Under the Flowerpot – Part 4 #shortstory

Welcome back to the continuation of my short story, Under the Flowerpot.  This is the last installment.  Enjoy!

Fairy Garden2Every time Kendu opened his mouth to say something, McKenna feigned interest in the woman sweeping dirt away from her pink door with a fern leaf and the tiny child clinging to one of her legs.  The little girl’s copper pigtails bobbed up and down with her mother’s movements, and she grinned at McKenna, her eyes sparking.  A spark of recognition registered in McKenna’s thoughts, but she didn’t know why.

As she wandered farther along the road, the overhead plants appeared more wilted than the first ones she’d seen, and her footsteps cast dirt into the air that was so dry it could have been a desert.  Nothing green moved.

McKenna stopped and stared at a black and yellow bumblebee that flew to the top of a blue ceramic container, transformed into a little round man with a belly like a beach ball, and went to work peeling away brown, shriveled stalks from the broad-leafed plant.  A towering cone-shaped flower that rose above him had withered into something that resembled a dried cob of corn.  His mouth folded down at the corners, and filth caked his hands as if he’d been working non-stop for days.

A glance at the other houses revealed similar circumstances, withered greenery, dead flowers littered everywhere, cracking pots and people scurrying around to repair one thing or another.  Their expressions were all equally grim.

“What happened here?”  McKenna forced herself to look at Kendu.  “It was so green and healthy back there, and the vines moved, but … everything’s dying, isn’t it?”  Her hand went to her stomach, uncertain why it suddenly hurt.

Kendu stared up at the glass ceiling that didn’t shine as brightly with sun as it had a few moments before.  “We can’t turn on the water ourselves, and there are so many predators beyond these walls, it isn’t safe for us to try to carry water back from the lake.  Your father died as he was watering the section we entered back there.  The rest has been without water for a few days longer.”

“Is this my fault, because I took so long to get here?”  McKenna glared at the moth man, unwilling to get sucked into the guilt trip she was on.

“No.”  He slid fingers into his hair, something near panic in his voice.  “I promised your father I’d wait until you came.  He found happiness here, and wanted the same for you.  Life out there is harsh, but in here….”  Kendu stopped in front of McKenna and grasped her face in his warm hands.  “I know it must be hard for you to come here, and you’ll need some time to accept what we are, but we won’t survive much longer like this.  If our host plants die, then so do we.  We need you, McKenna.  Won’t you help us?”

Was that how the Shyll had sucked Dad into their world for days on end?  Care for us, or we’ll die?  Well, she wasn’t as gullible as dear ol’ Dad.  Hell no.  She still wasn’t convinced the insect people weren’t a delusional dream she could wake up from with a good mental slap.  In fact, that seemed like the only explanation that didn’t have her two steps closer to the loony-bin door.

McKenna shook her head and backed away from Kendu, away from the forlorn faces of the people who picked up chipped pieces of clay from their homes and raked up once beautiful blossoms that had turned into wizened blobs of faded color.  “I know what you’re doing, so just stop it.  Dad might have fallen for all of this crap and lost his mind in the process, but I won’t.  Now, change me back!”  Please let me wake up.

Kendu nodded, and instead of the anger that McKenna expected, a deep sadness cast gloom into his features.  “I guess it was silly of us to think you’d care after what we did to your childhood.  You must have a good life out there somewhere.”  He turned, his shoulders wilting as much as the vines winding around the yellow container beside her.  “Put the two halves of the spinning top back together, and you’ll return to your normal size.  He did love you, and for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

Although she didn’t want to, she couldn’t help but watch him walk away, her throat swelling with guilt.  Kendu approached a small group of men and women with every color of hair, wearing the same strips of fabric he did.  When he shook his head at them, they all let out cries of grief.

Unable to tolerate the weight of the world she’d found, McKenna turned away from the gathering Shyll and went back the way she came, concentrating to keep one foot moving in front of the other instead of turning around.  Part of her wanted to take the look out of Kendu’s eyes, but anger kept her rushing away from him.  She didn’t know how she’d get back to the ground, or how she’d manage to maneuver the two parts of the toy back together, but she had to get away before she started to believe all of it.

Once she made it back to the green part of the village, the vines once again slithered against one another like cats scent marking.  Their yellow and white blooms dropped petals around her like soft rain, caressing her bare arms and wafting her with their sweet perfume as if they too wanted to entice her into staying.  No!  They were just plants.  Weren’t they?

 “You’re Neil’s daughter,” a soft voice called.

 McKenna recognized the pink door before she remembered the woman with the little girl attached to her leg.  “Yes.”  McKenna didn’t move any closer to the woman with her long, fair hair and twinkling blue eyes.  She imagined butterfly wings protruding from her back, but had no idea why the image came to her.

“You look so much like him.”  Offering a smile, the butterfly lady limped to the end of her stone walkway with the girl perched on one foot, until she stood a few feet from McKenna.  “I’m Meera, and this”—she ushered the girl forward—“is Naya.”

McKenna studied the urgency in Meera’s stare, wondering what thoughts went with it.  Was she trying to tell McKenna something?  Why wouldn’t she just say it?  Unable to decipher the look, McKenna turned her attention to the grinning child.  Another young girl stepped out of the flowerpot and came up behind Meera, gazing at McKenna with the same eyes as her little sister, the color of storm clouds, a dark, slate gray.  A mirror of McKenna’s own.  And Dad’s.

“This is my other daughter, Nadine,” Meera said.

“No!”  Gasping, McKenna stumbled backward in an effort to escape the truth that stood before her.  “He didn’t.”  She shook her head and cleared the lump from her throat.  “Please, tell me he didn’t.”

Meera reached her hand out as if to comfort McKenna, but dropped it down by her side.  “After your mother left, Neil and I … we loved each other.  He tried to break the oath of silence so he could bring first your mother and then you here, but each time he tried, he fell ill.”  She placed her delicate hands on the shoulders of the two girls.  “These are your sisters.”

Tears streamed down McKenna’s face as she imagined Dad raising his new daughters, while she spent her evenings and weekends alone, cooking for herself, learning how to sew because there was no money to buy new clothes.  How many years had she spent wishing on stars that she could have had a sister to share that time with, to tell her secrets to, to crawl into bed with when thunder crashed outside?

Kendu’s words haunted her mind: you must have a wonderful life.  Truth was, she had no life at all.  She worked alone in an office and went home to an empty apartment.  McKenna had avoided anyone who’d tried to get close to her out of fear they’d leave her in the end.  Just like Dad.

As she stared at the butterfly woman, she realized the Shyll could never leave her.  Their entire world existed within the greenhouse, as fragile and worn down as she was.  They needed her.  She’d never been needed before, and a new sense of purpose bloomed inside her.  The sisters she’d always wanted stood before her, their lives in her hands. 

Meera had said Dad fell ill when he tried to tell her.  Had his efforts killed him in the end?  All of the old hurt leaked out of McKenna’s heart in a steady stream down her face.  The two girls each took one of her hands in theirs, tears wetting their rosy cheeks, and something warm touched her shoulder.  McKenna craned her neck to look at Kendu, who stood beside her, his hand drawing back from her.

“We’re your family now, McKenna,” Kendu said.  “We can’t undo what we did to your childhood, but we would heal you now if you’ll allow it, as you’ll heal us.”

The emptiness inside her absorbed the surroundings, the vibrations from the blue vines that coiled around the entire group like an embrace, the hope rolling off Meera and her daughters, the kind moth-man who gave her a sort of comfort and warmth she’d never had.  Other villagers gathered around them, their expressions welcoming and without judgment.  If McKenna chose to leave, they’d accept it and let her walk away.  If she did, they’d all die.  Something fierce twisted inside of her.  She wouldn’t let anyone or anything hurt them.  Instead of shocking her, the thought brought a strange sort of peace.

The future didn’t seem so empty anymore.  She only had to embrace it, to let go of the anger and hurt and doubt.  She belonged with them; something in her soul knew it to be true.  Somehow she would be all they needed her to be, would accept her just as she was, and she’d never have to return to her empty apartment and dead-end job.  All she’d ever wanted lay within the very place she’d always hated.  Insane or not, she no longer cared.

I forgive you, Dad.

McKenna slipped her hand into Kendu’s and managed a smile.  “So … when are you going to teach me how to fly?”

~~~~~~~

And that concludes Under the Flowerpot.  I hope I entertained you for a while.  :)

Under the Flowerpot – Part 3 #shortstory

Happy Friday everyone!

I have a couple of other posts to do next week, so I thought I’d post part 3 of the story for you today.  Enjoy!

CONTINUED…

Fairy Garden2Afraid to move, McKenna remained motionless with her eyes closed, gasping with sudden exhaustion and the adrenaline crashing around her body.

Sounds of fluttering wings beat against her skin, as though her entire body registered the noise, especially her legs.  Vibrations traveled the length of them, giving her a sense of direction where the sound originated—directly in front of her.  Trembling under the strange sensations, she couldn’t make herself look to see if an angel had come to claim her, or Lucifer himself.

“After your father’s stories of you, it doesn’t surprise me your Shyll form is that of a dragonfly,” the stranger said, his voice a comfort in chaos of her mind.

Shyll?  What did he mean about a dragonfly? 

“He loved to wonder what you’d become, McKenna.”  The man padded nearer.  “Please don’t be afraid.  You’re safe here.”

Curiosity forced one of her eyes open a slit.  A striking man stood before her with wind-tousled blond hair, eyes like summer night skies filled with twinkling stars.  He wore nothing but a bit of black cloth wrapped around his narrow hips.  His pale hand, decorated with gray splotches up to his shoulder, extended toward her.

Beyond him, the greenhouse and everything in it had grown to gigantic proportions.  Either that or she’d…shrunk?

When she opened her mouth to launch a scream, nothing happened.  McKenna tried to lift her hand to her throat, but she found a spindly black leg where her arm should have been.  Something moved against her back.  A twist of her head—farther than it should have been able to move—revealed a set of paper-thin wings with veins of silver running through them.  Another set protruded from her other side.  Terror ripped through her with crippling force.  She thrashed and tried to run, but her legs, all six of them, didn’t work the way she remembered, and piles of fabric on the floor impeded her progress. 

“Whoa.”  The man’s hands folded her wings back and held her against the floor with his weight.  “It’s unnerving the first time, I forget sometimes.  Just relax and think about your true form.  Concentrate, and you’ll shift back.” 

Shift back?  What do you mean?  The words rattled around in her head but found no exit.  His touch and calming words helped her to do as he said.  McKenna imagined her reflection in the mirror that morning, her stormy gray eyes, her shoulder-length auburn hair.  A splitting sound came with a few pops as her body contracted and pulsed, but no pain came along with it, just pressure.  Her skin grew tight until it fit her properly again.

Whimpers fell from her lips as she raised her shaking hands to look at them, uttering a gasp of relief that her fingers had returned. 

“That’s better.”  The man crouched beside her, wearing a bright smile.  “I’m Kendu.”

McKenna tore her stare from the odd gray markings all over Kendu’s body to look at his face.  “What are you?  What happened to me?”  She scrambled to her feet and discovered the material on the floor was her clothes.  With her new size, she could have fit into the pocket of her capris.  “I’m still small!”  Her voice rose to a shriek, and her hands attempted to cover her nudity.

“There are things you must see before I explain everything.  Put this on.”  Kendu tossed a few strips of fabric to her like the one he wore, while averting his eyes. 

After struggling to wrap the material and tie the ends so it would stay on, McKenna stared at Kendu.  “I’m dead, aren’t I?  I hit my head, and I died.”

“No, you’re not dead.”  His eyes shimmered with a touch of humor before turning serious again.  “The artifact is designed to breech the skin of a new owner.  By mixing your blood with our soil, you’ve become our new guardian.”  Kendu’s smile appeared a little sad but none the less warming.  “Please let me take you to the village, and I’ll explain everything.”

“Guardian?”  McKenna slid fingers into her hair.  “Is that what my dad was?  You’re the ‘them’ he was talking about in the note.”

Kendu nodded.  “The very best we’ve ever had, and yes, he spoke of us.  We miss him terribly.”

Tension sang through her body.  “So…you’ll tell me why I had wings, and what happened with my dad, if I go with you?”  She didn’t know whether to run screaming, or to jump for joy that maybe Dad hadn’t been off his rocker.  “And then you’ll put me back to normal size?”

“Anything you want to know.  Once you see the village, I’ll tell you how to return to normal.”

McKenna blew out a breath as if she’d been holding it all her life.  “Okay.”

“I’m going to shift, so don’t be afraid.”

Her eyes widened as Kendu dropped to his hands and knees, and the skin along his back opened.  He never made a sound as giant gray wings with blue eye-like spots unfolded from either side of his spine just under his shoulder blades.  The rest of him contracted into an oblong, furry moth body with two antennae protruding from his head.  When he spread his wings, McKenna backed up a step, never having seen such a large insect. 

Kendu edged closer to her and flattened his wings, like a horse waiting for his mount.  She scanned the area for any witnesses to her acid trip, before climbing onto the moth and gripping a handful of the course hairs that covered him.

With her nose pressed into Kendu’s warm, fuzzy back, McKenna inhaled his clover-fresh scent while his wings beat against the air, carrying them up to the third shelf of plants that had seemed miles away from the ground to her smaller eyes.

 When he landed, she climbed off and stared at what looked like a dirt road winding down the center of the containers.  Overhanging foliage gave it the appearance of a shady path through a lush countryside, each leaf moving independently as if individual minds controlled them.  Every flowerpot had at least one doorway and two windows, and some had more that looked like they would open to a second story.  Some of the pots sported dots or stripes, some had hand-painted tulips and daisies, and some were plain ceramic in various shades.

Did Kendu and his people live in the flowers?

Kendu grunted as he changed back, and then wrapped his cloth around himself again.  McKenna hadn’t noticed where he’d stashed it during the flight, and she didn’t ask. 

“Welcome to Shyllandra,” Kendu said from behind her.  “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Screwed up eight ways from Sunday, something out of Alice in Wonderland that had stolen her dad from her, but she supposed it was beautiful if she could get past all of that.  Without turning to look at Kendu, she said, “I don’t understand any of this.  You’re a moth.  My blood dripped onto your magic dirt, and…are you saying I turned into a dragonfly?”

“We’re shape-shifters that predate any the human legends cover.  We were born with the earth itself, though we never needed a guardian until the humans began destroying our safe havens to build their parking lots and high towers.  One of my ancestors developed a way to alter a human so they could be part of our world and understand who we are.  Your form happens to be a dragonfly.  Your father was a grasshopper.  Normally we’d never recruit someone with a family, but we were desperate after our last home was destroyed.  The seeds your father planted are the last we have, and once they’re gone….”  Kendu rounded McKenna and stared down at her with shadows swirling in the depths of his eyes.  “I’m so sorry we took him from you.  He talked of you oft—”

“Save it.”  McKenna strode down the road, trying to outrun a lifetime of hurt.  “This is all ridiculous.  If he thought so highly of me, he wouldn’t have spent all his time with a bunch of freak bug shifters who live in flowerpots.  Why didn’t he just tell me?”

Kendu’s feet pounded the dirt until he caught up, and then kept pace beside her.  “It’s forbidden for a guardian to reveal us to anyone, a rule put in place when one of our original guardians tried to sell us to a circus.  Even if they choose to, it’s physically impossible.  I know your father tried.”

“Isn’t that convenient.”  She uttered a low groan and walked faster.  “Just show me whatever you need to so I can get back to my life.”

Under the Flowerpot – Part 2 #shortstory

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and enjoyed the first part of my short story, Under the Flowerpot.  Here’s the second installment.

Continued…

Fairy Garden2Although McKenna’s voice of reason told her to leave the box alone, curiosity drove her to open it.  Inside, she found a folded paper on top of a cloth bag, the red paisley pattern faded into a rosy shade of gray. She reached inside the cloth and withdrew an old fashioned wooden spinning top, the kind she’d seen in black and white photographs, usually carved and painted by hand.

Her pulse sped to a gallop at the memory of Dad twiddling the item in his fingers, usually right before he went out to his greenhouse to work. He always looked happiest when he held it.

After setting the box on the floor, she positioned the point of the top in one palm and twirled it slowly with her fingers. Although it once had a pattern of red and blue stripes and stars along the bulbous part of the toy, it had mostly worn off, and a crack ran down its middle.

Attention turned to the note, McKenna lowered herself to the floor in case her knees wouldn’t hold her. A tiny thread of hope weaved its way through her doubt.  Did Dad leave something behind for her to find?

Her shaking fingers unfolded the paper, and she found Dad’s scratchy handwriting in uneven rows across the page.

My Dearest McKenna,

Now that I sit down to write this, I’m not sure where to start. I know you’re angry with me, and you have every right to be.  I’ll do my best to explain.

The bag I’ve left in this box fell out of the sky one night while we were still at the old house. Inside, I found the toy and seeds. Please don’t think I’m crazy, but something compelled me to find a safe place to plant them, so that’s why we moved.

I’ve been sitting here for hours now, trying to find a way to explain and just can’t.  You need to see the miracle for yourself.

Open the spinning top and look under the golden flowerpot on the bottom shelf closest to the door of the greenhouse. You’ll know what to do next.

I did my best to protect them, and now that I’m dead, I need you to take my place. Love them, McKenna, and protect them. Please. I know I wasn’t there for you, and I hope that once you see what I’ve been doing, you can forgive me.

Love you,

Dad.

McKenna held the note to her chest as she attempted to draw in air through her tight throat. Them? The plants? Heat born of rage swelled in her soul. She grabbed the toy and coiled her arm to throw it, but whispers once again broke the silence.

“Please don’t,” the tiny male voice said. “Help us, McKenna.”

She gasped, lowered her arm and searched the greenhouse, but found nothing she hadn’t seen before. Between ragged breaths, she said, “Wh-who are you?”

Silence.

She palmed her forehead as if that would keep her mind from falling into the crazy pit that had claimed Dad. “You’re losing it.” Why did I even come here? This is insane.

Fingers trembling, she dropped the toy and note and ran to the door, but the vines had woven a tangled web across the exit. Unwilling to consider how that could have happened in such a short time, she pulled one of them, ripping it in half. A cry came from behind her. Had she hurt the plant? When she turned to look for another way out, something flew at her, her hands rising to catch it out of instinct.

Too stunned to move, she stared at the object in her fingers. It was the bag containing the top.

“Please,” the same small voice said. “We’ll die without you.”

The desperation and grief in the tone cut through McKenna’s anger like a serrated knife. She flinched, her fingers fisting around the toy.

A tingling in her spine came with hope that she’d find answers if she followed Dad’s instructions. She’d never believed in anything supernatural, but with no body to accompany the one speaking, she’d either been wrong not to believe, or her mind was slipping into the abyss. Either way, she had a sudden burning desire to know what waited for her down there. That her fear and anger had vanished should have bothered her, but it didn’t.

Dad had said to open the toy. McKenna turned the object over in her hands, then slipped her fingernails into the crack along the center. At first it didn’t give, but her need to solve the puzzle drove her to pry harder as she grunted with the effort. With a splintering sound, it finally gave, slicing her finger as it did.

“Dammit.” McKenna shook her damaged digit, blood dripping from the wound as she searched for the golden flowerpot. She located an overturned container of the right color, the only one that didn’t contain a plant. Her hand reached for the object before she could consider whether or not she should, as if something had taken over her movements by remote control.

Beneath the aged, ceramic pot, McKenna found an impression in the dirt that appeared to fit the two halves of the spinning top. Taking one half in each hand, she fitted the items into the slots, dripping her blood across the soil as she worked to make the pieces sit just right.

The dark earth trembled, and the crimson drops of McKenna’s life disappeared into it. As if someone had flipped a switch in her body, her senses awakened, brightness, sound and scent overwhelming to the point of panic.

Before she could think about how to escape, pain sliced along her back. Crippled by the agony, McKenna flopped onto the floor, writhing hard enough she slammed her head against one of the posts supporting the glass ceiling. Sparkling white stars danced in her vision, and unborn screams jammed sideways in her throat. Both of her legs snapped in unison, the terrible cracking sounds invading her ears like shards of glass. Her skin shrank and split, her hair fell from her head, and every cell echoed its pain.

McKenna cried out inside her head, as she could no longer speak.

The pain stopped as quickly as it had arrived. 

I’m dead.  Oh, God, I’m dead!

TO BE CONTINUED…

Dun, dun, dunnnnnnnn.  :)  I’ll leave you there until next time.

Under the Flowerpot – Part 1 #shortstory

Good Monday morning!

Well, it’s been an incredible summer for me.  A busy one, and at times, a lazy one.  Perfect, right? 

Except, of course, that I’ve fallen off my regular blogging habits.  Now that I’ve returned to work and settled into a routine, I thought I’d better get back on the horse.

First off, I’d like to say happy 15th anniversary to my hubs, and here’s to another healthy and happy 15 and more ahead of us.  Love ya!

For something different, I thought I’d share one of my short stories with you, Under the Flowerpot.  This originally appeared in the Explorers: Beyond the Horizon anthology published by the Dead Robots Society.  Because of its length, I’m going to break it into smaller chunks over the next few posts.

Enjoy!

Under the Flowerpot

Fairy Garden2McKenna stared at the white door, hoping to summon enough courage to go inside.

Home. What a crock.

Her dad’s house had never been a home, only a breeding place for bad memories and loneliness deep enough to drown in. When she left for college, she swore she’d never return. A lawyer made that resolution impossible when he delivered the deed and keys, along with her dad’s death certificate, to her apartment in the city.

“A brain tumor”, the spindly man had said. “You should take comfort in his quick passing.”

She didn’t take comfort in anything. A few months into her first accounting job, she didn’t have the time or emotional room deal with any of it.

Unable to make herself open the door, McKenna plodded down the porch steps and took the stone pathway into the overgrown backyard. Dominating the center of the spruce-lined space sat the source of her family’s torment, the greenhouse where Dad’s obsession had taken root and stolen him away from her when she was only eight.

A Plexiglas door secured with a lock stood between McKenna and a building she’d wondered about for years. Dad had forbidden her to go inside and refused to say what he did in there. What could he have loved more than his own daughter? 

Please let there be something here.

Her shaking hand dug into the pocket of her denim capris and withdrew the key ring. After flipping through the clinking mass of metal, she found a small key that slid into the lock. It clicked open with a turn, causing panic to rise like a black tide. What if she found nothing more than a bunch of weeds?  She shook off the thoughts. It didn’t matter. McKenna had to see what he’d destroyed his family for.

Swallowing the bile rising in her throat, McKenna grasped the handle. She took in a gulp of air, yanked open the door and struggled to pass through a tangle of flowering vines that acted like a sixties-style beaded curtain. A sweet, floral scent assaulted her nose.

Once inside the humid jungle, she stopped dead. Her heart faltered, stumbling a few beats before it recovered to thump it’s frustration against her ribs. Three levels of shelves stood on either side of the center aisle, all packed full of every color and size of flowerpots overflowing with life. Some had broad, deep green leaves with red spine-like flowers protruding from their centers. Others had lime-toned foliage with no flowers at all, but instead had wavy vines snaking out of one pot and into the next. One sported a fuchsia bloom bigger than McKenna’s head that resembled a cross between a tulip and a rose. At the far end, cactus-like plants rose above Asian-style shallow bowls with deadly-looking spines sprouting from their bulbous surfaces.

“This can’t be it.” McKenna’s voice came out half strangled. “There has to be something else.” The room turned to a blur through the waterfall of grief washing down her cheeks as she ran to a wooden work bench at the far end and swept her arms across the pile of junk on it. Clay pots smashed to the floor, spilling black earth and packets of seeds around her sandaled feet. A roar rushed up her throat as she pulled the garden tools from a silver rack on the wall and tossed them everywhere.

“Why?” Her voice rose into a screech.  She collapsed onto the ground, her body shaking with sobs that had been building inside her for years.  Before her eighth birthday, Dad had inexplicably moved them out to the country to that God-forsaken place.

In the beginning, he’d only spent time in the greenhouse after McKenna went to bed, but it quickly turned into days, and finally weeks. He’d lost his job as fire chief and Mom left, certain he’d been having an affair. Either that, or he’d gone insane. How he continued to pay the bills, McKenna would never know.

As she gazed around the room, she thought maybe Mom had been right, but instead of a woman, it appeared Dad had been having a fling with a bunch of snap dragons and peonies.

A bitter laugh cut through McKenna’s tears, and the sobs gave way to sporadic hiccups. She sat there for what could have been minutes or hours, she couldn’t tell, but her body hadn’t the will to move just yet.

Whispers drifted to McKenna’s ears, so soft she wondered if she’d really heard them. She held her breath and listened.

“Is someone here?” She pushed up to her feet, brushed the dirt from her pants and peered down the empty corridor. Unease wandered along her spine, leaving prickles in its wake.  Maybe it was a bird? 

Something tumbled from the highest rack on the right, plunked in the middle of the dirt floor.  Her heart tried to escape her throat. “Who’s there?” The waver in her voice ruined the command she’d meant to give. McKenna peered over her shoulder to make sure nobody had crept up behind her, wiped her sweaty palms against her thighs, and took tentative steps toward the item that had fallen—a small black box with a golden lid. Worn edges suggested age much greater than McKenna’s twenty-one years.

Her gaze darted around the space, lingering on the nearest shelves as if a wild dog would materialize from behind a petunia and tear her to pieces.  Finding nothing out of the ordinary, she knelt beside the item and traced a finger around its lid.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Indie Author Giveaway Hop

Hello and welcome to another stop on the Indie Author Giveaway hop.  Thanks so much to Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Krazy Book Lady for co-hosting.  To see the rest of the participants in this hop, please click the logo below and enter to win more great prizes.

GIVEAWAY – International

(These books are intended for adult audiences)

Here’s what I’m offering one lucky commenter:

A signed paperback copy of

The Glass Man

The Glass Man (Lila Gray #1)

an e-book copy of

Tidal Whispers

Tidal Whispers

AND a signed bookmark for The Glass Man (front & back shown)

  

What do you have to do to win?

It’s simple.  Just tell me in the comments below who your favorite villain of all time is, the one you love to hate.  :)  Please include a way to reach you, email, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (it will only be used for the purpose of sending your prize if you should win)

I’d also be grateful for a like on Facebook and a follow on Twitter, but it’s not mandatory.

On June 20th I’ll choose a commenter using random.org, announce it on my blog and contact the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond.  If I don’t hear from them, another winner will be chosen.

Cheers, and good luck!

Release day! #TidalWhispers

Release day is here!  Woo hoo!  Crack the bubbly and hold up a glass!

Cheers to my fellow authors, Claire Gillian, Julie Reece and Kelly Said a most successful launch of our collaboration through J. Taylor Publishing to create Tidal Whispers.  I look forward to reading many more heart touching pieces from you all in the future.

As promised, I’m here to announce the winner of my ebook giveaway of this little beauty, and I’m a girl of my word.

First, here is what the winner will soon find in their inbox:

Heart’s Desire by Julie Reece
After a terrible accident, Tessa returns to her family beach house to heal. She doesn’t expect to see her first summer crush from seven years before. Cameron, though, reappears and ignites a relationship that’s far more intense than ever before. The only problem? Summer is once again coming to an end, and this time, Tessa will have to decide whether to choose life with Cameron or to never see him again.

The Sweetest Song by Claire Gillian
Under Poseidon’s rule, Circe is the most destructive siren in the Pacific ocean, her songs luring ships and their crew to their watery graves. Not Otis, the best halibut fisherman in the Alaskan waters. His ship, the Calypso, has avoided disaster each time Circe set her sights on him.

Given one last chance to deliver Otis to Davy Jones’ locker, Circe takes to land to waylay the handsome captain. Instead, it may be Otis himself who hooks the Siren.

Pearl of Pau’maa by Kelly Said
Should Miki choose to wed the local wealthy boy she doesn’t love, her stomach will stop grumbling. Her soul, however, will suffocate. With one last opportunity before she must concede, she sneaks off for a final dive to her hidden crate at the bottom of the seabed. What waits for her is more than a captured lobster. It’s a treasure she cannot claim without great sacrifice or true love. 

The Undergarden by Jocelyn Adams
Nixie, a water sprite, lives a solitary existence as she struggles to understand the strange world beyond her waters.  When she meets one of the pink ones, a curious boy named Wyatt, their friendship blooms into a love that can exist only upon the sands that divide his solid ground from her underwater paradise. Some love, though, once born, cannot be undone, even in the face of death.

So, without further ado, the winner of my first ever giveaway of Tidal Whispers is … drum roll please ….

Tayte H, from Reading in Paradise

Congrats!  I’ll be in touch to arrange your prize.  I hope you enjoy the stories as much as I did.

This collection is now available for immediate download to your kindle here, and your Kobo or Nook here.

Thanks for stopping by to celebrate with me.  Have a great week!

{Review} Tidal Whispers #TuesdayTurns

Today on Tuesday Turns:  Tidal Whispers, the newest PNR anthology coming to you from J. Taylor Publishing.  I had the pleasure of reading drafts of these short story collection a while ago, and have just finished re-reading the entire ARC.  Well, except for my story, of course, but we’re not here to talk about that one today.  :)

Good gracious, I’m in amazing company in this one!  Before I get into the good stuff, let’s take a look at the back of the book:

Heart’s Desire by Julie Reece
After a terrible accident, Tessa returns to her family beach house to heal. She doesn’t expect to see her first summer crush from seven years before. Cameron, though, reappears and ignites a relationship that’s far more intense than ever before. The only problem? Summer is once again coming to an end, and this time, Tessa will have to decide whether to choose life with Cameron or to never see him again.

The Sweetest Song by Claire Gillian
Under Poseidon’s rule, Circe is the most destructive siren in the Pacific ocean, her songs luring ships and their crew to their watery graves. Not Otis, the best halibut fisherman in the Alaskan waters. His ship, the Calypso, has avoided disaster each time Circe set her sights on him.

Given one last chance to deliver Otis to Davy Jones’ locker, Circe takes to land to waylay the handsome captain. Instead, it may be Otis himself who hooks the Siren.

Pearl of Pau’maa by Kelly Said
Should Miki choose to wed the local wealthy boy she doesn’t love, her stomach will stop grumbling. Her soul, however, will suffocate. With one last opportunity before she must concede, she sneaks off for a final dive to her hidden crate at the bottom of the seabed. What waits for her is more than a captured lobster. It’s a treasure she cannot claim without great sacrifice or true love.

The Undergarden by Jocelyn Adams
Nixie, a water sprite, lives a solitary existence as she struggles to understand the strange world beyond her waters. When she meets one of the pink ones, a curious boy named Wyatt, their friendship blooms into a love that can exist only upon the sands that divide his solid ground from her underwater paradise. Some love, though, once born, cannot be undone, even in the face of death.

Have I peaked your interest, yet? 

Cover

I love the colors in this cover, portraying the surreal feeling of the sun filtering through the water.  Most of the stories involve sweet romances to some degree, so the woman and the innocent look on her face is just perfect.

Review

Heart’s Desire, by Julie Reece

Like everything else of this author’s that I’ve had the pleasure to read, the writing is vivid and poetic, painting the underwater world like a dream for me to walk through as I read the story.  Passages like this always have me re-reading just so I can savor the flow of words through my thoughts:

In her bliss, she twirled, forcing yards of fabric to shoot away from her body. She spun from the mirror, halting against a form both firm and yielding. One strong hand enveloped hers, while the other slipped around her middle, pulling her close. On cue, soft music from an unseen orchestra filled the hall. Strings first, low and haunting, followed by wind instruments. Eerie and intoxicating, the sounds worked like a potion to further muddle her already altered state.

The emotion in this one is quite raw and touching in places, and the connection between Tess and Cam is magnetic.  I was shouting inside my head as I followed Tess through the obstacles preventing her from being with Cam, saying, Come on, just throw caution to the wind and get with that man!  The ending gave me pause for a moment, that Cam should have known to offer the other option than the one he presented, but it was a small thing and did little to detract from my overall enjoyment.

The Sweetest Song by Claire Gillian

I love the ebb and flow of this one, and the emotion when Circe’s quandary surfaces:  to save herself and destroy Otis, or save him and suffer the consequences.  The imagery is beautiful and the interactions between the two are light with an air of humor.  Check out this taste:

Circe spied the tall, dark-haired man clutching his trench coat fronts together, his head ducked down. Frigid rain fell in cascading sheets, and few souls ventured out that morning. The scents of dead fish and seawater infused even the raindrops. Bruised skies gave no indication they planned to take pity on the inhabitants of Homer or allow any respite for the sun.

Bruised skies – I love that!  Claire Gillian never ceases to make me stop and think why didn’t I think of that awesome line!  The love that bloomed came on rather quickly, but given that this is a short story, it kind of has to be that way to fit in all the plot elements within the word allowance.  Goodness knows, I struggled with the same issue in my story.

Pearl of Pau’maa by Kelly Said

This is the sweetest of the stories and very well written.  Although the pace is a bit slower than my usual hundred-mile-an-hour personal preference, I appreciated the depth of character-building that took place and the subtle world-building through the characters’ thoughts.  Here’s a nice tease:

Miki’s lean body slowly undulated, bubbles streaming down from her nose. Her empty hands pointed up, stretching for the refracted beams of sunlight just beyond her reach. Her graceful swaying switched to frantic kicking and arms flailing as she fought to break free of the water and pull in a desperate breath of air.

I can totally see this scene in my head.  So well done.  The story of the pearl was interesting, letting me suspend my disbelief at the insta-love between Miki and Harmon.  It ended a little too neat and tidy for me, but again, that’s no reflection on the author or the story itself, just my personal preference, that I like to see characters suffer lots before the happily ever after comes.  I know, I’m a big meanie!  :)  Still, I really enjoyed the read and look forward to more of Kelly Said’s tales.

I give this little lovely 4 1/2 cupcakes!

These authors are all ones to watch, folks.  Big things will come of them, fantastic stories still to make it from their wild imaginations onto paper for our enjoyment.  Two already have novels out or upcoming, and it’s only a matter of time for the other.

Connect with these authors here:

www.juliereece.com

www.clairegillian.com

www.kellysaid.com

If you love tales of the sea and paranormal romance, this is a must read for a cool summer evening in a lounge chair with your eReader.

{Excerpt} The Undergarden #tidalwhispers

Holy cow!  Tidal Whispers will be released in little over a month!  Saweet!

Today I get to share a sneak peak of my story in the anthology, The Undergarden.  This is a quirky little piece that kind of fell out of nowhere when an ocean themed anthology presented itself last year.  It isn’t my typical dark and steamy bit, more of a bitter sweet story about love and the hardships that it can face.  Here’s the blurb:

Tidal Whispers

Publication date:  June 4, 2012

J. Taylor Publishing

Heart’s Desire by Julie Reece

After a terrible accident, Tessa returns to her family beach house to heal. She doesn’t expect to see her first summer crush from seven years before. Cameron, though, reappears and ignites a relationship that’s far more intense than ever before. The only problem? Summer is once again coming to an end, and this time, Tessa will have to decide whether to choose life with Cameron or to never see him again.

The Sweetest Song by Claire Gillian

Under Poseidon’s rule, Circe is the most destructive siren in the Pacific ocean, her songs luring ships and their crew to their watery graves. Not Otis, the best halibut fisherman in the Alaskan waters. His ship, the Calypso, has avoided disaster each time Circe set her sights on him.

Given one last chance to deliver Otis to Davy Jones’ locker, Circe takes to land to waylay the handsome captain. Instead, it may be Otis himself who hooks the Siren.

Pearl of Pau’maa by Kelly Said

Should Miki choose to wed the local wealthy boy she doesn’t love, her stomach will stop grumbling. Her soul, however, will suffocate. With one last opportunity before she must concede, she sneaks off for a final dive to her hidden crate at the bottom of the seabed. What waits for her is more than a captured lobster. It’s a treasure she cannot claim without great sacrifice or true love.

The Undergarden by Jocelyn Adams

Nixie, a water sprite, lives a solitary existence as she struggles to understand the strange world beyond her waters.  When she meets one of the pink ones, a curious boy named Wyatt, their friendship blooms into a love that can exist only upon the sands that divide his solid ground from her underwater paradise. Some love, though, once born, cannot be undone, even in the face of death.

~~~~

Excerpt from The Undergarden

Nixie burst through the surface of the water with a great splash and drew in a gulp of salted sea air. As she swam to her favorite spot in the secluded bay, she took in the tangerine sky. The glowing orb dropped toward the edge of the world and set the clouds aflame. Soon, hundreds of square yellow eyes would blink to life beyond the trees.

With a grunt, she heaved her spindly body onto a flat stone, worn smooth on top by the tide’s constant indecision of in and out. Pale birds gave shrill cries overhead as they circled, searching for their next meal or some shiny treasure to pluck for their collections. She flexed her webbed fingers and toes against the warm breeze. The long, silvery strands covering her head itched where they lay along her back, so she bunched them in her hand and twisted to wring out the water.

A tiny sound drew her gaze to the sandy place where liquid met solid. A row of palm trees silhouetted against the sun sent long strips of shadow along the ground. Within the dark and light patches, a pink creature wrapped in blue cloth sat in the sand, hugging its knees to its chest.

She’d never seen a pink one up close. Curiosity urged her back into the surf, her stare locked onto the light threads covering the creature’s head. What was such a young one doing there by itself? Had its guardians abandoned it?

Submersed so only her forehead and eyes peeked above the surface, Nixie propelled herself closer until the sand brushed her chest. Only a few feet from the being, she surveyed the liquid dripping out of its eyes.

She opened her mind and searched for the intricate mental patterns that often accompanied the pink ones. Few others, who lived on the hard place, though of anything more than food and procreation, but she found a complex mind in the one before her. Sadness, mostly, and loneliness. The male referred to himself as Wyatt.

Unable to stop herself, she injected her thoughts into his. Why do your eyes leak?”

A fair-skinned face snapped up, blue eyes scanning the rolling waves. “Wh—who said that?” Wyatt stuck a scrawny finger into his ear and wiggled it.

Nixie popped her head and shoulders out of the surf. Why do you do that? Has something crawled in there?”

His eyes opened wide as they landed on her. Wiping crystal drops from his face, he jumped to his feet, stabbing a finger in her direction. “I’m not afraid of you!”

She cocked her head, and a frilly leaf of sea grass fell from her shoulder into the water. Why would you be afraid of me?”

Wyatt’s gaze fell to the ground before rising to peer through his silky fringe. “My sister calls me a ‘fraidy-cat’, but I’m not.”

Nixie grinned. You’re funny, Wyatt. Why does your heart beat so fast?”

~~~~

So, what did you think?  Would you like to read the rest, along with the other amazing stories in this collection?  Yeah?  I knew you would!  Stay tuned for more information and fun stuff in the next few weeks leading up to its release.  There might even be some publisher giveaways!

Random Acts of Kindness Bloghop Giveaway

Hello and welcome to another stop on the Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway hop.  Thanks so much to Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Lora from Read for Your Future for co-hosting.  To see the rest of the participants in this hop, please click the logo below and enter to win more great prizes.

GIVEAWAY – International

(These books are intended for adult audiences)

Here’s what I’m offering one lucky commenter:

A signed paperback copy of

The Glass Man

The Glass Man (Lila Gray #1)

e-book copies of

Into the Unknown

Into The Unknown

AND

Touch of Frost

Touch of Frost

AND a signed bookmark for The Glass Man (front & back shown)

  

What do you have to do to win?

It’s simple.  Just tell me where your favorite place is to read a book in the comments below.  Please include a way to reach you, email, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (it will only be used for the purpose of sending your prize if you should win)

I’d also be grateful for a like on Facebook and a follow on Twitter, but it’s not mandatory.

On February 22ndm I’ll choose a commenter using random.org, announce it on my blog and contact the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond.  If I don’t hear from them, another winner will be chosen.

Cheers, and good luck!

{Cover Reveal} Tidal Whispers

I am so excited to share this story with you this summer.  Yes, I know it’s still a ways away, but I can at least give you a sneak peak.  For now, I get to share the cover and the blurb of what you’ll find within.

And I have to say, I LOVE THIS COVER!  The colors, the underwater paradise feeling of it, the innocent curiosity in her eyes, fits the stories so well.

Without further ado, here is the little lovely:

Heart’s Desire by Julie Reece

After a terrible accident, Tessa returns to her family beach house to heal. She doesn’t expect to see her first summer crush from seven years before. Cameron, though, reappears and ignites a relationship that’s far more intense than ever before. The only problem? Summer is once again coming to an end, and this time, Tessa will have to decide whether to choose life with Cameron or to never see him again.

The Sweetest Song by Claire Gillian

Under Poseiden’s rule, Circe is the most destructive siren in the Pacific ocean, her songs luring ships and their crew to their watery graves. Not Otis, the best halibut fisherman in the Alaskan waters. His ship, the Calypso, has avoided disaster each time Circe set her sights on him.

Given one last chance to deliver Otis to Davy Jones’ locker, Circe takes to land to waylay the handsome captain. Instead, it may be Otis himself who hooks the Siren.

Pearl of Pau’maa by Kelly Said

Should Miki choose to wed the local wealthy boy she doesn’t love, her stomach will stop grumbling. Her soul, however, will suffocate. With one last opportunity before she must concede, she sneaks off for a final dive to her hidden crate at the bottom of the seabed. What waits for her is more than a captured lobster. It’s a treasure she cannot claim without great sacrifice or true love.

The Undergarden by Jocelyn Adams

Nixie, a water sprite, lives a solitary existence as she struggles to understand the strange world beyond her waters.  When she meets one of the pink ones, a curious boy named Wyatt, their friendship blooms into a love that can exist only upon the sands that divide his solid ground from her underwater paradise. Some love, though, once born, cannot be undone, even in the face of death.

I’ve read all but one of these stories so far, and I can tell you, they are GOOD!  I’m humbled to be in the company of such talented authors.

Want to check it out?  Click below and add it to your TBR list on Goodreads.

Tidal Whispers