Chasing Shadows – Making Amends (11)

Welcome to installment #11 of the Chasing Shadows – Making Amends series. For more information or to read the previous scene, head to this page.

Chapter 5

Scene 1

Kecil picked at the splintered bamboo framing the window as she waited for dusk. If not for prying eyes, she’d be long gone. But those in the village watched her tirelessly, eager to torment her at every opportunity.

She’d use the cover of night to leave in search of her mother’s killer. By the time anyone realized she was gone, she hoped to be well out of tracking range.

A long sliver pulled away from the window frame, and Kecil chastised herself for hastening her hut into further disrepair. She left the window to pace near the entrance. With the opportunity to bring her mother’s killer to justice, every moment added another lifetime to the six years already gone by.

Patience, she reminded herself, but in truth, time living in a clan who despised her had long worn her patience thinner than barkcloth.

At last darkness fell. The soft glow of the moon shined on the village and left a faint blue luminescence. Night sounds filled the air as creatures called to one another, but the calmness of the village—a time when activity should be at its height—reminded Kecil of the unhealthy state of her clan.

“Come, Teman.” Kecil stepped outside, and the binturong, preferring night to day, waddled forth with a happy chuckle.

Kecil surveyed her surrounding for lurking villagers. Finding none, she embraced her tiger form and dropped to all fours as her bones reshaped to support her feline anatomy. Prickliness spread across her skin and fur sprouted, while her muscles thickened and contorted, giving an uncomfortable yet pleasant sensation akin to a satisfying yawn. The entire transformation took only a few seconds, but the vast change filled her with a sense of strength and confidence.

Kecil stifled the urge to release a challenging roar and left the village with Teman close behind. Heading south, she took care to go by way of her father’s territory. Only within the boundaries could she hope to avoid the others in her clan. She wanted no delays to keep her from her destination.

Teman quickly took to the trees. His smaller size and strong flexible tail gave him a climbing advantage, while connecting liana vines allowed him to traverse easily from tree to tree.

Kecil stopped at a nearby watering hole, one of her favorite places to seek prey. Oftentimes, just laying in wait produced an easy meal. Though tonight, a meal was not her intent. All she wanted was a quick drink and a trouble-free passage south.

A screech overhead drew Kecil’s attention. She scanned the foliage until she caught sight of Teman. He stood on a thick branch with his back arched and hackles raised as he snarled at a pangolin in his path. Why he didn’t go around eluded Kecil. Other binturong didn’t seem as aggressive.

Teman’s lack of fear was a constant concern for Kecil. She worried he thought he was a wehr-tiger, big and bold, top of the food chain. But as Gemuk said, Teman’s only protection was staying within the safety of those who cared for him. And Kecil, small in size, couldn’t protect him from everything.

Thank the Great Spirit, the pangolin posed no threat to her friend. Though not much smaller than Teman and covered in razor-sharp scales, the pangolin lacked teeth, making it built more for defense than offense.

Kecil debated leaving her friend to his nonsense, let him catch up when he realized more important matters existed than guarding one insignificant tree limb.

The scaly anteater backed away, and Teman ambled forward, snarling and exposing his little teeth. He swiped a claw, and the pangolin missed a step and fell. It pawed the air, occasionally snagging a branch. Snapping twigs followed its descent until finally it landed before Kecil with a thud.

For a few seconds, the pangolin lay unmoving. Then it twitched once, twice before clambering to its feet and shaking a few stray leaves off its back. Curling its front paws, the scaly anteater balanced its weight on its hind legs to hunch over like a crippled old man. The pangolin took a step forward and lifted its head. One look at Kecil, and it fell on its side and curled into a ball with its tiny nose tucked under its tail.

Kecil chuffed at the pangolin, which looked like an inconspicuous lump of dried mud to an unaware passerbyer, but her amusement was cut short when a flash of orange emerged from a bush. It batted the pangolin and sent the balled creature crashing into a tree.

Kecil cowered and wished she could hide in her own tight ball of armor as the shape gave form to a tiger. The newcomer roared so fierce, the sound vibrated through her body. Its mouth gaped, brandishing long yellow incisors. As small as she was, Kecil had no doubt the big cat would crush her in its jaws if it came to a fight.

She inched backward, and the tiger took a less aggressive posture before rising and transforming into her kinsman, Gemuk. The last of his fur faded, and he cracked his neck from side to side before focusing on her. “Get up.”

Heart still pounding from the shock of being taken off guard, Kecil clung to her feline form.

Gemuk took a step forward. “Now!”

Instinctually, she jerked back, gathered herself to spring.

Gemuk’s eyes narrowed, and his upper lip lifted ever so slightly.

Kecil hesitated. Flee or fight—either choice shrouded her in hopelessness, but if her life was in the claws of Gemuk, she would face him head on rather than flee as a coward.

Shifting as she rose, she tried to control her trembling and calm her stuttering heart. She stood as straight as a bamboo stalk and dared to meet his eyes. “This is my father’s land.”

Gemuk stepped closer, encroaching on her, forcing her to crane her head to meet his eyes. “That washed up cat? He couldn’t defend his territory when needed, what makes you think he can now?”

“He’s doing circuits.” Even to her ears, her response was hollow, too hasty.

Gemuk cocked his head to the side then smiled, the expression cold and hard as he turned eyes the color of dark urine to her. “Seems he’s moved on to more important areas.”

Kecil stepped back, but Gemuk grabbed her forearm and jerked her into him. The smell of sweat and dirt overpowered her as he held her against his clammy chest.

“It’s time you choose a mate.” He bent his head to her. His mouth open and a foul odor like ripened jackfruit escaped from the gaping hole.

Kecil turned her head from the stench baring down on her and cringed as his wet lips slurped against her cheek and his tongue slithered from her jaw to hairline. She pushed at him. “Don’t.”

His grip on her arm only tightened until her hand numbed from lack of circulation. “You may go when I’m finished.”

Kecil bit back a cry as Gemuk angled her arm downward so she had no choice to crouch then kneel at his feet. The cloth of his loincloth bulged in her face and failed to hide his arousal.

“Great Spirit help me,” she whispered. Tears welled and blurred her vision.

Gemuk laughed, and the sound raised the hairs on the back of her neck.

“A runt like you would never be worthy of the Great Spirit’s atten—.”

A catlike screech filled the air, followed by Teman landing on Gemuk’s head. Kecil pulled free as Teman scratched and drew thin lines of blood wherever his talons struck. His tail coiled around Gemuk’s neck, tightening like a python.

Gemuk clawed at his throat. His eyes bulged even as his fangs lengthened and his skin darkened to orange.

“No!” Kecil jumped to her feet and swiped at Gemuk’s face. An audible rip filled the air as her claws met flesh and bone.

Gemuk screamed, and Teman scrambled down head first, leaving tiny puncture wounds as he used Gemuk’s skin for traction. The binturong wasted no time shimmying up the nearest tree and disappearing into the foliage.

Kecil stood paralyzed, unable to pull her eyes away from Gemuk’s rent flesh. From right brow to the opposite chin, blood welled from three deep gashes.

Gemuk’s hand flew to his ragged eye and hovered as if he was afraid to touch his ruined face. “I’ll make you suffer.”

Kecil ran.

Two-Day Blitz Blog: Back to You by Natalie-Nicole Bates

A two day blitz! I’m excited. I hope you are too. Cause today we’re featuring Back to You by Natalie-Nicole Bates!

Book Title: Back To You
Author: Natalie-Nicole Bates
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Bradley Publishing
Publication Date: January 30th, 2012
Ebook
Words: 26,000

“On the surface, Lynsey Reznor seems to have it all. She is beautiful, brilliant, and a successful true-crime writer who has been living the past decade in Miami. But what Lynsey lacks is what she needs the most—a family.

After the death of her mother, and yet another failed relationship, Lynsey makes an impulsive decision to return to her hometown of Unity. But Unity will present its own bittersweet memories, most notably, her first love, Nick Lincoln.

Twenty years ago, Nick broke teenager Lynsey’s heart when he decided to marry another. He had his own private reasons—reasons he never explained to Lynsey. Now she is back, along with a chance to reclaim her love. But Lynsey wants answers from him that he may never be able to give out of duty and guilt.”

Available at Barnes & Nobles || Bradley Publishing

Excerpt from Back to You

When he heard her, he came to her, took her into his arms, and kissed her. It was a comfort that he wasn’t regretting their lovemaking. She didn’t think she could handle being rejected by him twice in her lifetime.

“Do you have to leave soon?” she asked.

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to, but I have to.” He went to the stove and prepared her a cup of coffee. “I think we should start planning our wedding. We could be married at Christmas.”

She was taken aback. Is this his proposal? This was supposed to be so romantic and memorable, not talk about planning a Christmas wedding while he stirred a cup of coffee.

“Do you even want to get married?” She took the coffee mug he offered. “I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that you told me you weren’t sure you ever wanted to be married again. You said you didn’t see fatherhood in your future, and Nick, I want a baby…more than one. I grew up as an only child and I was so alone. I don’t want my child to have to experience that.”

“Well, I didn’t use a condom last night. You could be pregnant right now,” was his reply.

Heaviness descended upon her heart. This was so not how she wanted this morning to be, and certainly not the marriage proposal she had dreamed of. “I’m on the Pill—I won’t get pregnant if that’s all you’re worried about.”

“I’m sorry, that’s not the only reason we should get married.”

“Then why?” she asked suspiciously.

He let out an exaggerated sigh. “Lynsey, I don’t have time to get into this with you right now. What do you want me to say in the five minutes I have before I leave for work?”

She couldn’t believe his glib attitude. “How about saying something to me like…‘I love you, Lynsey, and I made a tremendous mistake by not marrying you twenty years ago?’ That would take you less than thirty seconds to say, and you could have easily gotten to your precious job on time.”

Suddenly his jaw set and his eyes narrowed. “I didn’t make a mistake by not marrying you twenty years ago! I let you go to become a success in life—and you did. I can’t regret that!”

“So, what I thought all these years was correct. I was nothing to you but a quick and easy way to shed your virginity.” Just saying the words was devastating.

“That’s not it at all,” he vehemently insisted. “You were always so intelligent. I mean, you were a sixteen-year-old senior in high school! Just how many grades did you skip over, anyway?”

“Two,” she answered in a low voice.

“Do you know what would have happened if I hadn’t married Kelly?” He didn’t wait for her reply. “I’ll tell you what. You and I would have been ostracized by everyone in this town! We would have had to be married right away, and we would have had to live with your mother, because I had no money.”

“My mother loved you. She would have been happy to have us live with her,” she interjected.

“And we were so naïve, Lynsey. You would have graduated high school with either a big belly, or a baby in your arms…if you had graduated at all.”

She crossed her arms over her breasts and looked at the floor. She was too afraid that if she looked at him she would break down. “Some of the girls in school were married. A few of them had babies.”

He lifted her chin and forced her to make eye contact with him. “And you were too smart to be stuck in this town, and just another housewife. You would have become bored and resentful.”

“I wouldn’t have known the difference,” she countered.

“I had serious doubts then. I still have doubts now,” he admitted.

Her dark lashes flew upward. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“I believe that you will become bored and restless in Unity and will want to go back to Florida or maybe California. I have a job and a family here, Lynsey. I don’t ever want to give that up. I’m afraid that we’ll have a child, and you’ll take my baby and leave. I can not allow that to happen.”

She couldn’t believe what he was saying. Nothing was further from the truth. “Do you think I would have sunk so much of my savings into that house just to abandon it? I would never, ever do what you’re saying. But if circumstances changed, I would expect you to support what was best for our family. Couples who are committed make sacrifices for each other!”

It was becoming clearer and clearer that things were rapidly falling apart between them.

“Lynsey, didn’t what happened between us last night mean anything to you?” he asked.

She chuckled unpleasantly. “I suppose that with us living in such close proximity, last night was inevitable. But don’t worry about it happening again, Nick. When you get home this evening, I won’t be here.”

“Where are you going to be?”

She wanted to hurt Nick like she was now hurting. “I’m sure that Caleb wouldn’t mind me bunking down at his house for a week or two.”

“Over my dead body,” he seethed. “I will drag you away from him kicking and screaming if it comes to it. I’ll handcuff you to my bed if need be. Believe me, Lynsey, I’ll do it!” He flopped down into a kitchen chair and buried his face in his hands.

“I have to go now, Nick. I’m meeting your sister for breakfast. Listen to me. You need to pull yourself together. In your line of work, bad things happen when you lose your concentration.”

When he didn’t reply, she let out a sigh of resignation and headed for the door. At the last minute she turned to him. “Thanks for almost making it happen between us.”

Pick up your copy at Barnes & Nobles || Bradley Publishing

Follow the rest of the tour!

June 26th

Redheads Review It Better
Reviews By Molly
LilyElement
Nilsa’s Book Blog
Ramblings of an Amateur Writer
A Diary Of A Book Addict
Reading on the Wild Side

June 27th

Full Moon Bites
Tricia Kristufek
Heart Of A Wolf
Simply Infatuated
Amy’s Book World
The Bunnys Review
Abbey Ann’s Bookland

Riser Blog Tour

I totally don’t want to grow up, but am I ready for the future in Riser?!??! Welcome to the next stop on the Riser Blog Tour!

Riser is Book #1 in The Riser Saga

Black swirling holes churning madly in the center of every corpse. This is how eighteen-year-old Chelsan Derée sees the deceased. Her ability to connect to the black spinning holes allows her to control every dead thing within a four-mile radius.

But that’s the least of her problems. It’s 2320 and Chelsan Derée has to survive another year of high school, which for her is pure and utter torture, mainly due to the fact that her schoolmate Jill Forester’s favorite activity is making Chelsan’s life a living hell. If that isn’t enough, Chelsan’s impossible crush on Ryan Vaughn makes her brain do somersaults on a regular basis, especially since she is positive he doesn’t know she exists. And being eighteen Chelsan has to deal with the pressure of whether or not she should take a little pill called Age-pro, which cures aging, making the world eighteen forever and highly over-populated.

When Chelsan’s mother, Janet, is brutally killed, along with everyone else in her trailer park, Chelsan finds out that she was the intended target. Chelsan must use her power to raise and control the dead to save herself, protect her friends and take down the man responsible for murdering her mother.

Available at Barnes & Nobles || The Book Depository || Amazon

Chapter Zero
Year: 2320

Okay, let me explain. My gift, or curse (I’ll let you decide for yourself) to put it simply is I can raise the dead. I know, sounds cheesy, but fortunately, or unfortunately it’s true, and I don’t mean just people. Basically, anything that had any kind of life: plants, animals, insects, plankton, anything, I can bring back. The only catch is, they’re not really alive anymore they’re just animated, like zombies I guess, but I control them. Plants are the easiest. My mom’s garden is the prize of the trailer park, and she should take no credit whatsoever.

Animals and people are more complicated, maybe because there are so many working parts. I’m really not sure. My ability is still kind of a mystery to me. I have no clue why I have this power. It’s not like I’ve ever heard of anyone else having this particular skill either, except in books and movies. I appear to be an anomaly in this world.

I was three-years-old when I knew I saw things differently than everyone else. My pet goldfish, Larry, died and a black spinning hole appeared in the center of his body. I thought it was just about the coolest thing I had ever seen. When I told my mother about it, she gave me a look that I’ll never forget. It was a mixture of confusion and horror. She simply nodded and made me promise that I would never under any circumstances tell anyone else about what I saw. I was instantly ashamed and scared at her reaction, but something in the way that she said it made me keep my promise.

After that, I saw the black holes everywhere, from the tiniest dead insects, to the neighbor’s dog when he was hit by a hover car (don’t ask), to Ms. Thompkins when she died from a heart attack. The churning black masses had become second nature to me by then. At that point, I still didn’t know why I could see them and I was scared to death to talk to anyone about it. I kept to myself mostly, afraid I would slip and say something to a neighbor or friend.

It was a very lonely childhood.

It wasn’t until I killed my stepfather Bruce that I figured out that I could raise the dead. I never wanted to take Bruce’s life: hurt maybe, kill no. And that’s saying a lot seeing as he used to use my mom as a punching bag. He’d make me sit in the corner of our beat up trailer and watch him kick the living crap out of her. He’d laugh when I’d scream, he’d laugh when she’d scream, he’d laugh when he’d scream on the few occasions my mom fought back and actually inflicted pain on him.

Bruce was a jerk, but he didn’t deserve to die, not like he did, not like how I killed him. I still can’t believe it had been eleven years since it all happened. It felt like yesterday and forever ago all at once.
It was a day like any other day, Mom did some invisible transgression to piss Bruce off and he took it as a cue for another beating. Mom was having one of her comatose days, where I could tell she was just going to take it and hope that he got bored quickly from her unresponsiveness.

Bruce slammed her against the flimsy trailer wall of the kitchen with his beefy forearm. Tiny bits of ceiling floated down like snow on his greasy balding scalp. He sneered at her with glee, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of eye contact. She just kept her eyes down, arms dropped harmlessly at her side. Bruce went on a furious rampage. He punched her, pulled her hair, kicked her stomach, tried anything to get a response out of her, but she just lay there like a rag doll on the peeling linoleum floor.

Then he wheeled around to face me.

“NO!”

Finally, a reaction from my mother. Bruce was in ecstasy. He stormed towards me like an enraged bull. I
could almost see steam coming out of his bulbous nose. Then WHACK!

I could literally feel every vertebra in my spine as all forty-five pounds of me slammed against the wall from the impact of Bruce’s fist to my stomach. My world started to spin; everything was in blurred double vision. My mother’s hysterical screams echoed in my head like a horrific nightmare. I couldn’t focus.

PUNCH!
CRACK!

I could feel my nose crunch when he hit me a second time. It felt like it was really runny, but when I tried to wipe it clean my hands came away covered in blood. The combination of Bruce’s frantic laughter and my mother’s anguished screeches made it impossible to think clearly. I think I started to whimper at this point. My ribs were so bruised it hurt to breathe let alone move my chest to have a good cry like I wanted to.

These are the moments in life where you don’t think rationally. In fact, you don’t think at all, you just let your survival instinct take over. It becomes about you or your killer.

And I was no martyr.

I tried to blink fast enough to clear my vision.

THWACK!

My right eye started to swell from Bruce’s backhand making it even more difficult to focus. At this point my mother, like a wailing Banshee, propelled herself onto Bruce’s back and started pounding her fists onto any piece of flesh she could find. I could hear Bruce’s low chuckle at my mom’s feeble attempt to stop him. From the sound of his amusement I could tell that today was the most fun he’d had in years.

Taking short controlled breaths I took this moment of solace to re-gain my bearings. And that’s when I saw it: a blurred swirling black hole in the corner of the trailer.

WHAM!

Bruce had thrown my mother clear across the room. Her body collapsed into unconsciousness as her head punched a hole through the trailer’s wall.

I screamed a horrible, terrible scream: a scream that only a child could make whose world had just been crushed, whose mommy had just been smashed against a wall, leaving her daughter alone, defenseless, a scream that would make any human who possessed an ounce of parenting instincts come running, without thinking, without thought. And I couldn’t stop. Even Bruce had to cover his ears from the onslaught of shrieking. But Bruce’s instincts weren’t to mother, they were to destroy and he started towards me.

And seeing him, fists raised, plowing forward, I suddenly felt inexplicably tied to that black swirling chasm across the room. I was a part of it. It was almost as if strings connected us together. And I did the only thing I could.

I made it attack Bruce.

At first I didn’t know what I was doing, but I suddenly understood that I physically controlled the black holes.

I was connected to them like they were an extension of my own body, like they were my own limbs.

Bruce bellowed in pain as we both realized at the same time what I had brought back to life.

A black widow spider, full of venom and ready to attack.

Over and over I made the spider tear its fangs into Bruce’s body: his neck, his arms, his legs, his chest. Bruce swatted the spider, squished the spider, tore it in two, but nothing he did could stop it.

It was mine.

It was already dead.

He couldn’t kill it again.

He fell to his knees. The poison was flowing through his body now. I could see a small black tornado forming in Bruce’s chest.

Fear overtook every fiber of my soul as I realized what I had just done, what I was still doing. I dropped my connection to the spider instantly. It fell lifeless to the floor once more, the black void churning madly in its center.

I crawled over to Bruce’s body, leaving a trail of blood from my broken nose. He was convulsing on the ground, his body seizing from the poison coursing through his veins. He was dying and there was nothing I could do about it.

“What did you do?” my mother’s voice cut through the near silent grunting and gagging of Bruce’s dying moments.

She had seen the whole thing.

“I…” I couldn’t think of what to say. My mother looked relieved, guilty and horrified all in one condemning expression. I wasn’t sure if she was upset about losing Bruce or that her seven-year-old child had just become a murderer. Bruce’s eyes rolled back in his head. His last breath was rattling and eerily hushed. It seemed to last an eternity. As if the oxygen in his lungs didn’t want to leave his body and clung to whatever life it could hold on to.

I stared into my mother’s eyes. She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t move. A small line of blood trickled into her eye from a gash on her forehead, but she didn’t flinch. She just looked into my eyes with a blankness more terrifying than any emotion could be.

“Chelsan…” she finally croaked. Her voice was gravelly from screaming.

That was all she could say. It was agony to see her so dead in the eyes, face, body… just staring. I would have given anything I had just to stop her from looking at me with those empty eyes. Her vacant stare felt like a howl of pain so excruciating I almost covered my ears from the silence. At least then I would have been able to hear my own muffled heartbeat. Any noise would have been better than the oppressive judging stillness.

And that was when I realized what I had to do. To break her out of this coma she was encasing herself into. I turned to Bruce. To his raging black abyss spiraling like a whirlpool deep inside his chest. And I switched him on.

Just like the spider. He was a bit clumsy at first. I had to concentrate as hard as my seven-year-old brain would let me just to get him in a sitting position. But after a moment or two it became easier and easier and he began to feel like an extension of me. It was an eerie sensation as my thoughts mirrored Bruce’s movements. I would think of his arm moving and it would move. I would think of him speaking and…

“Janet?” I made Bruce call to my mother.

His voice snapped her completely out of her stupor. She watched him in shock and overwhelming relief. “Bruce?”

And then I made him cry. Cry like he never could do when he was alive. I made him cry until his face and clothes were drenched with his tears. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” I made him repeat over and over as he sobbed in the aftermath of the day’s destruction.

Mom crawled over to the two of us, renewed hope in her eyes. Whether she knew what I was doing or not, she didn’t say. All that mattered was that she wanted to believe it. She needed to believe it. I could see it in her face.

I made Bruce embrace the two of us with a tenderness he was never capable of before. I was doing this for me as much as for my mother at this point. Feeling his strong arms around me, holding me close, affectionate, loving. It was the first time in my life I felt like I had a father: a real dad. I nestled in closer. When my mom saw this she did the same. We both had contented expressions on our bloody bruised faces. I let Bruce sputter and jabber about how much he loved the two of us, how he would never hurt us again, how he was a changed man…

And he was.

After that day he became the best father anyone could ever ask for.

I still find it funny in a strange and disturbing way, that Bruce is a better father dead than he ever was alive.

He’s the easiest for me to control now because he was my first, and I’ve had a lot of practice since. It’s almost as if he’s really alive sometimes. But every time I watch his face go slack when he’s watching his holo-tv or he stinks so bad I have to puppeteer him in the shower, I remember.

He’s dead. Truly dead.

And it’s my fault.

About the Author

Becca C Smith received her Film degree from Full Sail University and has worked in the Film and Television industry for most of her adult life.

Becca is the author of the teen horror/sci-fi novel, Riser. She is also the co-author of the teen graphic novel Ghost Whisperer: The Haunted and also wrote and illustrated Little Family Secrets, a graphic novel based on the true story of her great aunt who was famous for murdering her husband.

She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two cats Jack and Duke.

Guest Post: Janice Seagraves

Today we have Janice Seagraves, author of Windswept Shores, here to share with us. 🙂 First, I want to introduce you to her latest novel, Windswept. I totally love the colors on the cover.

The sole survivor of a plane crash, Megan is alone on a deserted island in the Bahamas until she finds a nearly-drowned man washed up on shore. Another survivor, this time from a boat wreck. With only meager survival skills between them, will they survive and can they find love?

Windswept Shores available for $4.95 at Barnes & Nobles || Smashwords || Amazon || Pink Petal Books

Guest Post by Janice Seagraves

Hi, my name is Janice Seagraves.

Someone recently asked me why I decided to write. I gave the usual flippant answer that the characters in my head wouldn’t leave me alone. Which to be honest is more or less true.

But actually I blame my insomnia.

As far back as I can remember I’ve had trouble falling asleep. My own grandmother used to say that I sleep less than any baby she knew, and Grandma was a mother of eight.

At a very young age I started making up stories to pass the time. I’d close my eyes and imagine I was someone else having an adventure.

The “what happened next” had started innocently enough. My parents had taken my sister and me out to a movie. On the drive home, I asked my mom, “What happened next.” She told me to make up an ending.

So I did.

It became a habit with me to think of an alternative ending to a movie that I didn’t like, or one that had a wimpy ending. Or just what happened next.

Then I started to think up brand new stories. I never wrote any of these down, but I would draw pictures.

Hey, I was young and truthfully I didn’t have a lot of faith in my grammar or spelling.

I finally started to write when I was twenty years old. The stories in my head had started to grow and I had to write them down just to remember them all. I’ve written short stories to larger pieces over the years, all having to do with the question: what happened next.

Then about eleven years ago I tried to take a class in accounting, but my daughter started to have trouble in school. My hubby and I decided I was still needed at home. Giving up the class wasn’t a problem. Apparently I don’t have “the right stuff” to be an accountant. Go figure.

Then I got the bright idea to start to write seriously toward publication.

I started to study the craft of writing. It was hard at first, because I hadn’t so much as taken a writing course. So I bought several books and got a couple of subscriptions to writing magazines. Then I took a correspondence course.

Later I finally got online and the whole world opened up for me. I got a blog, joined writing groups, writer’s forums, took (yippee) workshops and made friends with other writers.

Someone suggest I join a new group called Avoid Writer’s Hell, started by Faith Bicknell-Brown. The owner had written four books with the same title as the group, to help writers. (Sadly, the group no longer exists, but the books with Faith’s invaluable advice are still available.)

I learned so much from this group and had so much encouragement that I finally entered a writing contest. It was for a cover that I thought would fit a manuscript that I had wrote the year before, called Windswept Shores. It’s about what happened next after a terrible plane crash.

To my surprise I not only won, but I was also offered a contract.

Excerpt from Windswept Shores

If she had to spend one more day on this godforsaken island, she’d go stark raving mad. The thought spurred Megan into rolling a large log with one foot then the other, until it was near the bonfire. “God, this thing is heavy.” With a grunt, she lifted one end until it teetered upright then gave it a shove. It landed in the fire, embers swirling in the air.

Breathing hard, she flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea. She’d thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She’d been wrong—dead wrong. Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.

She’d felt like a tiny speck of sand last night when a violent storm had swept across the island. It had made a mess of her meager campsite, which had taken all morning to fix, and had demolished her seaweed SOS sign. She’ll have to recreate her SOS. Sighing, Megan trudged toward a pile of kelp. As she got closer, she saw a figure wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. Her stomach lurched.

Oh, God, it’s another body washed up from the plane wreck. That would be number twelve. As always, she couldn’t help but wonder if the next one would be Jonathan. He hadn’t been wearing jeans on the plane, so she knew she’d been spared seeing his corpse this time. Thank God. She approached the body with dread. Tightening her resolve, she knelt. Suddenly the “dead body” coughed and rolled over. With a scream, Megan jumped back. She clutched her chest and pressed a shaking hand to her mouth.

He’s alive!

Biting her lip, she stared down at the still-breathing man. His drenched t-shirt molded against his broad shoulders and well developed upper body. Short, golden brown hair stuck out in all directions.

Megan, get control of yourself. Don’t wet your pants the first time you finally see a living person. She got on her knees, plucked the seaweed from him and wiped the sand from his face. His day-old whiskers scratched her palm. Reddened skin stretched across both cheekbones and over the bridge of his nose. Her thumb caressed his parched full bottom lip.

She patted the side of his face. “Hey, are you okay?” That’s a dumb question. He isn’t okay.

“Hmm?” Gray eyes fluttered open. He stared at her a long moment, frowning slightly. “G’day.”

“Hello there.” She hated the sound of her voice. It sounded rusty, unused.

Abruptly he rolled away from her to heave onto the sand, making a loud, ugly retching noise.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then looked at her. “Sorry, mate, I swallowed too much sea.” His gaze went over her shoulder in the direction of the bonfire which crackled and popped not far from them. “Mite big for a barbie.”

Sitting back on her heels with her hands folded in her lap, Megan followed his gaze, then back to him. “My signal fire.”

“Signal for what?”

“Help.”

His accent intrigued her. Was he English or Australian?

“G’darn,” he looked around, “where the bloody hell am I?”

“Don’t know. There’s no one here to ask.” Megan shrugged helplessly, but couldn’t contain her curiosity. “Are you from England?”

“Naw,” he rubbed his eyes, “I hail from Sidney, but my port of call these days is Fort Lauderdale.” He blinked up at her. “You?”

Ah, he’s an Aussie. “I’m Megan Lorry, from Anaheim, California,” she said, barely loud enough to be heard above the sounds of the surf and the roar from the fire. “Are you a survivor of Air Bahamas flight 227, too?”

“G’day, Megz,” he answered, struggling to sit-up. “Sorry, I’m not from your plane.”

Megan slipped an arm around him lifting his back off the sand. Turning his head to her hair, he took in a couple of short breaths. Megan pulled back staring at him. “What the—did you just sniff me?”

“Ya smell too good not to.” He grinned, causing his cheeks to dimple. “Name’s Seth Dawson.” Leaning back on one arm, he stretched out his hand to her. She clasped it as if it was just a friendly greeting between strangers back home.

“Me mate’s fishing boat hit a reef during the big squall last night. That’s when I took a tumble ‘T’ over ‘A’ overboard.” He took a deep breath, let it out slow, then glanced up and down the beach. “Somehow I made it here ‘out the back of Burke.’”

“Oh dear, that’s terrible,” she sympathized. Does he mean the middle of nowhere?

“Blimey, I’m weak as a babe.” Seth managed to get to his knees, before stopping to pant. He licked cracked lips. “Megz, do you have any water on ya?”

“Yes, back at my camp. Don’t move. I’ll be right back.” Meg hurried off down the beach.

He called after her, “Where the bloody hell would I be going, eh?”

About Janice Seagraves

I still reside in the same small California town, where I was born and grew up.

I live in a hundred year old haunted house (not kidding) with my husband of 30 years with our just grown daughter.

We are owned by one cat and two birds. Of the later, one is a handicapped dove and the other a pigeon that is in love with my husband (also not kidding).

I write romance of various genres. My first book, which is a contemporary romance, called Windswept shores, came out in June 2010.

My website: http://janiceseagraves.org/
My book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_r2NXKT0Sg