My short story collection "Asides" will be coming out in December, which isn't far away, but I'd love to share some of it with you now.
"Asides" has eight short stories, two of which are Seers extras. "The New Partner" is the longest piece in the collection, which I think readers will be fine with since it is a prequel to "Seers" with Toni as the narrator. It takes place in New York in 1987 and is divided into four parts.
“Do you know why you’re here?” Simmons asked from across his desk.
I wasn’t about to admit to anything, so I went for an innocent shrug.
Simmons frowned, the crinkles around his eyes deepening.
Maybe I should have at least fessed up to stealing that wallet off the brown-haired guy in the waiting room. There might have been cameras. I should have thought of that.
Gary Simmons steepled his fingers, elbows on his desk, looking every inch the impressive boss. “Alvarez,” he sighed, “were you aware that your last six partners have all asked for reassignments?”
I shifted on the hard chair. “Asked?”
“It was rather more like begging,” Simmons admitted. “When asked to label the issue, they all claimed you as the problem.”
“That’s fair,” I allowed.
“This is not a joking matter.”
“I wasn’t joking.”
It was the truth. I was just trying to ignore the clenching in my gut that told me I was about to be fired. I mean, I was the first to admit I wasn’t the ideal Guardian, but that didn’t keep me from feeling the urge to serve and protect others. I was also a fan of the immortality and easy money.
Simmons fingered a manila folder on his desk and my eyes dipped to follow. “This is your file,” he began.
“It’s surprisingly small,” I couldn’t help but say. I had this terrible habit of talking when nervous.
Simmons lifted a single eyebrow. “These are the compliments I managed to scrape up from Benson’s reports.”
I scratched my ear. “In the interest of fairness, Benson and I never got along.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“So what sort of compliments did you find?”
Simmons flicked open the folder and I saw the single sheet of paper flutter. “He said you’ve got a great sense of humor.”
“Guilty,” I smirked.
Simmons’s eyes didn’t wander from the page. “He rescinded the compliment a week later, but I thought I’d still count it.”
“Oh. Well, I see two more sentences. What else?”
“The last is his signature.”
“Okay. What’s my second and final compliment?”
The boss eyed me steadily. “He says he’s never seen a young man gain a young woman’s telephone number so quickly.”
I tried to look humble, but I think my grin gave me away.
Simmons closed the folder, keeping a palm against it as he trapped me in his stare. “The important thing here, unfortunately, are the complaints Benson made against you.”
“Why bring up the compliments, then?”
“I try to begin on a positive note.”
“Yikes,” I chuckled nervously. “If this is the positive...” Simmons didn’t crack a smile, so I didn’t bother searching for a witty way to finish.
His expression seemed as unchanging as his age. “Alvarez, Benson didn’t complain of anything that your other partners didn’t also bring up. Well,” his head tilted, “the complaints about staining his underthings pink were quite singular.”
“It’s not my fault Benson has a thing against Valentine’s Day. Pink underwear is an old Spanish tradition—I was just trying to be a friend.”
Simmons cleared his throat with a grunt. I chose to believe he was covering up a laugh. “Because your previous partners all seem to be in agreement, I’m afraid this means you have some improvements to make.”
“So perfection’s a work in progress. What’s wrong with that?”
“You're undisciplined,” he said.
“Yeah.” Why lie?
“You're disrespectful and lazy.”
I nodded. I could shoulder those flaws, too.
“You don’t work well with others.”
“You get distracted on assignments.”
“You're a kleptomaniac.”
“And you wonder why you’re in here?” But Simmons was on the edge of smiling. I could see it glitter in his eyes.
I held up my hands. “Hey, at least I’m agreeable.”
“Look, Alvarez, I do like you. Some supervisors would have given up a long time ago, but I see your potential.”
“I’m basically the only one who does.”
“Thanks a lot, then.”
Simmons shook his head. “Benson asked to be relieved of you.”
“Well that relieves me.”
He blew out his breath. “I’ve got two options for you. You can either take up a new assignment, or you can retire.”
I perked up. “Retirement is an option?”
“It’s not what you think.”
“How do you know what I think?”
He gave a level stare. “It’s not a beach house in the Bahamas.”
My shoulders wilted. “Oh. Well, then, what is it?”
“You’ll go out and get a job.”
I squinted at him. “It’s been a while since I thumbed through a dictionary, so you’ll have to tell me—has ‘retirement’ been redefined?”
Simmons leaned back in his chair. “Let me put it to you this way: you don’t just stop being a Guardian, even if you quit the heavy footwork. Immortality is a gift, but without guidance, it becomes a curse. Trust me. You need purpose. So, retirement from the field would give you the opportunity to pursue a career. An honest career.”
I tried to keep positive. “Well, I’d find something.”
“There is another aspect to consider.”
“What? I don’t get to use my vacation time?”
“Of course you can. But you’ll be donating your entire paycheck to the Guardians.”
“What? That’s robbery!”
“Where do you think your paychecks come from?” he challenged. “Retired Guardians work to provide the stipends every Guardian enjoys. You would receive enough to see to your needs.”
I growled. “So I’d be working nine-to-five so some other Demon-hunting, Seer-protecting Guardian can go out and have fun? I don’t think so!”
“Guardians use their money for essentials. Their first priority isn’t fun. At least, it shouldn’t be.” The older man’s eyes narrowed. “Benson has told me about some of your recent expenditures.”
“Videos, music, hot dogs—”
“It’s New York! I need the hot dogs to survive.”
“Guardians should be moderate in all things.”
Simmons spread his hands. “I’m trying to be your friend.”
“I’ve had nicer enemies,” I muttered, folding my arms over my chest. “Make me get a job, steal all my money...”
“You're a Guardian. You’re supposed to be selfless.”
“Hey, you guys offered me the position. It’s not my fault I don’t match the job description.”
“Usually a person grows into the role.”
“See? I'll get there.”
“It’s been a century.”
“So I'm a bit of a late bloomer.”
“You’re not taking this very seriously, are you?”
“Life’s easier when you don’t take it seriously.” I waved off his coming reply. “You said reassignment was possible. I think I’ll take that option.”
Simmons shrugged. “All right. Then you’ll be moving. I’ve decided it would be best for you to have a fresh start. A new partner, a new area, and a new boss.”
“Sick of me?”
“I just think you might benefit from the change.”
“Fine. Where is this mystical place of magical change? I don’t go third-world,” I added quickly.
“Hmm. Now there’s an idea ...” Simmons smiled. “As interesting as it might be to send you to just such a place, I’ve decided to hand you over to Terence Blank. He oversees Guardians in the south-western states. I already have your plane ticket to L.A., where Blank is currently staying. He’ll place you and your partner where he needs you.”
“Ah, my new partner. I assume you already have some poor sap in mind?”
Simmons tipped his head. “I do. He’ll be perfect for you, I think. His name is Patrick O’Donnell.”
“A bit of a sissy name, isn’t it? Does he go by Patty? If he goes by Patty, I won’t be able to take him seriously.”
“Sorry. Shutting up.”
When Simmons decided my mouth was probably going to stay shut, he continued. “O’Donnell is one of the best Guardians I’ve come across. He’s been working solo for a long time, but he’s agreed to take you on as a partner.”
“Solo?” I hadn’t heard anything beyond that one glorious word. “That’s legal?”
“Yes. Though probably not for you.”
I sighed, letting that fleeting dream die. “Fine. So when is this happening?”
“If you’re willing to take this reassignment, you and O’Donnell will be on a plane in five hours. But, Toni, I need to stress something.”
I offered a lazy grin. “If you need something to stress about, you can still stress about me—even if you’re not my boss.”
I saw his mouth twitch. “I want to make it clear, here and now, that O’Donnell is a rigid rule-follower.”
I blinked at him. Paused. Placed my palm flat on his desk. “Is retirement still on the table?”
“If you want my opinion,” Simmons said with quirked eyebrow. “I think this will be good for you. Opposites attract, as they say.”
“Or pave the way for epic wars.”
“Patrick will be a great role model for you.”
“He’ll keep you in line.”
“I hate him already.”
Simmons grew serious. “Alvarez, either you accept Patrick O’Donnell as your partner, or you start looking for a job.”
“I still get a stipend if I slave away for you all, right?”
“Yes. But it would be smaller than what you’re used to.”
I shook my head. “Retirement sounds worse all the time. So either I take a pay-cut and work some honest human job, or I say yes to a new partner who’s supposed to reform me?”
“Oh gee, lucky me.” I bit back a scowl. “Fine. Fine! Shackle me to the poor sucker and ship us both across the country. Anything’s better than a pay-cut.”
“He’s right outside, if you’d like to meet him.”
I snorted. “Why not?”
“I really think he’ll be good for you,” Simmons insisted.
Simmons buzzed the secretary. “Send in O’Donnell.”
I twisted in my chair to get a first glimpse of my new warden. The wallet in my pocket got real hot when I saw the brown-haired stranger from the waiting room open the door.
Simmons stood. I was a half-second behind him.
“O’Donnell,” Simmons said with a smile, reaching out to take the young man’s hand.
Patrick O’Donnell looked younger than me, but I knew that didn’t mean anything; he could have died a thousand years ago, making him tons older in the grand scheme of things. Going by appearance, though, he could have been seventeen or eighteen, making me “older” by maybe two years. But Simmons hadn’t been kidding—the guy looked like he not only kept the rules, but memorized them in his spare time. Heck, he might have written a few. He was wearing a suit that had no business being in the 80s. We’d need to fix his sense of style. It totally didn’t work with my jeans and t-shirt combo.
“Thank you for coming,” Simmons said.
“Of course.” His very Irish accent was already apparent, after only two words. We’d need to tone that down if he didn’t want me strangling him every other sentence.
Patrick’s eyes shifted to me and he held his hand out, his smile firm. “And you must be Toni.”
First names, was it? Was the whole informal greeting a ploy to put me at ease, so I’d believe his buddy act and forget that he was here to change me?
I took his hand smoothly, as if the same hand hadn’t stolen his wallet ten minutes ago. “Patrick. Or do you go by Pat? Rick? Patty?” I barely held in a snicker as I dropped his hand.
“Just Patrick, please.” He straightened in a very self-important sort of way, which gave me the sudden urge to deck him. Instead, I conspicuously slouched my shoulders. I thought I saw Simmons frown.
Patrick seemed oblivious to my little rebellion. “I’ve looked through some of your files, Toni, and I must say I was impressed by your ingenuity during several different assignments.”
“Are you serious?” I eyed Simmons, who looked just as surprised.
Patrick nodded, slipping his hands into his pockets. “You can think fast and improvise, two skills I admire very much.”
I grinned. “Thieving has positive side-effects after all.”
“Ah, yes,” Patrick cleared his throat. “I know all about your tendency to break the rules. But I think you and I will make a good team, if you’re willing to put your best foot forward.”
I stared at him. It took everything I had not to gag myself. Was this guy for real?
“Well, Alvrez?” Simmons asked. “Are you willing to try?”
I didn’t look away from Patrick. He didn’t blink under my stare. Maybe he was a robot.
It would be fun making him short-circuit.
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Let’s do this.”
End of Part I. You can read the rest of the story in "Asides", out in December.
Well, we all know I'm not much of a blogger. Especially when I'm so busy reading, writing, and basically enjoying my life post-graduation. But I keep getting emails from the best fan/friends in the world, begging for updates on my newest project. So, here goes:
Yes, I DO have a project! :) (Several, in fact, but I narrowed it down so I could actually accomplish something.) This project is another trilogy, completely unrelated to Seers. I'm currently searching for an agent to represent me (and it) and until I find someone else who falls in love with my newest story, I won't be able to give you any estimate on when you'll actually be able to hold this book. However, I can tell you five things about it.
1. It's YA, Urban Fantasy.
2. Book two is written (still a bit rough) and I'm writing book three.
3. The main character is an eighteen year old girl named Leslie, who lives in California.
4. The new boy next-door has blue-gray eyes, a crooked half-smile, and he may be the reason behind the strange happenings that begin to threaten Leslie's life.
5. I've revised this book so many times that one of my characters got a completely different personality. Someday, I'll tell you who.
So I'm sorry I don't have any release dates to give you, and I'm sorry that you have to wait blindly for my newest book. But thank you so much for the support you give me anyway. After publishing three books while obtaining my bachelors degree, I was a bit burned out. But writing is like breathing--I do it because I have to. Actually, writing might be more like reading--I do it because I can't imagine stopping.
For my birthday this year, I want to give you a gift. My fans are the best in the world, and I want to thank you for supporting me and my books. For becoming friends with Kate, Patrick, Toni, Lee, Grandpa--I'm honored that their story has managed to touch you, that they could become real to you.
From the time I was twelve my birthday wish was always the same: I wished to be an author. I wanted to share a story with the world. Though my wording changed over the years, the wish remained the same. And because you have taken the time to read Kate's story, my wish continues to be fulfilled. Thank you!
Here is the first kiss between Kate and Patrick, from Patrick's perspective. This was something I wrote just so I could get into Patrick's head a bit more; it isn't completely polished, but I hope you enjoy reading it.
“Thanks for coming,” Kate whispered softly, her dirty blond hair catching the dim light as she glanced up the staircase. Her walk didn't slow as we shuffled past the stairs, but I knew she was straining her ears, instinctively checking on her younger sisters.
I took this opportunity to move past her, hoping to make a quick getaway while she was partially distracted. The warmth I'd felt from her comforting embrace on the couch still enveloped me, and I knew it would be too easy on my part to give into another parting hug. The cowardly part of me wanted to dart to the door and slip out before she could cast a second look in my direction, but that would be far too rude. My Guardian side wouldn't allow such abrupt behavior.
And so my slightly trembling fingers strangled the door handle as I pulled the door open. I tried to swallow, but the attempt failed. I kept my hand on the door and turned to face the sound of her last footfall.
She was closer than I’d expected. My voice was weak in the darkness—I hoped she wouldn't detect the heavy beating of my heart. “Thanks for letting me stay,” I said softly, trying to be brief but polite. “I had a really great time.”
Kate nodded, her face soft, relaxed. “I needed that,” she smiled softly.
How was she so calm, while I was practically falling to pieces in her presence? She was completely unaffected by me, and I was struggling with seemingly every function because of her nearness.
I forced myself to look nonchalant, though it took considerable effort. “So did I.” Short, simple, to the point; I didn't dare say anything more.
I was standing at the threshold, the door open and the cool night inviting. And yet I couldn't force my legs to move. My gaze wouldn't shift from her beautiful face, and so we stood staring. Her green eyes were trained on mine, and though her deepest thoughts were still a mystery, her emotions were clear. I stopped breathing the moment I realized she was no longer inhaling. My heart soared—she wasn’t entirely impassive. She felt something for me. It was the only explanation. My heart constricted—the next few seconds could change everything.
The entryway was still, and yet every space seemed filled to capacity with the intensity of this moment.
I was trapped in her eyes, unable to look away. Thoughts of leaving the house drained from my body as the air between us undulated with new anticipation.
I swallowed hard, a single lump that symbolized all my tortured thoughts. I'd been trying to keep the picture of Aaron kissing Kate firmly in my mind all evening, to keep my raging emotions at bay, but now that image became a betraying enemy. Her boyfriend faded from my mind, and suddenly I was replacing him. The thought designed to keep me in control was suddenly giving me the perfect idea. I could kiss her. Right now.
I knew I wouldn't be able to hold myself back any longer. I wanted this too badly to restrain myself any more—no matter the consequences. All my resisting up to this point meant nothing in this one moment of weakness.
I leaned forward, fully expecting her to stop me. After all, my intentions were perfectly clear.
She didn't stop me.
Our lips met in the silence, but in the instant of their contact I knew I'd made a mistake. I was her friend. If nothing else, I was her protector. I should not be putting her in this unfair situation. She had a boyfriend. She was confused by her new reality of Demons and Guardians. I was taking advantage of her vulnerability, when what she really needed from me was strength.
These thoughts ran through my mind in an instant. And yet I couldn't pull away as quickly.
After a lingering moment I managed to draw back, breaking the gentle kiss, poignant in its sweetness, its simplicity. But my retreat was not far. I hovered just in front of her, aching for another kiss, but unwilling to initiate the act. I waited breathlessly for her reaction, praying that—whatever it was—I could respond in a dignified manner.
Kate’s response was almost immediate, and one that I couldn't have dreamed in my wildest imaginings.
She took a step forward, pressing our bodies lightly together, and then her head lifted and she kissed me back, our lips brushing a couple times before I allowed my arms to slip around her waist.
“Kate,” I sighed against her, pulling her nearer.
I don't know if she heard my soft whisper or not, but her fingers moved into my hair as she continued to kiss me.
Everything in the world melted away in that moment. Everything but her. I felt her cool fingers on my face, which inspired movements of my own. One hand was on her arm, but I slowly trailed it toward her shoulder, which I crested, stopping only when my palm was cradling the side of her neck. There I held her, deepening our kiss.
I'd wanted to do this for so long, the moment felt surreal. The attraction I'd felt for her from the beginning had been escalating to this pivotal moment, and fighting no longer seemed necessary. Why had I been fighting in the first place? I loved her. She obviously had feelings for me. What had been the point of denial?
I broke away instantly, as if I'd been electrocuted.
Kate was in love with Aaron. Not me.
Her eyes had been closed, but now they peered up at me, searching my face. What would she see? My pleasure, or my pain? Conflict, or contentment?
I felt transparent. I'd never dropped my defenses so completely. I was breathing deeply, and as I stared at Kate, I realized that I was not alone in that.
Her face was a mixture that could have easily matched my own roiling emotions. She seemed happy. And yet I could see her hesitation, her uncertainty. Perhaps even guilt. Guilt that would ultimately become regret; she knew our kiss had been a mistake.
I tried not to let the unspoken rejection destroy me, but my control was slipping rapidly. I needed to get out of here—before I did something truly stupid.
I lifted a single finger to stroke across her cheek, the beginnings of my apology. “I'm sorry,” I breathed, struggling to speak at all. “I shouldn't have done that.” How could I have done anything else? “Forgive me,” I begged, voice ragged.
How could I ask her to forgive my action, when I didn't regret doing it?
Before my resolve completely crumbled I dropped my hand and pulled away from her warm body. My empty hands stung, and my face was burning with a mixture of shame and anger. Anger at Toni, for placing me in this tempting situation; anger at myself for falling in love with someone I could never have; and undeniable, irrational anger toward the boy who held her heart.
I left the house, pulling the door shut behind me in an effort to quicken my escape from her searching gaze. I felt like I was running from a sin—an impossibility according to all I’d ever been taught—and yet I was unable to stop moving away from the house. I nearly jumped from the porch, and as I strode down the length of the driveway I dug fiercely in my pocket for the car keys. I rounded my car, and jerked the door open.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” I muttered harshly under my breath. I never should have kissed her.
I slammed the door closed, pounded my fist once against the steering wheel, hoping that physical pain might distract me. My unsteady breathing was loud in the confines of the empty car, and my shaking fingers could hardly place the key in the ignition. I was eternally grateful that there were no witnesses to my desperate display.
At last the car came to life, and I exhaled deeply, pressing the back of my head against the seat. My hands strangled the wheel, and I shifted sharply out of park.
As I peeled away from the curb and launched into the empty street, only one thing was certain in my turbulent thoughts.
I was in love with Kate Bennett. And there would be no going back.
Whether you can make it to the "Guardians" Launch Party or not, I want to share some of the excitement with you. Because whether you're a fan in my hometwown, or you live on the other side of the world, I appreciate you so much!
So, regardless of where you live, this is your chance to enter to win this amazing collector's item: An advanced reader copy of "Guardians". See the preliminary cover, read an early version of your favourite scenes, and gloat about it to all your friends! Not only that, but you can wave the early draft in their faces while wearing a Seers Trilogy T-shirt!
"Guardians", the conclusion of the epic Seeers Trilogy, is officially here! I'm so excited to release this book to my most wonderful fans. I may be prejudiced, but I think I have the best fans--you're amazing, supportive friends, and I can't thank you enough for the time you've spent with me and my characters.
"Guardians" is available in a variety of bookstores, and also can be found online at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and BooksAndThings.com.
There's a lot going on, now that "Guardians" is out. To be sure you don't miss anything, hop over to Facebook and "Like" The Seers Official Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Seers-... On the Fanpage you'll find the blog tour stops, giveaways, updates from the author, and information on upcoming events.
I'm terrible at this blogging thing--especially when in the midst of finishing off a semester of school! But I thought I'd pop in and let you know that the second "Demons" blog tour is underway, and so there are plenty of chances to win copies of my books, as well as interviews, guest posts, and reviews. And then, on the 27th, the post will be a first look at "Guardians", the final book in the Seers trilogy!
So don't miss out--follow the link and check it out!
That title basically gives away all the exciting news, but I'll repeat it here anyway! "Demons" is a finalist for a Whitney Award! The category is "Youth Adult Speculative Fiction", and "Demons" is also eligible for "Best Novel in Youth Fiction"
I've been editing book three, "Guardians", and today I've been working on a scene near the beginning with Patrick. If you've read "Demons", you can probably guess that the horrific epilogue has been plaguing Patrick's mind. The song "Demons" by Imagine Dragons captures his mood extremely well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFQYao... Take a listen, and enjoy a glimpse into "Guardians" :)