December 25, 2012

The Heartache of a Good Book

Merry Christmas, everyone! I love getting books as presents,so leave a comment for a chance to win a free ebook! (Your choice, Fairy Tale Trap or Cinderella & Zombies). Deadline is the end of the year.

Have you ever been in love? Have you ever cared so much about a person, be it a spouse, child, boyfriend/girlfriend, or dear friend that it physically hurts you to think about losing them?

Why is a good book like that? I sometimes call them magical books because of the effect they have on me. Magic is the only way to describe it.

You know what I mean (or at least, I hope you do so I don't feel crazy). While I'm reading a truly awesome book, I sometimes get a tightness in my chest. And that feeling that makes me keep reading. A good book demands that I give up sleep. It plagues my thoughts during the day. I make excuses to sneak of and spend time with that book. It's addicting.

Just like being in love.

But why to good things make us do crazy things? I think we can all agree that love is good. A good book is, by definition, good. Yet, we're talking about chest pain and sleep deprivation. It sounds like torture.

I'm sure there are a lot of really complicated, very different answers to this question, but here's my best guess:

That there's always a balance. High highs come with high risk, but we love it. We seek it. Because the height of emotion is the height of human experience.

What are your thoughts? Why have you chosen the life of a fiction junkie?

December 18, 2012

My NaNoWriMo and Future Books

I did Nanowrimo this year and it was a total blast!

I tend to write shorter books, so my first story didn't cut it. I finished the book, but hadn't reached 50k words. So, after some thought, I started work on Snow White and Zombies. I think this one is a keeper. It still needs some work (as in a few more drafts) but I'm going to get this book out as soon as I can. I still feel bad about putting Fairy Tale Twist on hold (Thank you SO much for being patient!) but I feel like this needs to be out there. Also, it doesn't take nearly as much time to produce a zombie fairy tale as it does to make Ivy happy.

That said, what happened this past November?

Word count goals
I like to take weekends off. So I write 2300 words a day, and if I need to use Saturday to catch up, I do. I do not write on Sunday. It's a rule I keep for myself. I think it's important to take a mental break to keep from burning out. Burnout = bad.

Did you ever get writers' block?
Sometimes, the words would fly off my fingers. Other times, I had to sit down and force myself to write one word at a time. I had writers' block a handful of times. The way I got through it was I sat in front of my computer screen, reread the last couple of paragraphs, then wrote a sentence. That sentence was usually pretty bad, but it led to another one, and another. Eventually, I got back to writing better stuff and it was easier to come up with the next idea.

Was my first draft bad?
YES! It's awful and you'll never be allowed to read it.

Will it be better?
If not, I'm not worth my weight in salt as a writer.

Will you ever publish that first story?
I'm not sure. I don't know if the root story is strong enough to support something better. But I'll take a look at it. You know, after Fairy Tale Twist.

November 27, 2012

FAIL and WIN: Writing a Male Character

I want to write a book where the POV character is a guy. Because guys think differently. They'll take the same situation, but make the story completely different.

Unfortunately, every time I start a book with a male POV, my brain shuts down. I lose interest. And eventually, I give up on the book. Even if the concept is cool, even if I think the character has a distinct voice, there's something about those stories that falls flat. So I have two or three unfinished stories that I have no desire to even look at any more. Sad, huh?

So basically, I can't write male characters. At least, not in-depth. Not characters that I have to get close to or fully fall in love with.

Until The Fairy Tale Twist.

Somehow, I managed to create a character I LOVE (Riker) who is going through the same thing Ivy is--he's trapped in a fairy tale. But he has a completely different attitude about it. And because of that, his experience is completely different, including his relationship with his pixie. He's smart, but he's also impulsive (kinda like Ivy) but he's impulsive in a different way. It's not a stubborn, I-do-it-because-I-can kind of impulse. It's more of I-do-what-pops-into-my-head-because-that's-how-I-do-things kind of thing.

Do you have trouble with characters of the opposite gender? Which are your favorite? Have you read a book recently where the author failed to capture that gender?

November 13, 2012

How to Write a Fairy Tale in 3 Steps

Step 1: Invent a character
This character needs to be pathetic on the outside, and relatively perfect on the inside. Honest, kind, and dirt poor.Also gorgeous.

Step 2: Put said character where she can demonstrate how obnoxiously selfless she is.
It helps if she's really hungry, dirty, or extra-poor at the time.

Step 3: Reward her for acting in a way you would never act yourself.
Then pretend like you actually would act that way and give yourself a pat on the back.

October 30, 2012

Writers Write (Good Excuses are Still Excuses)

I'm a writer. I have a newborn baby and a toddler and a preschooler. I don't write every day. I tell myself I'm tired, that my brain is too mushy to write, that I'm too busy, and that this is just a time in my life that's especially hard. Other people tell me to focus on myself. That I have enough on my plate. But you know what?

None of that matters.

Because I'm a writer.

If I want to consider myself a writer, I need to be writing. Regularly. Small amounts are fine. 10 minutes a time is fine. But I need to be writing.

The fact is, life is rarely easy. Sometimes I imagine myself 20 years from now, with the children grown. I'm in a quiet house and I'm always eager and excited to write. I'm always inspired. I have my own desk and a corkboard with inspiring pictures tacked all over it. I write for hours a day, blissfully.

That's a fantasy. It'll never happen. Life has a way of making sure we still have to prioritize. And being a mother of small children doesn't mean I'm exempt.

If I want to be a writer, then I must write.

When I look back and count the number of days I didn't write anything (but could have), I cringe. Those were missed opportunities. Times when I could have been focused, devoted, and loyal to my readers. But it's in the past. I'm trying to see those missed opportunities as a reason to change. Wallowing doesn't help (and wishing I had worked on my book doesn't make me a writer).

So I'm resolved to be more of a writer than I was last week. There's no excuse. Because writers write.

October 16, 2012

What's in a genre? What won't I write?

So far, I've only published fairy tale-related stories, so obviously I love fantasy. I always have. My parents read The Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was really little. My Mom read fairy tales and other folklore to me before I even started kindergarten. I'm pretty sure it's part of my DNA.

But what about the other genres? I had a healthy helping of sci-fi as a kid, too. Star Trek: The Next Generation was a favorite of my dad's, and was a favorite of mine. (Any episode with the holodeck or Q is a win!) I remember my aunt introducing me to Star Wars and just watching them non-stop for a week. I have vague memories of some of the classics--Planet of the Apes (the original series), 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Logan's Run come to mind. And I like to read in the genre, too. Some of my more recent favorites: Uglies and of course The Hunger Games.

I went through a stage in high school where I read classic mystery novels, mostly Agatha Christie. I even tried writing a whodunnit in 9th grade. I spent a lot of time planning the murder, but never really got past that. To be honest, I don't think I'll ever be able to write mysteries. They intimidate me. I mean, it's an entire genre devoted to being smarter than your reader. Writers that excel under that kind of pressure: you have my utmost respect.

I like paranormal, but I don't think I could ever write a romance. I'm just not a romantic kind of person. If a love interest blossoms in the midst of a plot, I'll go with it. It's more organic to me. But if I set out to write a romance, it comes off as awkward and bland.

Of course, I dabbled in thrillers for Cinderella and Zombies (which I never thought I'd do). Anything could happen.

What genres are your favorite? Are there any you'd like to try? Where should I go next in my writing endeavors?

October 2, 2012

Cinderella and Ivy Thorn: How my favorite characters came to be

Coming up with a character is a different experience every time. If you've been following this blog for a long time, you know that Ivy was actually born here, in blog form.

I've told this story before, but basically, Ivy was born when I realized my writing voice was boring, but the way I talk in a casual environment is a lot more fun. So I wanted to bring that out. Ivy Thorn is spunky and sarcastic and basically, she says all those things I'd normally be afraid to say myself (plus the things that just pop out of my mouth before I can stop myself). Ivy is the mouthy side of my personality, with a few tweaks.

Ivy and I are both military brats, but moving around didn't bother me as much as it bothers her. I drew on my  teenage girl-experiences to try to create her relationship with her mom (which, I know, is shameful at times). I tried to draw out all that inexplicable frustration I had at her age.

Ivy hates being told what to do. I probably drew more on my own six-year-old experiences for that. :) I was that kid that did the opposite of what I was told, just to show that I could. (Yes, I was a holy terror.)

But Ivy and I don't make the same decisions, given the same situation. She's more impulsive, where I'm more curious. I'd want to understand the ins and outs of a new situation, but Ivy is more interested in getting out of it (and/or sticking it to the guy making things difficult for her).

One thing I love about Ivy is that she learns and adjusts.If something doesn't work, she tries something else. We'll see a lot of that in book 2, where she's a lot more cautious (seeing as being forward and impulsive made things so difficult for her in book 1). But we can't change who you are. Ivy is still Ivy. She'll manage to get herself in trouble, so no worries.

Then there's Cinderella. Obviously, she came pre-made to some extent. But I made one major change. I've always hated this character for being so spineless. I mean, who just rolls over and accepts servitude? So I made sure MY Cinderella had a higher calling. She was going to be a kick-butt heroine, though just as hard-working, just as lonely, and just as clueless about what was really going on in the palace. She's still lower-middle class, she's still working herself to the bone, but she can throw knives really well.

As I wrote her character, her toughness started to bring out a new weakness--she was distant. She was judgy. And that worked well with Prince Kent's character because he wants to be tough but can't. I seriously love this atch-up because it came so unexpectedly. I mean, I always knew Cinderella would need to wind up with the prince. How could she not? But the WAY they came together was a surprise and just as fun to write as it would be to read (or so I hope).

September 25, 2012

Chapter 10 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

I've probably (hopefully) had the baby by now, but I went ahead and scheduled this chapter to go up. I thought it would be a good place to end the sample. Hope you've enjoyed the first ten chapters of The Fairy Tale Twist! 

My shoes click against the stone floor while my imagination runs full-speed. Where does this cave lead? Is there something at the end of the tunnel? Are there nasty monsters that can pop out of nowhere and eat unsuspecting girls?

No. There are five other girls ahead of me, still having a good time, from the sound of it. But maybe the monsters are turned-off by the chatter. (I know I am.) I force myself to laugh, warding off anything scary that might be nearby. I sound more like a weeping goat that’s being tickled. Hopefully, the monsters don’t like goats.

I follow the turns of the cave, grateful there aren’t any forks in the path. I can always follow the sounds of the princesses, but I wouldn’t put it past the pixie to mess with my senses. The last fairy tale had an enchanted forest that would keep you lost forever instead of letting you find a way out. I shiver against the warmth of hundreds of candles. This cave isn’t like the forest. It’s not. Just think of something else.

The echoes of voices die down. Are they getting too far ahead? Have they split from the main tunnel? Are they out of the tunnel? Panic rises from my belly. I break into a run, wishing I’d followed them sooner.

My shoes aren’t ideal for an evening jog, but thank goodness I didn’t pick spike heels. I snort a laugh. As if I’d ever be caught wearing spike heels.

I strain to hear anything over my shoes striking the stone below. But I’m not about to slow down. The heat from the candles warms my lungs from the inside. I start to sweat.

Then, suddenly, I’m out in the open. Not out of the cave, but in a vast, open area surrounded by the same stone and the same candles. Like a room within the cave, only the room is bigger than my house and it has a massive lake in it. No, not a lake. A river. It’s about ten feet across and other side are lights, music, and brightly-dressed people. Five colorful dresses and some guys dressed in black. It’s hard to tell, but I think there are—horses? What kind of fairy tale is this?

I look around for a way across the river. A stone bridge is my first choice. Swimming in this dress seems a little impractical. I cross the bridge slowly, trying to take in the scene in front of me without looking like a gaping idiot. The couples all dance to the waltz-like music being played by a quintet of strings. They spin around on an open dance floor surrounded by trees. Except these trees aren’t like anything I’ve ever seen before. They shine and sparkle like they’re made of glowing gems and polished gold. Even the bushes shimmer. But that’s nothing compared to the servers. They hold trays of food and offer them to the dancers between songs. But they’re not your typical bowtie-wearing caterers. What I’d thought were horses are actually centaurs. Bare-chested, shiny-coated centaurs with silver platters of finger food!

I stop at the end of the bridge, the river swirling behind me. This isn’t like anything I expected. I guess fairy tale princesses really know how to throw a party.

While I stand there, slack-jawed and mesmerized by the shiny objects, someone nearby clears their throat. “Princess Ivy?”

I’m not used to being called princess-anything, so unfortunately, I don’t snap out of my stupor right away. I say “unfortunately” because the guy standing in front of me is completely gorgeous. He offers me his hand. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

September 18, 2012

Chapter 9 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

I may not be the most observant person in the world, but I know there was a wall there earlier. Now the garden opens up into a cave, lit with tiny candles that run along a narrow ledge. Like runway lights just above my head. I mean, it’s a cave! Who keeps a cave in their garden?

The stone wall forms a tunnel and the candles snake around the gradual curve of the cave. The girls must be pretty far ahead, but they make enough noise that I’m not worried about getting lost. I just need to follow the giggles.

But is this a smart thing to do? If I knew what fairy tale I’m in, this would be a lot easier. This all seems a little familiar, but something about the scenario feels off. I guess the easiest way to decide what to do is to ask: What would the pixie want me to do?

And then do the opposite.

The pixie wants me to follow my “sisters”. He’s practically dangling a carrot in front of me, just inside the mouth of the cave. He knows I’m curious. And what’s more exciting than a tunnel in a fairy tale?

But I’m not the same girl he trapped over the summer. I can’t afford to be that girl. I’ve changed and this time I’m going to smart about this.

I tug impatiently at my cap sleeves. This would be so much easier if I knew what fairy tale this was! Then I’d know how to stick to the story.

Okay, Ivy. Think this through. The princesses are eloping, so there must be some guys involved. Guys that are nothing like Ferguson, I’m guessing. No girl gets twitterpated over a guy like Ferguson, even if he does have dashing, classic good looks. And we’re all dressed-up like we’re going to a ball, but I’m sure this isn’t Cinderella. No one’s asked me to scrub any chamber pots, thank goodness.

But there must be dancing involved. There were ballet shoes in my closet. Or there’s a party at the very least. Some place for the girls to meet boys. No, there’s no doubt—the fairy tale is happening somewhere in the cave.

My thoughts go back to Ferguson. Poor, stupid, innocent Ferguson. There’s nothing I can do for him from this side. The twins drugged him enough to keep him out for the whole night. My best chance of helping him will probably be in a few hours, once the drug has had some time to wear off. Maybe I can come back here a little early, wake him up, and get him out of here before anyone notices. I’m not sure what the king will do if the prince runs, but it has to be better than the contractually agreed-upon execution he has planned. A particularly loud snort comes from the common room. What an idiot.

I turn back to the cave and take a deep breath. Okay, then. I’ve made my decision. I’m going to a cave party.

September 11, 2012

Chapter 8 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

All of us stare at Ferguson.

“Um… is he okay?” I look to Faith and expect her to be as shocked as I am. But her face is pink behind her freckles. She’s smiling! A laugh jumps from her, loud and abrupt. The other girl join her. Did I miss something?

Mercy lifts one of Prince Ferguson’s hands and lets it drop back onto the satiny couch. The prince snorts once and rolls to his side, his jaw slack and his breathing deep.

“Is he sleeping?”

My question only makes the princesses laugh harder. Then I notice the goblet. It must have fallen from his hand when he passed out. The tiny bit of remaining liquid slips onto the couch, darkening the pink fabric. I look up at Faith in horror. “You drugged him?”

Faith’s smile widens. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She gives us all a wink. “He just couldn’t keep his eyes open.”

Felicity shifts from one foot to the other. Her fist clenches a bunch of yellow fabric from her dress. “Should one of us stay behind?” He voice is small and barely rises above the talking from the other girls. “I don’t mind keeping an eye on him.”

The twins both roll their eyes. “We gave him more than enough,” says Chastity. “Trust me; he’ll be out all night.”

Faith runs back to the garden door and waves for us to follow her. “Let’s not waste any more time!”

Charity, Chastity, and Mercy hurry after Faith while Felicity follows a bit more slowly. Meanwhile, I’m left with an unconscious guy I don’t like, who’s snoring because he’s been drugged. And now they want to play more dress-up?

My brain tingles like I’ve forgotten something. The king had said something important at dinner. That if the prince couldn’t deliver, he’d be executed! I stare at the now-drooling Ferguson. As much as I dislike this guy, I can’t let the poor idiot die.

I shake Ferguson by the shoulder. His snores get louder.

“Hey! Ferguson! Your Highness…or whatever. You need to wake up.”

The girls’ laughter still bounces around in the garden. How long will they stay in there?

I tap the prince’s hand. Then I slap his hand. Nothing. I consider going out and getting help, but then someone might tell the king that Ferguson’s sleeping on the job.

I see only one more option. Throwing my shoulders back, I take a deep breath and remind myself not to enjoy this. I slap Ferguson across the face. Hard.

He grunts, wrinkles his brow, and turns onto his other side so I can’t reach his face again. Well, I’m out of ideas. Then I see the goblet. I grab the jewel-encrusted cup and run into the garden. There’s an entire pond pull of water to dump on the poor sap. Who can sleep through that?

But I don’t make it to the pond. I don’t make it because I’m too shocked to move. The far wall—the entire wall—of the garden room is gone.

September 4, 2012

Chapter 7 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

When the king finishes eating, he leaves the dining room without saying anything to us. The musicians leave soon after, clearly disappointed. I guess the king just likes having them there, in case he decides to break into song.

A servant comes in, whispers something to Ferguson, and leads the prince away. Before he leaves, Ferguson stops in the doorway, turns, and gives an elaborate bow, directed at us. Mostly Faith. “Until tonight, your highnesses.” And he leaves.

I’m tempted to follow him. I can’t believe he ignored me that whole time. And why was he falling all over Faith? But none of the other princesses make a move to leave and I don’t want to draw attention to myself. It always ends badly.

The room is empty except for us six girls. The tension dissipates and everyone sinks a little into their chairs. The twins actually start laughing. Faith rolls her eyes. “Oh, that’s enough,” she snaps, but she’s also smiling.
Charity leans forward to grin at the oldest sister. “Guess it’s time to make more pillows.”

Chastity snickers. “Like he needs any more. His castle’s probably overrun with them.”

I give her my best confused look. Chastity’s eyebrows lift in disbelief. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten Faith’s infamous pillows!”

Part of me wants to pretend. Of course I remember the pillows. Who could forget the pillows? But curiosity wins this one. I shake my head apologetically.

“Oh, Ivy!” Charity cries. But I can tell she’s eager to tell the story. “Remember when Ferguson came last summer?”

I nod. I’m not about to flaunt my ignorance.

“He claimed to be madly in love with Faith.”

Chastity clasps her hands next to her cheek and flutters her eyelashes. “He meant madly in love with the kingdom. How romantic!”

Charity continues. “He kept up the act for an annoyingly long time, didn’t he? Anyway, Faith of course wouldn’t have anything to do with him, but the poor sap didn’t understand simple English.”

Faith smiles softly and tilts her head at a slight angle. “I was sure a solid, monosyllabic ‘no’ would work, but poor Prince Ferguson is severely stupid.”

I think I like these girls.

“Anyway,” says Charity, “Faith, being the brilliant princess she is, asked all the seamstresses in the kingdom to make pillows for the prince as a parting gift.”

Chastity starts laughing. I’m guessing these weren’t ordinary pillows.

“Each one had the word ‘no’ embroidered on it.”

Chastity tries to talk between giggles. “There were—hundreds!”

Charity nods matter-of-factly. “Two whole carriages were assigned the task of delivering the princely gift.” 
She sighs and looks up at the ceiling.­ “I would have given anything to have seen his face when they arrived.”

Faith stands from the table, clearly pleased by the retelling of her tale. “Come, ladies. Let’s prepare ourselves for tonight.”

We all stand and follow her out in the same order we were seated—oldest to youngest. Ahead of me, Felicity seems a bit unsure of something. “What about the prince?”

Faith waves a hand from the front of the line. “I’ll take care of everything.”

Behind me, one of the twins says, “We probably don’t have to do anything. I doubt he’d notice if we just left as usual.”

Faith nods in agreement. “But I’m not taking any chances. Father sent Prince Ferguson for a reason. I doubt the prince is acting without help. And I won’t marry that dolt.”

She leads us down a few corridors. I do my best to memorize the route, but I can’t make my brain focus. There are just too many questions and I can’t ask any of them without looking out of place. These girls think I’m one of them, that I’ve been with them the whole time. If this fairy tale is anything like the last one, I’ll be much better off if they keep on thinking that until the story is over. The pixie wants me to cause trouble. He probably put me in a particularly mysterious tale just so I’d mess up and ask the wrong questions.
I’m not playing that game. Not this time.

The décor around us is incredibly pink and lacy. And familiar. I feel like such an idiot. We’re going right back to where I started, through the hallway of lace and flowers. I’m hopeless.

Up ahead, Faith sighs. “I just hope you all appreciate that I’m staying behind.”

One of the twins groans, then whispers, “As the oldest, she should be the first to elope.”

The other twin giggles, but Faith doesn’t notice. “As the oldest,” she says, “I should be the first to elope.”

Faith leads us into the room with twelve doors—the common room, I’m assuming—and to the far corner. She open the door that leads to the indoor garden and waits in the doorway for each of us to file through. Faith gives each of us a weary smile. “But I want to make sure each of you makes it safely through. That’s what older sisters are for.”

I lean against a marble statue for support. Elope? That must be why the princesses are sneaking off. But all of us? I’m pretty sure I’m not looking to get married any time soon. And Mercy’s way too young.

I turn to find where she’s run off to. I’m suddenly alone on the tile walkway. Each princess has gone to a separate flower bed. Faith’s is full of white roses. Felicity’s has a variety of spring bulbs. The twins both have bright yellow daisies in their flower beds, and Mercy stands in the midst of some intricately-twisted vines of jasmine. Going by age, and how we were seated at dinner, I assume my flower bed is the one between Felicity and Charity. The one with a small pool and water lilies. I try pretending like I know where I’m going and stand next to the smooth stones surrounding my pond.

And we just stand there. The birds flutter around trees, the butterflies dance, and five other girls are standing there, smiling at each other. I wait. Is this how we’re going to elope? What are we doing here?

Then the statue of the girl with the bird on her hand moves. I blink, and at first I think I’m starting to lose my balance, but the statue really is moving. She rotates, her mouth open in silent song and her white marble dress flowing around her delicate ankles. A clicking sound comes from all around us, like we’re inside a giant clock. As the statue turns, the walls behind each princess move. A dozen panels, one at each flower bed, slide away, revealing twelve alcoves. More like walk-in closets, actually.

As soon as the ticking stops, the five princesses hurry into their closets and I’m alone in the garden, wondering what the heck just happened.

There’s a closet open behind me. I doubt there’s anything in there that would interest me. But I can’t resist looking. My feet pull me in.

One side of the closet has a vanity. A cute little ivory-colored bureau with cherubs carved into the sides, a large mirror, and several bottles lined up against the back. Behind the mirror, the wall is plastered with images of large-eyed bunnies and smiling fauns playing with unicorns in an over-the-top mural. It’s nauseating. I turn away before it can have an effect on me.

The other wall is lined with ballgowns—pink and frilly, blue and lacy, purple with beads, red with flouncy sleeves. Yuck. And of course, equally ornate shoes to match, none of which look comfortable. Do they really expect me to wear something from here?

I peek back out into the garden. The princesses are already getting dressed, like five year olds trying on their mother’s clothes. Really? We’re playing dress-up? I think I’ll pass.

Then the girls bounce out of their closets to model their outfits. One of the twins pokes her head in and beams at me. “Come on! Pick a dress and let’s see.”

She disappears and I let out a long breath. The closet of dresses looms in front of me like a sinister rainbow. I’m probably not going to get away with wearing my jeans tonight, am I?


I sift through the layers of fabric. There has to be something decent in here. Eventually, I find a cream-colored dress with cap sleeves and lace only around the bodice. I shimmy into it and pick the most ordinary-looking shoes I can find—black with a short heel and a simple beaded design around the toe. At least there aren’t any cameras in the castle. Although, knowing that pixie…

I ignore the bottles on the vanity and step out into the garden. The princesses ooh and aah over each other, and even compliment my outfit, but they’re not as thrilled about my choice as they are with Faith’s dress. It looks like it’s made entirely of pink pearls. Yikes.

Then comes the perfume. Each girl comes out with a different bottle. All at once, as if triggered by some hellish starter gun, they start spraying each other. It’s the weirdest water fight I’ve ever seen. They chase each other and splash drops of overly sweet-smelling liquid on each other. My mouth drops open as I watch in horror, but that’s a mistake. The sweet-smelling clouds turn bitter on my tongue and I gag.

The laughing and screaming suddenly become the least of my problems. The smells of flowers and fruit and who knows what else attack me all at once. I can’t breathe. The fumes sting my eyes and thicken the air. I have to get out.

No one notices as I run for my life. I’m out of the garden just in time. The air in the common room is delightfully breathable. What I just witnessed in there was scarier than any horror movie. No one should ever have to go through that.

I sink into the pink satin cushions of the super-long couch while I catch my breath. But I don’t get a very long break before the double doors at the front of the room open. And in walks Prince Ferguson, eager to be noticed. Then he sees it’s only me. His shoulders deflate. “Oh.”

I smile. “Nice to see you, too.”

Normally, I’d run from him as fast as I ran from the perfume-fight. But I want answers. I point at him. “You. Sit.”

Prince Ferguson seems a bit shocked that I would talk to him like that. I don’t care. I’m not about to put on a show just for him. He sits on the couch, as far from me as possible. Just how I like it.

“What’s going on?” I ask. “Why are you here?”

He stares blankly for a minute. I raise my eyebrows. I’m willing to wait for his brain cells to warm up.
“I’m here to marry one of your sisters.”

I narrow my eyes. “I mean why are you in this fairy tale? You’re supposed to be in Beauty and the Beast.”
I consider what I just said. Maybe that’s not true. I mean, it’s not like he got the girl or anything in that tale. Still, I wait for his answer.

“Fairy tale? Beauty?” Ferguson’s eyes widen. “I remember you! You were Beauty’s plain servant girl!”
I project death at the idiot in front of me.

"Er, well, obviously you’re not a servant girl. Or plain, Princess Ivy. I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize you. Obviously your disguise was effective.”

My words seethe through clenched teeth. “I wasn’t wearing a disguise.”
Oh please don’t tell anyone how I acted at that castle. I wasn’t myself. After Faith rejected me, I needed to find someone to marry.”

The door to the garden opens behind me. Ferguson throws his attention to the incoming girls like their a lifesaver in the stormy sea. But I’m done talking to him. He’s obviously the same idiot I once knew and he has no idea what’s going on. It’s the one thing we have in common.

A hurricane of colorful dresses whip past me, surrounding Prince Ferguson in clouds of silk and perfume. The prince doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he looks like he won the lottery. Five princesses giggle and flirt with him like he’s suddenly the last living man in the kingdom. I wouldn’t care either way.

Long white fingers grasp the prince’s arms. A hundred questions—about his journey, his kingdom, his latest hunt—bombard him so fast, the prince has to choose which ones to answer. Of course, he always answers Faith’s questions. Not very intelligently, but I give him props for being able to pick out her voice from all the chatter.

I stay on my end of the couch and watch the chaos. At first, it’s entertaining to see them all act like such idiots. But something doesn’t feel right. Weren’t they bashing Ferguson and laughing at him an hour ago? Now they’re throwing themselves at him and offering him a goblet of wine and swooning over his lackluster stories.

“My dear princesses,” chortles the prince. “We do have all evening. Please, one at a time.”

Faith giggles, which really doesn’t match her voice. It’s too high-pitched.

Charity bats her eyelashes at Ferguson. “Isn’t your sword heavy? I can’t imagine carrying it around all the time.”

Ferguson closes his eyes and nods knowingly. “Yes, but one can never be too careful. One never knows when one will meet a damsel in need of aid.”

The prince’s words slur a bit and I have to hide a smile. I guess he’s had a little too much wine.

Mercy gazes up at him with wide eyes, which really accents her girlishness. “You must be very brave, then.”

“Well…” Ferguson nods again. “Of course, one must…” He leans back into the couch. “One must do…what one must…do…”

Ferguson closes his eyes and his head tilts back. The room goes quiet.

August 28, 2012

Chapter 6 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

Chapter 6

My mouth hangs open as Prince Ferguson saunters to the empty chair next to Faith. He gives her an obvious wink before seating himself and thanking the king. “The invitation to participate was such a thrill.”

All eyes turn to the king, except for Faith’s. She rolls her eyes and scoots her chair a little closer to the king, away from Ferguson. I can’t blame her.

Next to me, Felicity turns almost as pale as her hair. “Father, what does he mean by participate?”

The king snaps at another servant behind him. The man bounds out through the double doors as fast as the first one. “Since my daughters have refused to give away the whereabouts of their late-night escapades, I’ve had to rely on other methods.”

He pauses and seems to enjoy the curious, anxious faces all around him. Ferguson, however, flashes Faith his most winning smile like he’s done something amazing. From over Felicity’s shoulder, I try to catch Ferguson’s eye. I sort of saved his life this past summer; he could at least acknowledge my existence.

The king continues. “Prince Ferguson, whom you all know, will spend an evening in your common room, guarding your bedrooms.”

A small gasp comes from Felicity, but no one else seems to hear her.

“If he can tell me where you girls go, or what has happened to the other six of my little girls, he’ll have his choice among you for his bride. And you will be married.” The king pins his gaze to Faith, who holds his stare without moving.

Charity snickers softly. “Any guesses who he’ll pick?”

Chastity catches the whispered question and tilts her head, keeping a completely fake, innocent look on her face, like she’s trying to guess. She’s right. Ferguson hasn’t exactly been subtle about his choice. He’s practically modeling his perfect chin for her. I guess I should feel snubbed that he didn’t give anyone else a chance. Then I remember that this is Prince Ferguson we’re talking about.

A line of servants walk in, including the ones that left earlier. Each one holds a covered dish or some kind of serving tray. It’s amazing how fast they can move without dropping a dinner roll. I’m guessing the king isn’t a very patient man when it comes to food. Or anything else.

Plates of food land in front of everyone at the table. A big chunk of meat with four legs, a bed of greens, and some kind of foul-smelling white sauce. I lean closer to Charity. “What is this?”

The twin closest to me stabs the small animal with one of her forks. “I guess Father’s trying to punish us by skipping a few courses. He knows soup is my favorite part of the meal.”

I shake my head and prod the meat with the handle of my fork. “No, I mean what is this?”

Charity gives me a look. “Rabbit, of course.”

I drop my fork. It sings against the gold plate. Rabbit. I can just picture this poor thing, running away from dogs and hunters, through the woods and trying to find a safe place to hide. I’ve been hunted before. It kind of sucks.

Then I notice Felicity’s plate. A pile of fresh greens, no gross sauce, extra bread and butter, and—be still, my heart—a small heap of yellow corn. I swallow to keep from drooling on her plate. I don’t think princesses are supposed to drool. “Um…” I tap Felicity on the shoulder. She looks at me like I’ve done something offensive, but she’ll forgive me anyway. “How can I get some of that?”

Felicity beams at me, then tosses her hair back and calls a servant over to her. She mutters something, the servant nods and runs out of the room. Do they have to leave like they’re on fire all the time?

Felicity turns back to me, smiling like I just told her Ferguson is going to leave forever. “I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me. Having one of us refuse to eat game always seems to upset Father, but now that there are two of us, maybe he’ll be a little more understanding.”

“Oh.” My eyes flicker to the king. I’d rather not draw attention to myself. Especially if the king’s upset. But then I catch a whiff of corn and I relax. It’s totally worth it.

Soon, the servant returns with a plate identical to Felicity’s. He makes the rabbit disappear and he rushes through the double doors like the plate is about to explode.

While I unceremoniously shove food into my mouth, Faith turns to the king, who’s ripping into the poor rabbit in front of him like it’s a piñata. I hope he doesn’t think there’s candy inside.

“Father,” Faith says, pulling her hand from Ferguson’s grasp. “What would happen to the prince if, say, he fails to produce a satisfactory answer to your questions?”

The king replies with syrupy-fake concern. “Dearest, we’ve worked out the details. Don’t worry. The prince is thoroughly motivated. Aren’t you?”

He lift his chin to address Ferguson, who seems a little put-off with having to compete with the king for Faith’s attention. “Oh yes, Your Majesty. Don’t trouble yourself. I think I can handle your lovely daughters.” He leans toward Faith. “Even if they are very determined.”


Faith persists. “But what would happen, hypothetically?”

Even though she asked her father, Ferguson takes it upon himself to answer. “Don’t concern yourself. What are six females against a prince?”

I almost lose a mouthful of greens. Did he just say that?

The king quickly raises a hand to silence whatever words are about to come from Faith’s mouth. “Prince Ferguson has signed a contract, which gives me permission to execute him if he doesn’t provide proof of his claim. But I’ve given him the whole evening and the key to your common room. There’s no leaving without his knowledge.” He pauses to brush crumbs out of his beard, then turns to his oldest daughter. “Your secrets will be exposed.”

August 21, 2012

Chapter 5 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

Chapter 5

The girl hurries me through a pink room with a long couch that’s absolutely covered in bows. The pink room has twelve other doors. The one we take leads into a hallway lined with pink and gold tapestries and a vase of flowers in every window. It’s like a sugar plum fairy got a little slap-happy with her wand.

Finally, we end up in a dining hall. At least, that’s what I assume you’d call this room. You know, because of the mile-long table right in the middle of it. It’s carved from a rich, dark wood, with thirteen chairs around it—one at the head of the table and six on each side. Less than half the chairs are occupied, but the four girls in front of me all look the same as the young girl who led me here. They all have long, blonde curls and small, pointed noses. Long, white necks and perfectly dainty chins. I’m starting to feel out of place. Mom is as pasty as they come, but I inherited Dad’s small size and his dark eyes and dark hair. And with my round nose and narrow eyes, I’m not exactly a classic beauty.

The oldest girl, sitting the farthest away on my left, turns her head and raises an eyebrow. “There you are, Ivy. We were beginning to think you’d run away.”

The other girls giggle like she said something very funny, but I must have missed the joke.

At the height of my self-consciousness, the youngest girl lets go of my elbow and leaves me, taking the last chair on the right. Between her and the girl sitting directly in front of me, there are four empty chairs. I start to sit in one of them, since there are only three empty seats on the other side, (What can I say? I like symmetry.) but the girls all give me a look like I just said I’d love to eat some raw oysters. I’m guessing we all have assigned seats in this place. And I have eight to choose from. Wonderful.

So I pretend like I meant to come this way, but I need to stretch my legs a little more. Nothing like a nice walk around the dining room table. I circle around at a leisurely pace and try to look casual, but five pairs of eyes follow me around the room. I slow down when I get to the other side of the table, but the girl nearest to me—the older one who made the not-so-funny joke—frowns. “Stop this nonsense, Ivy. Father will be here any moment.”

Sounds pretty serious. I move to the next chair, then the next, but the older girl’s frown deepens and her pale freckles really start to stand out against her light-colored skin. So I take the only chair left, between a tall girl, about my age, with dirty blonde hair and another girl that looks remarkably like the one sitting in front of her.

The heavy wooden chair scrapes against the mauve and white-swirled tile and I have some trouble scooting the huge piece of furniture under my butt. With another loud screech, my knees are finally tucked under the table and I’m pretty sure I’m blushing. I smile around at the beautiful, confused faces, but behind my smile I’m trying to figure things out. Why are there so many empty chairs, if I’m late? And why am I sitting here, dark-haired and stumpy like I’m one of these angelic girls? Are they all supposed to be sisters? My sisters? Was I adopted or something?

Okay, that’s ridiculous. I wasn’t adopted. I know who my parents are. My real parents, anyway. This is probably what the pixie meant when he said he’d have extra fun this time. He’s messing with me.

I try to relax and lean back in my chair. I run my moist hands down the rich wood carvings of the chair’s arms. The table setting looks like it belongs in a furniture store—a huge, flowery centerpiece, matching plates, and enough forks to make a certain little mermaid’s collection look embarrassingly small. No plastic cups in sight, either. It’s pretty, but it’s not home.

The double doors on the other side of the room fly wide open. The girls in front of me don’t turn around to look. They don’t even blink when the doors hit the walls with two simultaneous bangs. A tall man in a fur-trimmed jacket marches in with a scowl on his face. A train of men, dressed in black and brown (some of them holding musical instruments) scamper behind him like shivering, shaking Chihuahuas. The tall man comes around to the head of the table and I notice the crown resting on his brow. He’s a king? Does that make us… princesses? Immediately, he turns to his left and stares at the empty chair. The one next to the nine year old. His scowl grows colder.

“Faith.” He whips his head to address the oldest girl with the freckles, sitting to his right. “It seems another of your sisters has disappeared. Where is Grace?”

He speaks the last three words slowly, but his voice is hard and deliberate. One of his daughters is missing? Another one? Six of the chairs at the table are empty. They couldn’t possibly belong to six more princesses that have all gone missing. Who has twelve daughters?

I look to Faith for some kind of explanation. The chairs can’t all be for members of the same family. And what does the king mean by “missing”? Maybe Grace is just late getting to the table.

But Faith lowers her chin to her chest. Somehow, she still maintains that regal air while she stares at the empty plate in front of her. “I don’t know where she is.”

The king pounds his fist into the table and one of his forks falls to the floor. The happy chiming sound of delicate metal on marble explodes through the silence. The king pretends not to notice, even though one of the servants behind him looks horrified at the loss of a utensil. “I hope you girls have reconsidered.”

The other four girls hold completely still. I feel like I’m hiding in a wax museum and I don’t dare to move, either. I’m supposed to be blending in, I remind myself. Who cares what’s really going on in the messed-up family? But my eyes move from girl to girl, and then back to the king. My heart beats noisily inside me and I wipe my palms on my jeans.

When the king’s eyes fall on my, I’m sure I’m going to crack. At least, I would if I knew where his daughter had gone. His gaze bores into me, drilling holes into my brain, like he’s hoping to take the information by force. I hate to think it, but if he pulled stuff from my brain, the king would be really disappointed.

He stares at me for another minute. I feel like I’m not getting enough oxygen, even though I’m still breathing. A heavy weight pushes against my lungs. The pressure builds. I'm going to scream, I know it. Nobody can take this kind of torture.

Then he moves on to the tall girl next to me. Her hair is paler than the rest of the girls. “Felicity, please tell me. Where have your sisters gone?”

His voice is gentler now. Pleading. My heart breaks a little, until I look up at him. The king’s face is as hard as Plexiglas. Except for his eyes. Something about his eyes is just as desperate as his voice. Even they’re blue and buried under thick blond eyebrows, they prick a soft spot in my chest. They’re the eyes of a father.

Felicity lets her white-blonde hair cover her face. “I don’t know. I’m sorry, Father.”

The king turns his eyes back to me. “Please, Ivy. Tell me where my Grace is.”

I swallow hard and try to keep eye contact long enough to get a full sentence out. “I wish I knew.”

The king’s eyes harden a bit before moving to the girl to my right. “Charity? Chastity? Perhaps one of my twins heard something in the night?”

I realize the girl next to me and the girl sitting across from her have the same impish look and wild eyes. Something in those eyes flares like blue fire when they both answer. “No, Father.”

The king has to skip over four empty chairs to talk to the last sister. I still can’t imagine the whole table surrounded by that many blonde girls. “Please, Mercy.” He pleads with the youngest girl, the one that was worried I’d be late to dinner. But she doesn’t seem scared. Her perfect little face is smooth like porcelain. “You and Grace were so close. Tell me where she is so I can bring her home.”

The answer comes quickly and it sounds a little bored. “I don’t know where Grace is.”

The king stands, toppling his chair over with his broad shoulders. “Very well. If you won’t tell me willingly, I’ll find another way. But you won’t like it.”

Charity mutters something under her breath. It sounds like “manipulative old goat”.

The king nods to one of the servants behind him. The poor trembling man dashes out the double doors, his black ruffles bouncing around his neck. The princesses all follow him with their eyes, but keep their heads lowered. Seconds pass and I’m ready to scream again. Where are the lost princesses? What is the king planning? And where is the frilly man going?

The king seems smug, now that the frilly servant is off doing his bidding (whatever that may be). None of the softness is left in those blue eyes. It’s all ice and anger and an unsettling gleam that reminds me of the twins, Charity and Chastity.

Footsteps pulse in the hallway beyond the doors. Everyone watches the open doorway. What has the servant brought back?

But it’s not the servant. It’s a man, dressed in a cape and vest. A man with a sword and perfectly perfect teeth. He bows with a flourish of his hand and I gasp out loud. I recognize this guy, and his stupid hand flourish. He’s Prince Ferguson of Spiddle.

August 14, 2012

Chapter 4 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

Chapter 4

When I wake up, my first thoughts are about the awful things I want to do to that pixie. I didn’t get to say goodbye to Mom or pack for the trip. She’s going to freak out when she can’t find me. This is the last thing I wanted to do to her.

My second thoughts are about the garden I’m in. At least, I think I’m in a garden. I’m lying in a flower bed and birds are chirping, but I’m on my back, looking up at the white marble that surround the raised beds. On an unrelated note, I have a raging headache. I look up at the vaulted, light blue ceiling and rub my temples. “Was the pain necessary?”

This is the weirdest garden I’ve ever been in. Not only is it indoors, but it’s excessively…cute. Two butterflies chase each other around the spray of pink and white flowers. A bunny hops out from behind a speckled toadstool, and I swear it winks at me. The bunny, not the toadstool. “What is this place?”

I climb onto my feet and brush the dirt from my jeans. With a short jump, I’m off the raised bed and walking around, trying to get my bearings. Last time, I threw myself into things and was way too impulsive. I won’t be making that mistake again.

A butterfly lands on my shoulder and a light wisp of air brushes my cheek as it stretches its wings. Blue and white diamonds pattern its underside and the tops of the wings have pink and yellow polka dots. I’ve never seen a butterfly like that. I’m pretty sure they don’t exist. It flitters off on its own and joins the other two butterflies in the flower bushes. Yeah, I should definitely figure things out before I do anything.

The four walls are painted blue like the ceiling, to look like a summer sky. A low, stone bench sits at the end of a grassy path. A cluster of white lilies line the wall behind it. And of course, it’s hard to miss the gigantic statue in the middle of the room. A white stone girl in a flowing dress has one arm extended. A stone bird is perched on her finger, its mouth open like it’s singing.

The real birds are singing loudly enough, it makes my headache feel ten times worse. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. The smells of spring grass and fresh berries fill my senses. I swear I feel a breeze brush lightly against the back of my ponytail. This place is way too weird. I need to stay focused.

“Get in and get out,” I tell myself. It’s the best advice I can think of. “Don’t get involved, and don’t mess anything up.” Also good advice.

Behind me, a door opens. Funny, that I hadn’t looked for an exit. But the doors are camouflaged, now that I noticed them. They’re painted the same as the walls and have ivy crisscrossing all the way up to the ceiling. A pretty blonde girl in a pale pink dress scurries into the garden. She’s pretty young, maybe nine years old. Her eyes light up when she sees me. “There you are, Ivy! Hurry, or Daddy will get there before we do.”

I stare at her. She used my name. No, I must have heard her wrong. “I think you’ve got the wrong girl.”

She tugs at my elbow, pulling me toward the door. “Stop playing games and come with me. Our sisters are waiting.”

I swallow hard. Our sisters?

So much for not getting involved.

August 7, 2012

Chapter 3 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

Chapter 3

“Ivy, did you really think you could keep me away forever?”

I turn. The pixie gloats from on top of my dresser. He knocks over a bottle of lotion as he scoots off and flutters to the center of the room. He’s as smug as ever, wearing a green tunic worthy of Peter Pan.

Since arguing would be a waste of time, I ignore his question. Besides, it’s probably better if he thinks he’s in control. He’ll be in a better mood. “I want to make a deal.”

The pixie tilts his head and his mouth curls into that horrible smile. “I do love a good bargain.”

My eyes lose focus on the creeper in front of me and I flash back to my last fairy tale adventure. Black fur, fangs, and a poison-tipped tail. Can I go back to that?

I swallow back the fear and force my mind back to what’s happening now. I’m smarter this time. I can handle anything this jerk can throw. “I’m willing to go back to one of your fairy tales…” His eyes light up and I know I have his interest. “..if you agree to leave the rest of my family alone. Forever.”

There’s no sense in being specific. I’d rather the pixie not know about Mom’s pregnancy, if I can help it.
The little imp watches me and I struggle not to twitch. I haven’t lied. There’s nothing to worry about. But my face still feels tight and I know my casual expression looks forced.

“Why do you think I would go after your family?” The pixie’s voice is smooth and kind. As close to a lie as he’ll ever get.

“That’s my business.”

“And after such a horrible experience last time, what would make you want to go back?”

He floats to the carpet and looks up at me with unmasked suspicion. But there’s something else behind those piggish eyes. It takes me a second to recognize it, but now I’m sure. Eagerness. He’s ready to jump at the chance to have a willing participant.

I shrug and open my eyes wide like I’ve seen other girls do. The girls that always get what they want. “I made rookie mistakes last time. I want to prove that I can do it right.”

The pixie tilts his head back even more. “You’re not afraid?”

Who me? Afraid to be trapped in a dark, depressing castle surrounded by an evil enchanted forest again? Afraid of whatever wild, manic creatures the pixie can come up with? “No.”

He smiles. I don’t like that smile, and I’ve seen it way too many times. “Fine. But since you’re playing on behalf of your entire family, I have a condition.” He doesn’t wait for me to ask what it is. “The fairy tale will have extra players.” He shrugs. “It’s only fair.”

I’m about to object. There shouldn’t be any conditions; I’m volunteering. But then I remember that the pixie doesn’t know that. He thinks he caught me in a moment of weakness, that he can take me without any deal whatsoever. And he’s probably right.

I have no idea what “extra players” means. It doesn’t sound so bad, but his grin worries me. “You mean, more characters?”

He nods.

Well that shouldn’t be too hard. The last tale only had three other people in it. And a little more company sounds like an improvement. “Okay. It’s a deal.”

The pixie gives a girlish laugh, revealing pointed teeth that make my skin crawl. I start to feel drowsy. My body floats backward, toward my bed. My eyes flicker shut and everything goes dark. As I drift into sleep, I hear the pixie’s voice say, “This is going to be twice as fun!”

July 31, 2012

Chapter 2 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

Chapter 2

Pacing is for drama queens. People only pace when they want the world to know they’re nervous. At least that’s what I used to think. But it’s something to do while I think. Because I have to do something and I have no idea what that something is.

My fluffy carpet cushions my feet. My old stuffed animals smile at me from the far corner. Sit down, they say. Rest. Be comfortable. But there’s no being comfortable right now. My hands shake if I unfold them and my stomach turns sour like I drank old milk. What do I do?

There has to be something I can do to protect my brother. But I know there isn’t. He can’t have an emotional attachment to anything. He can’t cling to anything. But that’s what kids do. Kids have binkies and blankies and favorite toys. The whole house is going to be full of things that can invite a pixie to come in and take him away. And I wouldn’t put it past that little winged bag of crap to take a baby.

I try to imagine the thin, red mouth and squinty, sparkly eyes. Yeah, he’d do it. Even if all he wanted to do was mess with me, that pixie wouldn’t hesitate to grab my baby brother from his crib and toss him in front of a hungry dragon.

My knees wobble and I plop onto my mattress. The springs creak happily beneath me. I hate them. I hate my bed for being so normal, for being comfortable and for making me happy every time I got the chance to take a nap. How could I have let my guard down? How could I have missed this possibility? It should have been obvious. If the pixie can’t get to me, he’ll get to someone else, someone I care about.

Maybe I can go in his place? But it’s not like the pixie plays fair. He’s kidnap me every other week and if I refused, bang! My brother would be gone. Or he might just take both of us.

Unless I make him promise. Pixies can’t lie. At least, I don’t think they can.

The idea grabs onto my brain and pushes out every other crappy idea I’ve had. It’s my only chance. And like that, I’ve made up my mind. I’ll do it. I’ll take my brother’s place and make the pixie promise to leave him alone. I inhale deeply and feel some relief. I have a plan.

But as more questions creep up, the relief doesn’t last long. What if I contact the pixie and he uses the opportunity to snatch the baby before I can stop him? I picture the creepy imp hovering over the crib, smiling down at the sleeping infant. I won’t let that happen. I’ll end this. Before the baby is even born. The pixie won’t get the chance.

I kneel in front of my dresser and open the bottom drawer. One of the knobs came off during one of our moves. I don’t use it much any more. But as I wiggle it open, using the remaining knob, the gold handle of the magic mirror reflects the light from my ceiling fan. Fortunately, Dad left the mirror behind. He said he forgot to take it with him when he went overseas, but I have a feeling he wanted me to have it while he was gone. He kind of gave himself away when I offered to ship it to him. He wouldn’t let me, no matter how much bubble wrap I promised to send with it. Dad never refuses bubble wrap.

I grasp the handle and slide the mirror out of the half-open drawer. The cool metal behind the glass rests in my palm. I inhale slowly, then bring the glass close to my face. I breathe hot air until my reflection clouds up. “Show me the pixie.”

The fog thickens to a solid white, but doesn’t clear away. The mirror’s glass fills with white static, like it’s looking out into the middle of a blizzard. I’d forgotten the mirror doesn’t work on my pixie or the white lady I met in the forest. Is there any way to find that little punk?

It was easy to get him to come to me, when I was in Fairy Tale Land. He kind of just popped in to taunt me whenever he felt like it. But in the real world, there are rules. I’m just not sure what those rules are.
Except one. There’s one rule I know for sure, and I’ve used it. Boy, have I used it.

The photo album seems to stick out from my bookshelf a little more than the rest of my books. Its pink spine practically glows next to the brown and navy textbooks I never use.

My feet drag against the carpet. In the corner of my brain, a tiny voice screams at me, begging me to reach for a different book. But then I think of that belly poking through Mom’s shirt, about the little somebody living inside. I think about the nursery and how I can help Mom paint it blue, of little hats and tiny shoes and about how happy everyone’s going to be. And about how devastated they’ll be if the baby disappears one night.

I pull the photo album from the shelf and take it to my bed. My fingers find the picture without any trouble. The picture. The one of Dad after his race. I focus on the bib number: 2504.

And there’s a small chuckle behind me.

July 24, 2012

Chapter 1 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

To celebrate the home stretch of this pregnancy, I'm going to post some free content! You guys are absolutely wonderful for sticking with me through these brain-dead times, and I want to say thanks. Now, it's not final draft material yet, but every Tuesday (until the baby comes), I'll post a new chapter from The Fairy Tale Twist, Ivy's upcoming sequel to The Fairy Tale Trap.

Feedback and comments are welcome. I'd love to be able to give you all a book that you love.

So here it goes. The current first chapter of The Fairy Tale Twist:

Chapter 1

The parking lot fills with normal kids talking about normal stuff. I walk past a group of girls who, if you asked them about me, they’d give you a blank stare with wide eyes and say, “Who’s Ivy Thorn?” They’re playing a game I used to love: “The worst thing that could ever happen”. Basically, it’s a contest to see whose life sucks the most. Sounds like the winner of this round is a girl who had a bad haircut and a bad breakout right before a school dance. I didn’t even know there’d been a school dance.

As I walk around the circle of girls, I hate them for being such idiots. But I also envy them. I could win that game without even trying. I almost died over the summer. I was kidnapped by a pixie, then chased through the woods by a wild animal. All because the pixie got bored. (Of course, if I ever mention any of that at school, I’ll never make any friends.) I walk past a kid throwing potato chips at his girlfriend. Then again, not having friends might not be so bad.

I walk off school campus and ignore the cars full of happy kids. Can I ever be like that again? It seems unnatural to not be worried about what could be around the corner. Just thinking about a normal life feels wrong. I almost wish I could get swept away into another fairy tale, just to make sure I’m not crazy. But I’d have to be crazy to wish for that.

Fortunately, I think I’m safe from another kidnapping for now. I found out how they get you. I’m proud to say I’ve broken all emotional ties with Dad’s photo. I still love him, but the picture is just a picture. It took weeks to train myself, but I think it worked.

Now, when Dad’s overseas and I start to miss him, I write him a letter, stick it in the mail, and forget about it. When he writes back, I make myself throw his letters away after a day or two. I can’t risk getting attached to them. I’ve seen Mom fish them out of the trash, but it doesn’t matter. They’re just pieces of paper to me.

Besides, I can’t blame Mom. She’s way emotional and hormonal these days. She doesn’t know why I throw away Dad’s letters. She wouldn’t understand. I told my parents about everything that happened to me over the summer—why I disappeared, how I got back, and a few details about what happened to me while I was gone. (But I left out the life-threatening parts and stuck to fairies and enchanted forests.) I’m pretty sure Dad believes me. But Mom said, “I believe you believe it’s real.” Which basically means she believes I’m crazy. I love her anyway, but sometimes I look at her and I just want to shake her until she understands. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I could just get some video of the blasted pixie. I’d try to contact him, but I never want to see that little creeper ever again. I’m not insane.

I walk through the front door and drop my bag on the end table, right next to the teddy bear Dad sent to Mom for her birthday. The one holding a pink heart that says, “I wuv you.” Ugh. My parents are dorks.
Mom’s lying on the couch with her feet propped up, even though her belly sticks out a little. Ever since she found out she was pregnant, Mom has been all about the baby and doing whatever pregnant women do. It’s weird.

She’s my mom and she’s old. She shouldn’t be pregnant. But I’m excited. I always wanted a little brother or sister to play with, a friend who would move every time I did. This baby isn’t exactly going to be a playmate, but it’s still someone I can love and take care of. And I can show this kid that not everyone is like our parents. Some of us are actually pretty normal.

Mom has the laptop open, resting just below her belly. She’s looking at a baby names website. Again. “What do you think of the name Christopher?”

I shrug and plop down into the overstuffed chair next to her. “I don’t hate it.”

“What about Devin?”

I lean over to get a look at the screen she’s looking at. There has to be better names than that. “Mom, these are all boy names.”

Mom turns around and grins at me. When I don’t say anything, she lifts her eyebrows. “Yeah. They are.”

It takes me a minute. I think she’s saying what I think she’s saying. The eyebrows mean she’s saying something. “It’s a boy?”

She nods.

“It’s a boy!” I jump up and do a goofy dance. Then I stop. That was the dance I did for the fairies in the enchanted forest. I try to pretend like I’m just done dancing and try to hold onto my smile. But Mom’s giving me the look. The you’re-not-telling-me-something look.

“Does Dad know?”

Mom’s face softens into a smile. “I called him this morning. He said he’ll be home for the birth!”

I give her my best smile. It’ll be good to have him home that long. It seems like every time we get him back, he has to leave again. I should be thrilled. I am thrilled. But at the same time, an ugly thought worms its way through my head. And I suddenly feel like I might be sick. Before Mom can see what I’m thinking, I head for my room. “That’s great. I think I’ll go write to him.”

I force myself to go slow. Running to my room at a dead sprint probably wouldn’t come off as normal. But my heart pumps a gut-wrenching feeling through my whole body. I have to swallow several times to keep from throwing up. Because even though I’ve made sure I’m safe from the pixie…

…my brother won’t be.

July 12, 2012

Quick Update

I'm in the third trimester of my pregnancy. While it's great that I'm getting closer to welcoming my baby into the world, my brain has stopped working.

This means a lot less writing, I'm afraid. I'm still working on The Fairy Tale Twist, but the work is slow-going. In the meantime, I have a small project to work on when I'm not writing. The Fairy Tale Trap should be a paperback by the end of the year. The sooner the better, in my opinion.

I'll keep you posted on the updates, but I'm most active on facebook. Thanks for being patient. You guys are the best!

June 12, 2012

There's Always Something

There’s always something. Even as I write this, my two year old is hitting his sister and my four year old is trying to show me all the unusual things Mary Poppins can do. Finding time to write is both a science and an art.

A science? Well, yeah. I have to make sure the kids are on a regular sleep schedule. Otherwise they sleep at different times (or not at all) and I have no time to write. And no sanity.

And of course it’s an art. All the planning in the world can fizzle into nothingness if the toddler is stubborn enough. Or, like this week, I find out moments after going grocery shopping that we have no paper towels and I forgot to buy diaper rash cream. So it takes some creativity, if I want my book to grow.

Maybe the kids will watch a movie in the other room for an hour and a half? Unlikely. Maybe one of my sisters is just dying to take care of them for me? They have busy lives, too. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s a holiday that I forgot about and my husband will be home to watch the kids for me. It could happen.

Sometimes I only get a short amount of time to write. Actually, it’s usually only a short amount of time. You know what I’ve learned to do?

Take breaks. It seems counter-intuitive. If I only have two hours or an hour and a half, it makes sense to dive into my work and get as much done as I possibly can. But taking five-minute breaks (before I get tired!) goes a long way.

So, yeah. Some weeks the kids are really good at keeping me from my writing. I do what I can.

I try to be smart (and creative and methodical and thoughtful) and I keep making progress when I can. Every drop in the bucket counts. Eventually, I produce a story I can be proud of. Even if it takes a little longer than I’d like to admit.

June 8, 2012


Congratulations to all our winners. You should get an email from our Boost a Book authors soon, if you haven't already.

The widget in the previous post has a list of the winners. Some people won more than one book. Those extra entries really paid off!

Thanks again for supporting the books you love. :)

May 29, 2012

Boost a Book

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I'm picking winners now.

You, the reader

When you read a good book, you want to tell people about it! But aside from trying to convince your friend that they’re really going to like this random book you just found, what can you, as a reader, do to help an author?

How To Help
Word of mouth is of course really helpful, but did you know that just by leaving a review, you can make a book more visible to other readers? The review can be on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your blog, Goodreads, Shelfari, it doesn’t matter. If it’s where readers can find it, you’re helping. The more times a book shows up on the internet, the more people hear about it.

You can click the “like” button at the top of the book’s Amazon page

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The Good Stuff
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May 13, 2012

Mother's Day is a Mockery

My mom always said Mother's Day was a mockery. (Okay, she said to be funny, but it's become a regular saynig with my family.) She said Mother's Day is the day when everyone is really nice to their moms, and then they give them grief the other 364 days of the year.
I kind of see her point, now. Everybody says such nice things that they wouldn't normally say. It's like when people say, "Let's try to have the Christmas spirit all year round." but they only say that at Christmastime.

Still, this is a very cool holiday. We stop and think about our mothers in a positive light, and think about all the good things they've done. Actually, it feels a lot like the Christmas spirit.
The world unites, with nothing in common except love and gratitude for the women who raised us. It's amazing what our mothers do, everything parents give up in order to fulfil that urge to nurture.

But we're driven to sacrifice for our wee ones. We wouldn't have it any other way.
So yes, it's only once a year, but I think the reminder is important. Without mother's day, we wouldn't take the time to really think about the long-term sacrifices made by the wonderful women in our lives.
Thanks to everyone who did something to show mothers that they're appreciated! And thank you to all mothers in the world that gave unconditional, pure love to their babies.
Here's to mockery!
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