Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thoughts On 2013... And Bears?

Quick! It's dark here in FloridaLand, and I have time for one more post before my blog archive directory rolls over into a whole new year! Only a few hours left to bring the grand total of this month's entries up to....

Seven???? Seriously?

Okay, so obviously, this year I have been somewhat blog impaired. I used to do seven entries in a couple of weeks. But I've been online much less than usual this year, sometimes by choice, sometimes not. Here's a recap of what my 2013 has been like:

1. On May 21st, I welcomed my beautiful baby girl into the world. Of course, this is a red letter moment for any parent, but it's especially true for me, because my husband and I hadn't planned on having any more. It wasn't even medically advisable, actually, but Boo had other plans. And I am so so glad. She's totally and completely healthy and beautiful and funny and by far the happiest of all our babies. And yes, a ton of work. Which brings me to:

2. I signed contracts with my publisher for a total of seven books: two trilogies and one stand-alone. The first trilogy was my backlisted Angel's Edge books, which, under the masterful tutelage of Team Lisa Gus, have far outperformed my wildest expectations. I was pretty much ready to just let them go. Angels, thought I, had peaked as far as YA fiction went. But Lisa said, "Hold up a minute. The world is holding it's breath for Book 2 of Susan Ee's angel series, and here you have a completed angel trilogy, and you just want to let it sit on a shelf and gather dust? Are you crazy?" Well, that's not exactly what she said. but close enough. And thus began the whirlwind re-release which would push me into multiple bestsellers lists.

3. I started a brand new NA contemporary that so far, has turned into the truest, darkest, grittiest thing I've ever written. I mean, hot damn. This book. I'm to the point that I don't even care how well it sells (much). It's just a story I have to tell, and at times, it feels like it's writing me. Which is a very cool thing to happen between a writer and her 'script. And it's full of All The Swoon. Promise.

4. I moved from Auburn, Al to Central Florida. I traded a somewhat progressive college town, with organic supermarkets, coffee houses, independent bookstores, and public transportation for an eight acre farm on a private lake in the middle of the Ocala National Forest. Where there are bears. Big black bears. Which, for some reason, don't scare me as much as the alligators. And honestly, this is really a bigger deal than I'm describing. The move also meant going from being a homeowner to- not exactly a tenant, since it's family land- but something like it. It meant saying goodbye to some pets that had been part of our family for years. It meant new schools for the kids, new jobs, changing relationships with extended family, a different climate, cuisine, and language- pretty much change on every level. But did I mention the lake? It's spring fed, and private, and looks like glass most of the time. And I can spend time writing and raising Boo instead of immediately jumping back into the workforce, which really makes it surprisingly worth it.

5. I spent a few months in an isolated cabin on the upper Elk River in Limestone County, Alabama, where we actually used the fireplace for warmth and the children slept in a loft. Like Little House on the Prairie kind of stuff. I mean, an honest-to-god 150 year old log cabin with ancient wood laid criss-cross like Lincoln Logs and sealed together with some kind of cement-type substance. Only it wasn't cement; it was whatever Little House on the Prairie people used to seal cracks. And it had been in my husband's family for... however many generations 150 years is. People had babies in that cabin, and died in it too. I had a baby in that cabin. Well, actually at the county hospital, but that cabin is where I brought her home. And I will never forget it. There's a book in there somewhere, but I have no idea what it is yet, and that's okay, because books happen on their own timetables. They're annoying that way.

6. Some bad things happened, too. Lots of bad things, actually. Enough to last me the rest of the decade, but it's getting closer to midnight, the neighbors are shooting fireworks from their boats in the middle of the lake, and I really really don't want to go there right now. I've done enough blog entries on some of these things already, especially over the last couple of months, and right now all I want to do is be grateful for the progress I've made. And chocolate. I might eat some of that, since I don't drink or party anymore. I completely used up all my New Year's partying mojo in my twenties, and now I just want to spend it with the ones I love most. That, and laughing at the bears, imagining them cowering in the forest, scared of the fireworks.

Hey, a girl can dream.

Happy New Years, all!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The "Best Books" Non-List of 2013

It's the time of year when I start to see top ten and best-of lists popping everywhere. About everything. Best Vines. Best video games. Top 10 albums, top 50 sports moments, top 15 natural disasters. And so on. But I do like seeing what others are reading- I've actually paid attention to the Goodreads and Amazon "Best of" lists this year, and even found a couple of good books that way. I thought I'd take some time to lay out a few of this year's favorite books, in no particular order. So it's not a list. Just kind of some loosely collected favorites.

The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta

One of the few series I'm into lately. And honestly, I can't really explain what draws me to these books. They're kind of trippy, for lack of a better word. Lots of people love them- I think I read the first one because of one of Claire LeGrand's best-of lists- but the writing is kind of dense, and has a meandering quality to it. But the characters are solid, and the emotions? Wow. So they're books with a lot of depth and a deeply imagined political plot. It's kind of like reading a really exciting, really vivid game of chess. And Quintana, whom we meet in Book 2, is one of the most unique characters I've ever read. Just really great. I didn't exactly like her at first, but she's just such a great creation, wholly original, and by the end, someone I fell in love with. Start with Finnikin, and then treat the last two as their own series, because they switch POVs and even settings radically.

 The Diviners by Libba Bray

This book scared me so badly I had trouble sleeping. And it's not supposed to be scary- at least, not in the "I'm too scared to get up and turn off the bathroom light that's shining in my eyes and keeping me from sleeping" kind of way. But that's what it did to me. But I love it anyway- maybe even because of how terrifying the villain is. It's a portrait of New York in the 1920s, complete with believable flapper slang that didn't feel the least bit cheesy. And really, what kind of feat is that? Working "on the trolley" into dialogue in a non-cringe-worthy way? But this book goes there, with a huge cast of characters and an insanely detailed old New York. It's like a work of historical non-fiction for people who hate historical non-fiction.

Vicious by V.E. Scwab

I'd read Victoria's Near Witch and was kind of meh about it, but this was the first "grown up" book she'd attempted, and it deals with superheroes. Sort of. So I thought, why the hell not? What I love about this book is the light touch she takes when writing about superpowers. You don't even have to suspend disbelief. Much. Her "extra-ordinaries" could even be explained with science. I found this a welcome change from an all-too-often heavy-handed approach to superpowers, where everyone's from a different planet, or somehow survived a nuclear bomb dropping right on top of their head, or worst of all, having no explanation at all for their amazing powers. But the best thing about this book? Watching a close friendship implode under the pressures that so often get glossed over. You know, the friend you love but secretly envy because she can eat french fries by the pound and never gains weight? Or the way you see your friend kind of glare-staring at the flowers your amazing husband bought you *again*? On a Tuesday? For no reason at all? Yep, those kinds of fissures lurking underneath even the healthiest relationships become glaring deadly chasms when extra-ordinary abilities become involved. And then things turn deadly. In a really amazing way.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is one of the only YA Contemporaries I've read lately. I try not to read in genres that I'm writing- and I'm working on an NA Contemporary of my own. But this book made so many lists and sounded so intriguing I picked it up anyway. And it's luminous. Set in the mid-80s, I found so much to relate to. I was a kid then, light years away from any kind of romance, but most of us can relate to this depiction of desperate, I-can't-breathe-because-I-love-you-so-much first-love. The main characters seemed more "real" than the average YA love-angsty hero/ine; he's half Korean and sometimes wears eyeliner, and she's a plus-sized red head who takes rummage-sale chic to weird new levels. Plus there's mixed tapes. And I really miss those.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Music That Doesn't Suck 2013: Vol. 1

I love Christmas. It is by far my favorite holiday. But I have a huge issue with the music that saturates the air this time of year. I find most of it tired and cliched- if music could be a cartoon, Christmas music would be it. In other words, most of it sucks. There are a few notable exceptions, of course. "Baby it's Cold Outside" remains a favorite, as does the lesser known "Ain't No Chimneys in the Ghetto."

At my house, the Christmas music tends to be thematic rather than traditional. In other words, I try to look for the themes that underpin our ideas of Christmas- like coming home, snow, winter, fireplaces, gifts, and the like- and go from there. I try and leave the reindeer and elves and such out of it.

I am pleased to present the first of my Christmas playlists from 2013. Hope everyone is having a good one!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Blood Redemption

I promised a Teaser Tuesday, and lo and behold, it's Tuesday. Again. That keeps happening, somehow. I thought I would post a chapter from my last release. Next week, Tuesday falls on Christmas Eve, and that's when I've decided to release an excerpt from the new book-in-progress, code named the cry-write-cry book, but actually titled Bright Stars, Broken Compass. It's quite a departure for me, and also the most challenging thing I've ever written, so I'm excited to unleash just a little bit of it on the world.

But for now, here's the first chapter from the last book in my Angel's Edge trilogy, Blood Redemption:

Chapter One: Bonefire

I came here with a plan.
I thought I knew what I was doing.
I thought there would be at least one person I could trust.
Was it the drops of angel’s blood throbbing through my veins that made me such a dangerous combination of arrogant and stupid, or was that a trait I could claim solely as my own?
As I sat half-curled around my knees, I tried to breathe through the panic that threatened to pull me back into a dead faint. Sucking cracks of eye-stinging pain centered in the back of my skull and radiated outward. I kept my eyes fixed on the jagged flagstone floor. The heavy dark stones were so cold beneath me that my butt and thighs were going numb through the thin barrier of designer French jeans. I winced as I remembered how quickly I’d thrown them on in one of Asheroth’s identical white bedrooms. Had it really been only a few hours ago?
I trusted Ethan. I had trusted Jack. Both of them knew exactly who ruled the Twilight Kingdom.
Now I did, too.
Whatever you do, don’t scream.
There is some hope your innocence may protect you.
I felt sick, and it went much deeper than a head wound as bile rose to the back of my throat.
I kept my eyes down, my long hair the only barrier I had left. My hands twisted the denim just below my hips. Making fists helped the nausea a little, but didn’t do a thing for the anger battering against my temporary stupor.
When cold, rough fingers brushed my hair behind one ear, I froze. Except for the temperature, his touch felt so familiar, like Ethan’s before he changed. I almost wanted to lean into it. But a demon’s embrace was the last thing I needed when I was sick, hurting, and afraid. I launched myself backward before I could stop to think.
Jack was at my side in an instant, his arms around my shoulder, his whisper in my ear too intense to be comforting. “You hit your head.” He tugged on me like he wanted me upand quicklybut I shrugged him off. His words became rapid fire bullets. “You should try to stand, Caspia. If there is any way at all you can get up on your own two feet, you had better do it now because it might be the only way he’ll let you walk out of here.”
I stared at Jack, a flesh and blood version of my dreams come to life.
More like my nightmares.
“I can’t trust any of you,” I whispered. “You knew about this.” Bottle rockets of pain exploded across one small area at the center of my skull.
Jack swept his eyes around the room and touched the back of my head. “There’s no one else to trust here, Caspia,” Jack cautioned. My blood covered three of his fingers. He brought them up between us like he was making some kind of vow. “Remember that. If not me, fine. But don’t trust anyone else in this place either. That would be the worst mistake you could make.”
“Enough,” said the low cultured voice I remembered from before I passed out. “I don’t want Miss Chastain bleeding from a head wound on my floor.”
I found myself wrapped in arms so familiar, so momentarily welcome, that I almost forgot where I was.
In a place called The Twilight Kingdom. With Belial, a demon who’d been hunting me for an as-yet-to-be determined amount of time. A demon that looked almost exactly like my Ethan.
I wrenched myself backward, but Belial held me tightly by my forearm. “Let me go,” I growled. The sudden movement made me dizzy again and I stumbled.
He fixed his eyes on me, and I suppressed the urge to shriek. I knew they were dark where Ethan’s were bright; they were, in fact, the last memory I had before passing out. But now, pulled right against his face, I could see that his eyes were a single inky abyss pulling at me. Variegated shades of the darkest kinds of twilight swirled there, obscuring the irises, if he had any. Chills danced across my skin, freezing me colder than even the stone fingers which held me.
Belial was blind. Or sightless, I should say, because I had learned over the long years of working for Mr. Markov that lack of sight didn’t necessarily mean a person couldn’t see. My boss had fired more than one person for making that mistake. There had been the high school senior who harassed me and Amelie when he thought no one was looking. We’d suffered through exactly one weekend shift of unwelcome pinches and grabs before the boy suffered a nasty steam burn across both hands. Mr. Markov told him not to bother coming back. I had a feeling Belial wouldn’t be so gentle.
Dimly, Jack’s voice filtered through my haze, arguing. “I’ll take her,” he insisted. “Miranda’s rooms aren’t far from ours. She can have her healed in minutes.”
“But there is the problem of transport,” Belial mused, still just inches from my face. His hand had begun to chill through my cashmere sweater. “No, Jack. I understand your eagerness. But you are dismissed.”
“But” Jack tried to argue some more. Whatever he had been going to say was cut off with a muffled punching sound followed by a soft grunt.
I dragged my eyes away from Belial’s face, which took more mental effort than I would have believed. Jack was on one knee, his head bent with both arms around his stomach. When he looked up, banked fury burned back at me. Eyes wide, I pulled even harder against Belial, trying to go to Jack, but he stopped me with the tiniest shake of his head.
“I’m fine,” I lied. I didn’t know where to look so I studied the flames in the fireplace. There was no wood in it. Bones lay heaped and burning in a pile at the center of the huge stone structure. I remembered how there had been no trees when Jack and I walked here. What else would they burn? Bonefire, my shocked mind tried to process, but couldn’t. I filed it away numbly. “I can walk on my own.” I forced my lips to form the words.
Bones. The warmth I felt came from bonefire. What kind of bones, I didn’t want to know. Ever.
Belial ignored me. “Go. Now,” he commanded Jack, clipping the words to short vowels.
My fellow Azalene nodded and swallowed hard. He jackknifed to attention, bowing slightly from the waist as if he hadn’t just been punched there. “Of course.” He wouldn’t even look at me. He spared one nod for Belial before spinning on his bare heel and practically sprinting back the way we’d come.
Leaving me alone with a demon who wore my boyfriend’s face.
That face smiled at me now. “Good. I’ve waited quite a long time for your arrival.”
I nodded hesitantly. The movement made me wince. How to ask what I really wanted to know without giving away too much? “I… When I left. There were” I exhaled against the sheer insanity of the word. “Hellhounds. Attacking my town.”
His sightless eyes narrowed. “No questions.”
I could only stare at him. “What?” I asked, confused.
“No questions.” Belial released me and reached for the beautiful fox with the reddish gold fur, cradling it like it was something very valuable to him. The animal snuggled closer. “You’ll come with me, and do as you’re told, and ask no questions of any kind.”
Logan always told me my temper would get me in terrible trouble one day. I used to laugh and tell him I didn’t have a temper, that surely he had me confused with his other sister. But I felt the truth of his warning now. I forgot that I was in the Dark Realms, face to face with an ancient creature that literally held the power of life or death over me. I didn’t care what Belial might do to me. Instead, I advanced on him. “Like hell I won’t.” My hands formed into fists on their own. “I’ll ask any question I damn well please, and you’d better answer it.”
Belial looked more amused than anything else as a slight sneer curled across his face. When my fist connected with it, amusement changed to something else. Something sharp and eager. Pain ripped through my bones as my hand broke, and his murmured words washed over me, whispering.

“How this will hurt him.”

For the second time in one day, I passed out at a demon’s feet.

 Like what you've read? You can pick up the whole series at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and more! And thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Daughter of Glass

It's Teaser Tuesday, and today I want to share the first chapter of my stand-alone Whitfield novel Daughter of Glass. I've been immersed in my Angel's Edge world for so long that it feels a little strange to turn my attention to other stories also set in Whitfield. But there are certainly stories there to be told. This one of them, and I hope you enjoy it. 

Chapter One: Anger, Draped in Metal
I stood in the atrium of the academy’s newest gallery and listened as people discussed my mother’s suicide. The event was depicted in a colorful painting that took up most of one wall.
I felt the same at eighteen as I had at eight, when it happened: nothing.
Around me, the faculty of Andreas Academy mixed with what passed for the social elite in the tiny town of Whitfield. Students dressed all in black carrying trays wove through the crowd. They offered golden bells of champagne on long crystal stems. Even though the two largest buildings on campus carried my last name, I might as well have been invisible. Faculty, patrons, and students flowed around me like water around a large boulder.
I looked enough like my mother to pass for her twin. Since I was standing right beside a portrait of her when she had been my age, with a large brass plaque inscribed, “Sarah Alexander Memorial Gallery,” I could have been angry that no one stopped to speak to me. I had, after all, come to make a brief speech for the gallery’s opening.
My mother was arguably Whitfield’s most talented artist and resident.  Ex-resident, I corrected silently. The small but state-of-the-art gallery was the third building at Andreas Academy with my last name, bought with my father’s money for a woman he still mourned. Sarah Alexander’s death had been a windfall for her alma mater. I stood tall in my evening gown and salon-perfect hair and tried to feel the anger. I couldn’t; nothing, I reminded myself as a middle aged-woman in a tight silver dress stalked right up to the death portrait, made me angry anymore.
“It’s all a matter of perspective and light,” the woman drawled, staring intently at the painting. In it, seven shadowy figures reached out for a single woman. My mother. She shielded a dark haired child behind her with one arm. Me. With the other, she offered the seven her still-bleeding heart, a fist-sized wound gaping in her chest.
The woman’s silver dress dulled to steel gray as she paced back into the shadows. “They look more sinister if you move back from the light, James.”
Her companion, a well-dressed older man, checked his watch. “Seems pretty simple to me. Seven different people come at me like that, somebody’s going down. Never have understood why everyone thinks it’s so brilliant.” He ran fat fingers through thinning hair. “If you ask me, doing herself in was her best career move.”
Comments like that should leave me trembling with grief and rage and hate. If I were a normal girl, I’d be screaming at this man. Maybe I’d even hit him. Instead, I watched them argue with the same clinical detachment I’d felt since the night my mother killed herself. That was the night the seven figures in the painting stopped being abstract art and became very real. Her gift to me: seven guardians from pain, fear, anger, hate. Her curse: seven wardens to keep me from experiencing passion, pleasure, and joy.
I felt her presence before I saw her.  They were all like that, the guardians, appearing out of nowhere when I least expected them. “Don’t worry, sweet Sasha.” Anger slipped beside me in a whisper of silk and scent.  Peppery sweet, with something bitter underneath. Good; if the bitter was hidden, she couldn’t be that powerful. Yet.
“Anger,” I murmured without turning my head. Her long, blood-colored nails traced patterns across my bare arm. “I’m all right. You don’t need to be here.” I risked a sideways glance in her direction. 
“Of course you are.” Her perfectly shaped crimson lips curled into a sneer. “These pretend socialites will never hurt you. Not while we’re here.”
My guardians were as distinctive as the emotions they guarded against. Anger, for example, always wore red. Tonight she’d dressed up a bit, perhaps in honor of the occasion. Strapless red satin swept to the floor, slit all the way up to mid-thigh. She was draped with metal jewelry: chains and crosses, heavy rings, wristlets and studded cuffs. She even smelled like metal. That was one of the ways I knew her: the faintest bite of metal in the air. “I’m here,” Anger assured me. “I’ll be watching. You won’t feel a thing.”
Bad enough I was born with emotions with so powerful I couldn’t control them myself. Bad enough to have guardians only I, like my mother, could see. My father was already convinced I was as disturbed as the brilliant, suicidal woman who gave birth to me. There were many days when I secretly agreed with him. Still, I didn’t want people to see me talking to myself. In a town the size of Whitfield, gossip traveled fast. I settled for nodding. Satisfied, beautiful red-haired Anger stroked my cheek and drifted away.
To be fair, none of these B-grade socialites realized the famous painting was actually a suicide note. Most of them were here because it gave them an excuse to dress up, carry cocktails, and dust off their private school degrees in front of their friends. The few who actually cared about my dead mother’s work tended to skip opening nights entirely, favoring low-traffic afternoons when they could orbit her paintings in solitude.
I spared a moment to wish I was a member of the second group before turning sharply on my heel in search of the bar.
As I inched towards it, I heard a man and a woman arguing. A swift look told me they were faculty. I didn’t go to Andreas; I went to the same private school that every other over-privileged kid in New Whitfield attended. But I recognized the pair from past shows.
“Yes, but the same seven figures appear again and again in all her work,” the woman insisted impatiently.
“Yes, yes. Everyone knows that. The seven deadly sins theory is…”
“Is rubbish.” This from the woman, angrily. “Just look at the technique. No matter how tranquil the painting, she always uses sharp, angry brush strokes when she’s painting them. Everything else may be muted and soft, but these seven… it’s as if she’s stabbing them through the canvas.”
Surprised, I almost tripped. Unlike me, my mother had hated her seven guardians. She preferred anything, even pain, to their numb safety. And this total stranger had almost guessed. How very…
A scarred hand grabbed my forearm, wrenching it as it kept me from falling. Green eyes the color of an old forest narrowed at me.
“Watch yourself,” said a young man about my age. “There’s quite a crowd tonight.”
Watch myself? I wanted to tell him there was no need. I had seven others to do it for me.
I didn’t, though, because unfamiliar heat raced up my arm and settled in my belly when he touched me. The shock was so strong that I didn’t pull away. I just let him hold my forearm, supporting my weight with his scarred hand, while tongues of fire lapped my skin at the point of contact.
Fire. Pressure. His touch; I was burning. The dark green forest of his eyes did nothing to quell the warmth of his scarred skin against mine.
“Um, what?” I managed at last, prompted to speech as his expression turned from concerned to puzzled.
“The crowd,” he said slowly, with the exaggerated patience of someone who’d been repeating himself. Or was talking to an idiot. Lovely.
“Right. Yes. I mean, thanks. The crowd.” Small explosions rocked my brain. Emotions I barely remembered pulsed through me. Sand castles. I’d built them with my father somewhere a long time ago, when my parents had been happy. Waves, and a bonfire at night, when Mom had wrapped me tight in her towel. Emotions, long buried, I realized with shock. I found myself both struggling for breath and trying to not to panic.
Want, I thought. I want this.
He seemed to sense this, which only made me panic more. He put his other hand on my shoulder to steady me. “Are you all right? You look like you’re about to pass out.”
“I do?” I did? “I’ll be fine. In just a minute.” I hadn’t felt this unbalanced in… well, I couldn’t remember. Emotions this strong weren’t supposed to get through. My guardians came and made them disappear. Any minute now, and I would lose this wanting.
But I didn’t. It continued to build as he tried to guide me towards the exit. “You should really get some air.” He didn’t seem to notice how I was a dead weight against him. He still had my arm. It throbbed while he pulled me. “Just to the door, where it’s less crowded.” He flashed me a worried grin. “I’m Noah, by the way.”
“Sasha,” I managed. When he did let go, I felt like I’d lost something, only I couldn’t remember what. I stood by the gallery entrance and rubbed my skin, still warm from his grasp. I was suddenly afraid he would leave, and I really didn’t want him to. Not while my heart was still racing from whatever had just happened. Not until I knew what it meant. What he meant. “I was trying to make it to the bar when I almost tripped,” I explained in a rush.
He seemed torn between concern and amusement. “Are the drinks that good?” Noah shoved his scarred hands into his pockets and leaned in close. “There are less crowded bars around here.”
I wanted. Oh, how I wanted. But Father was lost somewhere in the crowd, and I was a strange and awkward girl. I could not even name this thing I felt between us. I knew only want, and fire. I would scare him away, if Fear or Anger didn’t get him first. “Only this one has my mother’s art on the walls,” I explained, expecting pity for the orphaned girl. The suicide’s daughter. I waited for the look of carefully hooded distaste that shrouded everyone when they found out. Instead, his entire face lit up with delight.
My belly felt warm again. And we weren’t even touching.
“Really? You’re Sasha Alexander?” He looked as if I’d given him a present. “I love your mother’s work. It’s so…”
Red hair and blood-colored satin appeared at the periphery of my vision. I watched with a sinking feeling as Anger slipped easily through the crowd. She would reach us in seconds. She was one of the most dangerous and least predictable. I didn’t want her near him. I was amazed that she had stayed away this long, or that someone else hadn’t come with her. Desire, perhaps, or Fear. But even though it was only one of the seven, there was no more time.
“Tragic.” I spit out the adjective always applied to my mother’s work as I watched Anger’s approach.
“Brave,” he said at the exact same time.
Oh. Wow.
No one had ever called anything about my mother brave. Not even me.
Seeing him again was suddenly more important than air.
“Um. Noah.” I took a deep breath and studied my shoes. What did one say in such circumstances? None of my tutors had ever prepared me for this, and the guardians existed to keep me apart from emotions. That included emotion-inducing boys. I treated the carpet to a sharp little kick of my ivory satin slipper. “I, uh. I mean, do you…”
Metal-scented air wreathed me as Anger settled beside me in a rustle of satin. “What do you think you’re doing?” she asked, low and deceptively soft.
“Do I what?” Noah asked, smiling, looking a bit puzzled. His green eyes were very narrow. I recognized the look. Fear wore it sometimes.
“Don’t forget what you are.” Anger slid from the wall to stand beside Noah, who could not, of course, see her. The sight of her next to him, with her metal jewelry and claw-like red nails, reminded me that boys with burning hands and forest eyes were yet another thing I could not have. I was my mother’s daughter, a danger to myself and others.
I forced myself to smile and gave him a small shake of my head. “You know what? I, um, forgot something. I have to go now, but it was really nice to meet you.” His scarred hands curled into fists and just as quickly relaxed as he stepped backwards in surprise.
“Sasha?” The narrow look intensified, and I realized Fear had never worn it. On Noah, it meant something else entirely. Maybe something good. Maybe not; I doubted I would ever know.
“Goodbye!” My wave was cheerful and false. I felt him behind me; I think he tried to follow, but I was smaller and faster. There was a backdoor, and I slipped through it gratefully, Anger trailing silently behind. Once outside, I breathed in people-free air and hugged myself across the middle.
Anger pretended to study a blood-red fingernail. I tried to act uninterested as she slid so close our hips touched. “Sweet, but pointless, Sasha. Must I remind you what happens when we don’t shield you?” A long, light scratch across my cheekbone reminded me of her power. “You could lose control so easily. And then we would have to step in. You’re too unstable, sweet Sasha. And powerful. Like your mother.” Then, in her trademark low hiss, “You can’t afford to be normal. The reminder is right inside on that wall.”
I didn’t have to see to know which painting she meant. I swallowed. “I know that. Maybe I would have hurt someone tonight, if you hadn’t been here to take the anger. But I’ve never lost control, not once.”
“Because we’re here. We always will be.” I didn’t bother to argue. “This boy, though,” she murmured. I didn’t like the way she looked when she talked about him. “He’s something new entirely. Perhaps not safe.”
“He’s nobody,” I said, and meant it. I felt myself going flat and numb again, now that she was here and he wasn’t. “Just someone who likes Mom’s work.” I pulled out my cell phone to text my father, probably stumbling around inside with a vodka tonic and drumming up support for the next election. He was the mayor of Whitfield, after all. “I’m going to call the car early. I want to go home.”

Anger’s smile was bloody, like the rest of her.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Auburn Pics & Things to Come

I will stop posting about football. I swear.
Right after the National Championship.

In the meantime, we are in the midst of the holiday season, and  I am woefully behind on my annual Christmas Music That Doesn't Suck playlists. So stay tuned for those.

Also, I'll be returning to Teaser Tuesdays. The craziness of my last release(s) has calmed down somewhat, so it's time for a taste of things to come. In the coming Tuesdays, I'll offer excerpts from Daughter of Glass, the next Whitfield novel, and from my current work in progress, the dark new adult romance Bright Stars, Broken Compass.

In the meantime, because my boys pulled off yet another win against Missouri at the same time that Ohio State lost, ensuring our spot in the BCS championship Jan. 7th, here's some original photography from my hometown of Auburn, Al. All photos property of Tribble Studios.

I will stop posting about football. Soon. Really.

War Eagle; Jordan-Hare Stadium in background

Toomer's Corner at night.
These are the famous oak trees that  were poisoned.
They aren't there any longer.

Gates of Jordan-Hare stadium

Samford Hall

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Season of Miracles: Faith and Football

For Southern girls, there are three things we're raised not to talk about at the dinner table: politics, religion,
and money.

Football, though? That's all in.

So it may shock my usual readership to find me writing about faith and football, or rather, finding faith through football, because that's just not a part of my usual repartee. And although I don't see that changing in the near future, things have gotten just too damn weird to keep my mouth shut.

For Auburn Tiger fans, this has been a season of miracles.

And some of those miracles have felt awful damn personal.

I've been through a lot of hell these past few months. Some of you know this. Many of you don't, because, like religion, I can't stand to whine and doom and gloom people to death, even though I could. Oh, could I ever. So I'll keep it short. In the past eight months, I have dealt with or been affected by: alcoholism, addiction, foreclosure, job loss, mental illness, homelessness, alienation from family and friends, and a complicated (even dangerous) pregnancy.

Yes. I have been through The Shit. And this led to being kind of (massively) pissed off at God. It wasn't a crisis of faith so much as an in-the-bone conviction that God was a bastard who, for whatever reason, currently enjoyed ruining my life. So we pretty much weren't on speaking terms, God and I, for a while there.

And then, life changed, as it tends to do, and I found myself getting back on my feet again in a beautiful part of the world where I get to write books and look after my baby girl and see the water every single day. Water is like church to me. The ocean is best, but the big private spring-fed lake that's so still and perfect it looks just like glass (really, it's like a mirror) right off the back porch is a fantastic second.

But I'm still kind of pissed at God and we're not really talking much. Until the Auburn v. Georgia game three weeks ago.

Georgia was supposed to beat us. They are a damned fine team. But we fought them hard- tooth and nail- and in the fourth quarter, we were trying to pull off a desperate pass to win the game. It looked like we weren't going to make it, because the ball went to a hulking Georgian instead of our guy.

Here's where things get weird.

I'm thinking about God, and how pissed I've been, and wondering if now would be an okay time to bring up football with him. See, I really want Auburn to win, because I lived there for over a decade. It's where I wrote my first book, raised my children, buried pets, bought a home, taught at the university, and generally behaved like a grown up for the first time ever. And I miss it. I still get achingly, gut-stabbingly homesick, especially on game days. The whole city wore orange and blue and the smell of grilling meat blanketed the air while total strangers high-fived and "War Damn Eagle"d each other, and if we won? If we won. We'd park blocks from downtown because you couldn't possibly jam your car any closer and storm Toomer's Corner, defacing totally innocent oak trees with toilet paper while screaming our heads off, knowing we were all, in that moment, masters of our little nugget of the universe, and no one would ever be able to take it away.

Now the ball's in the air. It's headed towards Georgia. Which means we will loose. And that's when I start talking to God.

I say something like: God, I've been really pissed at you. I'm still not sure I should be talking to you, especially about football, and I really shouldn't be asking you to help out our team, because what if you don't? What if I ask, and we lose anyway? I'll feel like you hate me even more. And I'll want to talk to you even less. And football is a terrible thing to pray for anyway, isn't it? Shouldn't I save my prayers for world peace and all that bullshit? But I really, really want this win. Because a win would feel like home right now, and I am really, really homesick, and things have really, really sucked. So, ummm.... what do you think? Help a girl out?

The ball's in the air. It slips through the hands of not one, but TWO, Georgia players like it's hot buttered sin straight on its way to Vegas. Ricardo Louis catches it, and finishes his all-out run for the end zone.

Touchdown Auburn.

The announcer is screaming "Miracle at Jordan Hare! Miracle at Jordan Hare!" Grown men faint like little girls. I'm on the edge of the couch, jaw gaping, because really, what are the odds? The sports world has certified it as a genuine, bona-fide miracle. Northcutt Realty runs the "miracle" play over and over again on their sign downtown. Aubie the Tiger dresses up like a freakin' angel. An angel, dammit.

And so I admit it, in just a tiny corner of my heart: God, you may be a bastard, but you have one damn fine (and timely) sense of humor. Oh, and yeah... thanks for helping out our boys.

Fast forward two weeks. It's the Iron Bowl, Alabama v. Auburn, and boy do I hate those bastards. See, I attended U of A too, as an undergrad, and it was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. So I feel like I have the authority to decree it a cesspool of shoddy academics and a den of vice, and I want to beat the #1 football team in the country more than I have wanted anything in a long, long time. The Miracle lurks in the back of my mind, making me go "hmmm," making me wonder, making me walk just a little bit lighter on the earth.

We're playing great, with speed and precision, and we're wearing them down, the bastards. We're rattling their quarter back and their kicking game is for shit. I mean, I've seen little girls in Sunday school kick better. But they're ahead, and what do you expect, they're #1 after all. But I. Want. This.

At the start of the fourth quarter, I actually get down on my knees. I tell God (who's apparently been upgraded to frenemy) that I'm not getting up until the end of the game. I throw in that I'll go to mass, too, and then get mad at myself for bargaining with a deity. About football. I'm not supposed to do that, right? I heard that somewhere churchy, I think. But I do it anyway, and it feels almost like a dare. Go on, God. Give me a reason to start hating you again.

We tie the game. Overtime! I throw another three masses into the pot. And I groan a little because damn, my knees hurt, but I'm not getting up. No way. Because maybe, just maybe...

Alabama wrangles out a second on the clock. They kick. They sucketh mightily. A guy in an Auburn jersey shoots out from the end zone, looking like an orange and blue gazelle. His teammates block for him, taking out huge hulking guys who are gunning for his blood. He makes it. All the way down the football field.

Touchdown Auburn. No overtime. Another damn miracle. I may now get off my knees.

Everyone is freaking out. A player leaps into the stands. Nick Saban looks like he's just been very publicly pantsed. Woo hoo! Auburn fans storm the field, a sea of orange and blue. We are going to the SEC championship game. We have just won SEC West. We beat the #1 team, our arch-nemesis, in the perfect storm of skill and sweat and luck and faith, and if that's not a miracle I don't know what is.

Oh, and I now owe God hardcore.

Maybe I'll start with an apology.

What about tomorrow, when we face Mizzou in Atlanta? Will this grudge-faith of mine, so newly won, hold the line? Is there such a thing as miracle fatigue? I don't know. I don't have answers. But I do have faith in my team, the glory of a season of miracles, and the knowledge that Auburn will always, in some form, be there for me, even if only in memories and football.

For now, it is enough.