. Stevens, you’re holding up the line,” she said in that clipped tone of hers, the one that usually accompanied words like “I expected better than an A minus from you” or “Your article isn’t quite the depth we expect for Viewpoint; you’ll need to rework it.”

I jumped, ducked my head, and hurried inside. Half the class was already seated. I slinked over to my desk toward the back of the room.

In front of me, AJ twisted around in his seat to frown at me some more and ask, “You really don’t know who it’s from?”

I shook my head and hunted down a pencil at the bottom of my backpack.

“You gonna answer back?”

Before I could tell him that I didn’t know, the bell rang and Mrs. Rinehart closed the door. Instant silence fell over the room, and AJ turned back to the front of the class.

Mrs. Rinehart started to tell us about our next assignment, but my mind drifted back to the more immediate problem of my whole life coming apart because of those two little words. I had to do something, but what?

If I told my dads, I already knew what would happen: we’d leave town faster than I could say goodbye to anyone. We’d get new names; the documents were already prepared, just in case. And even if I claimed otherwise until I turned blue, they wouldn’t believe I hadn’t broken their trust. I had no desire to leave all my friends or be known as ‘Jeremy March,’ but what would hurt the most was my fathers thinking I couldn’t be trusted. So, I wouldn’t tell them, or at least not right away. First I needed to figure out who knew, how they had found out, and what they intended to do about it.

Should I answer the message? And say what, if I did? Or maybe I should just call the number back, speak to whoever answered and see if I recognized their voice. But again, what next? I couldn’t let them tell anyone, but what could I do to stop them? Bribe them? I had some cash saved, but would it be enough to buy their silence? Were they even interested in money?

A message like that meant they expected something from me. Once I knew what that was, I’d know how to move forward. I had no choice but to answer.

Now that I’d made that decision, I couldn’t wait.

I had never texted during class, but really, how hard could it be? Kristen, who sat in the row on my right and two seats forward, checked her phone or sent messages at least once per class. I should know; I watched her often enough.

She made it look easy. She managed to take her phone out of her backpack, hold it in her lap hidden by her crossed legs and type messages with just one hand without looking at the phone until she was ready to send. Talk about touch-typing. Mrs. Rinehart had never caught her.

She caught me before I could even turn the phone on.

“Mr. Stevens.”

That was all she said. Her hand, held out expectantly in front of her, said the rest quite clearly. I stood by sheer reflex and almost stumbled over Kristen’s backpack as I made my way up the row. I caught myself on her desk and got a glimpse of her apologetic look before I straightened up and hurried forward. My face was burning, all the way to my ears and neck. I could feel the collective gaze of the entire class when I handed my phone to Mrs. Rinehart and surrendered my only link to that text message.

I was halfway back to my seat when things took a turn for the worse and Mrs. Rinehart said, ostensibly for me but clearly as a warning for the rest of the class, “And I trust you remember the contract you signed at the beginning of the school year. Your parents will need to retrieve this for you.”

Bloody fangs!

I had to stop whoever from spilling the secret to everyone. For that, I needed to know who they were. To find out, I needed the phone back. To get the phone, one of my dads would have to come to the school.

There was just this slight problem about them being deathly allergic to sunlight, like all vampires.

Monday, March 3, 2014

You Promised Me Two Years - Parts 3 & 4

Another sample from my new novella, You Promised Me Two Years...

The classes were not what Tyler expected. Although he was only a few months older than Connor, he was a full year ahead of him school-wise, and he’d figured he’d have to sit through lessons he’d already learned. Not so. Students at the Academy made up their own schedule according to what they were interested in. Connor’s classes included the most advanced science courses the Academy offered. In three of them he wasn’t even following the same curriculum as the rest of the students but had his own advanced work and experiments set up in a corner.

Tyler also thought he’d need to interpret for the teachers, but he soon realized they’d worked up a system to teach and test Connor without him needing to say or write anything. Seeing how he sometimes went with no interpreter for months at a time, those multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble sheets were essential. Or at least, the teachers pretended they were. In at least two classes, Tyler had a strong suspicion that Connor was doing work so advanced that the teachers didn’t fully understand it. Then again, neither did Tyler.

He had to work hard—very hard—to catch up with the rest of his peers, and he didn’t bother trying to catch up with Connor. It occurred to him that, with everything he learned here, he could easily get on track for a science career after…


Two years seemed like forever, at times.

But mostly it felt like it’d be over in a flash.

The same day Tyler punched Stevenson, Connor talked to him at lunchtime. Usually, he kept his nose stuck in various advanced textbooks while munching on a piece of fruit, never bothering to even acknowledge that Tyler was sitting across from him at the otherwise empty table. Today, he looked up from his reading just long enough to meet Tyler’s eyes and say, “Counterstrike is a feminine word in French.”

Tyler blinked. He wasn’t sure what surprised him the most: that Connor had talked to him twice today, or that he’d bother giving Tyler a warning.

And it was a warning.

Caroline Martin would try to get him back for what he’d done to Stevenson.

“Why her?” he asked, frowning.

Connor rolled his eyes and returned to his reading.

Suddenly uncomfortable, Tyler shifted his shoulders and glanced at the table across the cafeteria where Stevenson sat with his clique, a mix of boys and girls. Martin sat on the other side of the table, although not directly across Stevenson. She was chatting with her girlfriends, but every so often she glanced at him. The way she looked at his discolored nose… Understanding came in a flash.

“Huh. They’re together?”

Without looking up, Connor snorted quietly. The Message was a very obvious, Of course they are. Are you blind?

“Hey, I’ve only been here four days and we only have one class with both of them. Not everyone can…”

Tyler trailed off when Connor’s eyes found his again over the edge of his book. He didn’t say a word, didn’t make a sound, but it was right there, in deep blue that looked more like a storm than a summer sky. This wasn’t the Prophet talking, only someone who had eyes and knew how to observe. After all, Tyler had figured it out too, hadn’t he?

“Point taken,” he said.

Connor shrugged and returned to his reading, taking another bite of his apple.

“Although that is a problem,” Tyler muttered, glancing across the room again. “Her coming at me, I mean. I don’t hit girls.”

Connor didn’t look up as he said, “The emperor doesn’t stare out of mirrors.”

Tyler’s breath caught in his throat. As far as Messages went, he wouldn’t have needed to be an interpreter to figure out this particular meaning. How did Connor know, though? Had someone told him about Tyler’s family? Was it something he’d Seen? Or was that something inscribed in Tyler’s very body, in the way he moved and looked around him, like Martin’s crush was laid out in the way she looked at Stevenson? He wasn’t sure he wanted to know. The least he thought about his father, the better.

“No,” he said, a little choked up. “I damn well hope I’m not like him.”

They ate in silence for a little while after that—well, Tyler ate at least, while Connor continued to nibble—but soon the Dean of Students approached their table, empty save for the two of them. It was always empty. Tyler strongly suspected that, before his arrival, Connor had been eating on his own every day.

“Hello, boys,” the Dean said affably as he sat down, setting a clipboard in front of him on the table. “I couldn’t help but notice you were having a little chat. Is there anything you want to share?”

He had phrased it as a question, but it was more a demand than a request. This was what Tyler was here for. Listen to Connor, interpret his Messages, and share them. It didn’t matter if it concerned the fate of the world or if it was something innocuous, Tyler had to divulge it. If he didn’t, his stint as an interpreter would end much faster than Connor had predicted.

He was starting to understand why Connor didn’t talk. They’d barely exchanged a few words before the Dean descended on them like a hawk on its prey. How tiring was it, really, not to be able to say two words before an adult asked to know your private thoughts?

Before Tyler could figure out what to tell the Dean, Connor spoke again, his eyes flicking toward the other end of the room where Martin was laughing rather shrilly.

“Warm baguette isn’t always blue.”

Tyler, who had reached for his glass of water to give himself a second to think, swallowed the wrong way and started to cough violently, his lungs burning. Connor raised an amused eyebrow at him over his book.

“Yes?” the Dean said before Tyler had caught his breath again.

“Caroline Martin,” Tyler said, still coughing a little. “She and Stevenson… Well, if she’s not pregnant yet, she will be soon.”

The Dean’s head snapped up, his smile disappearing instantly. He looked around the room, and his eyes narrowed when he found the right table.

“Excuse me,” he said as he stood, and was already striding away before Tyler could decide if he was supposed to say something.

Tyler watched, bemused, as Martin and Stevenson followed the Dean out of the cafeteria, both of them looking rather stricken.

“La Marne won’t flood,” Connor commented absently.

Tyler nodded. “Apparently not, no. Thank you.”

Connor didn’t reply, but the same tiny smile from that morning made a fleeting reappearance.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You Promised Me Two Years - Part 2

A second sample from my new novella, You Promised Me Two Years...

The first few days at the Academy were cold, and it had nothing to do with the January weather.

Everyone in the school had been identified by a Prophet or seer as being important to the future of the world—and especially the future of the country—in some measurable way. Or rather, everyone was supposed to have an important role to play some day. On the other side, Tyler’s own importance was fully dependent on Connor’s. Quiet rumors also swirled through the hallways, as elusive as tendrils of fog, that a spot in the Academy could be bought. Apparently, parents only had to know the right people and pay the right price. Where did those rumors come from, though? Tyler couldn’t imagine that anyone who had been accepted in the Academy in this particular way would boast about it.

Whether they had an important destiny ahead of them or not, however, the hundred or so Academy students were at the moment no different from the ones in Tyler’s old school. They were immature, or lazy, or exuberant; others were shy, or fun, or a thousand other things that teenagers could be. And they were also cruel in a way that only teenagers could manage.

If it had been cruelty toward himself, Tyler would have shrugged it off. He’d had a lot of practice learning to let comments about his sister, his clothes, his preferences, every damn little thing about him, slide off like innocuous water drops he could just shake off. He couldn’t have kept taking a swing at every damn idiot who looked at him wrong, so he’d learned to ignore it.

But when vicious jabs were flung at Connor, it felt different. Very different indeed. Like mud rather than water, and it stained and it stank. It didn’t help that Connor never reacted. Whether in class, in the cafeteria, in the hallways, or even in their dorm room, whenever a hurtful word was thrown at him he always remained utterly still in a way that, to anyone else, might mean he didn’t care. Tyler heard it as the unending shout of pain and rage and despair that it was. In truth, what else could Connor do? Any verbal protest would be lost unless Tyler interpreted it, and even then being one step removed would take away the sting of whatever he might say. As for fighting, it didn’t seem like something Connor would do, as though it were simply beneath him.

Tyler couldn’t understand why the other students, or at least a large number of them, were so mean to Connor. It was just so perplexing to him. Connor was a Prophet. How could they disrespect him like this when they owed their very presence at this elite school to someone like him? Even seers, much more common than Prophets, were well regarded, even if they could only predict events on a much smaller scale, and less reliably than Prophets.

Someone finally clued him in. Prophets were honored and respected for the knowledge they imparted. How could Connor be a true Prophet when he never said anything to anyone? If he didn’t intend to play his role, the other students, or at least most of them, would make him pay for it.

By the fourth day, Tyler had had enough. He couldn’t actually believe he’d let it happen until now, and didn’t want to imagine how long Connor had been forced to endure it. When they woke up that morning in the four-bed dormitory and one of their peers said something idiotic toward Connor, something Tyler didn’t even want to remember after that day, Tyler stood from where he was putting on his socks at the foot of his bed. With one sock on and his shirt only half-buttoned and untucked, he crossed the room and punched Stevenson in the nose.

It didn’t break—Tyler knew from experience how much force it took to break a nose, and he had a small idea about how much he could get away with at the Academy. A broken nose was on the wrong side of the line, but damn if it wasn’t satisfying to look down at that idiot, sprawled on the floor and blinking wildly up at Tyler. Their other dorm mate, Dalton, seemed ready to intervene, but a hard look from Tyler and he wisely appeared to think better of it.

“You leave him the hell alone, you hear me?” Tyler said, ostensibly to Stevenson, but he had no doubt the message, his message, lower case and still very important thank you very much, would spread throughout the Academy. He might have to repeat it, but he was ready for it. “You leave him alone, or I’ll make you.”

When Stevenson did nothing more than blink, Tyler turned very calmly and went back to his abandoned sock. In no more than a handful of seconds, only he and Connor remained in the dormitory. Connor hadn’t moved a finger since Tyler had first stood from the bed. He was watching him with a slight frown and an expression Tyler couldn’t really place—but then, he was trying not to look at Connor, so it wasn’t all that easy to figure out what he was thinking.

“Snowfalls are stupid in the summer,” Connor finally said.

They were the first words Tyler had heard him utter since their first introduction. And he heard the Message behind them loud and clear.

That was completely unnecessary.

“You’re welcome,” he said, grinning.

Connor looked away, but not before Tyler could catch the smallest of smiles flickering on his lips.

Monday, February 24, 2014

You Promised Me Two Years - Part 1

Here is a sample from my new novella, You Promised Me Two Years...

When they first met, Connor stared at Tyler for the length of five heartbeats, his gaze flying from Tyler’s shoes to his shirt, his tie and ending on his face. The scrutiny felt unpleasant, and Tyler couldn’t help but wonder what Connor Saw when he observed him. His clothes were brand new but nothing special: a white button-up shirt, a dark blue tie with two white stripes to indicate he had two years to go after this one before graduation, black slacks and a black blazer with the Academy’s insignia, the stylized profile of a woman’s face, embroidered over his heart. Connor’s clothes were similar, although he wore a navy blue sweater instead of the blazer, and his tie merely peeked at the collar. Where Tyler’s short brown hair was carefully parted and combed, Connor’s blond locks stuck out at odd angles, as though he’d been raking his fingers through them.

Tyler tried to smile despite feeling a little intimidated. It was rather silly. He was a few months older than Connor and it wasn’t like meeting him should have fazed him, even if Connor was a couple of inches taller than him and looked at him like he was an insect to be examined and pulled apart. There was no denying that Tyler was nervous, though. It was the first time he’d met a Prophet. Even in his own head, he could all but feel the capital P. Not just any Prophet either, but the youngest of three in the United States at the moment. The most promising one in at least four generations, the people at the Department of the Future said—if only he was finally paired with the right interpreter. No need for the uppercase there. Some people thought interpreters were special, but Tyler knew what he could do; he knew his place.

He only hoped this could truly be his place.

Being enrolled in the Academy was already an amazing opportunity for him, and whatever happened with Connor, Tyler had been guaranteed he would be allowed to study here until he graduated. A diploma from the Academy would open many doors that would otherwise have remained closed to him. It was a chance too good to pass up. But if he ended up a washout as Connor’s interpreter, he would feel like a failure in his own eyes; he knew others, back home, would feel the same.

When his smile wasn’t returned, he offered his hand to shake. Connor had already been told his name, but Tyler supposed he might as well introduce himself properly.

“I’m Tyler. Or Ty, whichever. It’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Twin lambs,” Connor said, then turned away abruptly, never having shaken the hand Tyler proffered. He navigated around the desks toward the back of the room.

The three adults standing at Tyler’s side looked at him expectantly. Or rather, two of them did. The Secretary of the Future, a graying man with sharp eyes, had already made it clear that Tyler was to inform him in the best possible haste of anything of importance that Connor uttered.

“Even if you have to wake Miss Carrington in the middle of the night,” he’d said.

Miss Carrington, the Headmistress, had nodded at that as though it were completely normal. Even now, she looked as eager as the Secretary to hear what Connor had just said. Only the third person, a severe-looking woman in a crisp pantsuit and long wool coat kept her eyes on Connor. She’d been there during each of Tyler’s interviews and tests but had never said a word, and Tyler didn’t know her name although he thought she worked at the Department of the Future. Connor had stepped as far away from them as he could and he was now standing by the window, his forehead pressed to the fogged glass.

“Twin lambs?” the Headmistress repeated, a little breathless. “What does he mean?”

Tyler’s throat tightened. His first Message. Did it really have to be this one? There was no doubt in his mind that he was right. He could practically feel the meaning of Connor’s words as though it had been carved into his skin, could hear it like music composed for his ears only. His interpretation scores had been good, but he never dared hope it’d be so easy. Two words only, and already Tyler knew he and Connor were a great match.

And yet…

“He means I’ll be his interpreter for two years,” he said quietly.

The Headmistress and Secretary looked at each other, disappointment obvious in their matching frowns. Prophets and interpreters were usually paired up for life. Connor, however, was anything but usual. He’d run through five interpreters already since being identified at the age of ten, six years earlier. If Tyler lasted two years, it’d be twice as long as anyone else, but still not what he’d hoped for.

By the window, Connor huffed. That sound, too, Tyler could interpret, although he didn’t say anything.
That huff meant, “Either you’re another idiot who only understands half of it all, or you’re too scared to tell them what I actually meant.”

Tyler wasn’t scared of Connor or of the adults around them. But he was scared of this Message. He was scared he’d be there, right next to Connor in two years, watching and unable to do a damn thing when he died.

Because the true Message had been, “Don’t expect to make a career out of this interpreter thing. You’ll watch me die in two years.”

For the first time, Tyler wondered if taking the Cassandra Tests had been such a good idea.