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You Have to Pry My Fingers Loose

Art by Harlequin Enterprises

Art by Harlequin Enterprises

Everyone I’ve ever let go has claw marks on them. Know anyone like that? If you didn’t before, you do now. I’m a hold on for dear life and love them to death kind of girl. I have been since the day I bawled my eyes out at preschool graduation. Even before then, probably. Hey, I was young, but I knew I’d never see most of those kids again and I loved them. I hate to think of how I’ll respond when my children begin leaving for college. It’s hard enough seeing them climb onto the bus every morning. I admit it. I’m a mess. If we’re in line too long together at an amusement park, I’ll probably ask for your email before I get on the ride. It’s tough for me to let you go.

Like most personality traits, I’ve learned to take the good with the bad. I’ve stayed in some relationships longer than I should have, but I’ve also stuck it out long enough to see others thrive. Discernment is hard, especially when every fiber of my soul screams, “Keep them! Love them! Feed them!” (I will love you with food, but that’s another post all together).

Today, I’m blogging for therapy and dealing with my most bittersweet book moment yet. My September 29th release, MURDER IN REAL TIME, happened to be the series conclusion to my mini-series, The Patience Price Mysteries, and I’m still a little frantic. I’m letting go of characters I love. Of my friends. I’ve spent as much time talking with this cast of characters as I have with tangible people in my life this year. Strange? Maybe, but true anyway. Saying goodbye to them has left me sad and hungry. I’m thrilled they get to meet new people, but I hate to think I’ll never accidentally blow up another car, office or boat house with them again. No more sundaes from the Tasty Cream or Mai Tais with friends on a deck overlooking the harbor. It kills me inside.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Authors kill me all the time. Does that happen to you? The fact I’m doing this to myself is new territory, but the feeling’s the same. If I could literally die from the loss of fictional characters, I’d be dusty bones by now. I still mourn the loss of characters I haven’t read since grade school. More recently, I’ve plotted letters, in the shower, for authors who ended series I wasn’t ready to let go. I need them.

Is it just me? Are other people so attached to book friends? Is it insane that I want one more of my favorites? Is there a series or character you’ve never let go?
I’d love to hear!

Featured New Release: Reluctant Prince by Dani Lyn Alexander

Reluctanct PrinceReluctant Prince
Kingdom of Cymmera
Book One

Betrayal lies cloaked in shadow.

Seventeen year old Ryleigh Donnovan is certain her life is cursed. Nothing ever goes smoothly, and her first job interview is no exception. An earthquake rocks the building, sending Ryleigh on a frantic search for her younger sister, a search which lands her in the hospital. Terrified they’ll push her for answers she can’t afford to give, Ryleigh flees with a mysterious stranger.

Jackson Maynard is about to be ordained as a Death Dealer, a warrior for the Kingdom of Cymmera, but first he must pass one more test. When he fails to acquire the human girl the prophet has chosen, he’s forced to stand trial for treason. Banished from his realm, he seeks out the girl from the vision, Ryleigh Donnovan, and together they embark on a journey to save his dying kingdom.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon           Barnes and Noble           Kensington          Kobo  

 Reluctant Prince Teaser 2

Excerpt:

Jackson clutched the stone wall of his chamber and gasped for air. What had just happened? He had returned to Cymmera, of that he was certain, but how? He hadn’t accessed the gateway. At least he didn’t remember opening it. A vision of her assailed him, beat at him, reminded him that he’d failed.

Oh, man. He was in trouble. He pushed away from the wall.

Images of his target taunted him.

He shoved a chair aside and tore through the pictures scattered across the table in a desperate search for salvation. There. He pulled the shot from the mess but found only condemnation. The long blond hair flowing behind her in the snapshot had not been visible to him, but there was no mistaking the deep blue of her eyes.

The pounding of a fist against the heavy wood door released him from whatever spell she’d cast.

“Jackson.” Another loud thud punctuated his name.

He struggled to get his bearings, tried to slow the racing of his heart. “Yeah, one minute.”

“Now. Your father wants to see you, immediately.”

Kai, his father’s most trusted warrior. He was in more trouble than he’d originally thought. Was it possible the king would sentence him to death for ignoring a direct order? Surely not without offering him a fair trial, or at least granting him the opportunity to explain. But what could he say? What explanation could there be for failing to deliver the girl? None.

“I won’t knock again.” The warrior would soon break down the door and drag him before the throne.

He crumpled the offending photo, the evidence of his disgrace, into a ball. Instead of tossing it in the trash as he’d intended, he shoved it into the small leather satchel he wore at his waist. With a deep breath, he released the latch and pulled open the door.

“Come.” Kai turned his back on him and strode purposefully down the corridor, their footfalls echoing through the silence of accusation.

The thought of escape taunted him, but he would never make it out of the castle. He had only recently completed his warrior training under Kai’s watch and would be no match for the seasoned soldier. Besides, Kai was a stickler for the rules. If he tried to run, the warrior would surely take him down, protégé or not.

Dani-Lyn AlexanderAbout Dani Lyn:

Dani-Lyn Alexander lives on Long Island with her husband, three kids and three dogs. She loves spending time with her family, at the beach, the playground, or just about anywhere. In her spare time, which is rare, she enjoys reading and shopping—especially in book stores. Some of her favorite things include; Bernese Mountain Dogs, musicals, bubble baths and soft blankets. She’s an incurable insomniac and has an addiction to chocolate.

Find her online:

Website:  http://www.danilynalexander.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/danilynalexander

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/DaniLynAlexande

 

Rafflecopter Info:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Mystery Series Giveaway: The Patience Price Mysteries

Murder in Real Time by Julie Anne Lindsey

Art by Harlequin Enterprises

Art by Harlequin Enterprises

The mystery is interesting and kept me flipping the pages until the end, wanting to know who was doing this and why. I also really liked the way the author tells the story. She’s creative with it and I felt like I was one of the islanders through most of the story.

~The Gal in the Blue Mask

As for the mystery, it’s an engaging one that will keep the reader hooked all the way to the end… So as I tell my students – if you want to know what happens you HAVE to read the book. Seriously, I highly recommend you read the book. My to be read list is out of control and there’s not much room to add more, so when I say that I’m adding a series to my must read list (you know the list of authors/series that you always buy?) then you know the book is a must read.
~Booklady’s Booknotes

Murder, mayhem and a dash of romance kept me fully occupied…
~The Ninja Librarian

I liked the way Patience talked to people and got information out of them, you can tell she’s a counselor, she has a way with her of getting people to open up. The mystery was well plotted and intriguing, there’s a nice romantic touch, lovely descriptions of the island, and with plenty of suspects that kept me guessing till the end…
~Carole’s Book Corner

This was a fun new mystery. I liked the characters and the location. While you can jump right in and start with this book and not be at all lost, it stands alone, I find I want to know more and will go back to read the first two in the series.
~Rantin’, Ravin’ and Reading

 

Murder in Real Time

Book three of The Patience Price Mysteries

With the chaos of summer tourists and fall birders out of town, counselor Patience Price is looking forward to the quiet life she remembers. She longs for some peace. And an apple fritter. But the calm is cut short when a reality show sets up camp to film a special about ghosts on her little island. Now fans, reporters and crew have flocked to sleepy Chincoteague. Who knew ghost hunters had an entourage?

When two cast members are killed in a room at the local B&B—a room usually occupied by Patience’s FBI agent boyfriend, Sebastian—she finds herself on the case. Sebastian doesn’t want Patience ruffling any feathers but, as always, she can’t help herself.

Patience promises to let Sebastian handle the investigation—he is FBI, after all—but after a drive-by shooting, her wicked curiosity gets the best of her. And with the TV show forging ahead with filming, the list of suspects (and the line of food trucks) only grows. But has the shooter already flown the coop? And how do you find a killer when you don’t know who the target is?

Amazon       Barnes&Noble       Carina Press     Kobo     iTunes

 

**Join the tour & enter to win a copy of the series**

Tour Participants

October 14 – The Gal in the Blue Mask - Review

October 15 – Booklady’s Booknotes – Review, Guest Post

October 16 – A Blue Million Books – Guest Post

October 17 – deal sharing aunt – Interview

October 18 – Kelly P’s Blog – Guest Post

October 19 – Cozy Up With Kathy – Interview

October 20 – The Ninja Librarian – Review

October 21 – Carole’s Book Corner – Review

October 22 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! – Guest Post

October 23 – rantin’ ravin’ and reading – Review, Guest Post

October 24 – Shelley’s Book Case – Review, Guest Post

October 25 – Brooke Blogs – Review, Interview

October 26 – Dalene’s Book Reviews – Review

October 27 – Back Porchervations – Review

Prophecy Is Heeeeere!

Prophecy CoverYou guys, it’s finally here. My YA pararom, Prophecy, has arrived and I am super psyched to see my BB enter this world. Tasty Book Tours has an amazing Book Blast set up all over the WWW today. I hope you’ll check that out. The book tour begins next week with YA Bound and If you missed my babbling rants over the last months on social media, then let me tell you about Prophecy here *insert stage-wink*

On the other side of death, is destiny.

Callie Ingram is spending her senior year focused on one thing: swimming. Her skill as a competitive swimmer is going to secure a scholarship and her future, or so she hopes. She has big plans, and Liam Hale, her gorgeous new neighbor, isn’t going to affect them. But when Callie sees Liam beheading someone, she learns his family has a secret that will change everything. The Hales are Vikings, demi-gods who’ve been charged by The Fates to find their new destined leader.

Callie’s caught in the middle of a budding Norse apocalypse, in love with Liam Hale and desperate to protect her best friend…who the Hales believe is marked for transformation. Putting the clues together as fast as she can, can discovers she has the power to rewrite destiny, for herself and all humankind.

**Keep scrolling for a sneak peak at the opening pages of Prophecy**

Chapter One:

 “I’ve got one.” Allison scooped wild brown hair into a ponytail and smiled. “Would you rather…”

I groaned. Would you rather was like Truth or Dare, except with no one to kiss.

“Come on. Would you rather spend two weeks on your dream vacation alone or one week alone with anyone you want, but you have to stay here?” Allison cleared the remains of our last customers’ dinners and loaded dirty dishes into a brown plastic tub. “I’d choose the second one and make Hannah Snyder watch me cuddled up to Dylan O’Brien for seven days straight.”

“You didn’t say there would be cuddling.” I retied my apron, buying time to think.

Allison dropped the tub of dirty dishes onto the counter with a wicked gleam in her eye. “Oh, there will definitely be cuddling.”

Soft country music played over hidden speakers. Allison’s crystal blue eyes sparkled. I shuffled booted feet on the white tiled floor, praying for another wave of customers.

Roll With It was the only deli in town and a popular hangout. The deli’s name came from its owner, Buddy, and his hipster approach to life wherein he did and said everything ironically. He was in the kitchen at the moment, wearing unnecessary black-framed glasses, an Army T-shirt and an unbuttoned mechanics shirt with Mack on the name patch. Overkill wasn’t in Buddy’s vocabulary.

“So, which would you rather?” Allison leaned her hip against the counter.

“I’d rather leave. I love this place and its bizarre historical charm, but I’ve never been anywhere else. I’d take a vacation for a while if I could.”

I lifted the ceramic lid on each soup tureen. Rich scents of cheddar, bacon, and potatoes wafted out as I stirred. The tang of southwestern veggies followed. I saved chicken noodle, my favorite buttery aroma, for last. With any luck, Allison would find something else to do if I looked disinterested enough. Or changed the subject. “How was college this week?”

She slapped the nearest table. “Amazing. Did I tell you another hot guy transferred into my Anatomy and Physiology class?”

“Yes. Yesterday.”

“Oh, no, no, no. Today.” She wiggled her eyebrows.

“Another one? Really?” Lucky.

“I swear he’s hotter than the one yesterday. The two of them talked through half the class as if they knew each other. Drove the professor nutty, but he never said anything. Probably because they’re each the size of a pickup truck.”

“They’re friends?”

“Not sure, but wow. I like that idea a lot. A whole community college fraternity full of them.” She fanned her face with napkins from the dispenser on the table.

Wind rattled the door and I jumped.

Change was in the air, thick and foreboding as black thunderclouds before a storm. Fall in the Midwest was a beautiful, but tragic season. Trees prepared for a long winter’s rest by releasing the very appendages they’d spawned and nurtured for so long, like mother birds shoving babies from the nest, except the babies lived. Leaves flew and clung to whatever would hold them until they crumbled into dust. Orphans. Amber and scarlet leaves splattered patterns over sidewalks and roads through town. Every bluster sent more leaves coiling down, bursting free from the giant oaks who had nourished them. Mums lined wraparound porches and flagstone garden paths to historical front doors. Apple trees dropped pink blossoms onto long country driveways. Fall was beautiful, true, but for many things it meant death, dormancy, and otherwise ceasing to exist.

Weariness weighted my chest. Senior year meant change, tough decisions, and the end of an era. Ten months from now, I’d be on a college campus someplace brand new to me. I could start fresh. Be anything I wanted. My possibilities were endless. Until then, I needed to get out of my head.

Gnarled branches of ancient trees swayed outside the deli window while two enormous crows pecked the ground and ruffled their wings. Moonlight cast an eerie glow on the scene. One round eye of each bird settled on the store window, and I froze. The sensation the crows watched me and not the other way around sent goose bumps down my arms.

I took a step toward the window. “Do you see those huge crows?”

A blast of green lightning illuminated the world without warning and I jumped back.

Breath caught in my throat. “Did you see that?” I turned in a circle. Allison was gone. Her laugh trickled from the kitchen.

Wind whistled around the door frame and pelted the glass with rain-wetted leaves. Ominous clouds crept like thieves across the dark horizon. The crows were gone. Relief flooded through me. I had to pull it together. Crows weren’t spying on me, and lightning wasn’t green. Tint on the deli window must’ve given it a funky look. I rested my elbows on the counter and my chin in both hands.

Allison bustled out from the kitchen. “Do you hear this wind? I wish it would rain already. My car needs a wash.”

“I don’t think it works that way.” I checked again for the crows. Lightning probably scared them away. Uneasiness fluttered in my chest. The storm had threatened and hovered all day without committing. Commitment was an issue in this town.

The sharp ding of the order bell startled me and I jumped again.

“Chicken salad and pastrami.” Buddy tapped a rhythm against the wall.

I carried the plates to a couple sitting side by side in a back booth. How could people talk sitting shoulder to shoulder? I preferred lots of eye contact. Eyes gave away our lies. That’s how Mom knew Dad was cheating. Also, why we lived in an ancient farmhouse in Zoar, Ohio, population next-to-nothing, instead of in the nice, upper middle-class Victorian we had a year ago on the neighboring golf course. I could’ve stayed in the better house, but I’d rather live in squalor with an honest person than in a castle with a liar. Besides, a few creaks and leaks aside, the farmhouse wasn’t bad. Plus, we got Chester in the split.

“Welcome to Roll With It. What can I get you?”

I spun at the sound of Allison’s irritation. I hadn’t even heard the bell.

“If I can get you anything else, let me know.” I slid the plates across the table to the blonde and her boyfriend and went to help Allison.

Allison leaned over the counter on her elbows. “No way.”

“Moving trucks were there all day.” Mrs. Printz, fellow citizen and deli frequenter, loved gossip as much as egg salad. Her small frame and black duck head cane gave her the perfect mix of innocence and menace, like the twist villain at the end of a movie.

An older gentleman I didn’t recognize in a tweed jacket stood beside her. “First the cleaning crew, then the semi. Heaven only knows what they pumped into the house out of a semi.”

“That was last week, Lloyd.” Mrs. Printz stamped her cane. “Keep up.”

“Where?” My mind ran through the homes I passed daily with Realtor signs in the lawns. A drawback of small town living was a lack of commerce. You either commuted or made your money from home. Dad commuted an hour every morning to the city, but most people who moved to Zoar left within five years. I’d had dozens of friends in my lifetime. Their families were only passing through. Allison was a lifer like me, third generation Zoarite.

“Hale Manor.” Allison used her best campfire voice. She tented her eyebrows and formed a little o with her lips.

“Ah, man.” Buddy rolled out of the kitchen with a wide, eager expression. “The Hale place is completely haunted. Some broad hung herself from the chandelier in the nineteen thirties. It’s in all the Haunted Ohio books.”

Mrs. Printz’s face twisted into a snarl. Pale creases gathered over the blue veins of her forehead. “Mary-Catherine Hale was a good woman and my mother’s best friend. The Great Depression was a lot tougher than your history books can tell you, Baxter DuPree.”

Allison covered her mouth. Buddy’s real name was Baxter? She wouldn’t let that go anytime soon. I, on the other hand, wasn’t surprised.

I bit my lip. “You knew her?” I didn’t intend to ask. I intended to use one of the neon colored computers to look up Mary-Catherine Hale when Mrs. Printz left. “I’m sorry.”

Mrs. Printz nodded in acceptance. She turned her milky eyes on Allison. “We’ll take a quart of veggie soup and two sourdough rolls.” She elbowed the man beside her and he jumped to attention, digging inside his coat for a wallet.

I filled a soup container to the brim and stuffed a couple extra rolls in a to-go bag.

Mrs. Printz turned her cane with soft, wrinkled fingers. “Mary-Catherine was nice, but she was troubled. The whole family’s troubled. Always has been. They only summered here in those days. The Hales never lived here. After Mary-Catherine’s death, they boarded the place up. The town’s historical society has tried to buy it for thirty years. The family wouldn’t sell. Hale Manor would make a great addition to our circuit of historical buildings, and the grounds are exquisite. I spent many carefree days there as a child. My mother worked for the Hales.” Sadness changed her tone, cutting off what I suspected was the prelude to a longer story. She shook her head and hooked the cane over one forearm, wrapping her heavily jeweled fingers around the man’s elbow instead.

Buddy held the door for them as they shuffled out into the windy cold.

“I still think it’s haunted.” Buddy cocked one hip and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

Allison snapped her gum. “Yeah. You would, Baxter.”

“Excuse me,” he mocked. “I didn’t attend an Ivy League community college like you.”

“I attend community college part-time as I simultaneously finish high school. I’ll attend Case Western Reserve next fall, and I’ll start there as a junior.” She tapped her chin. “Did you start college as an eighteen-year-old junior, Baxter?”

Buddy gave a droll, unimpressed look. “No need. I’m studying the paranormal activity in Zoar. Ghost hunting is my after work job, and with the Hales back in town, I’m guaranteed to get some media attention for my book on their house of death.”

My jaw dropped. “You wrote a book?” Who writes a book? I didn’t know him at all. The ghost hunting seemed right up his alley, though. Buddy had a way of drawing attention to himself and then looking bored. It kept people guessing. The over twenty and single crowd loved him.

The front door banged open with a blustery squeal and shouting filled the quiet deli. A crowd of little leaguers and their parents spilled inside, filling every empty seat. Buddy hustled to the kitchen, ready to cook. I manned the register and Allison set up trays for the orders. The tiny grey and black uniforms seemed fitting for the night and my mood.

Thirty minutes later, everyone was seated, fed, and gossiping about the Hale family. Salty grease and cheese thickened the air, shattered occasionally by the tang of fresh ketchup and boys’ laughter. Stories spread through the room like wildfire moving from table to table and growing at each stop, consuming all other topics in its path. Allison and I lingered over refills, devouring every word. I held my breath, absorbing every ounce of wild speculation.

“They fled Europe when the courts intervened. The family couldn’t use their money and influence to cover any more wrongdoings, so they were forced out.” The woman made air quotes with her fingers around “wrongdoings.”

A man scoffed. “They’re filthy rich? Why not move someplace better than Ohio?”

The voices lifted into the air, tossing out information faster than I could follow.

“What better place to hide than here?”

“I heard he’s a baron.”

The comments went round and round as adults picked food from mostly empty plates and I marveled. If even half the rumors were true, the Hale family was one to avoid. Not good news for me since I lived next door.

“I hope they have sons. We could use some ruthless players this season.” A barrel-chested man with a whistle necklace mumbled around his mouthful of burger.

“They have two.” A hush fell over the room and the woman blushed.

Allison elbowed me. “Little leaguers?”

The woman covered her mouth with a napkin and shook her head, dashing platinum bobbed hair against her cheeks. The other moms broke into laughter.

Another woman smiled ruefully. “Terry jogs past the Hale place every morning. She got a look at the boys moving boxes inside.”

The women laughed again and the men stared.

Terry averted her eyes and dug into her sparse remains of salad with renewed vigor. “They weren’t little leaguers.”

“Not little leaguers.” Allison raised an eyebrow. “Can I please give you a ride home tonight?”

I smiled.

The crowd kept us busy until Buddy turned the CLOSED sign over in the window and let us out. The night air was brisk and smelled of fresh rain and earth. I pulled in another deep breath. Tendrils of wood smoke lifted from nearby chimneys and gravel crunched under our feet on the way to Allison’s car. A full moon hung low in the sky, and a colony of bats flew past in a beautiful swooping formation. Illogically, I looked for the crows. How many crows constituted a murder? Who chose murder as the term for a group of crows? The classification gave me chills.

I kicked stones. “Do you think any of the gossip’s true?” I didn’t have to explain what I meant. Allison and I had been friends since kindergarten. Sometimes I thought she could read my mind.

“I hope so.”

I gaped. “Which part? The part where they’re insane, their death house is haunted or they fled Europe when they could no longer cover all their crimes?”

Allison beeped the doors of her red hatchback open and I climbed inside.

She slid behind the wheel and gunned the little engine to life. “Hot brothers. Duh. I hope they registered for community college.”

“What if they’re dangerous?”

“What if they’re gorgeous?” Allison flicked her signal on at the second light and turned onto my street. “You think they’re outside?”

“At night in this weather? No.” I made a show of pointing to the streetlights. Replica gas lamps lined the residential roads, illuminating the road in varied shades of grey. “Besides I can barely see the sidewalk.”

“Darn.” Allison idled at the curb. Not a soul in sight. She craned her neck to get a better look, but the effort was futile until morning.

I glanced at the creepy old manor next door. Moonlight bathed the ancient home, giving it a gothic look it didn’t need. Ghost stories and age alone had kept me away from the house in broad daylight. While other kids dared one another to climb the front steps or ring the bell, I stayed across the street, on my bike, one foot on the pedal. I’d never been brave enough to get involved in their game. I definitely wasn’t ringing the bell. When Mom announced she’d rented the old farmhouse next door, I nearly swallowed my tongue. Hale Manor was more than a legend; it was alive and watching.

Maybe having inhabitants would reduce its creep factor.

Allison repositioned her hands on the wheel and shifter. “Text me if they come over to borrow a cup of sugar or something.”

I made my best sarcastic face and crossed my fingers without enthusiasm. “Definitely.” Allison drove away at a turtle’s pace as I climbed our front steps.

Mom rocked slowly in the porch swing beside the front door, bundled in a blanket and sipping hot tea from her favorite mug. “I guess you heard the news.”

Of all the features I loved at our new home, the wide-planked wraparound porch was my favorite, followed closely by the swing. I was tempted to join her, but if I sat, I might not get up again.

I opened the front door and she followed me inside. “Hasn’t everyone?”

The shaggy mop sprawled on our kitchen floor rolled to life. “Woof.”

“Hey, Chester.” I squatted to pat his fluffy sheep doggie head. “Did you meet the neighbors?”

“Woof.” His halfhearted response warmed me. If Chester wasn’t concerned, neither was I.

“Did you eat?” Mom was dressed in blue scrubs and white sneakers. Her bag sat at the foot of the stairs, ready to go. I barely saw her on nights we both worked. She hated it, but after taking seventeen years off to raise a daughter, she’d accepted the only available shift without argument. She couldn’t be picky and she couldn’t stay with Dad. You cheat. You lose.

“Yep.” I rubbed my tummy, pretending it wasn’t filled with fizzing nerves after all the wild stories I’d heard tonight.

Mom sloughed out of the blanket and threaded both arms through her coat. She wrestled her hair free from the collar and smiled. Her brown eyes sparkled. “They have sons.”

I laughed. “You in the market again?”

“No, but you are.” She lifted her bag over one shoulder.

“I’m not.” Never again in this town.

“Kirk was a jerk.” Her smile widened. “It’s probably not even a coincidence that rhymes.”

I averted my eyes, choosing to focus on the house across the cornfield, which normally was dark with shadows but now seemed illuminated by a hundred indoor lights. “I’m waiting for college. Zoar’s a small town. Dating here is complicated.”

Mom moved toward the door, pity in her voice. “They aren’t all the same. Men, I mean.”

“I know.” I didn’t. I actually wondered daily how many people weren’t liars instead of the other way around.

“The boys are cute.” She opened the door and stopped to look at me.

“I heard they fled here to escape all the charges against them.”

She made a sour face.

“And they’re criminally insane, insanely rich…and generally insane in a variety of other ways.” I ticked off the insanes on my fingers.

Chester ambled to the door and tugged on his leash dangling from the coat rack. “Woof.”

“Lock up after your walk and stay in until morning. A storm’s coming.” Mom gripped my chin and kissed my cheek. “No wild parties.”

I crossed my heart and hooked Chester onto his leash.

Mom jogged down the steps to her Bronco, throwing one last kiss over her shoulder and gripping the coat to her chest.

I wiped inevitable lip prints off my face with the back of one hand.

“Come on, Chester.” Wind whipped leaves and dirt into tiny hurricanes on the sidewalk as we rounded the house to the backyard. “Make it fast, mister.”

Chester and I jogged through the grass to the decrepit cemetery where he liked to do his business. The cemetery was older than most things in town, which was to say old. The crumbling headstones and rusted iron gates charmed me, like living history books. I’d made rubbings of the stones during walks with my dad when I was in grade school, had my first kiss under the willow in the back, and cried my eyes dry on the broken stone wall when I learned my dad did the deed—the ultimate betrayal—and we were leaving. To others, it didn’t make sense to fear the sight of an old home and yet wander comfortably in a cemetery. It made perfect sense to me. The cemetery, I knew. I understood. I had hundreds of memories there. Happy ones. The house was a mystery cloaked in hearsay and dark tales. I peered at the tall gables in the distance. Hale Manor stared balefully back over the tops of the small cornfield where a spinning scarecrow creaked on its post, thanks to building winds.

“Woof.” Chester barked at a pair of black squirrels playing chase in the trees.

I traced the unusual symbol on a headstone with my fingertips. The symbol was my favorite mystery of the ancient grounds. I leaned against a replica of the winged goddess Nike. She stood sentinel near the center of the graves. For years, I’d assumed Nike was an angel who’d lost her marble head to a storm or age. Mom corrected me. She’d pointed the “angel” out to me in one of her mythology books when I was in grade school. Nike was the goddess of victory. A strange thought when surrounded by the dead. The company she kept didn’t seem victorious to me.

The symbol beside Nike’s gown-covered feet matched many, but not all, of the headstones and markers in the Hale family’s resting grounds. Mom couldn’t explain the symbol. She said she hadn’t seen it, but she didn’t pay much attention to details the way I did. A family crest was her best guess. The explanation would’ve made more sense if every stone bore the symbol. The mark consumed my thoughts in middle school. I wrote a paper on it in eighth grade wherein I hypothesized the symbol stood for male superiority. My evidence: the symbol never appeared on a stone bearing a woman’s name. The theory had holes because the oldest stones were sometimes illegible, crumbled and a few were written in a script I didn’t recognize as English. Still, I made rubbings of two dozen stones to support my argument and earned an A on the paper, mostly for my enthusiasm. The smooth symbols never showed up in the rubbings.

A sprinkling of raindrops hit my face, jerking me back to reality. “Time to go home.”

We meandered through the darkness, light drizzle, and cold. Our last walk of the night was like that. I didn’t want woken in the wee hours because Chester didn’t pee when he was supposed to, so I took baby steps and he sniffed each blade of grass individually. My focus jumped to Hale Manor a thousand times. All the lights inside bothered me. Who were these people and what brought them here?

Back in my yard, I dared one last look behind me. Over the tops of the corn, a curtain slid shut in an upstairs window, leaving the silhouette of a person staring down at me. I imagined they stared, anyway. It was possible the person had their back to me, though it seemed less likely. The light behind them shone like a beacon in the night.

“Come on, Chester.” I ran the rest of the way to the front door and locked up, twisting the dead bolt for good measure.

Chester shook water over me and the floor before running through the rooms, sliding and rampaging the way he did when he was wet. I toweled up the mess, toweled down the dog, and hit the shower before homework and bed. I left my door open so Chester would sleep in my room and patrol the house while I slept. Falling asleep wasn’t easy with my head buzzing from questions and rumors. What kind of people would move to Hale Manor? Didn’t they know the home’s history? Didn’t it bother them?

By midnight, the rhythm of rain on our roof had washed the worries from my mind and lulled my anxious body to sleep.

I shot upright an hour later, gripping sheets to my chin and looking for Chester. “Did you hear that?” The soft green glow of numbers on my alarm clock teased a thought just outside my memory’s reach. One AM. I pressed a palm to my chest, certain my heart would break my ribs. “I heard a woman scream.”

Chester lifted his head, ears perked. “Woof.”

I stared out the darkened window toward the enormous home separated from me by one small field, and I patted my pillow until Chester curled up on it. I laid my head on him and gripped my phone to my chest, waiting impatiently for daylight.


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A tentative comparison of Greek, Roman, and Norse myths by Katharina Gerlach

Huge, enormous thanks to an amazing, crazy-smart, twitter friend, Katharina Gerlach, who came through with this post on mythology. She’s so much fun on twitter and I had NO idea she studied my favorite thing ever. Mythology! If you’re into it like we are, then this one’s for you. ENJOY!!

ZeusA tentative comparison of Greek, Roman, and Norse myths

It’s no big secret that the Romans assimilated a lot of the Greek pantheon and culture. Seeing that both cultures lived in close proximity, that’s not surprising. Zeus became Jupiter, Hermes turned into Mercury, Athene showed up as Minerva. Even minor Greek gods appear in the Roman religion (here’s a full table of all Greek gods and their roman counterparts).

I personally find it rather interesting to see how closely the two religions resemble each other. In both, the gods are unpredictable for the humans living with them in the same world. The gods give little to no thought to the humans and reward or punish them according to their whim. Their feuds and petty rivalries jeopardize human life more often than not, and they behave like spoiled children most of the time, celebrating in a luxurious realm.

The only exception to this rule is Prometheus (not a real god but one of the last titans) whose story is exactly the same in both religions. He helps creating the humans and brings them the fire that Zeus/Jupiter wants to keep for the gods. This story alone shows that the Greek and Roman thought their gods like over-emphasized humans with the same but amplified faults.

In contrast, the Norse gods are much darker and brooding. Although they, like the Greek/Roman gods, are a pantheon with lots of family ties and one ruling god,Loki the way their respective worshipers saw them differed greatly. The Norse gods were much more approachable for the humans and less unpredictable. True, they also had their feuds, but they were more personal and hardly ever involved humans. Loki enjoyed playing tricks on the other gods and then they struggled with each other, not with humans. All-father Odin issued few punishments despite (or maybe because) knowing things that were to come. The only real punishment I remember is when the gods tie Loki to a rock where a snake drops venom onto him. They allow his wife Sigyn to stand beside him to catch the venom in a bowl, giving Loki spells of relative peace until she has to empty the bowl (True, none of the gods, Greek, Roman and Norse were particularly nice to each other). All-father Odin’s main goal was to gain as much knowledge as possible even at high costs to himself. The gods were not playful like Greek and Roman gods, but preparing for the final battle between the different realms of their world.

One thing that seems to be the same in all three of the religions is the belief that the lives of humans and gods alike were predetermined by the Fates (or Nornes in Norse mythology). In all three religions, three women governed everything that happened in the past, now, and future. Thus, the Nornes/Fates are more powerful than the gods. I think it rather surprising that the concept behind such an important part of religion as the personal freedom of the individual, be it god or human, is the same in all these religions. To me, it suggests either a crosspollination of the religions or an adaptation of an even older, now forgotten religion.

Interestingly, in the Roman and Greek religion, there’s just one place where souls go after death: the underworld ruled by Hades/Pluto. There, the souls deemed unworthy are sent to Tartarus (equal hell) and the worthy souls go to the Elysian fields (equal heaven). The underworld is circled by a river and guarded by a three headed dog. Imagine my surprise when I found that one of the Norse underworlds looks just the same. Helheim, the home of the goddess of death, Hel, is circled by a river that even the gods can only cross into her realm but not back out, and it is guarded by… a monstrous dog. Those souls (human and god alike) who died from diseases, accidents, old age and such would go to Helheim upon their death. But Norse mythology held three more places souls could go after death. The most widely known is Valhalla, where Odin collected the most courageous fighters for Ragnarok. Men who died fighting but didn’t outshine others would go to Folkvang. Finally, drowned sailors would be collected by Ran to her hall.

An interesting difference between Roman and Greek concerns the role of humans in the religion. Whereas the heroic deeds by the Roman gods were more important than the actions of men, in Greek mythology, humans were just as important as goods because they contributed significantly to the society. Also, in Roman mythology, good deeds and heroic acts could elevate a mortal to a god-like status. The Greek are much more concerned with the physical life on earth. The afterlife seems to have a much smaller importance in everyday life than in Roman or Norse mythology (I’m not an expert so don’t crucify me if I’m wrong).

ragnarokThe most important difference between Roman and Greek gods and the Aesir is that in addition to a myth of creation (all three have similar myths of creation: the slaying of older gods/giants), the Norse also have a myth of destruction. During this final fight, Ragnarok, all gods would fall. The whole universe of the Nordic gods would be destroyed. However, it would not end. From the ashes, a new world would rise with two humans, Lif and Lifthrasir. Also two gods, Balder and his blind brother Hod, would be reborn, and together they would begin a new world.

For me, that makes the Nordic mythology a more advanced sort of religion, one that looks past its own demise – that’s rare even in today’s religions. I find it fascinating to see how much of what has been hidden from the wave of Christianization burning through Europe survived, and how much could be reconstructed from the few sources that remained. Without a doubt the Greek and Roman religions and their cultures have influenced the way the Christian religion developed, and thus played a major role in the way humans in Europe evolved and spread throughout the world. The impact of the Nordic myths and legends is less visible. I know that they have been misused in the Third Reich, and still there are many people who misuse them to this day. However, I personally believe that the Nordic myths and legends shaped our point of view much more than we give them credit for.

 

catBorn and raised German with a good helping of Scottish adoptive heritage, Katharina Gerlach has been writing stories in the realms of fantasy and historical fiction for many years. She managed to convince a German agent, but the search for a fitting publisher took too long. So she began to self-publish her novels in German and English and has garnered a few awards since. Visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Thank you Cat! This was amazing!

XOXOXO

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