Thursday, May 14, 2015

In Honor of Zombie Awareness Month

Here is a deleted scene from my new novel Nightfallen. It was originally the opening chapter, but things got shifted, and I wrote a new first chapter that takes the place of this. Still I like it, and thought you all would like to meet Lexy.

Three men rush me from the corners of the room. My dad stands against the fourth wall watching. I wipe the sweat out of my eyes before spinning and kicking the first of my attackers. I wince at the muffled thud and his groan. The other two don’t slow down, though I know they want to. 
The second attacker raises the wooden practice sword. He’s armed, I’m not. I duck down and away from him, sweeping my leg in a kick low to the ground. He loses his balance and topples down. I grab the sword and turn, blocking the swing of the third attacker. He meets my gaze, blue eyes steady. With a practiced flip of my sword, I disarm him, and thrust my sword toward his throat, stopping just before I strike.
“It’s not natural,” says John. He’s the first one that fell today. “I’m telling you there is something unholy in the way she moves.” He crosses himself before backing away from me. 
“She’s been training since she could walk,” my dad says. A smile is on his face, the same one I always see when he wants to show me off to a visitor. Smugness and it doesn’t always have to do with me. “You should see her fighting the infected. You want that speed when you’re surrounded. She’s saved more than one life with the way she moves.”
“Still I’ll be glad when it’s time for me to move on.” John shudders and leaves the room without asking for my father’s permission. The other two wait silently, watching me warily, as my dad unfolds his arms and walks toward me. He ruffles my hair. 
I’m soaking with sweat, my shirt sticking to my back. My legs are exposed, and I’m not entirely comfortable standing still in my fighting clothes. I pull back from his touch, the condescending way he speaks about me makes me angry.
“Lexy, go change and get ready for dinner. It’s not every day we get to celebrate your birthday.” He smiles and then nods at the other two who hurry out of the room without looking back. I’m used to the way others are uncomfortable around me. I am the only child in the compound. 
I walk quickly to my room, head down. Stopping only once at a corner until the other people pass. There are a lot of whispers today. It’s been more crowded lately since my father has been calling followers in. My sessions in the practice room have been watched more. Something is changing. I miss the quiet routine of the last two years: study, practice, and then going out to fight. 
We haven’t gone on a raid in two months. I can’t burn off my nervous energy when I practice. I fight men more than twice my age. Their hair is starting to gray, and I feel guilty each time I knock them down. I’m holding back, and we all know it.
When I open my bedroom door I find a package on my desk next to my computer. I rip into the box and pull out a smaller box wrapped in striped pink paper. I tear it off and open a small box, inside is a silver chain, with three small charms. A heart, a star, and a sword.
I slide the card out of the envelope. “Happy Birthday. I wish I could celebrate with you. Love, Jason.” I slip the necklace over my head, smiling at the jingle I hear when I move. It is perfect, just like Jason.
I jump into the shower, washing quickly and changing into the long plain dress that is the uniform for the women in the compound. I am more comfortable now. I love to fight, but inside the compound my differences are emphasized when I’m not dressed like the other women. Being the only girl to fight is difficult at times.
“Lexy, come set the table.” Emma calls down the hall. I button the last button of the dress and turn to leave.
“Lexy,” the voice is raspy from disuse. It’s not a voice I recognize. Turning I scan the room to be sure I’m alone. I go to the door and lock it. Press my ear against it to listen.
“Lexy.” The voice is right outside my door. The thump and drag of an uneven gait goes past my room, and then the smell hits me through the door. Rotten meat, decaying flesh. So strong I gag. My throat closing up and eyes watering, I reach down for my knives or my sword automatically, but I’m not dressed in hunting gear and my weapons were checked in after our last trip out.
I wait for the sound to move away from me, pressing against the door. My heart is beating hard, as I pray for him to go past. Please don’t let him stop at my door. Several seconds pass, and I crack the door open peering into the hall. The smell is lingering even though he is gone, toward the kitchens.
Taking a deep breath, I run. Emma’s in the kitchen. The other women cannot defend themselves. My silent approach is ruined by the jingle of the charms on my necklace. I burst into the room and everyone looks up at me, but he turns grabbing a knife off of the counter in front of him. One of the women screams and doesn’t stop. There is a clatter as pans and plates drop as the women realize what is happening.
“Lexy.” He smiles, his teeth black in his mouth, his skin is graying, bubbling along one side of this face. One arm is cradled against him. The virus seems to have only attacked one side of his body. He lunges, surprising me with his quickness. The knife in his hand slices against my cheek, drawing a line right underneath my eye.
Gasping, I back down and away as he slashes again. Behind him I see the women gathering against the far wall. I try to kick him, but my feet tangle in my skirt. I duck as he comes at me again with the knife. I gather my skirts up in one hand and kick hard, glad that I only have one pair of shoes. They are heavy combat boots and I can hear the crack of his arm, as I hit it full on. He groans, my cheek is stinging and that eye is watering, tears streaming down the cheek making my vision blurry.
I kick again, and grunt as I hit his hurt arm. He lets go of the knife and moves forward in a burst of speed, grabbing my arm and spinning me toward him. He’s stronger than I thought he would be, and though I’m fighting, dragging myself away from him, he keeps pulling me closer to him. 
The smell is overwhelming, but his touch on my arm is what makes me shudder. His flesh is soft, and spreads over my arm. I want to get away from him. The background noise fades away from me, and his ragged breathing matches mine. I pull again.
“Let go of me,” I scream, stomping one foot down on his. I try to shift my weight to throw him off balance, but he pulls me in closer. Trembling I fight again, wishing I had my weapons with me. If I had a sword or even a knife, I would not be in this situation. I look around for something to grab, to attack him. But everything is too far away. I kick again as his grasp on my arm tightens.
Then men burst in the kitchen in quick movements. They grab him, putting a gun against his head. They won’t shoot if they can help it. The risk of spreading the virus is too great in the kitchen. My dad pries his fingers off of me. And I lean back against him for a moment. Then he shifts me away, and I look at my attacker, hold his gaze as he looks at me with cold blue eyes. He’s not completely gone, like I’ve seen the other victims. There is something in him still.
“Get her cleaned up,” my dad says, turning away from me, and then orders the men in the compound to dispose of him. They walk out in a straight line. The women are huddled against the far wall away from me. Someone is sobbing softly, and some of the women have their arms wrapped around each other. There is food scattered all over the kitchen, splattered on the walls. The smell of something burning tries to etch out the stink of rotting flesh, but it ends up in acrid horrible combination that makes me gag.
“Lexy, are you okay?” Emma walks toward me hands outstretched. She’s the closest thing I have to a mother. Her pale blue eyes are wide, and her usual smile is gone, but she still reaches out to me. Inside I begin to shake, the horror of the moment sinking in as the adrenaline seeps away. 

“He touched me.” The spot on my arm where his flesh touched mine is beginning to tingle and burn. I look down and see bits of the gray flesh adhering to my skin. When we fight we go out in a full uniform, the only part of us that is exposed is our faces. I’ve never actually made contact before. Then my cheek begins to sting more. I look down at my shirt; blood is dripping onto it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

So I Haven't Posted My Goals

I keep thinking that my next blog post is going to be my writing goals for the year. I'm a big believer in goals, without them I tend to not get anything done. But for some reason I haven't sat down and worked them out this year or any real goals for myself yet. I'm happier when I have them, but I haven't felt like I'm ready to make them. I don't know if that makes sense or not.

I have been thinking about them. I have been changing things about my life in a positive way. My house is a lot cleaner than it's been say in the last year, and it's staying that way. I'm on top of it. It's company ready all of the time, which is nice. (And somehow the kids aren't destroying it--maybe they reached the magic age of having a fairly clean house.) I'm exercising every day and the first week sucked. I was cranky. I had a headache every night and I went to bed so, so early. But now I've got more energy. I'm staying up a bit later and I'm a lot more cheerful. And I want to write even more.

I think right now I'm getting everything in order so I can make things happen. So I can be happy. This is the year that I want to take my life and make it into what I want it to be. So part of why I haven't posted goals is I'm making sure I know what exactly that is before I do it.  And I'm getting myself and my family ready for the big changes that I'm going to make happen.

Hope you all are doing well!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Books of 2014

It's been way too long since I posted, but I wanted to do something for the end of year. Hopefully I'll post a bit about my goals for the new year, soon. I'll have some quiet time the next few days to really reflect on it, and I want to make 2015 the year I start really getting done. But on to the best books (my favorite reads) of this year.

1. Breathe Annie Breathe by Miranda Kenneally 

This was just awesome. It's sad at times, the grief throughout the book is very, very real. But there is hope. I really loved this every time I read it. (Which is a lot--I love to reread books). So good, if you haven't read this, you really must.

2. Immortal Beloved series by Cate Tiernan

I picked this book up randomly at the library. And I started the book, and fifty pages in, I stopped found out it was a series, put the entire series on hold at the library. Then finished the book and drove the next morning to get the other two books because they couldn't get here fast enough. I've reread the series again, and it is great.  The books are Immortal Beloved, Darkness Falls, and Eternally Yours. It's young adult, but it feels older to me. Still, I loved, loved, loved this book. Just awesome.

3. Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross

This was a book I found on sale at Amazon. And it was my first book I read put out by Entangled Publishing (which I really like everything I've read put out by them). It's a love story, and I really liked the characters and stories. I also really like Third Degree by Julie Cross.

4. Someday Maybe by Ophelia London

This is a retelling of Persuasion, and it's new adult. I really enjoyed the book, and the other in the series so far Definitely Maybe (Pride and Prejudice retelling). Also I've enjoyed everything I've read by her, and I'm finishing up the last of the books she has out right now. Great new author. She's added to my must reads list. 

5. Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins

This is on here, because it is the first time in a long time where the series stayed as good as the first book. The series starts with Sweet Evil, then Sweet Peril and ends with Sweet Reckoning. You won't be disappointed finishing this one. I look forward to more books by her.

Enjoy your new year celebrations!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Books I Love: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

This is a book that I've been waiting to come out for a long, long time. And it was worth the wait. Such a great story, and of course it has a happy ending, because of the title. One of the things I love about Stephanie Perkins is that she brings the characters back for little appearances. It brings the entire trilogy full circle.

Isla (pronounced I-La) is a student at School of America in Paris. She has had a long-time church on Josh, another student there. When they run into each other over the summer, Isla decides that it must be fate and something needs to happen. But Josh has issues of his own, and the story goes from there.

Have you read it yet? What did you think? If you haven't read any of Stephanie Perkins yet, you simply must. You can start at the beginning with Anna and the French Kiss, or read Lola and the Boy Next Door. However, they can be read out of order. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Books I Love: Magnolia by Kristi Cook

This book is set in the deep South in a small town. Jenna grew up with Ryder, and their mothers want them to get together and eventually marry. But they don't even like each other right now. The story is pitched as a reverse Romeo and Juliet. And the story is fun, quick and sweet. I think I loved the setting in this story as much as anything, and the characters were well developed. Overall, it is a fun read.

Kristi Cook also wrote  Haven,  the first in a trilogy that I also really enjoyed. The books are interesting and the pacing is good. Haven  is a vampire story with a unique twist. Have you read anything by her? What did you think?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Five: Summer Vacation

1. Just got back from vacation, which is why I haven't posted. I wanted to plan ahead and do it, but then I needed to plan ahead for my jobs that actually make me money and the blog got pushed to the end of the list. We went to visit my sister in Ohio. The kids were great, and somehow we managed the eight hour drive that seemed to go on forever. But it was very pretty.

2. The weather up in Ohio is much nicer than here in North Carolina. I don't know how I'd feel in the winter. But man the summer was nice. Highs of 84. Cools down at night to 51. There is some humidity, but nothing like here. I loved it just for that. We had a lot of fun going to the pool and the zoo and just hanging with the little cousins.

3. It was nice to really take a break from all work. And I'm finding it hard to motivate myself to go back. I need to get to work today and I've managed to procrastinate it for several hours. I may still be procrastinating it in several more. Just one of those days when you want to recover.

4. The car ride did get a little rough, with some screaming that "He's touching me. Make him stop touching me."  Fortunately, no one got car sick. The kids actually did pretty well for the most part. At the six hour mark things got a little tense. But we made it without killing each other.

5. Now it's time to start back to school shopping, clothes, school supplies and everything else. Only a few more weeks left of summer vacation! Eek. But I'm ready to get back onto a solid routine!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Five: Camp and Other Nonsense

1. My oldest has been away at camp all week. Of course it has poured buckets of rain all week. I'm hoping that she had a good time. It's the first time I've sent my one of my kids away for a week without it being family.

2. I was up late writing last night, pulling parts of my plot together. But I'm sure feeling it this morning. Is it my age that I can't seem to handle anything past 1:00 am anymore. Just last year I was pulling 2:00 or 3:00 without huge penalties. Now I'm exhausted!

3. I started out with an in-person critique group, and joined an online one. I did both for awhile, and then things got too busy and I left the in-person grow, which has since dissolved with people moving away. I love my online group, but I'm thinking about joining another in person group in addition to my online one. It's scary because I'm so introverted.

4. With working from home, and my introverted issues, I think I'd be a hermit if I didn't have kids. I could see days where I wouldn't talk to anyone. It's crazy to think about it honestly. I need to push myself outside of my shell a bit more.

5. I am taking the boys ice skating today, which means pulling out the jackets and winter box of gloves and hats. We discovered ice skating last fall and the boys love it. Especially Jacob. I always feel a bit silly dressing like it's the middle of winter in July, but it is very necessary.

Have a great weekend!