Festival Kick-Offs

I think one of the awesome things about being a local author and a co-owner of a small business is that you get the chance to be part of the kick-off for some awesome events. Last year we got invited to the 4th of July Family Fun Fest and that was one of the best events we attended last year. I not only got interviewed live on the local radio but I also sold copies to folks who would go on to be some of my biggest fans.

It’s like you get an preview into a place that you know is going to be filled to the brim in a couple of years. That’s how I felt at the First Annual Sewell Mill Storytelling Festival a few weeks back. They only had ten vendors for the event, and we were lucky enough to be part of it!

It was a small event, but since the center is attached to the library, you get to see all the excited kids who walked through. For the first year of it running, I was thrilled to see the turnout that we had!

Hope you enjoy my video (with a lovely cameo with Q)!

A Long Love of Hardback Books

There’s something incredible about seeing your name on a hardback book.

I didn’t think there would be. I thought it would be just as amazing as having my name on a paperback or on an ebook, but it really is completely different. I think it taps into some childish excitement to hold something so strong and sturdy in your hands and to know that the book is filled with your words, your characters, and your story. It’s surprisingly difficult for me to describe it as an author.

It makes me think of being a kid and dragging my fingertips over the hardback covers of my parents’ home library. They are book collectors just like I am, and for as far back as I can remember we had a study in the house which used to be only for bookshelves, books of all shapes and sizes, and encyclopedias (until we got our first computer). Some of the books in there were from when my parents were children, series they just couldn’t bear to part with. When I wasn’t sure what to read next, I liked to browse them and see what I could find. As a kid, I had no worries about how old a story was or how new, how well known the author was or how unknown, all I wanted was a good story. I wanted a book to catch my eye and my interests. I liked the feel of hardback books the most, I liked how the covers had different textures and even smells.

I think that’s why when I first held a hardback copy of my debut novel, Stolen, in my hands, I got a little speechless. I think that’s why I got a little choked up. I never expected it, but moments like that tend to creep up on you, don’t they?

I hope you’ll enjoy watching my unboxing of my hardback copies of Stolen below! They’re now available to purchase at Barnes and Noble.

April is Going to be BIG

If you’ve been checking out my Appearances page for this year, then you know there’s a lot planned for next month! In addition to my writing deadlines that I’m working on, I’ve also got three events scheduled! Two of them will be in Georgia, and one will be in Alabama.

Check out the Appearances page for details on locations and times!

Sewell Mill Storytelling Festival – April 6

This is the first year this free event has happened up in Marietta, GA, and it’s going to be a celebration of artwork and books! I’ll be selling copies of Stolen and The She-Wolf of Kanta there with my sister over at Morbid Smile. This is my first event of the season, and I can’t wait!

Alabama Book Festival – April 13

By far one of the biggest events I’ll be attending this year, I was invited to be a guest YA speaker for this free event! I’ll be on a panel YA Science Fiction and Fantasy fiction at 1PM in Venue A, the North Tent. I hope I’ll get to see some of you swing by!

This is the first out of state author event I’ve attended, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. However I’ll be around some absolutely incredible authors like Sarah Lampkin and Laynie Bynum so at least I won’t be going solo!

Copies of Stolen and The She-Wolf of Kanta will be sold at The Snail on the Wall, the official bookseller of the event. I’ll be bringing copies down with me that Friday, so if you’re looking for my books early, they won’t be there until the event.

Book Warehouse – April 27

Finally, I’ll be doing a book signing at the Book Warehouse in Tanger Outlets in Locust Grove, GA. I really loved the eclectic collection of books this bookstore had and they were super nice to help me setup a local signing event! I’m looking forward to seeing my local readers again!

Hardback Edition Copies

I knew a few have reached out regarding hardback edition copies of Stolen. I know my publisher is working on making them available for several recent releases, but I don’t have a date for when they’ll be available. Once they are ready for purchase, I’ll be getting a few copies to bring with me to the events above, but I have no idea when they’ll show up or how long they’ll last! Stolen will be my first book to ever be available in hardback copy and I’m stoked to see it in person!

I’ll also mention that since Amazon has taken over printing copies from CreateSpace, the copies I get can take some time to show up. The 50 paperback copies I ordered took about a month to get to me, and from what I’ve read online, that’s a pretty common phenomenon. So once hardback copies show up, I’ll be sure to let you all know! Make sure you’re following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, cause I’ll likely post there about it first. The earlier you get your order in, the more likely it’ll reach you in time for an event so I can sign & stamp it for you!

Stolen Reviews

Finally, if you’ve read Stolen and enjoyed it, I would be forever grateful if you would leave a review over on Amazon or Goodreads! These are the best places to leave your love for my work, and even a few words saying that you enjoyed it is all that I need.

Thank you once again for the love and support of my readers! Without you, none of this would be possible!

Happy Release Day to Stolen!

It’s officially Stolen‘s release day – it’s now available in eBook and paperback for your reading pleasure! The reviews on Goodreads so far have just been GLOWING. I’m just so thrilled!

We’re doing a Facebook Event all day long – complete with giveaways and discussions! Drop in for a bit and say hello.

To get you started, see below for the first scene from this YA Fantasy book, the first in a series. I hope you enjoy it!

*****

STOLEN

Part I: Freefall

Chapter 1: An Embarrassment

Shaleigh didn’t think about how much concrete and steel stood over her head as she stepped carefully down the decaying hallway of Ferris Factory. The building had been abandoned for so long that the mildew and fungus ran rampant from the moisture that crept down the crumbling walls, so a respirator was a requirement. Ferris Factory was only two stories tall from the outside, but the floors underground felt endless. The elevator shaft only went down three floors when it had been operational; the rest of the floors could only be reached with the stairs. She doubted any of it had been inspected by the fire marshal.

Her best friend, Kaeja, walked so close behind that she could feel her warm breath on the back of her neck. The only sound that echoed up and down the hallway, besides their footsteps, was the snap of Shaleigh’s camera. The photos were why they risked their lives to explore dangerous places: to document the decrepit. It was thrilling to explore a place that nobody else would see. Eventually all the walls would fall, and Ferris Factory would decay into memory. Shaleigh and Kaeja would have the only remaining proof it even existed, especially since it was clear that nobody was supposed to know about this section of the factory.

A rat skittered out of a heap of moldy paperwork and Kaeja took a deep breath until it passed. “This is the worst one yet. By far.” Shaleigh grinned, though her respirator concealed it. “Come on, we had to come back and take the stairs down. We couldn’t just end it at the base of the elevator.”

“Do you see that?” She swung the flashlight to the side. “I couldn’t even hang a picture on that wall. Four floors down was enough, five floors is just begging to get hurt.”

Kaeja was right, the walls of the hallway curved inward like a bow string. Shaleigh hadn’t noticed how bad it was until she mentioned it. “We’ll be quick.”

She snapped as many photos as she could while Kaeja held the flashlight. It illuminated a good portion of the hall, but the beam had little effect against the thick, sick air. The light ought to have made the place more inviting, but it only made the shadows darker. It was hard for Shaleigh to keep her hands steady for the photos; fear and exhilaration kept combating within her. Sure, this place was terrifying and could collapse at any moment, but the thought of capturing a world that would never been seen again, of documenting the forgotten before it disappeared, made her tap the shutter button of her camera faster. “I wish we had more time. I’d love to look inside some of these rooms.”

“Not me,” Kaeja said, her eyes shadowed by the reflections of the flashlight on her mask. “These halls are creepy enough, thanks.” The light flashed across some metal scraps against the bowed wooden wall. It was hard to tell if it had been left behind by the workers, or if it had fallen from the ceiling. “Didn’t they used to make cars here?”

“Sure, that’s it.” Shaleigh snorted as she tapped on a dirt-encrusted sign that warned visitors that the hallway was a high security corridor. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”

“It’s an old building, but that doesn’t mean they were hiding anything down here.”

“Then what’s with the high security? They had to be doing something illegal down here. The maps we found don’t even show these floors. I heard it used to be a hospital,” Shaleigh glanced back to her with a smile. “Dad heard it from a colleague at work. They used to keep dangerous people here.” Kaeja stared at her, the beam from the flashlight in her hands trembling.

A high-pitched squeal of metal echoed down through the insides of the building, as though the entire structure was shifting under its own weight. The squeal turned into a groan that shook the very floor beneath their feet. Both teens froze, barely daring to breathe as debris fell from the ceiling. Seven levels of exhausted steel, wood, and plaster shifted over their heads. They stood in silence waiting for the walls to give way, waiting to be buried beneath the rusty metal beams, discolored linoleum floors, and rat-infested insulation; but the building remained steady.

The noise stopped. Particles drifted in the air.

“It doesn’t sound very good, does it?” Shaleigh whispered.

“I don’t like it. I don’t care what you say, this is the lowest I’m going. Five levels below ground is far enough.”

Shaleigh stifled a laugh, “That’s what you said when we found the stairs.”

A high-pitched noise erupted down the hall causing both teens to jump. It didn’t sound metallic…it didn’t sound like the building at all.

Kaeja stared down the hallway with wide eyes. The noise broke into a whimper, and then there was silence. It only lasted maybe a few seconds, but they both knew what they had heard. Someone was down there with them.

Shaleigh turned to look behind them, but without the flashlight beam it was too dark to see anything. “Was that­—was that behind us?”

Kaeja spun around, temporarily blinding Shaleigh in the process. “I don’t know. I thought it came from in front of us.”

The darkness felt like a cage all around them. The beam of the flashlight, darting forwards and backwards down the hall, seemed so small and insignificant now. Someone was in the darkness. Someone was watching them. Shaleigh stepped around Kaeja and started back toward the stairwell. “We should go.”

Kaeja grabbed her arm and Shaleigh could feel her clammy fingers through the sleeve of her jacket. “Are you crazy? You said that’s where it came from.”

“How else are we going to get out of here?”

Kaeja could give no argument and shook her head. “Shaleigh…” she whimpered.

“It’s okay, we’ll do it together.” She put her camera around her neck and took Kaeja’s hand. They walked slowly towards the door of the stairwell, side by side, fingers clasped in a death grip.

For a moment, Shaleigh thought she saw movement ahead of them and stopped. Kaeja must have seen it too because she swept her flashlight left and right, searching for whatever it was. Just before the beam of light reached one of the doors, Shaleigh was certain she spotted a shadow move into one of the rooms.

“Ow…” Kaeja whispered giving their joined hands a tug. Shaleigh realized she had been gripping too hard and loosened her hold but didn’t say a word. Her eyes were fixed on where the shadow had been. As they drew closer, an arm stretched out, hairy with long, black fingernails, and pulled the door closed. There was a splash as though something heavy had fallen into a pool of water from behind the door.

Kaeja screamed. A bolt of adrenaline hit Shaleigh and she grabbed Kaeja’s arm. Together they ran. As they passed the door, the knob began to turn with a creak. She wasn’t sure if Kaeja had seen it or not. “Keep going!” she yelled, all pretense of caution forgotten.

Once the stairwell came into view, they sped up. Shaleigh slipped on a wet spot and her foot skidded. She would have sprained her ankle if she hadn’t grabbed for the wall. What a stupid way to die, she thought as she regained her footing. She had to keep her head straight, because panicking in an old, decrepit building was a sure way to get hurt or killed by whatever was after them. She forced them to slow down to climb over a pile of broken boards and nails. Shaleigh had thought it odd to have it so close to the stairwell when they’d first come down, but now she saw it as a marker, a warning perhaps, to keep trespassers out. As she helped Kaeja down the opposite side of the rubble, she heard limping footsteps approaching them.

“It’s coming!” Shaleigh cried and together they sprinted for the stairwell. The flashlight bounced beams off the walls.

They hit the metal door like a battering ram, shoving it into the rusted railings of the stairs, causing it to reverberate like a gong up and down the concrete shaft. Shaleigh gripped the metal rail, feeling the flecks of paint come off on her hands, and the raw rust beneath. She exchanged a glance with Kaeja, both trying to catch their breath. The respirator was humid with her breathing and she couldn’t wait to rip it off when they got outside. She looked up the dark stairwell above them and grimaced. There were too many floors between them and safety.

Kaeja gasped and reached out to grab Shaleigh’s arm. Shaleigh stared at her. She thought she could make out footsteps from the hall they just left, but it was so faint it was hard to make out. It could have just been the sounds of the building, but she didn’t want to take any chances. Taking a deep breath, Shaleigh led the way as they started up the stairs.

One floor, two floors, three floors.

Was that the sound of the doorknob beneath them being turned? Kaeja hurried to her side as they continued to climb. Both were audibly gasping now. It wouldn’t take much for their pursuer to know where they went. Shaleigh’s thighs were burning. She could sprint up a flight or two of stairs, but this was tough. It didn’t help that she was already out of breath before they even started climbing.

“What if it’s locked us in?” Kaeja asked between sucking in gulps of air.

Shaleigh didn’t respond. She didn’t want to even consider that option.

They climbed two more flights of stairs. Kaeja reached the door first. They both let out a sigh of relief when the door opened. Panting, they jogged to the main exit, a pair of massive iron doors that looked like they belonged in a mausoleum. Neither of them said a word as they descended the short flight of broken steps to the grass. Shaleigh ripped off her respirator, Kaeja did the same, and they both exchanged grins as they crossed the grass-pocked concrete walkway. It felt good to feel the heat of the day on her skin too. The sun was sinking in the west, but the air was sweet with wild honeysuckle and a light breeze rustled the old oaks. Shaleigh relaxed a bit but could tell by Kaeja’s expression that she wouldn’t be able to relax until they had left the property completely.

The concrete walkway fell away to tall grass that came up to their hips, as they sidestepped small pine trees that were beginning to take over the lot and moved further away from the building. The chain link fence that surrounded the property sported multiple warning signs for trespassers, though they were faded from exposure. Kaeja pulled back the corner of fencing they had used to get in, and they both climbed through without saying a word. Kaeja paused, took a deep breath, and relaxed her shoulders.

“I know you’ll hate to hear this, Kaeja,” Shaleigh started. “But I think I’m done with Ferris Factory for a while.”

Kaeja laughed. “No complaints here. I’m going to add that we never go underground again either. I am not running up that many stairs again, no matter how great you say the pictures will be.” Shaleigh couldn’t help but laugh. The downtrodden path through the woods made it a short walk to reach the bus stop. Shaleigh unwrapped the scarf from around her head and shook out her twists. The breeze felt wonderful on her scalp. They dropped everything into Shaleigh’s backpack as they walked. The main road was surprisingly empty for a Sunday afternoon. After exploring inside of decomposing buildings for a while, she had new respect for even the simplest things. The bench for the bus stop, covered in graffiti and bearing a single broken board, looked like a luxury.

Kaeja sprawled across the broken wooden bench and covered her eyes with her arms. “Wow, what a rush!”

“I know!” Despite her smile, Shaleigh still glanced over her shoulder, as though expecting the person from the building to be slinking toward them through the woods. “What do you think it was?”

Kaeja stared up into the sky. “Someone crazy, I’m sure. It’s a good thing they made some noise. I don’t like the thought of them sneaking up on us like that.” She sat up and patted the bench beside her.

Shaleigh obliged, her legs were still shaky. “Did you see that hand?”

Kaeja shuddered, “Looked like he hadn’t seen the light of day in forever.” She stretched her arms over the back of the bench. “This is exactly why I don’t like the big ones. There are too many hiding places.”

“The small ones aren’t much better,” Shaleigh added. “Sometimes it feels like a shot right out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you know?”

Kaeja nodded and the two grew silent from their own nerves. Kaeja’s leg jumped up and down, as though at any moment she would jump up into a sprint. Shaleigh kept resisting the urge to look over her shoulder once more. The bus couldn’t come fast enough.

“Ugh, I need to think about something else.” Kaeja said with a tense smile. “You’ve got a party coming up tonight, don’t you? You get to get all dolled up. I know you don’t like the people much, but I do envy you getting to go.”

Shaleigh sighed. “I had almost forgotten about it.” She checked her watch. It was a good thing they had left when they did because she still needed to get home and clean up. “If you like it so much, you can totally go for me.”

“Your dad would never let me. He needs you there.”

“Unfortunately.”

Kaeja scooted closer and put an arm around her shoulders. “I’m sorry. I guess that is pretty hard on you. Do they ask you a lot of questions about him?”

Shaleigh nodded. She hated the tight feeling she got in her chest whenever she thought of those stupid parties. She hated the fact that she had to go. Why in the world did Roseworth College have so many of them anyway? It was like they wanted to torture her.

Deciding to change the subject, she picked up her camera from around her neck. After checking to make sure nothing had been damaged in their mad dash, she asked, “Want to see the pictures?”

Kaeja nodded but looked concerned. Shaleigh ignored it.

The brilliant light of the flash somehow made the dark halls of Ferris Factory less frightening, less dangerous. If only people were so easy to strip of fear.

*****

Pick up a copy of Stolen today to find out what happens next!

Unexpected Kindness

Can y’all believe that October is just around the corner? It really is my favorite time of the year, when the weather isn’t too hot down where I live. Haunted houses, spooky hay rides, hedge mazes, apple cider, candy corn, and Halloween parties! Before we dive into a month full of spooky fun, it’s time to serve up a nice slice of optimism for your Friday. I’m very happy to be part of the “We Are The World Blogfest” once again – cause the world needs to be a little bit more bright and cheery.

Imagine you’re on your morning commute, stuck in slow traffic and going around back roads on the more impoverished side of the city. The traffic light ahead seems to be running on slow motion and you’re pretty sure the driver in front of you dropped something on the floor beside her cause she keeps bending over to reach it. It’s a Wednesday and you’re tired but you’re only ten minutes away from work. You’ve got some nice tunes blaring off your phone, so that helps.

Then you turn to notice a women sitting on the side of the road. She’s camped out on top of a large drainage grate, wearing a spaghetti strap shirt and leggings. She’s homeless, you can tell from the mounds of sheets and blankets around her. You feel bad for a moment because you realize it’s like you’re watching someone in their bedroom and it feels wrong. The woman is smiling though and smoothing out the sheets she’s sitting cross-legged on, as though expecting company. That’s when you notice the police car behind her.

You inch the car forward a bit while the traffic light goes from green to red again, still glancing over to find out what’s going on. A female office gets out of the cop car, and your heart sinks for the homeless lady. You hope she isn’t about to be arrested or something. But then the officer pulls out a bag of take-out from her passenger seat and brings it over to give to the homeless lady. They’re all smiles and the officer hangs around to chat with her for a moment while she digs into the fresh, hot breakfast.

That was my commute one humid morning, and yes, I did tear up at the sight. It was one of those brief moments of kindness that just breaks your heart and stitches it together at the same time. It makes you have faith in humanity again. If an officer can take the time out of her busy morning to help a person in need, then surely we can too.

I figured this was also a good time to announce that in October, I’ll be participating in the Authors For Families auction!

“We’re a group of primarily debut novelists eager to do what we can to reunite immigrant children with their parents, and to combat inhumane family separation policies.”

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of The She-Wolf of Kanta to whoever wins the bid, and I may be tossing in some additional swag along with it.

Please share and invite anyone who you think would like to not only get a copy of my work, but would also like to donate to a very good cause!