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The look on Horace’s face is priceless. Jaw dropped, slowly lowering the oversized hood that gravity keeps firmly in place. Even the flowing robes come to a dead stop when he walks out of his office, thick stone door refusing to slam shut.

“What have you done?”

Even though he doesn’t drink I hand him a glass of wine. His bony fingers wrap around the delicate stem and he leans into the liquid, regardless of the fact he can’t smell. With the glass still in hand, his eyes take in what I call the lobby of the Dark Plane. Red and white lights twinkle along the ceiling and on the door hangs a wreath made of imitation pine. A large red and gold gingham bow adorns the top of the wreath and I hung a few red, blue, and gold bulbs on it as well.

“I’ve decorated for Christmas, of course.”

Next to my boss’s door is a seven foot tree, decked out with Doctor Who figures, blue and silver bulbs, and a T.A.R.D.I.S for a topper. A twelve foot long scarf, set with multi-colored stripes and tassels wraps around in place of garland. Horace’s eyes roam the tree and then the walls. One wall has a bust of Santa. A cardboard chimney painted red and white holds a life-size Santa.

“It is…festive.”

“Festive? That’s it?”

His bony feet clack against the stone floor. His jaw clicks, the overhead light
catching his bare head. Almost as an afterthought, he pulls his hood up, once again the imposing figure of Death.

“Yes. We have never been particularly festive on the Dark Plane. Please explain.”

Now my jaw has dropped open. “Never?” He shakes his head. “Holy shit dude.”

For a second his mouth moves as if to remind me there’s nothing holy about poop, but then he reconsiders. Doing another full circle, he takes in the flying paper reindeer I taped to the wall near his secretary’s office and the lighted deer standing in fake snow I set up near the entrance to the Dark Plane. As Deathers come and go they can see most of the décor, right down to the Merry Christmas sign hanging over the Planes entrance.

“Has it occurred to you that not everyone will appreciate your efforts?”


“You may not realize that Deathers are from all faiths, beliefs, and walks of life. Has it not occurred to you that not everyone celebrates Christmas?”


Okay, that’s a lie. But he’s not seeing everything, then, because I created walls devoted to other holidays, too. Honestly, I took a poll and Deathers agreed that the Christmas stuff was kosher. Those of other faiths agreed to help decorate parts of the Plane for their holiday and we made sure everything was visible for everyone. But if he hasn’t noticed that yet…

“I did notice. I suspected you were not that close-minded, despite—”

My sparkly purple robes catch the twinkling white lights outlining the office doors of both Horace and his secretary. One hip juts out and my foot taps on the floor, arms crossed, an angry huff escaping my lips.

“Despite what?” I grind out.

“Moving along.”

“Oh no, no, no. Despite what??”

If he could swallow, Horace would’ve gulped by now. Those empty sockets, with their little purple-blue flame, avoid my own gaze. It may be that my gaze could disassemble him one joint at a time, it’s so angry.

“Well. You are from a, shall we say, quite Christian, conservative area of Iowa.
Perhaps a place not well known for diversity. Therefore, you may not have thought about other faiths. I apologize. It was an insensitive comment. You are of course, quite other worldly.”

For a few awkward seconds, he stares at me until I accept his version of an apology. As the evening begins and Deathers start flowing in for work, I gesture to his glass. Raising mine I propose a toast.

“To Christmas in the Afterlife.”

He raises his own but of course doesn’t drink. I polish mine off quickly, head rushing. Horace retreats to his office while his secretary bustles about, handing out assignment lists. Every step she takes she jingles, thanks to the bells on her green and red Santa hat and the tree on her sweater. I suppose I should let him know about the ugly sweater contest coming up tomorrow night. Maybe I could get him into a sweater.


One thing I find myself struggling with is the loss of childhood people and things. Every time a relative passed away I thought about how things changed: no more Christmas at Grandma’s. No more joking around with Uncle Ray. No more visits to the nursing home when I go to see my parents. The older I get, the more things change. This is inevitable, of course, but for me, it’s hard.

I grew up surrounded by family, because my maternal grandmother was in town as were other family. Hours were spent at Grandma’s table playing cards, eating snack, learning how to put curlers in, and telling jokes. Sunday dinners happened after church, usually with an appetizer course of donuts and chocolate milk. We played for hours at Grandma’s, inside and out. Most of my friends were in Grandma’s neighborhood.

At some point, things slowly changed. Fewer dinners. Fewer hours playing. More hours visiting. Health changed. I grew into an adult. My Great Aunt passed away. Grandma passed, my uncle passed. Then, this year, my Mom passed suddenly. All of those childhood things have gone. I don’t live at home anymore. I don’t have my Mom anymore. Dad’s relationship with me has grown stronger, which is good, but it’s so different without Mom.

The oddest things set off this longing to turn back the clock. As my hometown school district considers closing another school I attended, I find myself hoping they don’t. Logically I know closing it and moving those grades to another campus is the right decision. That school is OLD and needs more work than it would cost to build a new school. But the school they want to close is literally my childhood.

My Dad was a custodian. I was proud of him for this work and still am. And Roosevelt was his building. If Mom couldn’t get me after school, I found a way to Roosevelt to hang with Dad. When Dad had to check the building after hours, I’d ride along. I played in the music room and gym on weekends when Dad had to fix something or check the doors. My sister and I cleaned erasers in what Dad sometimes thought was punishment but for us was fun. We’d walk away with arms covered in marker and chalk dust and he’d shake his head and laugh. I spent time in the boiler room and still know every square inch of that school by heart.

That school is where Dad embarrassed me in front of my math class and comforted me when I was sick in the nurses office. Where he covered my lunch money when Mom forgot to send it. I sometimes wish I’d appreciated being at his building more but I was at the age of “oh my god dad….” instead of the appreciative age.

Knowing that Roosevelt might be torn down kind of struck me tonight as a bit painful. It’s the right decision but it’s another piece of my childhood that’s potentially gone. And for me, it’s a struggle to give up those bits, because there were parts of my childhood that SUCKED and the bits that are going away made me happy.

Maybe it’s grief. I am certainly still grieving my Mother, as she’s been gone eight months and one day now. Eight months has certainly gone by quickly. I’ve taken on Mom’s role in Dad’s healthcare when I can and I know Dad appreciates it. But it’s hard on me, as it would be on any child in this situation. I know now more than ever that Dad will not live forever and I’d better see him while I still can.

I’d give anything for one more phone call with Mom. One more LOOK, one more motherly lecture on whatever choice of mine she didn’t think was a good one. I know she’s looking out for me, she shows me in little ways that I don’t expect. But it’s not the same as her being here.

Tonight I’m nostalgic. I don’t want my middle school to go away even though I know it must. I miss Mom, heading into a long stretch of holidays. And grief is always present, always there, even when I don’t always feel it.

Hold onto your childhood; it goes away far too fast.

I thought I understood grief. After all, I’ve experienced the loss of several relatives, including grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I thought I understood grief after the loss of my cat, Hamlet, who was like a child to me. I thought I knew what to expect and how to handle it.

But when my Mom died on January 30th, 2018, a mere two weeks after a cancer diagnosis, I found I did NOT understand grief. Not in the slightest. Losing a parent is far and away more painful than anything I’ve ever experienced. There is a never-ending pain, even on the days when I’m happy and smiling, a pain that aches no matter my mood. It’s knowing that I won’t hear her voice again or see her or have her comment on my cat pictures.

It’s knowing that I can’t tag her in something silly on Facebook. Or that when the phone rings, it’s just Dad, who’s never liked talking on the phone. It’s being told how like my mom I am and having that hurt. It’s seeing a picture of her or something she liked and breaking into tears.

Losing my mom is hands down the worst loss I’ve experienced in my life. I find that I worry more about Dad. He’s older, how long will he last without mom? I find that I worry about everything more. And I find it’s harder to be who I was before we lost mom.

The hardest thing to know is that mom would’ve beat the cancer. I struggle with that daily. That had she not gotten two different respiratory infections, she’d have pulled ahead in the fight. She’d still be here. But her immune system was wiped out and she got RSV. That turned into pneumonia. And she wasn’t strong enough to fight. She didn’t have the strength to keep going. Her kidneys failed. Her blood pressure couldn’t stabilize without medication. I used to work in healthcare and the clinical side of me gets it. The clinical side of me knows that it was the right decision to discontinue life support.

But the daughter side wonders: where the doctors right to put a breathing tube in? Is going on the ventilator what made the difference? Should they have kept increasing her oxygen on the nasal cannula? Could they have tried a non-rebreather? A mask? Were there other options besides intubation? The clinical side of me sees the signs that intubation was the right move. But the daughter asks: even though she was maxing out her oxygen needs on the nasal cannula, should we have waited to intubate?

I know the hospital did everything they could have and more. They threw antibiotics and antivirals at her. They kept her comfortable. They took good care of her and us. They answered our questions and didn’t sugar-coat anything. That last night, when Dad and I stayed in the hospital with Mom, the team kept us informed. Even that morning, less then twelve hours before she would quietly slip away, they said they weren’t giving up. But they also said this could end her life. I realize now how lucky I was to be there that last night.

That morning, my Dad called a meeting with me and my sister. We talked about Mom, how she was doing, and what the doctors had said. I wanted to say no, give her more time. But I also understood that he was honoring her wishes not to be a vegetable. She wasn’t going to get better. And if she did, she wouldn’t be Mom. She wasn’t going to come home from this. She was full of pneumonia. She had RSV. Her kidneys were failing. She had other problems going on. We had to make that call, to take her off life support. To let her go.

I am grateful that I got to hold her hand while she passed. She cried a silent tear right before she left this earth. Holding her hand, telling her how much I loved her, that’s special to me. That was a privilege no one should take for granted. The hospital was good about letting her stay in her room until we were ready to release the body. I got to sit and talk to her a few more times and I’m glad for that.

Deep down inside, I know we did the right thing. I know Mom wouldn’t have wanted to keep going. It took her twenty minutes to slip away, making me think she was ready. She was done fighting and she knew she couldn’t win. But two weeks isn’t fair. She had a chance to be a cancer survivor but she got two secondary infections and that was what got her in the end. Cancer makes me so angry. This isn’t the first time it’s taken a loved one from me. But I never dreamed Mom’s fight would be so short.

All I can do now is cherish the memories of an awesome woman that I was lucky enough to call Mom. I will remember sitting there that Friday, before they intubated her, talking about the cooking show. How excited she was to be allowed ice chips. How she went ‘whoo hoo!’ when she swallowed ice without aspirating. I know she couldn’t have anything else, because she was aspirating. I know she was coughing up blood. But I will treasure those last moments with her. When she shooed me home four times, because “I’m going to be fine!” When I asked if she wanted me to go when they were putting the tube in and she maintained that she’d be fine. I think in her mind this was a small hurdle, like a cold, and she’d be fine in a few days. But they reduced Mom to two days and that’s what she got. I’m grateful all around, but I wish she’d have made it. I wish there was a way to communicate with her. I don’t believe in heaven or hell or god or any of that. But part of me wants there to be an afterlife. I want there to be someplace where she’s happy and well and watching over us. I know it’s unlikely, but I’ve never wanted it to be true so much in my life. Because if there was an afterlife, maybe there’d be a way for one more talk, one more meal, one more holiday, one more everything.

Mom, I miss you. Things are a big ball of suck right now without you. And I know how death works. But it doesn’t stop me wishing I could reverse it and bring you back and make you well again. I needed more time with you. It wasn’t supposed to end this way.

Good morning!

This morning, I have a cover reveal! Jessa Russo writes amazing YA paranormal romance books and I am super excited for Entwined! If you haven’t read the previous two books, I highly recommend them! I’m always said when a favorite series ends and this one is no exception! Stay tuned here later this month for an interview with Jessa. In the mean time, check out the links below!

Cover Entwined


ENTWINED by Jessa Russo
Book 3 of The Ever Trilogy

First she lost her heart.
She nearly lost her soul.
Now, Ever might just lose her life.
See what happens to Ever, Toby, and Frankie when the final book of the #EverTrilogy releases this Christmas!

Preorders will be available mid-December, but in the meantime, you can add ENTWINED to your Goodreads tbr pile, and be sure to follow Jessa for updates and teasers!

Jessa’s links: Amazon | Website | Twitter | Facebook

ENTWINED on Goodreads: Entwined Goodreads

I sink onto the red couch in my office, the torn, stained cushion barely soft anymore. My cats, Ma and Pa, jump into my lap, nuzzling my face and hands. Their black and white tuxedo fur blurs as a fresh round of tears falls. Out of habit, I open the small fridge in my office.

“Son of a bitch!” I shout. The cats hiss.

I stalk out to the kitchen. The fridge door smacks the wall: empty. Cupboards, behind the stove and fridge, in the junk drawer, even the god damned mouth wash is gone.

“Fucking hell!” I shout.

“Are you alright?”

I whip around, breath heaving in my chest. Jacoby stands behind me, brushing dirt from his hands into the trash.

“Where’s my stuff?” I tower over him, one inch taller and twice as mad.

“I saw you come home. Bit early in the day, isn’t it?” he asks, his voice sharp, accusing. “Get fired?”

I rear my first back. The last of my whiskey got me home, but it wasn’t enough and I begin to sober up.

“You going to divorce me if I did?”

He ducks when I swing. “Third damn DUI in the last three months and this one finally cost you your job. You either get your ass into some kind of AA or rehab or I walk.”

He stomps away and I stand there a second. His truck tears down the gravel. That’s the first time he’s threatened to walk.

Story copyright @Aightball


Check out for Thursday Threads! #ThursThreads on Twitter =)



Dear Hamlet,

On Tuesday, we welcomed new kitten Benvolio into the family. I wasn’t sure at first, if I was doing the right thing. You haven’t been gone a full year and I still miss you terribly. My heart remains broken. But Benvolio has been a surprising healing factor. Even in his few days with us, he’s helped mend my heart. A part of it will remain forever broken, but I feel good now, having him in my life.

He’s so tiny. Reminds me of when you were that tiny, so many years ago. He plays with toys, he has so much energy. But he’s learning to sit quietly with me, just like you always did. And then he’s off and running. Right now, he’s sleeping with his chin on my hand.

I hope my memories with him are as good as my memories with you. You and I had a lot of fun together, even when you were being a pistol. But I loved you no matter what. And I find that I can love again, because Benvolio has proven that.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I did what I could for you. I did everything I could but the illness was stronger. I hope you found the rainbow bridge and have made some friends. I know we’ll be reunited someday, when the time is right.

In the mean time, give Benvolio some advice on posing for the camera =). He’s already a ham ;). And feel free to visit me whenever; I’ll be watching for you.

The Passage, a Dance,
& a Little White Dress
Release Date: April 13, 2016

It’s been a week since 17-year old Zoe Jabril found out her best friend is a Guardian Angel, her boyfriend is a Nephilim, and a fellow classmate is a Fairy. What makes Zoe so special? She’s destined to unify Enlightens to battle evil—that is, if Demons don’t kill her first.

With ‘Project: Enlightens Unite’ underway, Zoe learns the history of the area wolf pack and realizes she’s in a race against time to get her newly discovered talents under control. Despite struggling to fight a mysterious attraction to her new neighbor, rescue her boyfriend from Demons, and travel into Fairyland to convince the Summer King to join the fight, Zoe must still attend high school classes so her nosy parents don’t suspect anything is out of the ordinary before Demons can mount another attack.

Zoe will need all the help she can get, from the most unlikely of sources, if she’s to save her boyfriend’s life and prevent the Devil from escaping Hell on her eighteenth birthday.


Chapter 1 Excerpt:

Last night, a friend of mine rose from the dead—and I was the one who brought her back. So I guess . . . I’m an angel. Or, at least most of my friends think I am.
Even wrapped tightly in the arms of my favorite oversized PINK hoodie, I shivered. It was chilly for mid-April while sitting on my front porch with the sun just coming over the horizon, but that wasn’t where the tremor had come from.
I glanced up, startled by the high-pitched squealing of truck brakes that rang above the music playing from my iPod. The truck turned into the cul-de-sac and careened straight into the next door neighbors’ driveway. What made it really strange was the house had been empty since last October. I could still see the top of the “For Sale” sign on the manicured front lawn. I pulled out my cell phone to text my boyfriend, Shay.

Me: Good morning!

As I waited for a response, a gray uniformed driver open his door and climbed down. He walked to the back of the truck; then multiple doors slammed.
“This furniture goes into the living room on the main level,” a man said.
I didn’t particularly want to be a nosy neighbor, but I couldn’t help myself. I eased higher on the top step, hoping to get a look at the man who seemed to be in charge. His back was to me, so all I could tell was he had short blond hair. He glanced down at something then looked back up, turned, and pointed toward a number of other, smaller trucks in the cul-de-sac parking. More uniformed men jumped out of the smaller trucks and gathered around their boss, waiting for instructions. I had no interest in watching a bunch of people move boxes, so I just stayed on the step and waited for my best friend, Kieran, and Shay.



Website | Amazon | Nook | Smashwords


Author Bio:
Kristin D. Van Risseghem grew up in a small town along the Mississippi River with her parents and older sister. And after receiving a double Bachelor of Science degree from Winona State University in Paralegal and Corrections, she worked as a Paralegal for various law firms around the Twin Cities for 14 years. Then she left the legal field and is now a Senior Buyer for a technology company.

Currently, Kristin lives in Minnesota with her husband and two Calico cats. She also loves attending book clubs, going shopping, and hanging out with friends. She has come to realize that she absolutely has an addiction to purses and shoes. They are her weakness and probably has way too many of both.

In the summer months, Kristin can usually be found lounging on her boat, drinking an ice cold something. Being an avid reader of YA and Women’s Literature stories, she still finds time to read a ton of books in-between writing. And in the winter months, her main goal is to stay warm from the Minnesota cold!

Kristin’s books are published by Kasian Publishing.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Short Widget:
Long Widget: The Passage, a Dance, & a Little White Dress #EnlightenSeries, Book Two Giveaway

SignsOfAttraction HiRes.jpg

Coming June 14, 2016 from Avon Impulse


Do you know what hearing loss sounds like? I do.

All my life I’ve tried to be like you. I’ve failed.

So I keep it hidden.

But on the day my world crashed down around me, Reed was there.

He showed me just how loud and vibrant silence can be, even when I struggled to understand.

He’s unlike anyone I’ve ever known. His soulful eyes and strong hands pulled me in before I knew what was happening.

And as I saw those hands sign, felt them sparking on me, I knew: imperfect could be perfect.

Reed makes me feel things I’ve never felt. It’s exciting…and terrifying.

Because he sees me like no one else has, and I’m afraid of what he’ll find if he looks too closely.

The only thing that scares me more than being with him? Letting him go.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Publisher Available for pre-order!

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About the Author

Laura Brown lives in Massachusetts with her quirky abnormal family. Her husband’s put up with her since high school, her young son keeps her on her toes, and her three cats think they deserve more scratches. Hearing loss is a big part of who she is, from her own Hard of Hearing ears, to the characters she creates.


Website | Twitter | Facebook

[Sorry this is late…been a stupid busy day and this is the first I’ve had time to sit down and post!]


If you’re a writer looking for an agent, FicFest is the place to be this spring!  Keep reading for details on how to get involved!!


What is #FicFest?

#FicFest is an online writer’s contest which helps put manuscripts in front of literary agents. This contest, unlike most, is open to manuscripts in ALL genres (including those usually excluded such as Paranormal Romance or Erotica) in the categories of Picture Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult.

#FicFest mentors are structured into fifteen (15) teams. Each category that I listed has three teams. Each team is comprised of a team leader, and two (2) team members. Once the submissions open, each team will choose three (3) finalist manuscripts and one (1) alternate manuscript to advance to the agent round. This means that an equal number of manuscripts for each category will move to the agent round, guaranteeing that one category does NOT overpower another when it comes time for the agents.

45 manuscripts total move to the agent round, with 15 manuscripts being held as alternates in case one of the main finalists drops out of the contest for any reason. This is one of the things we stress in promoting #FicFest because most contests are overrun with Young Adult. In many contests, they may advance 40 manuscripts to the agent round, but the problem lies in the fact that 30 of that 40 are all Young Adult. That won’t happen with #FicFest.

Nine manuscripts from each category will make their appearance in the agent round. No more, no less. NINE each. Let me stress this one more time. In the agent round, you will have 9 Picture Books, 9 Middle Grade, 9 Young Adult, 9 New Adult, and 9 Adult. Everyone gets a fair chance.

We are adding more agents every day and while I can’t give you a solid number, I can tell you that we have close to two dozen confirmed to participate in our agent round and we can’t wait!


2016 Time Line


March 20, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST
Guidelines & Theme Reveal
(Host Blog)

March 27, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST
Meet the Team Leads & Their Members!
(Team Lead Blogs & Host Blog)

April 3, 2016 @ 6:00 PM EST
Agent List Announced
(Host Blog)

April 17, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST – 10:00 PM EST
Q & A with Team Leads & Host
(Twitter – Using #FicFest)

April 24, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – April 25, 2016 @ 11:59 PM EST

April 26, 2016 – May 3, 2016
Teams will chose their finalists/alternate

May 4, 2016 @ 10:00 AM EST
Finalists/Alternate Reveal
(Team Leads Blogs)

May 5, 2016 – June 30, 2016

July 8, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – July 14, 2014 @ 11:59 PM EST
Agent Round


If you have any questions, hop over to Twitter and get on the #FicFest hashtag to learn more and connect with other writers.

cover1000MER-CHARMER, by Amy Bearce

Genre: middle-grade fantasy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Date of Release¬¬: May 9, 2016

Cover Artist: Amalia Chitulescu

Find Online: Amazon US |Amazon UK | Goodreads


Fourteen-year-old Phoebe Quinn is surrounded by magic, but she can’t muster any of her own. Her sister is a fairy keeper. Her best friends are merfolk. And all she does is dishes and housework.

When Phoebe finds out a terrible sea creature is awakening that preys upon the peace-loving merfolk, she becomes determined to help them, even though it means going with Tristan and Mina to their home deep in the sea.

Beneath the waves, Phoebe learns she’s more like her sister than she realized. The merfolk are drawn to her, and she can sense the magic of the sea all around her. Magic is finally at her fingertips, but that’s precisely why the stirring dark power under the waters decides it wants her most of all.

Now she must not only help the peaceful merfolk escape this ancient enemy, she must master her out-of-control powers. If she fails, she will die and darkness will rise and enslave the merfolk once more. But embracing her full power could cost her the very people she loves the most.


Amy Bearce

About The Author:
Amy writes stories for tweens and teens. She is a former reading teacher with a Masters in Library Science. As an Army kid, she moved eight times before she was eighteen, so she feels especially fortunate to be married to her high school sweetheart. Together they’re raising two daughters and are currently living in Germany, though they still call Texas home. A perfect day for Amy involves rain pattering on the windows, popcorn, and every member of her family curled up in one cozy room reading a good book.
Find Amy Bearce Online:
Website| Facebook | Twitter| Goodreads

Curiosity Quills Press (CQ) is a small hybrid publishing company specializing in genre fiction of the highest quality. With 150+ titles in our catalog already and approximately 6 new books coming out each month, there’s never a dull moment at CQ. We work with major retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Audible to ensure that you, the reader, can find whatever you are looking for at your convenience.
Founded in 2011 by Eugene Teplitsky and Lisa Gus, CQ was initially a resource portal for writing and publishing, created in an effort to help writers, like themselves, survive the publishing industry. After rapid success, CQ morphed into publishing press that over time has solidified its share in the market. Now we spend our days searching for the next great escape!
Website| Facebook | Twitter| Goodreads