World Builders Charity Auction

World Builders is a great charity started by Patrick Rothfuss that helps in the fight against hunger and poverty. They have a ton of cool stuff up for auction. You can get a signed first edition, have a professional editor, author, or agent review your manuscript, or get a character named after you in a novel. I’m offering the latter for an upcoming AFT book, and I’ll mention you in my acknowledgments. But you should really check it out for yourself and check back regularly as new stuff come up. There are a lot of great items and it all supports a great cause. This is the time of year to be thankful for what you have, and also to think of those who don’t have as much to be thankful for.

World Builders Auction
My specific auction item

New Author Adventure – A New Kind of Giveaway!

It’s always a struggle for new authors to find creative ways to market our books without inundating people on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/etc. with BUY MY BOOK!!!! PLEASE!!!! IT’S AWESOME!!!! I think I’ve done pretty well in avoiding that. One common marketing ploy you’ll see repeated is the giveaway. Giveaways are a timed honored tradition in the publishing world, and it might surprise to know how many copies of their books publishers give out every year. I don’t know (well, it could surprise you) I’m guessing it’s a lot. I know copies are regularly sent out for reviewing, blurb requests, and of course to generate interest in the book. Who doesn’t like free stuff, right? Well, I’ve done giveaways for both books, and I’m not opposed to doing more, but I thought this time I’d do something different. I wanted to give something away that not only might generate some buzz, but also thanked my readers for their support. What is it I’m giving away?

*drumroll*

I’ll name a character after you! Yes, that’s right, you could have a character named after you in the book I’m currently working on (Book 3 in the series, due out next year sometime). But wait, there’s more! I’ll also mention you in the acknowledgments of the book. Become the envy of everyone you know! While it’s true this isn’t a truly unheard of giveaway—Chuck Wendig offered to name a murder victim after someone—I think it’s pretty cool. But, like all good things, there is a catch. You do not get to pick the character. Rest assured that it won’t be the literary equivalent of a walk on. While it won’t be a major character, neither will it be someone seen once and never heard from again. There is even the possibility of the character returning in future books. No, you do not have to use your real name, you can give me a nickname if you prefer (nothing obscene, please).

So what do you have to do to win this prestigious honor? Well, since I said this is a thank you for my readers, you’ll have to have read one or both of the books currently out there (or be sufficiently good at bluffing to fool me). But entry is simple, just post a comment to this piece and tell me who your favorite character is—and briefly—why. That’s it. I’ll even allow you two entries if you want to pick one character from each book. Or if you really like just one character, you can enter with them twice, but give me a different reason (presumably one for each book) with each entry. Make no mistake, I’m not asking for an essay, though if you’re feeling prolific, go for it! A line or two should be enough, though if you give specifics (show you’ve read the book) you’ll get bonus point.

One month from the day this is posted, I’ll close the comments and shortly thereafter, post the winner.

That’s it. Easy, right? Get to it then. Immortality awaits!

New Author Adventures – Guilty Pleasures

Auston Habershaw, despite how his name sounds, is not Benedict Cumberbatch’s distant cousin. His bio says that on the day he was born, Skylab fell from the heavens. This foretold two possible fates: supervillain or scifi/fantasy author. Fortunately he chose the latter, and spends his time imagining the could-be and the never-was rather than disintegrating the moon with his volcano laser. It should be noted I have been personally assured the aforementioned volcano laser is strictly for research purposes. He is also  a fellow Harper Voyager author and New Englander (Yankees suck). His first two books, The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood are both available, and as of yesterday are combined into a single volume called The Oldest Trick (various buy links below). Much like Tolkien, Auston had a single epic fantasy book that was so epic it had to be broken into pieces. Bonus points for doing a dualogy instead of the well trodden trilogy. But what do you expect from a winner of the Writers of the Future Award (Volume 31).

As part of his journey to get his book out to every single human being, and any literate animals who can pay, he’s stopped by to share with us his thoughts on guilty pleasures.


On Frivolity

By Auston Habershaw

It all starts in a tavern. All pointless stories start there, since that is the place we can easiest imagine meeting others and doing something interesting, despite the fact that meeting in taverns rarely leads to anything more interesting than intoxication. There’s an elf and a dwarf, and let’s say an orc. Or ork – whichever. Everybody’s drinking ale (which is more interesting than beer) and the barmaid has an irresponsibly plunging neckline. Let’s presume she works for tips.

This is the point in the story where somebody runs in from outside, breathless and bloody. Or where some loud-mouth starts spouting off about ‘the only good orc is a dead orc’ or whatever. Perhaps some lunk gets handsy with the barmaid. Maybe somebody mysterious posts a note on the bulletin board. It says the following:

DANGEROUS ADVENTURE!

Wanted: 1 Warrior, 1 Thief, 1 Wizard (Elves, Priests, and Dwarves optional)

REWARD!

Meet the Creepy Stranger in the Inexplicably Empty Back Room

Maybe all of these things happen. The point is this: what happens next is a bar fight.

Why? Evidently such things are fun. Heroic music plays, as is fitting for acts of criminal vandalism and assault. The fight rages on, and heroes emerge. Why are they heroes? Well, they’re winning the fight, of course. They find in each other a ready ally, a surprise to no one save themselves. Maybe, at the end of all this, they rescue a princess in disguise (she was slumming it, you know. Why drink in the palace when there’s a perfectly good dive down the road where you might get assaulted by a dwarf?). Whatever happens, the drunk under the table never notices; he rises, alone, and is delighted to find free beer.

I mean ale. Sorry.

So begins a tale of adventure. High drama. Endless banter. Derring do on every other page. Maybe, by the end, the elf and the dwarf and the orc become friends. A little tear forms in the corner of our eye, but we refuse to ever acknowledge its existence. The tear is undercover, you see. Top Secret. Hush-hush.

 

I bet you were rolling your eyes up there. Chuckling, perhaps? Sure, and why not – the cliché is so banal, it’s comedy. Then again, though, there’s something to be said for mindless fun. There is an article by Adam Sternbergh in the NYT magazine considering the worth of so-called ‘guilty pleasures’. I enjoyed it immensely and enjoin you to read it.

Done? Okay:

Why do we feel so bad about liking things considered low-brow? I mean, isn’t it okay to have fun – even dumb fun – on occasion? Must everything be so deep and serious all the time? I confess to feeling the pressure myself. As an academic (or pseudo-academic, given that my terminal degree is not a PhD but rather an MFA), there is a certain pressure to make what I write and what I enjoy somehow important. Not all of it is, though, no matter what I do to it. When I confess to liking Armageddon or Army of Darkness, there isn’t much that can be said to give such works merit. Likewise my hobbies: despite its sophistication, there is nothing truly artistically redeeming about Warhammer 40,000 unless you put far more effort into painting miniatures than I do. And even then it’s suspect.

So what, though? I think sometimes we spend too much time decrying the frivolous, forgetting just how important frivolity can be. As much as being serious adults is important, it isn’t the only game in town. We also need to have fun. We also need to do things that are easy. All work and no play makes Homer…something…something…

Right then – let’s go to the tavern. I’ll buy you an ale. Later, when we’re riding dragons to save the King of Thumbershire from the Daemon Princess of Xoon, you’ll thank me. Dwarf’s honor.


The Oldest Trick is just as much fun and worth picking up.

Tyvian Reldamar gets betrayed by his longtime partner and left for dead in a freezing river. To add insult to injury, his mysterious rescuer took it upon himself to affix Tyvian with an iron ring that prevents the wearer from any evildoing.

Revenge just got complicated.

On his quest to get even, Tyvian navigates dark conspiracies, dodges midnight assassins, and uncovers the plans of the ruthless wizard Banric Sahand. Tyvian will need to use every dirty trick in the book to avoid a painful and ignominious end, even as he learns to work with—and rely on—his motley crew of accomplices, including an adolescent pickpocket, an obese secret-monger, and a fearsome gnoll.

THE OLDEST TRICK_

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You can find Auston on his blog, Twitter, Facebook, or writing to his cousin.

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Happy 4th of July and a Guest Post!

Happy 4th of July! If you’re in the US, you’re probably eating hot dogs, hamburgers, bbq, or perhaps some soy impersonation of them with friends and family before enjoying a colorful display of high explosives. For those of you not in the US and might not be familiar, the 4th marks American independence from the British. And what finer way to celebrate than to invite a Brit into the pub? AFE Smith is one of my fellow Harper Voyager open submission selectees. In fact, it’s in no small part from her hard work that many of those selectees (most of whom you’ll see listed on my links list) are now friends. As such, it’s my pleasure to have AFE for a visit promoting her debut novel, Darkhaven. It’s a fantasy novel with shapeshifting, mystery, intrigue, AND flying unicorns. That’s right, I said flying unicorns. We shall not at this time however delve into whether they are pegacorns or unisuses. As part of this tour, she has a lot of giveaways happening. You can, and should, check out the tour here. And if you’d like to get a free copy of Darkhaven, as well as some other nifty stuff, here’s her Rafflecopter giveaway.

For her visit, AFE is here to talk about how she came to not only accept who she is (and what she loves) but to be proud of it, and frankly, that’s a story that can never be told enough.


Love what you love

Let me tell you a story.

Maybe 15 or 20 years ago, when I was a young teenager, I was … well, pretty much the same as I am now. Quiet*, shy, a voracious reader, into fantasy novels and sci-fi movies and going to the library on a Saturday morning. The only difference was, I was ashamed of being those things. I used to creep around the fantasy section of my local bookshop with one eye constantly on the door, just in case someone I knew came in and saw me. Yet now I’m a fantasy author who wrote a book about love and murder and flying unicorns, and I’m not in the least ashamed. Because it’s awesome.

So what changed?

Well, for me it was threefold. Partly it was getting a bit older, moving from school to university, and discovering that no one judged me anymore; the cool kids read fantasy too. Partly (though this may sound silly) it was the first Lord of the Rings movie, which came out around the same time – because it was a wild success, and everyone was watching it, and that meant it wasn’t weird to like fantasy after all. And partly, it was the internet.

I kind of wish the internet had already been mainstream when I was growing up, because one wonderful thing it does is allow people with similar interests to come together. I never even had an email address until I went to university. I’d barely ever used the internet before.** But once I found online communities, I suddenly had a way to know I wasn’t alone. Whatever you love, someone else loves it too.

(As an aside, if I’d had internet access in the 90s I would totally have been a fanfic writer. Actually, I was a fanfic writer – privately, on paper.*** But I’d already stopped writing fics by the time I got online. Which is a little bit sad, because I never got to experience that particular community.)

Then, of course, geeking out over stuff – being enthusiastic about something – became cool. But I’m happy to say that by that point, I no longer cared what anyone thought. Thank goodness. Took me long enough.

The point of this story, quite aside from don’t be as wimpy as me, is never let anyone make you feel ashamed of your passions. Love what you love, and be proud – whether it’s building robots or collecting obscure varieties of tea or dressing up as a different anime character every weekend. It took me maybe ten years to go from being ashamed of what I love to being proud of it (and, you know, even making a living out of it. Maybe. Fingers crossed. If this book takes off). It shouldn’t take that long. It shouldn’t take any time at all. Own it.

 

*If my best school friend is reading this, she’d probably argue with that assessment. But then, even the quietest person needs someone to be noisy with.

**Yes, at the turn of the century it was possible for someone to reach the age of 18 without knowing anything about the internet. Crazy, I know.

***I’m sure you’re longing to know what I wrote fics for, so I’ll tell you this: the first fic I ever wrote was for the Ace Ventura movies. Remember those, with Jim Carrey? And yes, I know that’s weird. And no, you can’t read it.


Cover_image_DARKHAVEN_AFE_Smith

Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

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A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

Author_photo_DARKHAVEN_AFE_Smith

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Super Deal on The Stolen (ebook)

THE STOLEN

To celebrate a great time at the New York ComicCon (a summation of which is forthcoming) for a limited time, two weeks to be exact, you can get The Stolen on ebook for only $.99 everywhere that sells ebooks. I’ve included links below so you can get it in your preferred format for your device of choice. Have a copy? Buy one for a friend! Buy one for someone you want to be your friend! Buy it for a stranger and make a new friend! Or just keep a copy handy to read so you can save the signed copy you picked up pristine on your shelf. Don’t have a signed copy? Gibson’s in Concord NH can help with that here! Pick it up now and you’ll be ready for the next book in the series, The Forgotten.

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Meet My Main Character Blog Hop

Welcome to the Meet My Main Character blog hop!

I want to thank Katherine Harbour, author of Thorn Jack for inviting me. Her novel is also a modern faerie tale, and one I really enjoyed. I reviewed it here, interviewed Katherine here. You can find Thorn Jack online at the usual providers: Barnes & Noble, direct from Harper Collins, Amazon, iTunes, Google, Indiebound, and Audible.

First, some context:

My novel, The Stolen, began as a short story based on the poem “The Stolen Child” by W.B. Yeats, but with a twist. My initial backdrop was a world where all of the monsters we knew were real, but not quite as we believed. Vampires, werewolves, demons, and zombies were, in fact, faeries. The passing of time had warped our collective human memory of them into the pantheon of urban fantasy monsters that we know today. That idea didn’t last. I didn’t want to make another vampire book. I wanted something of my own. My short story’s plot was sound, but the child-stealing faeries needed some kind of transformation, and that was when I decided the key would be change.

Faeries are static in most stories, never developing or growing past their mythic origins. It made sense to me that if they lived alongside humanity—which mine would, though hidden in plain sight—they’d be impacted and shaped by our influence. For example, why use magic when technology is easier and readily accessible? So, my faeries became urban faeries. They didn’t ride horses or carry bows. They drove sports cars; had guns, cell phones, and stock portfolios; and owned night clubs.

For the characters in The Stolen, I knew that I wanted to keep, at least somewhat, to tradition. That meant archetypes and I settled on a wizard, a warrior, and a princess. Like my faeries though, I wanted them to be real, not stuck in idealized notions.

For the warrior, I took the myth of the Fianna and brought it to the modern age. Brendan is strong and fast. But, after a living a long life of violence, he’s also scarred and haunted. It would be impossible to not be. He’s a good man, but the shadows from his past continue to haunt him. He serves a guide to the hidden world, aware equally of the wonder and the danger it presents.

Now the wizard: not inept, not all-powerful, but fully, utterly human. Edward would be a stand-in for me and my fellow fantasy geeks; the answer to our wishes of being a hero in a fantasy book. Be careful what you wish for! He knows magic exists, as do all kinds of fantastical creatures, but he’s never encountered them outside a book. He quickly learns that reading about grizzly bears is one thing, standing in front of one in the wild is quite another. That meant he would need a reason not to run away screaming like a squeamish kid being chased by a bully with a slug.

Enter the princess. And then forget everything you know about princesses, because Caitlin certainly isn’t one. Caitlin is a single mother whose knowledge of faeries and magic extends as far as Disney movies and the stories her immigrant grandparents told her. She can’t hurl magic or wield a sword, and she isn’t “the one” mentioned in any prophecy. Her only super power is the ability to make a little girl laugh, and give that child a good life. When Fiona is kidnapped, Caitlin has a reason to face a dark and terrifying reality, but she’s lacking in the skills to survive it. That means trusting others, which seems like a simple thing, but is it really? Even parents of a child kidnapped by a human monster must bristle at the thought of trusting the authorities to rescue their baby. And those are entities we’ve been taught to rely on in desperate situations. Trusting strangers and a friend who hasn’t been honest would be a nightmare of its own.

These are my main characters. I didn’t choose just one as the main character because each of them depends on the other. With any of them missing, the story would not only fail, but so would they in their goals. I didn’t intend to write a story with multiple main characters, but those kinds of surprises are what make writing so much fun.

The God HunterI’m inviting Tim Lees, author of The God Hunter: A Field Ops Novel. Tim is a British author now living in Chicago. He is a regular contributor to Interzone, Black Static, and other titles. He is the author of the much praised novel, “Frankenstein’s Prescription.” See more of Tim Lees here.

Two “BIG” Annoucements!

1. Today The Stolen goes on sale in paperback! You can get a copy at your local bookstore, or from: HarperCollins, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound.

2. I’ve got a post on John Scalzi’s blog, part of his “Big Idea” series! Do stop by and check it out, the poor guy could really use the extra traffic… (MASSIVELY sarcastic)

That’s right, I’m now a “Paperback Writer.” And yes, I’ve been waiting a long time to use that!

It’s Official! (Dreams do Come True)

As of today, I’m a published author!

Wow…

It took a long while to get here, but then any dream worth achieving takes time and effort. I’ve been posting about my road to publication, and it could be argued this is the end, but I don’t think so. As cliche as it might be, this is really just the beginning for me (I hope!).

Harper Voyager made a sizeable web preview available here, so feel free to “try before you buy.”

Of course the paperback is still scheduled for release on August 5th, but I know you can’t wait that long. It’s okay, you can get both. I’ll understand.

Stayed tuned here for upcoming events; interviews, guest blog pieces, and even in person signings. Speaking of which, be sure to stop by The Qwillery and check out my first interview (direct link here)! While you’re there, be sure to vote in the 2014 Debut Author Cover Challenge Wars!

I’ll also have a giveaway for a signed copy of The Stolen before anyone can even buy it!

Now, if you’ll excuse, I have a happy dance calling my name.

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Interview with Katherine Harbour

ThornJackCover

It’s my sincere pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Katherine Harbour, author of the novel Thorn Jack. A modern retelling of the Scottish ballad, “Tam-Lin.” It’s always nice to meet a fellow faerie fan, especially one who does such a fine job with it. I don’t normally go for the YA subgenre, but if more books were like this, I’d become a quick convert. It’s a dark and haunting story filled with characters that have depth and genuine voices that make them both believable and relatable. Katherine also has a gift with imagery and I found her prose truly exceptional. Simply put, it’s everything a good book should be; a great story with interesting characters that you genuinely care about.
Katherine was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule promoting the book to join me at the bar for a pint the craic.

Hi, Katherine. First, congratulations on the publication! Welcome to A Quiet Pint, and thanks for taking time from what is no doubt a busy schedule to share a glass and answer some questions.
Thank you!

First question, and possibly the most important: what are you drinking?
Starbucks espresso. I like to be wired when I write.

What about the legend of Tam Lin did you find most appealing? What about the story made you want to do a modern retelling?
I like that the girl rescues the boy, that the faery queen, the antagonist who is going to sacrifice Tam Lin, might actually love him. I wanted to write a modern version because I had the idea of making it more of a ghost story and adding another dimension, such as the heroine’s sister.

As writers, we’re supposed to be like parents and not have a favorite child (character), but we all do. Who is your favorite character and why?
My favorite character is Finn. She was fun to write as she began to awaken from her grief and became intrigued by Jack and his very dangerous family—she’s part Alice in Wonderland, part Nancy Drew. As she developed into a young woman whose curiosity led her into situations where she had to use her wits to survive, I became so proud.

What character was the easiest for you to relate to, and which was the most difficult?
Finn was the easiest character to relate to. Jack was one of the most difficult, as he’s someone scarred by his past as a killer and struggling out of a nightmare and into a life he doesn’t think he deserves. Caliban, his savage nemesis, was also a bit hard to connect with.

How much research did you do for this book?
I tried to read or re-read every book on Celtic folklore or faeries I could find. I also bastardized much of the Gaelic and Celtic languages, since most of the Fatas in Fairy Hollow are Irish.

You clearly have a love of faeries, what about them most appeals to you?
My first encounter with a faery was Maleficent in Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty. In the ‘80s, Charles de Lint and Terri Windling wrote faeries and elves into the modern world and it became a popular subgenre. Then I began reading Celtic mythology and found the faery folk to be a little terrifying, especially their associations with the dead, their capricious personalities, and the variety of shapes they took, from beautiful, to puzzling, to grotesque.

Do you believe in faeries?
Hmm. You’re not supposed to talk about them because they might be listening.

Did you know from the start where the story was going to go, or did you get surprised along the way? If so, when and by whom?
I basically knew where the story was headed, but I was surprised by some twists and turns. I was surprised by the introduction of the Black Scissors, (I woke up one morning with the poem describing him in my head), and by his being Reiko’s former true love. Reiko Fata, the ruthless Fata queen, also surprised me by revealing that she’d grown a heart.

Will we see these characters again in a future novel?
There are two novels—Briar Queen and Nettle King—set to follow Thorn Jack. Briar Queen, #2, is still being revised. I’m just finishing the first draft of Nettle King, #3. Finn’s, Jack’s, Christie’s, and Sylvie’s encounters with the Fatas haven’t ended yet.

In the film version of the book, who do you see as playing the main characters?
I don’t know. I’ve got such a vivid picture in my head of the main characters. I’ve placed some ideas by others on my Thorn Jack Pinterest page, such as Emma Watson for Phouka and Chloe Grace Moretz for Finn.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
All of the fantasy and sci fi authors chosen by Harper Voyager through the open submissions call have intriguing books being released in the next few months. I strongly suggest checking them out!

Thanks again, I wish you great success with Thorn Jack and your writing career, and hopefully you’ll get a chance to stop by again sometime.
Thank you!

You can find Thorn Jack online at the usual providers: Barnes & Noble, direct from Harper Collins, Amazon, iTunes, Google, Indiebound, and Audible. You can find Katherine at her website, here.

An Excerpt from The Stolen

Since I’ve tantalized you with the cover art and jacket copy, here is a sample from the book itself to really tempt you. This is chapter 2, and it’s also the piece that will be available in the free ebook sampler Harper Voyager will release on July 22nd, entitled Voyager. You can find it here, and I highly recommend it as an introduction to several skilled writers.

Enjoy…

 

Caitlin Brady walked out of the Manchester, New Hampshire hospital, her nurse’s scrubs in the bag slung over her shoulder and her daughter Fiona’s small hand in hers. The four-year-old girl was skipping and humming a happy tune. She was always like this after a visit with Eddy. Caitlin completely understood. He’d always made her feel better, too. In fact, without him, she wasn’t sure how she would’ve made it these last few years.

Kris’s car pulled up in front of them, and the willowy young woman got out with a smile.

Fiona struggled with the back door for a moment before Caitlin opened it for her and the little girl climbed up on the seat.

“Thanks again,” Caitlin said to Kris. “I know it’s short notice.”

“No problem,” Kris said, smiling. “You go out and have a good time. You could use it. We’re going to have a night with everyone’s favorite pixie.”

Fiona cheered as she settled into the child seat.

Caitlin leaned in and buckled up Fiona. As she did, it struck her again just how much her daughter took after her. They both had the same curly, fiery red hair, unmanageable, to be honest. The same green eyes, though Fiona didn’t have the matching set of luggage under hers. They were both light skinned and liberally dosed with freckles, though Fiona, like all children, pulled off the look better. Caitlin silently hoped that Fiona wouldn’t also inherent the extra twenty pounds Caitlin carried around, or that she’d at least be tall enough for it not to be as obvious; Caitlin was several inches shorter than every other woman she knew. If she just worked less and slept more, she knew it would make a world of difference, but she had more important things in her life than sleep.

Caitlin ran her hand down Fiona’s cheek and let out a breath. “You behave for Kris, okay, peanut?”

“I will, Mommy.” Fiona’s green eyes lit up. “I love you.”

Caitlin felt a twinge at the words and smiled; even that matched her daughter’s. “I love you, too. Now give me a kiss.” She leaned down, got her kiss, and gave one back before closing the car door with a sigh.

She waved and tried to ignore the pang of guilt as the car pulled away. Eddy was probably right. No, he was always right, and it was annoying as hell.

After a minute or two, she convinced herself it was okay to go to the art show. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the crisp autumn air. When she exhaled, she found the guilt assuaged enough that she could probably do an hour or two with the girls. Baby steps, right?

Emerging from the parking garage stairwell, she pulled her keys from her purse and pointed the fob at her car. A sudden, overwhelming chill of dread and hopelessness washed over her. It stopped her so abruptly that she nearly fell on her face.

Caitlin could sense someone behind her, watching her. She could almost feel cold breath on her neck.

She stood there, frozen in place. The only sound was her shallow breathing. She struggled to move her legs, but fear had them cemented in place.

“Come on, Caitlin,” she whispered. “Just remember the self-defense class.” For the first time she could remember, she was glad Fiona wasn’t with her.

Hands still shaking, she gripped her keys so that they protruded from between her knuckles. Then she sucked in a breath and turned to confront whoever it was, spiked fist at the ready.

An empty lot stared back at her.

Continued here