Thirty One.

I don’t like odd numbers.

Something ticks in my brain with an unusual discomfort, an itch I can’t scratch. The OCD sneaks its hands on the reins and pulls every so often, reminding me that there are 364 days left of this feeling, 364 days until we’re back at something divisible.

It was my birthday last week. I’ve never been fond of it. Since the Dreaded 17th Year, I’m not one who’s particularly prone to celebrate it. I wake up in the morning, I kiss my husband, I put on the prettiest earrings I own at the time, I fake smile in the mirror. My nose twitches. My skin is usually picked over and scarred again at this point of the year – I’ve gotten the hang of finding better make-up that doesn’t look too caked when I try to hide the spots. However, the weather is dry and hormones are unforgiving.

This year, I’m 8 months pregnant and severely sleep deprived. The earrings went on but the smile did not. I take my morning medication medley, feel the push under my ribs and try not to trip over cats on the way to the kitchen. I make coffee like any other day when I commute. I work the day away trying not to think about getting older but reminiscing at the days when Facebook didn’t exist and your phone was actually ringing off the hook from family members calling you. All of the emojis in the world cannot replace their voice, let alone their physical presence.

I ate as much pizza and cookies as I – or the fetus rather – could fit, which still wasn’t enough. I keep imagining what it would be like to sleep for an entire night undisturbed. I know it’s just the beginning. I relish in the times that I can get more than 3 or 4 hours at a time.

Apparently, 31 is starting off on complaint mode.

There are good things, of course. I’m a published author and encouraging words from readers have helped keep me motivated when other situations, more so physical, have not done nearly as much. Renewed friendships and validations for actions in the past have brought me emotional closure when I needed it most. I’ve caught up with a lot of reading, while still drowning in the stack of books on my nightstand. I welcome the anticipatory stares of the hardcovers that have waited so patiently for me to get back to flipping pages. My mother visited me for the first time since I moved to Oklahoma City and, unbeknownst to me, was a huge conspirator in the planning of a surprise baby shower. It was one of the busiest, but best weekends of my life. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so much love in one room. It gave me a renewed vigor to see these last 6 weeks through.

Perhaps that renewed vigor will last through postpartum. I have ideas and plans, characters gestating in my head, excited to be brought into the world. In the meantime, I am working on Dee’s comeback, the second side of her mix tape starting to to bleed through the speakers. It will all come together. Perhaps maternity will be a motivator. Perhaps I will learn to work through the insomnia and exhaustion. Perhaps I will just cry it all out until the words find their way through my fingers. Either way, I’m reassuring myself that it won’t stop. The stories can’t stop – they are my children as well.

Perhaps the combined experiences will make this year less odd despite the number; you never know – it could be the best year yet.

 

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An Update on Endever Publishing Studios

adoptingjames

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It’s been almost a year since Endever Publishing was born. And what a year it’s been.

We have a full house of authors we’ve signed on to publish their books with us in multiple genres from young readers to teen fiction to speculative fiction to horror/thrillers.

Last year we published our first two books and we’re gearing up to publish our third with a tentative release date of March 30.

I am proud to say that in a year, through all the unexpected twists and turns, we are remaining true to our core values of publishing innovative works by aspiring authors. Our books continue their legacy of featuring a short story by another in-house author, and we are tightening up our methodology of producing books through collaboration.

I’m proud to announce that we will be launching a website, a home-base, in March, which we are working very hard on. Our…

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ADC 2 Teaser Snippet!

Yar, there be major spoilers ahead if you haven’t read A Deathly Compromise. 

A little snippet I wrote some time ago and just polished up. Some changes will undoubtedly occur before the first draft is compiled, but this is just a taste of what’s to come. Enjoy!

-/-/-/-/-

Summer. Heat.
Blech.

I downed another Scotch, watching fragments of human beings through the bottom of the glass and clouded windows walk to their homes, or at the very least, to distractions.  From left to right, they became long, ghastly figures, then scrunched stumps of flesh before becoming themselves again. If only it was so easy to change.

“Another?”

I exhaled, the heat from the liquor pleasantly burning my throat as I set the glass down with a thumb on the oak bar. I should really stop. “This time on the rocks, Bex. It’s too damn hot today.”

“I’ll say. It’s the 9th circle of hell out there,” the bartender replied.

I tapped a knuckle on the wood. “It’s cold.”

“Hmm?” He poured the Scotch in generously, sliding the tumbler back into my hands. My palms were actually sweaty.

“The 9th circle of hell- it’s not warm. It’s frozen in ice.” I should know.

Bex seemed annoyed at the correction but took it in anyway. “Well, then I’d happily welcome it on a day like today.”

“Don’t tempt me,” I whispered under a smile, gleaming teeth reflecting in the sides of the glass as I put it up to my lips and kissed the ice cubes amongst the gold elixir. The condensation from the glass trickled through my fingertips, dripping on the oak. I thought of copper and crimson and it left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I looked over at Bex as he attended to another customer. Rare to have more than one messed up person in a bar this early. Between the smell of draft beers and darkened rum, Bex’s smell came through, tinged with decay. Soon for him, but not now.

A blast of wind erupted by my side, sending locks of hair into my eyes. I smelled him before I saw him. It took every ounce for me not to turn my head. Instead, I tapped my fingers on the glass, waiting for Bex’s acknowledging nod. “What do you want?”

“You can look at me for one,” Lux uttered, his hands folding together on the bar.

“You assume that I’d want to look at you.”

“Dee,” he began.

“No, stop it. Just…stop. I,” I let out a scoff. “I don’t think I can.”

He slowly reached out his hand towards me, gently touching my jaw. It burned, but not in the same way it used to. I closed my eyes, listening to the sound of Scotch and glass clinking once again. “Dee, you have a friend that needs you.”

“She doesn’t need me. She needs you. The less she sees of me, the better.”

“Things are not like they were before. You can do both, you can be both.” I finally dared to look up. His eyes were just as vibrant as they were when he was alive, not even I could change that. “There she is,” he whispered. He searched my eyes as if he could bring back what he left behind.

I shook my head. “Lest you forget, the last time I chose to be both, shit got real. All over. I’m not making the same mistake.” I grabbed the glass and downed it, the liquid nearly evaporating before it went down my esophagus. “If you know what’s good for you, Lux, you’ll stay out of my way.”

I slid off the stool, leaving some cash for Bex and turned to leave. Lux’s hand slipped on my waist, his thumb and index finger gently squeezing. “Dee, do you want to know why I came back?”

A low grumble came from my throat. “If I wanted to know, I would ask. It doesn’t matter now.” I motioned for my feet to step back from his hold but they didn’t move. Instead he stood, coming closer. I took a deep breath and exhaled. His hand went back up to my jaw, his fingertips holding my chin up. “Lux, I swear, I’m going to punch you if…”

His eyebrows furrowed then, his attention wavering to some unseen noise. His eyes darted back and forth and he backed away, listening. “Something’s wrong.”

“Lux…?”

“Get out of here, find your sisters.” In a blink, he was gone, the feeling of his hands still scorching my skin.

And then I heard it.
The screaming.
The gurgle of blood clotting in a throat.
A laugh, one that I knew but had hoped to never hear from for a long time.
It was too soon.

Then a whisper, soft but sharp as a knife, “Sweet, sweet girl, oh how I’ve missed you.”

The Struggles of Struggle

Christmas is my all-time favorite holiday. Yes, I’m one of THOSE people that listens to Christmas music all year round, I have my decorations up practically after Halloween, I go broke at the end of every year because I spend every penny I have so that people enjoy my gifts. I love everything about it.

The reason why I love Christmas so much is not because it was a season that provided the best gatherings and moments, but because it provided some of the worst.

As a child of two divorces, Christmas with a single and working mother and autistic brother was very tough. When my brother’s dad left, my mother barely had money for Christmas dinner and presents. I remember vividly that I only got a VHS movie and an off-brand board game on year. Earlier that year, I would go to school wearing old clothes that couldn’t fit but they were all that we had. All of our extended family lived in Puerto Rico, so it was only ever my mother, me, and two brothers. There were plenty of years that it was quiet – I kept to my books and we watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas on TV and even though she never said the words, I would look at my mother’s face and knew that she was praying, praying for the days and years to get better. Even as a pre-teen/teenager, in the midst of depression and anxiety already, there was no need to complain. To me, I saw it as  we made it through one year, we could surely make it through the next. That was a gift in itself.

Our family is in such a better place right now – we came up from the ashes and we thrived. Between us children, we’ve succeeded in education, careers and just keeping a level head. My mother is about to become a grandmother for the first time. My youngest brother is about to leave the nest.

To this day, between our immediate family, we still only ever get each other a couple of presents a year. The real gifts were, and still are, each other. The real gift was the struggle. Because in all of its wretchedness and wrongness and unfairness, it shed away to shape who we truly were and who we would become.

As a parent-to-be, I often wonder: we don’t want our children to struggle or go through the experiences that we have gone through. We want to give them everything we didn’t get a chance to have. But as a firm believer of struggle and empathy defining who you are, how do we shape our children to become well-rounded, compassionate and kind individuals who simply understand suffering? To help those that need it? Of course no child or family is perfect. I have known people on both sides of the spectrum – that had everything and not a care in the world but still managed to strive for a better community and love for one another, and the others who ended up being, well, very Trump-like.

So what are some ideas to help our future children grow to be model citizens who are equal in intellect and compassion? How do we get them to succeed in both life and love?

Updates from an exhausted author PLUS a holiday ADC short!

I feel terrible, truly.

I normally write whenever possible but some rather important and time consuming changes all seemed to happen at the same time as a release of A Deathly Compromise. While I’m eagerly waiting for print copies to be available before the next run of promotions, I figured I could take some time to finally update you all and flex my writing fingers.

In terms of big changes, my husband and I have a baby on the way (due in April) and we just purchased-and moved into!-our first house. Between those two huge things on their own and prepping for the holidays, I feel a bit like this cat:

tiredcat

(So when I say I feel terrible, know that it is not just emotional sentiment.)

Nevertheless, to quote the great Walt Disney, we keep moving forward. While we’re still technically living out of cardboard boxes, we managed to decorate for Christmas and are in joyous disbelief that the place is ours (we’ll just ignore the fact that it’s really the bank’s). And while 2016 was nothing short of tumultuous, 2017 will undoubtedly bring some much needed joy and I look forward to it. I promise to not be so neglectful to this little corner of the universe.

So now that things are settling down and I can finally scratch that author itch, I spewed out this quick little A Deathly Compromise short, just for the holidays. It’s not spoiler-free and will most likely not be included in the sequel, so let this just serve as the in-between snack of the holiday meals. Enjoy and hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday!

-/-

Although it’s been said, many times, many ways.

I watched the television as if it were an animal documentary. George Michael and his fantastic hair frolicked across the screen, belting out his infamous tune over his lost Christmas love. I pulled the fur-lined rim of the Santa hat over my eyes.

“Oh, Georgie, who were you trying to fool?” I remarked out loud, catching a nasty glimpse from a waiting visitor. I ignored her, draping my legs over one side of the armchair while resting my head on the other. A shadow loomed over my body and without completely looking up, a small smile escaped the corner of my lips. I would know his presence anywhere. His soul stirred up flurries in my stomach. “Is that a candy cane in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

He laughed. He began searching for something in his pocket and for a moment, I questioned the seriousness of my proposition. Before I could stand, a green, red and white candy cane, with a split in the curve, landed on my chest.

“Tease,” I called him as my fingers worked to unwrap the unruly plastic.

“Bum,” he replied, gently removing the hat from my head.

A hiss erupted from my mouth. “The light…it burns us.”

“Get up, I want to show you something.”

“Fool me once, Lux…”

“There are cookies involved.”

I swung my legs and my boots planted themselves on the ground, my body sitting up at full attention, the candy cane between my index and middle finger like a 1920’s cigarette. “Next time, just go with that, darling. No need for foreplay.”

Lux rolled his eyes and turned, the glimmer from his clothes made annoyingly bright from the hospital lighting. I caught up to his pace, now smooth and effortless, not a hint of flawed life among the steps. “Nice outfit,” he remarked, noticing the rather jolly and lightly stained seasonal nurse scrubs I had been recently adorning.

“One must learn how to blend in with the peasant folk when one loses their cover. Didn’t you learn anything from James Bond?” I asked.

“Favorite?”

“Connery, of course. So cheeky, great in bed.” He glared. “Kidding!” I was definitely not kidding.

“I liked Roger Moore.”

I groaned as we turned the corner to the main lobby. “Ugh, you would.”

He grabbed my hand and pulled me into the nearby janitor’s closet, his body providing the only illumination in the confined room. He held my arm and hand up, his other hand resting on the small of my back. “Close your eyes,” he whispered.

The moment felt fearfully similar to one of his last when he was alive. I obliged, my body leaning into his. The familiar warp of transporting sent shivers up my spine before it ended in an eerie calm. The frost of the night greeted me, soft flakes kissing my cheeks. The smell of hot chocolate wafted around us. My hips adjusted to the environmental shift before my body completely betrayed me and I fell to the floor. My head met ice. I looked up, Lux’s face holding back a laugh. He held out his hand but I smacked it away.

“Skates, it had to be skates!” I wobbled up, my hands bracing the ground between my legs while I straightened up.

“You just made Bambi look like he could do the moonwalk.”

“You….shut your mouth. Goddess of death here, not of grace.” My torso came up next, then my head, my hands rubbing up against legs for warmth. “Now, then…” I began to slip again but caught my balance with an arm spinwheel before I could fall back down the dreadful frozen earth. I huffed, the echo of fire from my eyes transparent in Lux’s. “You said…there were…cookies.”

He opened up the crook of his arm to allow mine to lace through it. “In a bit. They’re on the other side of the rink and we got a ways to go.”

“You couldn’t have just landed us on solid ground?”

“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

“Have you been reading the verse of Jones lately? I feel like I’m talking to his parrot.”

He ignored my comments, the smile on his face never wavering. He guided me halfway down the frozen pond, looking around and stopping abruptly, about 20 yards from warmth and chocolate. His free hand reached for mine, turning me to face him. I was still in disbelief. It had been weeks now, yet my mind couldn’t fathom it. His fingers reached up to my face, pushing a loose lock of hair behind my ear. Fingertips trailed down the length of my jaw, his thumb landing on my chin. “Merry Christmas, Dee,” he whispered.

Before I could reply or fill in the space between us, he moved away, revealing the scene in front of me like a curtain. Disappointment turned into confusion before the faces and figures in the background sharpened. Amongst the bulk of snow jackets and dark colors, a familiar head with a lavender-colored knit cap erupted like a pleasant streak of lightning in the night.

Oh, what a year could do. She had grown like a weed in summer, perhaps a foot or more. Her smile was free of chains, loose breaths now residing between small bursts of laughter. Her mother and father were there, holding her hands, lifting her up and sending chips of ice into the air. My hands found themselves rubbing my arms up and down, recollecting her last embrace. Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown score came out on the speakers, the vocals of the children’s choir and soft piano keys settling softly in the air. “She’s…so happy,” I said under my breath.

“You did that,” Lux said, his voice suddenly joining in the reverie.

I shook my head. “No. No, she was always happy, in a way. Now she’s…”

“Joyous.”

“Yes, that. She’s, she’s certainly something.” I swallowed down a happy sob, determined not to make myself look like a fool in the middle of a crowd of children and agile adults. “Is she…?”

“She’s doing great, Dee. Perfectly healthy.”

“Good, that’s good,” I said quickly, my voice cracking. I let out a long exhale. “We better go before she sees me.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded emphatically, turning away and bracing myself for the last few feet between me and snow covered grass. He took my arm again and guided the way. We stood in line for hot chocolate and cookies, but I no longer had the urge. My eyes strayed toward Aria’s direction every couple of minutes, following the spot of lavender across the pond. I memorized her one more time, her muscles and limbs moving without restraint. When she was lifted into the air, the hem of her jeans rode up, revealing new rainbow socks. I laughed, silently wishing I could go back to being invisible. I could watch her all day. Lux handed me a mug of hot chocolate – cider for him – and placed his free hand back on my cheek, melting the snow on my face. I smiled at him, taking a bite of the cookie already in my grasp.

“Thank you,” I told him in sincerity, swallowing down the treat. He shrugged in the most Lux way possible, the remnants of cider now on his lips. I licked my own, trying to ignore the temptation. He was off limits now. I looped my arm through his once again and led the way back to the hospital grounds. A walk would do us both some good. Nevertheless, the warmth and joy from Aria’s laugh echoed in between us, melting away the cold of the evening. Some things were worth waiting for, worth sacrificing for. My cup toasted his as our steps found their synchronicity. “Merry Christmas, Lux.”