Friendship Matters: Gifted Ones: Scarcely Human

Here’s my Friday reads second segment. It’s all for the kids, our tomorrow.            

“Hard times will always reveal the friends who are true for life.”

Friendships are not only important, but they are vital to health and happiness in life. They are a gift. In this second segment of my WIP, friendship is an issue. Sometimes in small towns, people can be cliquey. Is that true where you live? Always welcome the newcomer. They may be an angel in disguise. Or maybe just someone who needs a smile, kind words, or encouragement, something we all need at times.

If you missed part one, you can find it here:

Part Two: Gifted Ones: Scarcely Human

The parking lot was an abandoned spot in front of an unused lumber mill only a mile away. After Jess and Michael had met, they’d driven there when they had time to lie in the back of his truck, gaze at the stars, and play dot-to-dot with the constellations.

Jess sighed. “I can’t. I have detention first thing this morning, remember? I’m supposed to be there early.”

Michael’s hand dropped to his lap. “Oh, right, you got in trouble with Suzy again. I forgot. Hmmm.”

“Hmmm what?” Jess asked curling a few strands of her hair around her finger.

 Michael started to play with Jess’s free hand. He looked Jess straight in the eye and with his smooth, low voice chose his words carefully. “I don’t think Suzy’s a good friend to you. That’s all.”

Jess rolled her eyes. She hated it when Michael complained about how much he hated Suzy, something he’d been doing more frequently since the start of the school year.

“We can’t all be as popular as you,” Jess said. “You know new kids have a hard time making friends in this town, where everyone’s known each other forever. And me…I might as well be a part of a freak show. Kids still stare, like I’m the only one with a dead parent.”

Michael nodded and squeezed her hand, his eyes embracing hers. “No one stares at you. You just feel like they do. Anyway, I’d hate to see you expelled. The school policy is three serious strikes and you’re out. They’re really strict. I’ve seen it before. They’re not going to treat you any differently.”

Jess knew the news of her father’s death made her an object of interest, besides being the new kid, no matter how much Michael tried to reassure her. Kids still whispered and hushed when she walked by them. She knew they wondered why she had moved to Ogunquit, a place where she had no family or friends. It was as though her past had been erased, and kids were curious. What secrets did she have? They wanted to know.

Jess knew Michael didn’t care. He had told her that he trusted her, and had fallen for her the first time she’d laughed at his jokes that really weren’t that funny. Something about the way he told jokes reminded her of her father. And Michael said he loved the radiant smile that lit up her face at the sound of his voice, and the way her cheeks blazed red at his simple touch, and the way her innocence left his heart pounding.

Jess unzipped her backpack and took out her beaded hair brush. She pulled the black elastic off it, slipped it over her wrist, and began to brush the thick strands of her long, chocolate colored hair. “I guess I’m doing okay then. This is only my second serious strike.”

Michael shoved the truck into drive, making an unnecessary thumping noise and edged the truck forward. “That makes two detentions in two months, both times for having alcohol on campus, both times with Suzy. From what I see, she uses you, watches you get smashed, and then ditches you. She’s a crappy friend, Jess.”

“And who would make a better friend? Peggy?” she snapped.

Michael stopped the truck. He spoke softly. “Not that again. C’mon, Jess. Peggy and I could never be more than friends. We’ve known each other since Kindergarten. Boyfriend and girlfriend in seventh grade doesn’t count for anything. She’s like a sister. Besides, she has her own set of…secrets or whatever.” He paused for a moment, and shook his head like it didn’t matter, then continued. “You have to admit she’s a lot nicer than Suzy.” Michael’s expression looked incredulous.

Good ole Peggy, the pretentious captain of the Varsity Dance Team, the only girl Jess hated instantly from the second she’d met her. From what Jess could see, Peggy always had and still has a serious crush on Michael. It didn’t help that Peggy was platinum blond and gorgeous. Oh––and rich––sick rich. She could have any guy in school she wanted––but Michael, or so he said.

“Peggy doesn’t like me either, and that has a lot to do with you,” Jess said icily.

“She likes you,” Michael argued. “She was mad, rightly so, when you drew a mustache on her face.”

“I drew it after she told me she couldn’t believe you wanted to date me. It’s her fault she fell asleep in class. Besides, I got in trouble for that too and had to carry her books for a week, remember?”

“Oh, yeah,” Michael said absentmindedly like he’d forgotten an important fact Jess had told him. “At least that shouldn’t have counted as a serious detention.” Michael glanced at the clock. “We should get going before you’re late.” He began to drive forward.

Jess held in her annoyance at his paternal care. Why did he have to be so perfect and good? She snapped her hair elastic off her wrist. “Ouch!” she cried. She slammed her hairbrush on the seat and twisted her hair in a ponytail. She didn’t answer him. She turned to stare out the window as warm tears filled her amber eyes.

“Jess?” Michael stopped again and shifted the truck back into park.

Jess sniffed.

“Are you crying?” he asked in disbelief.

She turned her head, wiped her palms on her jeans, and without glancing up at him, whispered, “You don’t understand.”

He put the palm of his hand on her cheek and gave her no choice but to look at him. His lips caught and drank the few tears that had accumulated and spilled down her cheeks.

“I understand,” he whispered. “I know you’ve had a hard time since your dad…but you can’t let that ruin your future. I know you can keep it together. You have to.”

He unbuckled her seatbelt and pulled her tiny frame onto his lap. She lost herself in his array of soft kisses that steamed the windows slightly, until they heard an obnoxious hammering on the truck. They both jumped away from each other. Jess scrambled back to her seat as Michael started to roll down the window.

It was Mrs. Z! She peered through the partially opened window and squawked, “You kids aren’t having sex in there are you? I’ll call the police. You two have been out here long enough.”

Fanatical Mrs. Z pulled out her phone and began to dial.

Michael slammed the truck into gear and pressed hard on the gas pedal, jerking the truck forward. He sped around the cul-de-sac, tires squealing as the back of the truck fishtailed. He flew past Mrs. Z. Her balled fists were up in the air shaking at them.

One mission accomplished, Jess thought, shocked. She’s pissed!

“You don’t think she actually called the police again, do you?” Michael asked, glancing through the rearview mirror.

“I don’t care if she did. They know she’s nuts.” After Jess had moved to the neighborhood, she’d heard rumors of Mrs. Z’s whacky, paranoid phone calls to the police. They rarely took her seriously.

As they drove the short distance to school, in another little country town called Wells, the next town over, Jess peeked out of the corner of her eye at Michael. She didn’t want him to know she could gaze at him all day and never tire of it.

She sighed softly.

Michael was half American, his mom’s side, and half Costa Rican, his dad’s side. He resembled his dad more, with jet-black hair and intense cocoa eyes that were like soothing hot chocolate. Jess got lost in those eyes. She thought he looked incredible, right out of a teen magazine, except that Michael was much broader than his father. She knew that Michael loved wearing tight white t-shirts and faded jeans that molded perfectly to his muscular body, though lately his clothes had seemed to appear a tad more snug. She had noticed that, oddly, his physical size had seemed to enlarge quite a bit since she’d first met him. She couldn’t imagine how that could happen or that he could become any stronger.

She shook her head. Not steroids?

As it was, she admired that he lifted weights as heavy as buildings and worked on all sorts of cars, even antique ones just for fun and extra cash. Someday he wanted to own his own garage, something directly opposite of his father’s aspirations for him.

The only thing she hated about him was the fact that every girl thought he was the hottest football player in school. She tried to ignore how much it bothered her and remember that he was the best thing that had happened to her since her father––

One lone sunbeam wiggled its way through the clouds as Michael drove into the crowded and hectic seniors’ parking lot at EastGlen High, where the enrollment was approximately one hundred students per grade, a pretty average size for a high school in Maine, yet small enough that even if students weren’t friends––like if you were the new kid––everyone still recognized each other. Jess frowned thinking about it.

Michael parked his truck and switched off the ignition. His buddies were yelling about the umpires’ unfair calls at the previous Friday night football game under the lights and jeering and cheering each other altogether too loudly from their own vehicles––some had nice cars, a lexus and BMW, while others had beat-up country boy trucks. A couple of players even had motorcycles, one a Harley, one Jess didn’t know the make of. All Jess could tell was the boys were so rambunctious, she could hear them even though the windows were rolled up on Michael’s truck.

 Jess wished her morning could be that carefree.

She took no time to unbuckle, grab her backpack, and jump out. A nervous squiggle, like live fish swimming in her stomach made her feel queasy.

“I’ll see you at lunch,” Michael called to her.

She gave him a feeble smile and placed two fingers to her lips, before hurrying away.


Chapter 2

Strange Encounters

Jess headed to Mr. Magique’s office, the unrelenting principal, with the three strikes and you’re out rule. To make things worse, he happened to be an oversized, intimidating looking man that always wore suits fitted for Wall Street professionals, with a slim striped tie that hung like a noose from his neck and gleaming, ebony dress shoes. If a student was in trouble, he was strict, like Michael kept warning her, and scary. His motto? No kid’s gonna ruin my school. No siree. Jess wondered if the rumors about his wife leaving him were true, and that maybe he had his own secrets hiding behind the harsher attitude he had toward students lately.  

Jess ran up the well-trodden, concrete stairs and almost made it through the bronze metal, front doors when she caught sight of Axel––another new kid––staring at her fixedly with his pretty, pale hazel eyes. The name Axel had made Jess think of leather and motorcycles, tattoos and other cool stuff, but his name didn’t exactly match his personality. She’d heard he was nice but somewhat sullen. He played soccer, so you’d think he’d made a few friends, though when he wasn’t with his team, Jess always saw him alone. She thought he was cute with his messy, wavy hair, in an adorable puppy dog sort of way. She had caught Axel staring at her a lot lately. She wasn’t sure why but thought it was strange. Was her hair a mess? Did she have food stuck in her teeth? Did she appear to him to be a loner, too?

She didn’t know, but she thought he better not let Michael see him, or it would end up in a fight or some other confrontation between them. Not that Michael was the jealous type, but his parents had gone through some marital problems when he was little, something about cheating that they had worked through. Michael hadn’t told Jess the details. He had said it was too painful to divulge. Jess didn’t think Michael’s feelings about jealousy were fair, not after he’d first dismissed her feelings about Peggy. It was like he could be jealous but not her. Apparently whatever marital difficulties Michael’s parents had plowed through had made an impact on him.

Axel smiled at her sheepishly. She didn’t return the smile. She  looked away and stepped inside the red brick building.

Mr. Magique was standing stiffly outside his office, greeting students and faculty members with a forced warmth. He didn’t look as menacing when he was smiling, even if it was a fake kindness. His bald head and shiny gold tooth, that shone against his black skin, gave Jess a quiver down her spine.

She took a deep breath as though it was her last.

As soon as he glanced toward her, his smile faded and was replaced with a disappointed crumpled frown. Jess inhaled, held her breath for a moment before exhaling, and headed his way.

“Good morning, Jess,” Mr. Magique said tonelessly, his arms folded.

“Good morning, Mr. Magique, nice cool rain out there isn’t there, sir?” Jess answered, trying to sound cheerful and polite, while at the same time subduing her nerves.

Mr. Magique’s expression didn’t look promising. His lips were squeezed, pursed together in a thin line. His eyes pierced hers. He let out a huge sigh that was louder than Jess thought he had intended.

She followed him through the immaculate glass doors and into his perfectly organized office with a framed poster of Uncle Sam, hanging above his desk. Uncle Sam’s pointing finger made Jess feel like he was staring directly at her. In bright-red, large letters the words read We Want You! Jess wondered, wide eyed, if Mr. Magique hung it on the wall intentionally for her.

He shut the door behind him and told her to have a seat. She sat down in a puny, hard steel-like chair, scared now as she felt her heart pound inside her chest.

Jess glanced up at Mr. Magique. He was pacing back and forth, his feet clicking like she was straight up in the middle of a horror flick. He held his chin like his thoughts were lost deep inside a dense forest, except Jess knew he wasn’t that dense. He was pretty freaking smart, and he looked pretty freaking mean. She knew he was trying to come up with a suitable punishment. The first time she was in trouble, he didn’t look nearly as angry. He had told her then that a girl like her shouldn’t be in so much trouble. Jess wondered what kind of girl he thought she was, and it didn’t really matter. She cared less about most things since her father’s murder.

“Okay,” he began, “you know why you’re here. Therefore, you may skip next period and go clean the field where you decided to party. Any trash that’s there, you will dispose of. Is that clear?”

Jess’s hand shot up to her mouth. Her voice shrilled with alarm. “Now? Are…are you kidding me? That’s so unfair. The whole school will see me. You can’t do that!”

Mr. Magique’s eyes probed hers. “Of course, I can.” He rubbed his chin. “I’ll tell you what. If you tell me who you were with that night, I’ll lessen the punishment.”

“No way!” Jess glared at him, determined.

 He handed her a clear, large plastic trash bag. “Here you go then.”

Jess leaned forward, stood up, and snatched the bag out of his hands. Her skin brushed up against his. She stopped, startled. “You’re cold. What’s wrong with your hand? It feels hard and cold.” She tried to touch his hand again.

He pulled his hand away from her curious fingers. “Out! Now!” His voice thundered.

Jess blew out an infuriated breath of air. “You’re being a jerk because your wife left you, aren’t you?” She gasped at her words, disbelieving that they had escaped her lips.

“What?” He took a step toward Jess.

She shrank back.

“Unless you want to get in more trouble, young lady, I suggest you leave.” He tried to regain his composure.

Jess nodded her head, feeling the need to explain herself, and trying her hardest to be brave. Her body trembled with fear. “You should know the truth. All the kids think you’re a lot meaner now.”

Mr. Magique pointed his finger to the door. He didn’t say another word. His expression looked like he’d been slapped in the face.  

Jess marched out of his office. She dragged her feet grudgingly to the far corner of the school, still wondering why his hand had felt like an ice cube.

Hope to see you next Friday!

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Gifted Ones: Scarcely Human

Hey there! Just wondering?? Are you trying to finish your manuscript? Having a hard time staying motivated? Honing in on your craft? Wondering how to let the beasts (your characters) unleash? Well, you’re not alone. What you’re about to read is a rough first draft (hopefully not a blundering piece of fiction, though it’s rough, so it may be) of the beginning of my work in progress. I’ve spent the last year writing short pieces of fiction, trying to figure out what tense I want to use to tell my stories, how to deepen my characters’ personalities, and reading a lot of other authors’ books. And if you’re like me, you may have thought that writing is easy, but, in actuality, there’s a lot to learn. So, I’ve decided to blog my WIP (a YA sci-fi that crosses the genres) as a way to finish this darn thing, be inspired to write through music and quotations, and learn all the writing stuff I haven’t learned yet. I’ll be including hopefully helpful links to quotes, music, and terrific writing advice (from others, not me 😉

At the top, I posted Imagine Dragons, because I feel like the theme of the song is a good one for my WIP. Here’s another link from Writer’s Digest for some pretty cool advice to writing that novel. Hope it helps!

If you’re still here, thanks for stopping by!

The Gifted Ones: Scarcely Human

A troubled teenage girl’s heart is torn between two extraordinary boys who possess supernatural gifts and have knowledge of her father’s scientific invention and mysterious murder.

After seventeen-year-old Jess’s father invents an antidote serum that no longer requires patients to remain in a hospital on life support after an accident or illness, but gives them the gift of a normal life, he’s found murdered.

To make matters worse, Jess had witnessed the murder, but no longer has any recollection of it. She knows nothing about the invention, until her mother reveals it and asks her to keep the murder a secret for their safety. In time, the murderer’s desire for the components of the serum re-enters their lives, and they’re no longer safe. Jess is thrust into a dangerous world of money, murder, and lies, when the scientific world realizes the powerful side effects of the serum and the fact that those who’ve taken it begin to develop extraordinary gifts. Because of the value of the serum, Jess no longer knows who she can trust, not her boyfriend Michael, or close friend Axel. She even doubts her own mother’s loyalty. And as she begins to realize how much her father trusted her, she has a sense that before his murder he’d tried to share the secrets of the serum with her in a series of coded messages through notes he had written for her. Jess knows she has to figure out the meaning behind the messages before it’s too late. If the serum can’t be reproduced, everyone taking it, including those Jess loves, will die. And if Jess is murdered first, everything her father worked diligently for, will be lost.


When my father was alive he was pretty cool, sweet, full of life, and he didn’t just love me––he adored me. He’d been sentimental and deeply religious, and he used to tell me in his baritone voice, “If you lose your life young, and you’ve succeeded in giving your talents for the betterment of mankind, then it’s been a life well lived.” Those words were etched in my mind like a myriad of tattoos mapped all over the body. If my father had known the future, I wonder if he would’ve said it as often.

I remember before he was murdered, he had thought someone was following him. Lately, I’ve been having the same chilling feeling that someone’s watching me. I figured it was all in my imagination, you know, post-traumatic stress. After all, my life had come crashing down, and Axel didn’t help. Every time I turned around he was there, saving me from some catastrophe. But the night of my birthday was different. I didn’t believe I wasn’t allowed to have a simple party, so I thought the feeling that someone was watching me was my surprise party waiting for me. Yeah, that was stupid. When I saw the hatred behind the eyes of a masked person striding effortlessly toward me, my heart stopped, and I knew I couldn’t have been more wrong…

Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.” ~Richard Bach

Chapter 1

The Start of a Miserable Day

Life bleeds pain, sometimes more than a bandage can hold. At least that’s what seventeen-year-old Jess thought after her father was murdered and she’d moved from Vermont with her mom, Susan, to the white sands and rugged cliffs of Ogunquit, Maine-—a little town nicknamed The Beautiful Place by The Sea. They had moved there to help them heal from the tragedy.

The murder had taken place ten months prior, on December 15th, ten days before Christmas, a tragedy that strummed along with shimmering lights, sugar cookies shaped like dancing snowmen, and the musical pitches of holiday carols, except for Jess’s father, and the fact that the murderer was still out there somewhere.

It hadn’t been a senseless murder. The killer had a motive and a specific purpose, to steal her father’s invention and the means he’d used to create it. Jess’s father, Ben, had been a remarkable scientist who had invented a serum that could be administered simply with a needle into the arm of a patient near death from an accident or illness. After they’d tested it successfully on lab rats, they tested it on patients whose infected organs began to regenerate and heal at a miraculous rate.

As providence would have it, the ill-fated elements of the serum were only known by her father and could no longer be found or recreated.

The secret had died with him.

That was all Susan had told Jess after the murder. Her parents hadn’t shared anything about it beforehand; that’s how secretive and locked away his job had been. And now her mother seemed on edge the killer would come for them next to recover it, which Jess thought absurd, yet unnerving. After all, what could Jess know or do about the invention? Why would the killer want her? And if her mother knew the components of the serum, wouldn’t she have shared that with her father’s colleagues already?

Jess’s mom had told her not to breathe even a single word about the murder to anyone. “All your father’s work has been scientific secrets, Jess, no need to explain his death. Tell people he died from a short term illness like it said in the paper.”

So, that’s what Jess did, but she thought lying about it made it harder to heal. Her mother still insisted. “We’ll be safer if it’s kept a secret, Jess.”

Jess felt helpless, and angry, and out of control as her mother did her best to hold their lives together. Susan was a psychiatrist and had been lucky to land a job at the local Benmont Hospital immediately after they’d moved. Even though Ben had made a superfluous amount of money, Susan had always worked. She grew up practically destitute on the streets of NYC and had never wanted to rely solely on a husband for her livelihood. Susan’s father had died from a drug overdose when she was twelve, and her mother had worked in a sewing and dry-cleaning business for barely a wage. But Susan was nothing like her parents. She was quick-witted and had used her meager pay working as an LNA for Dr. Heller, an extraordinary surgeon, to put herself through community college. She had majored in psychology, and after she’d graduated she continued to work for Dr. Heller. He had been fond of Susan, and having no children of his own, thought of her as a daughter. He generously helped her continue her education until she held her doctorate as a psychiatrist from NYU.

Because of Susan’s acquaintance with tragedy and struggle, she’d taught Jess to be strong and empowered. She was big on catch phrases to stay focused on healthy goals in life. One of her recent favorites: remember your mission! Those continuous words rang frequently in Jess’s head, especially as she trudged down the pine stairs on this particular gloomy Monday morning.

My mission? Not really, Jess thought. More like her mother’s mission for her: to start behaving and obey the rules, to move on in life. The use of the word mission made sense to Jess, but she couldn’t see how she’d ever get over the murder. She’d been with her father that merciless night and should’ve been his key witness, but the memory of it had disappeared like the sun on a murky cloud-filled day.

All she could remember was walking to her father’s car after they’d eaten linguini at her favorite Italian restaurant, Gnocchi’s. Her father had loved to take her there. She remembered him tousling her hair, laughing at some silly knock knock joke he’d made up, and then nothing else, until she woke up the next morning with her mother perched outside her bedroom door, sobbing as she whispered to her friend, Carol. “Blood—so much blood. Poor Ben. Poor Jess.”

Jess wanted to get over the nightmarish memory of the funeral, too, where she’d passed out as they buried her father at Crux Cemetery; fortunately, Jess hadn’t heard the echo of her mother’s screams as her mother had fussed and held Jess in her arms when Jess had collapsed.

Later, when Jess woke up from her unconscious misery, she wouldn’t leave the grounds until the cemetery maintenance man had filled every morsel of dirt into the six-foot deep hole with his ancient, rickety tractor. Jess thought she’d never forget the look encompassed on his wrinkled face as he watched her that day––a look of genuine, country-mannered pity, like he’d wanted nothing more than to take her pain away. Jess still wished he could.

Susan wanted Jess to seek help, but Jess wasn’t big on psychiatry like her mom, and seeing some off-beat shrink and taking medications that made her feel as high as the clouds hadn’t helped. To her mother’s chagrin, Jess gave up on that two months after the funeral.

Jess felt a lot of things in life, but strong or empowered wasn’t one of them.

At the bottom of the stairs, Jess glanced at the stuffed, jean backpack she’d thrown carelessly on the floor, before the start of the weekend. She’d filled it at school with her physics, pre-calc, and English books with the intent to study, but then didn’t bother. Study? Seriously? Homework sucks. She threw the bag over her shoulder and opened the broad door of her mom’s modest colonial.

Jess slammed the door and ran down the steps with little desire to go school. She knew what dreaded consequence from the principal was awaiting her once she got there. It didn’t help that the October sky cast shadows on every corner of her world. Tiny pellets of rain splattered down, mirroring her mood.   

Michael, Jess’s boyfriend, since the middle of last summer, was watching for her as he sat in his classic, pale-green Mercedes truck on the corner of 117th Maple Street.

Beep. Beep. He honked the horn like she hadn’t seen him and was too impatient to wait a second longer. Jess waved a little frantically hoping he’d stop.

Mrs. Zimmerman, or Mrs. Z as Jess called her, the decrepit, gray-haired, and annoying lady next door, liked a serene neighborhood, void of children of all ages. She’d say, peering through her owl-rimmed glasses, in her screeching crow like voice, “Wish the old neighbors never moved. They didn’t have any children you know.”

Blah, blah, blah. The only thing Jess had ever heard from her were complaints of her loud music and obnoxious boyfriend who drove too fast doing circles as she called them. One day after she had made Jess really angry, Jess had told her they were called doughnuts, something she should eat a little less of, considering the mountainous rolls that had accumulated around her waist.

Jess couldn’t remember exactly what Mrs. Z had said after that, but her face had turned purple; spit had projected out of her mouth, and she’d shrieked something at Jess with balled fists in Jess’s face. She knew that Mrs. Z didn’t care that her father had died. She thought she was one of the coldest, most heartless people she’d ever met. She wanted to slit her tires to teach her a lesson, but thought the old lady would know it was her.

Jess ran up to Michael’s truck, yanked open the door, and plopped down in the tattered, ecru leather seat next to him. The most minute look at him helped brighten her dreary morning.

“Hey, Jess,” he said in a silky low tone as he glanced across her dampened hair, letting his gaze drop slowly over every spec of her body. “You look beautiful. A little bit of a wet mess, but still beautiful.”

“Hey. . .thanks.” Jess glanced away shyly at his compliment, like she always did. She still wasn’t used to the idea that someone so good looking and popular had chosen her to be his girlfriend.

Jess was far from an expert in the guy field. Actually, Michael was her first real boyfriend, not counting Samuel. He was the first and only other boy she’d ever kissed, back in the treacherous days of ninth grade, freshman year, behind the graffiti-plastered baseball field at her old school. Ughh. She couldn’t forget how Samuel’s braces had clunked against her teeth, and his breath had tasted stale like he hadn’t brushed in a few days. She’d kissed him because she was tired of kids teasing her endlessly about the fact that she’d never kissed a boy before. She hated her shyness, which made flirting with boys awkward and nearly impossible.

Michael was different, though. He had pursued her, which was indeed a huge shock to her. He was an enormous step up from Samuel, not that it took much.

Michael leaned over and tugged at her chin, pulling her gaze back toward his. With a crooked grin on his face and a candle-wax gleam in his eyes that melted her deep within, he kissed her gently on the lips at first and then with more fervor as he squeezed her thigh. His lips brushed along her neck, until they came to the point where he could feel her pulse. He pressed his lips harder into her skin and smiled before he pulled away.  

“Your heart’s racing, and so early in the morning,” he teased.

Jess felt her face flush. She knew he had complete control over her pulse. She looked up at him with a faint curl of her lips.

Michael was grinning at Jess again with a look like he’d conquered her heart. They both knew the effect he had on her. It was pinned like a pennant to her face when she was with him.

“We can go to the parking lot before school, if you want. We have time,” he said, as he ran one lone finger down the crook of her neck, and over the sterling silver, heart-shaped necklace her father had given her for her fifteenth birthday. Undo the clasp, and inside Jess had put her favorite picture of her father from when he was a teenager, a picture revealing golden hair, bronze eyes, and dimples carved into a wide and enticing smile. He’d had so much to look forward to back then.

“Jess?” Michael’s voice pulled Jess out of her foggy memories of her father. She let the tingling memories of last summer with Michael resurface, the ones that had offered healing, hope, and had made her feel alive again. “Do you want to go?”

If you want to read more, come back on Fridays (the day I hope to post my Friday reads)!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Gripped With Insanity


Looking for some fun, spooky Halloween terrors? Oops (shakes head), I mean stories to read? I was invited by Valerie Pinkerton Hemlin and Lynette Creswell (thanks ladies!) to join along in the Halloween Story Hop. Hope you have a frightfulicious time reading this season!

To hop along and read more Halloween stories, click here and go back to Lynette’s blog!

Here’s my story for the Halloween Hop (fiction?? yes!):

Gripped With Insanity

The dimly lit room of the abandoned colonial was awash with drifting dust the size of snowflakes, wafting along with the gentle breeze from a nearby window. Sophie tugged on her best friend, Paisley’s, hair, wrapping it in an exquisite braid that draped down to the dent in the middle of her back.

“Owe! You pulled too hard,” Paisley cried, pulling forward in the antique chair away from her friend’s taunting fingers.

Sophie softened her grip. “Careful now, Paisley dear, you wouldn’t want to break grandmother’s chair,” she said, mimicking Paisley’s stepmother’s shrilling voice. Both girls burst into a hale of laughter.

“I wish you were real,” Paisley whispered, her sheer blue eyes glazed over, seeing only sodden looking gray spots before her.

“I am real. You know I am.” Sophie pouted and thrust her hands on her hips. She placed her arctic fingers over Paisley’s eyes forcing them shut and massaged her eyelids. Paisley began to feel the familiar otherworldly warmth that sprang through them. She fluttered her eyes a few times, until they opened like window shades on a shimmering summer day.

“Oh, it’s beautiful!” Paisley looked wide eyed. She stared at her glossy, auburn hair in the timeworn, full length mirror that stood before her.

Sophie bent down in an exaggerated curtsy and then handed her the not-so-princess gown that the All Hallows Eve dance called for. “Now, here’s your droll 2015 black, I’d-rather-go-to-a-funeral dress that old step-mummy wants you to wear.”

Paisley snatched the silky dress and placed it in front of her. She swayed her hips and hummed her favorite tune, Unchained Melodyby the Righteous Brothers.

Sophie sighed, closed her eyes, and then hummed along with her friend for a moment. “You are truly a timeless friend, Paisley. Come with me…you know where…to the other side. Come with me…let go and wish it. Then it will happen. We’ll be friends for all of eternity. It’s lonely here. Look. Look what a good friend I am to you.”

Sophie hurried to the dusty record player nestled on top of the antique oak dresser. She switched on the Tiffany lamp and picked out a record, Little Bitty Pretty Oneby Thurston Harris. “Here’s a song. Much better for a dance. Unchained Melodies? Too slow! Go to your dance in that brain of yours and attempt to make yourself happy, if that’s what you need to do to find closure. Then come with me.”

Paisley stopped, if only for a brief moment, letting her thoughts soar to a place she’d only dared to visit in her wildest dreams. Her thoughts of William, the most beautiful boy in the twelfth grade, with his lake blue eyes and blackened greased back hair, his shining smile that lit up the world, and a laugh that could erase an entity of pain.


“It’s not a dream, Paisley,” William said. “I’m real, and I’m here, and I think you’re beautiful.” He tightened his arms around Paisley’s midriff, drawing her nearer to him. She could smell a hint of his cologne, along with spearmint breath from newly brushed teeth. The night was filled with an air of youthfulness: only 9:00 p.m., three more hours until the Halloween dance would end at midnight, the bewitching hour. Everything will turn back into a pumpkin or whatever, Paisley laughed to herself.

Sophie walked up airily to Paisley with a cup of freshly made swirling punch in her hand. “Paisley, some punch? Or maybe for you, William?” she asked as she stared at William up and down and then intently up and down again, her eyes slit and uninviting, as if to say, Stay away. Paisley’s mine!

William shot a steely stare back at Sophie, filled with a cold maliciousness. “Leave her alone.” He mouthed the words. “It’s her choice, not yours.”

The sound of music and drums thumped rhythmically in the background, in sync, like a witch’s enticing spell. Paisley’s head began to whirl, an exciting spin at first, one that made her heart flutter and pull William closer to her, but then her stomach flip flopped in a way that made her think she was hungry or sick, maybe. She was unsure.

Paisley eyed the food table. Mr. Greene, the Principal, and one of many chaperones for the night, was standing there looking bored, though he wasn’t really.

Mr. Greene was inadvertently watching William, the star quarterback, while William was dancing with the unknown Paisley. Odd, Mr. Greene thought. William must have brought her from some other school. Her clothes, hair, and make-up look out of date. She looked like a girl he’d known from his younger years. A chill rolled over his skin. It couldn’t be. The dead didn’t come back to life. Or did it?

Mr. Greene had once been a popular football player himself, though not the quarterback. He’d been a linebacker, huge, muscular, and popular. His girlfriend, Patty, had had long, pretty dark-red hair. She’d been a cheerleader, and popular, from a troubled home, though you’d never know it. Her smile lit up the universe. Everyone wanted to be her friend, but then one day sickness coated every living cell in her body. She stayed away, at home, where her stepmother, Sophie, had imprisoned her. Doctors and tutors had been allowed to enter their home, but never friends and especially not a boyfriend.

Tales of terror about Patty and her family were whispered and hushed in every school corner and on the streets of their little town. Then one day it was over. Rumor spread that Patty had died and her family moved away, leaving the old colonial empty and abandoned, a place no new homebuyer wanted to even take a glance at. Eventually, each Halloween night, school kids would dare to enter the grounds, though never inside, and had claimed they’d seen shining lights, heard angry voices, and a young girl screaming. Most people didn’t believe their stories, but still, visiting the old mansion had become an eerie Halloween ritual for local kids.

Paisley pushed William away. Her thoughts went wild. If I had never given in, if I had fought the disease, if I had never listened to my stepmother, if, if, if. Maybe I would still be alive. You have to fight in life. Is it too late? Can I go back?

Mr. Greene moved closer to William and the unusual girl he’d been dancing with. “Is anything the matter?” he asked, noticing that the girl’s eyes were darting about the room like a rabid animal.

Startled, Paisley threw a penetrating stare at Mr. Greene. Her eyes grew wide with renewed recognition. She shook her head, the sound of the music soared, she buckled over. William, Mr. Greene, and Sophie stepped closer to her side. A sinister cackling could be heard, along with Paisley’s stepmother’s shrill voice in the background. All Paisley could hear in her head were chants. You can’t wear that preposterous dress, wear the one I bought you, let go, come to our side, do it!

Paisley fought the chants. She battled the jeering in her head, then passed out.


Paisley awoke to a dimly lit room, recently polished sparkling clean by the housekeeper. The renovated colonial squeaked when her husband neared the room, as though the home had a language of its own.

“Feeling alright, my dear?” Mr. Greene asked her as he entered in. “You know Halloween tends to be a holiday that puts you into all kinds of strange sorts.”

“I’m fine, William” Paisley answered. “Don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve had bad dreams each year. That’s all. No need to exaggerate.”

Joshua, their son, a senior in high school and a sports star, bounded into the room. “Mom, Dad,” he called. “I”m going out with Patty for a movie. No trick or treating. We’re going to see The Shining. Have you heard of it? It’s from back in the day when you were young,” Joshua laughed.

Paisley nodded to Joshua, uncertain as to why Halloween has always brought her chills of terror. She knew she’d feel better the next day, or at least until the following All Hallow’s Eve season. Then, the nightmares and illusions would regretfully return, and her mind would, once again, feel gripped with irrepressible insanity.

Don’t forget, if you want more ghoulish treats click the link below to hop back to Lynette’s blog, and thanks for stopping by!

Happy Halloween!

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Self Health/Help Book At Its Best!

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What can I say? I’m blogging about A Glimpse Of Heaven by Dr. Glen Hepker, because I’m impressed with the simplicity and beauty in this eloquently written book that holds a blueprint to improving your life and mine.

First, I have to share the fact that Dr. Hepker possesses the credibility needed to write this categorical type of health and wellness book. He holds doctorate degrees in psychology and health/wellness arts, and has a fascinating biography that can be found on Amazon at his author page. I highly recommend taking a look at his compelling lifework and professions.

Dr. Hepker’s ideas and thoughts are very much influenced by The Ancient School of Thought, Ming Chia, which emphasizes taking true responsibility of one’s own health, life and well-being. If you simply take a look at the chapter titles, you can get a good feel for the basic yet brilliant ideas this book embraces. Here a few of the themes comprised within them: True Responsibility of Healthful Interaction, The Same Boat Theory, The Theory of Lightness, True Appreciation of the Miracle of the Moment, True Effort, The True Responsibility of Supporting Others, True Faith and the Three Portents, True Happiness: A Glimpse of Heaven, and so much more!

Well, now that you know a few of the nuts and bolts of some of the chapter titles, let me explain further why this is an astounding self help book for me and you: because it doesn’t matter what background you come from. By that, I mean your culture, traditions, beliefs, faith and so on. This book complements and doesn’t take the place of what any of us believe. It plainly and directly tells us how to be happy and take responsibility for our well-being. 

One commandment or phrase or whatever you may call it is: treat others as you want to be treated. That idea is a shroud that blankets all of us. A major part of our own happiness comes from the way we treat ourselves and others, which should be with respect, kindness and love. Sometimes it’s difficult to carry that out, because nobody is perfect. However, we can try to evolve into the best people possible, people with a vision and purpose, and we can do that by asking ourselves honest questions. We all want to be happy, so let’s take true responsibility of our lives and achieve health and well-being through our efforts!

Do I have you curious for more? I hope so. And if I do, please take more than a glimpse of this profound book on Amazon at the following link:

And, of course, if you took the time to stop by and read this, I am, without a doubt, grateful, appreciative and wishing you the best for a happy, healthy life!

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Love Never Fails

I love this poem by Emily Dickinson and thought I would share it. I took this photo in the springtime sky. Galileo said that mathematics is the language with which God wrote the Universe. The world is also stamped undeniably with love.  
IF I can stop one heart from breaking, 

I shall not live in vain; 

If I can ease one life the aching, 

Or cool one pain, 

Or help one fainting robin fly

Unto his nest again, 

I shall not live in vain. 

~ Emily Dickinson 

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Why Read For Fun Book Reviews?


First: Read for fun? Are you crazy? Wait, hold up. I hope you don’t feel like books are pointless, because reading is fabulous in so many ways. Parents, if you have a reluctant reader here’s a link that shows how reading fiction is good for brain development.

Second: Now it’s time to choose a book to read, something that can be more grueling than you think. What should you read next, when there are endless fantastic books out there?

Third: Let me help you choose. I’ve posted my book reviews of some of my favorite books. I like to read book reviews before I buy. So, I hope my reviews will help you choose your next read!

Happy Reading Reviews!


This story pulls you in because it’s about the afterlife, something most of us find fascinating. It made me think of the grey reality of purgatory. Luckily as time goes on, Portia finds help and friends on her way. I enjoyed reading this book, but would like to think that the afterlife is filled with more joy and less confusion. All in all, this is definitely a worthwhile read!



I absolutely loved every story in this book! The author shows great talent in her ability to draw the reader into the emotions of the protagonist. I thought the voice of the characters was realistic and strong. It’s well written, and is an inspirational read that teaches women to believe in themselves through adversity.



Thrilling plot! I have to say, I’m not a fan of steamy romances, but when a book can keep me up at night wondering what’s going to happen next, then it’s a great story! I love the protagonist’s sweetness and the Irish countryside. If you’re a romance fan who loves a thriller too, then this book is for you!



Angel of Death

Reviewed Angel of Death

I was drawn in immediately by the author’s strong character development of the two main characters, Tancy and Audrey. It was easy to grow attached as a reader to both the girls’ lives and friendship. I’m not a huge fan of steamy romance, but this book has so much more to offer (mystery, action, intrigue). Best of all for me: I loved the shocking conclusion, especially because the reader can’t even begin to guess the ending!



   Annwyn's Blood (The Paladin of Shadow Chronicles Book 1)

Annwyn’s Blood is a fascinating tale written by Michael Eging and Steve Arnold. It reminded me of a thrilling blend of The Lord of the Rings and King Arthur with beautifully written prose and description that delights the senses.It begins with a gripping prologue depicting two religious novices and great friends, Dylan and Cedric, who wish to serve the Lord, and seek a mysterious and prophetic holy graal. These prior scenes provide a captivating backdrop to the main story.As the central protagonist, Sir Erik of Birkenshire, goes on a quest to seek Marianna, the missing king’s daughter and Erik’s youthful crush, he stumbles upon an overpowering and ancient evil. This takes Erik on a journey of passion and struggle to save his own soul and protect his people from Arawn of Annwyn, the Ruler of the Dead.

I think readers will relate to Erik’s interior struggle to do what’s right, while being entertained by a unique story filled with bright imagery that was hard for me to put down!



   Loving Nate: (Urban Fiction Romance)

Reviewed Loving Nate
Looking for your next read? In Loving Nate, Janice G Ross pulls the reader into an emotional relationship between the two main characters with beautiful, descriptive writing. Not only is this story an entertaining work of fiction, but the reader should be left with a desire to contemplate relationships in their own lives. I love how the author has two different endings, showing how our own choices can change our lives for better or worse.

Daydream's Daughter, Nightmare's Friend: One Woman's Journey Through Two Hells

Nonnie Jules does an amazing job telling this horrific story. A young girl lives with her mother’s brutal boyfriend. A murder occurs and the action doesn’t stop in this sad story with an ending you’ll have to read. The author tells this story in a way that you can’t put the book down until the end!


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Aaah, North Beach in More Ways Than One



What settings do you use for your writing, real or imagined?

Well, I’ve been enjoying recent trips to Burlington, Vermont in the past several months, the setting for Username: Bladen. I haven’t been there in years, so I have to say the flashback memories have been fun, as I spent two years in college at St. Michael’s before transferring to FSU in Florida. The above picture is of North Beach, where part of the following excerpt takes place in Username: Bladen. If any of you have visited North Beach, you may remember fun times at their summer Reggae Festival!

Otherwise, I’d love for you to take a snippet of time and read the following excerpt:-)


• • •

“You made wonderful gourmet sandwiches, Lisa,” Adonis said, “but look at the size of the boy. I didn’t think that would be enough to feed him, so I ordered a couple of pizzas. You don’t mind do you?”

“Um, I guess that’s okay.” Lisa pointed to the food. “I did make a lot of sandwiches, though. I can’t imagine this wouldn’t fill him up.”

Lisa’s comment seemed to go unnoticed by Adonis. He glared at me again and began to drill me with personal questions.

“So you fancy Julia do ya, mate?”

I felt tense and ran my fingers through my hair. “Excuse me?”

“I mean do you like Julia?” Adonis reworded the question and made sure he annunciated each word slow and clear, like I had just learned the English language.

“I’m sorry,” I answered, irritated. “I still don’t understand your question. I mean, I spent the day with Julia yesterday, but that was the first time I’ve seen her in years.”

“Do you drink a bit at the bar?” Adonis continued.

Lisa’s mouth dropped open. She elbowed Adonis hard in the ribs.

“Ugh,” he said, “what’d you do that for?”

“Leave him alone, Adonis.”

Adonis stared at me cold and hard. “You better not mess with Julia or our family boy or you’ll regret it.”

Lisa came to my rescue, once more. “That’s enough, Adonis. You bother Bladen again, and I’ll ask you to leave.”

After that, Adonis behaved–like a normal person. We shot the breeze for at least two hours. I lost track of time, until I heard the front door slam shut, signifying Julia’s return.

She dashed into the kitchen like a whirlwind. “Oh pizza, my favorite food. Yum! Thank you to whoever ordered it.”

“That would be him,” I said, pointing to Adonis. “He’s pretty nice once you get to know him.”

“Thanks, mate. You’re not so bad yourself.” Adonis threw his head back and roared with laughter. Strange man.

• • •

Julia grabbed my arm hard and said, “C’mon, let’s go for a bike ride down by the lake.”

I gazed into her eyes. The intensity in them made me say, “Okay.”

“Adonis, you don’t mind if Bladen borrows your bike, do you?” Julia asked.

“No, go ahead,” Lisa intervened. “It’s in the garage.”

“Thanks for answering for me, my lady,” Adonis said. He stood and pretended to walk around drunk. “I think I’ve had a bit too much whiskeee to make any kind of right decision. You know what they saaay, don’t drink and talk at the same time.”

Lisa playfully squeezed his cheeks and laughed. “Stop.”

I told Lisa and Adonis thank you and goodbye.

. . .

Julia and I found the bikes, strapped them to the bike rack on her car, and headed to the parking lot at my dorm. The ride into Burlington on bikes was a little far from her house.

When Julia stopped the car, she jumped out in a flash with her bike ready to go, before I even took mine out of the rack.

“I’ll race you,” she yelled, as she zoomed past me. “Last one downtown buys the other one an ice cream.”

I had to admit she pedaled fast. I knew I could bike much faster, but I figured I’d let her win. Before long, we arrived at Church Street. She pulled up to the little bistro we had eaten at the day before.

“I won!” She proudly said in between breaths. I wasn’t out of breath at all. Sorry to say, she noticed. “Wait a minute. You let me win didn’t you?”

“You’re fast,” I answered, shrugging my shoulders. “I owe you an ice cream.” She protested, but then she gave in.

When we walked into the restaurant, I noticed a sign proclaiming, ‘Hiring’. We bought our ice creams, and Julia strolled outside. I told her to wait for me, while I asked for an application. I planned to take it with me to fill out and then drop it off later.

• • •

Back outside, I sat next to Julia on a bench and asked, “How’s your ice cream?”

“Mmmm, pistachio…delicious. How’s yours?”

“Good.” I had ordered plain chocolate. “I have a question for you.”

“What’s your question?” Julia asked in between licks.

“Why did you leave with Gloria today, when your mom invited me for lunch?

Julia stopped for a moment. “I knew it would bug my mom. I’m sorry.”

“Why did you want to bug your mom?”

“Because she’s never around. I already told you that. It was stupid.” She grinned. “Why are you asking? Did you miss me?”

I smiled wickedly back at her. “What if I did?”

She giggled and took the last bite of her ice cream, as she moved closer to me—close enough that I could smell her perfume—lilacs, maybe. I glanced down at the sidewalk. I have to say, I enjoyed the heat between us, and so did she.

Julia broke up the moment and had her helmet back on, her bike ready to go. “I’ll race you to the lake.”

I threw the rest of my ice cream away and jumped on my bike, riding right behind her. We swerved around the people on the street, until we arrived at the bike path by the lake. I sped right next to her. Lake Champlain flew past us with the sun radiating on it, splattering crystal beams into the air. Julia’s hair blew wildly in the wind.

She glanced at me and smiled with her stunning grin. I watched her for too long. My bike hit a rock, and I almost lost it. She laughed.

When the path ended, we came to a small beach embedded with stones on one side. It was isolated, other than a middle-aged couple that was playing with their young daughter. The little girl must have been about four. Her dad’s hands were gripping her around her waist. He spun her high up in the air. The girl’s head tilted back, and she squealed in delight. Julia gazed at them wistfully. She looked as though she missed what she had never had.

Other than the laughter of the little girl and the lapping of the lake water, it was quiet. My thoughts escaped back to Arcis. I literally ached inside, as I wondered what adventures awaited me there.

• • •

I broke out of my thoughts, when Julia waved her hand in front of my face. “Hey Bladen?”

“Yeah,” I answered casually, embarrassed that she had caught me daydreaming again.

“Where do you go?” she asked in a soft voice, her eyebrows raised up, arms crossed.

“What do you mean?” I tried to evade her question. I picked up a stone and skipped it across the water. I watched as it sank beneath the surface.

Julia took a deep breath and said, “You’ve done that a couple of times. I know there’s something on your mind. What is it?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Come on, Bladen. It’s me. I told you my deepest, darkest secret yesterday…something I’ve never told anyone, not even Gloria. You can trust me too, you know.”

“I do trust you…but, I don’t want to talk about it right now,” I answered. Julia looked hurt. “I promise, I’ll tell you…just not today…okay?”

“That’s fine, but promise me you’ll tell me sometime soon.”

“I just did, and besides I give you my Scout’s honor,” I said, with a salute.

“Stop doing that.” Julia shook her head. “I’m serious.”

I changed the subject and decided to ask Julia about Adonis. “Today…Adonis gave me the cold shoulder. He wasn’t friendly at first…why?”

Julia laughed. “He’s not overly nice to anyone. In fact, from what I could see he seemed to like you, and that’s saying something, because he scares everyone else away. Gloria’s really my only friend…my only true friend. My family keeps to themselves. When Adonis chases away my friends, he always tells me it’s for the best.” Julia paused for a moment. “I hope he doesn’t scare you away.”

“I don’t scare that easily,” I shrugged. “It’s getting late. We should get back. Wanna race again?”

“You’re on,” Julia darted toward her bike.

“What does the winner get this time?” I asked.

“How about dinner?”

“Now you’re on,” I scrambled toward my bike. With ease, I biked faster than Julia, though I led her to believe she was almost as fast as me. When we neared her car, I sped past her and barely won.

“Nice race,” she said, smirking, “though you seem to win or lose whenever you feel like it.”

I smiled. “I guess that’s because dinner is more tempting than ice cream. But please don’t feel like you have to feed me. I want to fill out my job application and drop it off tonight, anyway.”

“No, I owe you dinner,” she said, firmly. “You bought me ice cream. And I believe fair is fair.”

Julia and I sat silently again, as we drove back to her house. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye, while she curled her golden locks around her finger. She looked relaxed.

When we arrived at her home and walked in the door, the smell of lasagna hit me. I was grateful for a good meal. We had pleasant dinner conversation, and I ate way too much.

When it was time to go, I thanked Lisa and wished Julia good luck in class the next day.

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