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Rose Petal Graves by Olivia Wildenstein (A Book Review)

Plot: 3/5       Characters: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 3/5       World Building: 3/5

Rose Petal GravesRose Petal Graves brings a new twist to the fairy lore we all know, but its slow, heavy-handed world building and lack-luster faerie characters hold it back from being anything great.

The small town of Rowan has a rich and mysterious history filled with legends about faeries and those who hunt them. For nineteen-year-old Catori, the death of her mother means all those legends are coming to life and demanding she chose a side. With only an ancient casket filled with rose petals and a book of Native American stories to guide her, Catori must find the answers that her mother was looking for before anyone else dies.

I must admit that Wildenstein has a gift for breathing life into places and people that only exist in the imagination. The town of Rowan is a well-fleshed out, believable and homey and the people who reside there are equally so. Catori’s relationships with her parents are heart-felt and genuine, which is rare for YA and NA (and I think Rose Petal Graves could fit in either category), which I’ve always found odd since parents still play such an important and complicated role at that point in peoples’ lives. If as much heart had gone into the magical elements of the story, Rose Petal Graves would have a fairly strong book rather than simply “okay.”

While I appreciate Wildenstein’s attempt to work outside the usual faerie lore, the huge emphasis on an over-complicated back story slows the book down immensely. The conflict is interesting enough without info dumping every legend and story relating to it in rapid succession. The constant use of borrowed words for things that already exist in English hurts the book as well. While a few of them work for places and things new to Catori’s word, Wildenstein really could have left “mate” as “mate” and “legend” as “legend.” Making a reader keep track of words for concepts they’re already familiar with doesn’t really add to the fantasy experience. It just makes them pause and retrace where they heard the word, which gets old quite fast.

The fantastical characters themselves aren’t much better since their personalities are mostly made of exposition, being attractive, and, if they’re lucky, being attracted to Catori for reasons that don’t really lend themselves to potentially interesting relationships. If more of the book had been dedicated to developing Ace, Cruz, Lily, and Kajika as people rather than fountains of information, they and their world could have stood apart from the YA/NA urban fantasy crowd. As is, they all feel like cut outs of all the other mysteriously attractive otherworldly beings we’ve seen before.

So, if you want an easy read and like faeries, I guess Rose Petal Graves is okay. There’s definitely worse urban fantasy titles out there, which is why Rose Petal Grave gets three stars, but if you’re looking for something more exciting with more original characters, it might be best to look elsewhere.

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5 Ways to Start Writing Now. Like, Right Now.

For better or for worse, I belong to a handful of writer groups on Facebook. Every once in a blue moon I’ll ask a question, but I mostly lurk among the more interesting ones and give a few tips or tricks if I have a bit of insight into a particular topic. One of the questions that I always, with out fail, come rain or shine, scroll over is this:

I have an idea, but I don’t know where to start. How do start writing this book?

Better question: How do you answer that in a Facebook comment? There’s so many styles and approaches (not to mention all the commentators clamoring to have the right answer), that I never know where to start. Maybe it’s because I tend to overthink things, but that’s a whole lot of answer for not a lot of words. It is for me anyway.

It is, however, still a valid question and a daunting one at that, so I put together five simple, flexible, (hopefully) no stress ways to get working on that project clamoring to get out of your head and onto paper.

1. Make an Outline

I personally think outlining has gotten a bad rep in the writing world. It’s often seen as being too structured and too restrictive when I’ve often found the opposite to be true. An outline is whatever you want it to be. It can be paragraphs, one-line chapter summaries, character interviews, whatever you want. I’m personally a fan of the Snowflake Method, created by Randy Ingermanson. It’s quite a detailed method, but long story short (*bada* *tsu*), you write a few statements about your story, then build on them until you have a full picture from start to finish. A key part of that picture for me is writing every chapter on a sticky note so I can edit/rearrange events before getting them all down.

Outline
Pretty sure my roommate thinks I’m a conspiracy theorist. 

If the Snowflake Method isn’t your cup of tea, there’s hundreds upon thousands of outline formulas that might work. I also really like Beat Sheets, for example. Or you could always make up your own. Like I said, outlines are whatever you want time to be. 🙂

2. Write the Middle Scene First

No one ever said you had to write chapter one first when writing a novel. Well, I’m sure plenty of people do , but no one ever said you had to listen to them. If all you’ve got to go on is a scene or two and a handful of characters, then work with it. Get it on paper or on your computer screen. Pretty soon all sorts of questions and plot threads will start popping up. What leads up to this scene? Why do these characters feel the way they do? Who else knows about what’s going on and what are they going to do about it? What did they do before? Now you’re off and running with the rest of your novel!

 

3. Study Books You Love

Maybe the best way for you to begin your book is to look at one that’s already ended. Go through someone of your favorite books and see how they start their stories. How do they introduce characters? What sort of events are you dropped into on the very first page?

In the Darkest Part of the Forest
Teach me your ways! *swoons*

For me, Holly Black’s In the Darkest Part of the Forest had a huge influence on the tone and set up of Portraits of a Faerie Queen. I loved the way you know right from the get go that it’s a dark fairy tale and that readers should be wary of this new town and the surrounding forest. While I my style is a bit more upbeat and simple, I’m still always learning a lot from Miss Black’s work, including how to get a book rolling. I’m sure you could do the same for whatever genre you love to write.

 

 

4. Watch a TV Show in Your Genre

 

I’ve written before about how TV and books don’t necessarily have to be at odds. Figuring out how to start a book is no exception. Just like reading in your chosen genre can have a wealth of insights, so can watching TV in your chosen genre. How do the shows introduce characters and conflict with dialogue? How do they do so with action? Where does one episode start and another begin? Take notes on what you could implement in your writing. Those notes could give you the perfect set up to get your novel going. Not to mention that, like reading in your genre, watching in your genre helps you get a clear intended audience in mind for when your book is all done, so good on you for thinking ahead!

 

5. Get Outside. Go Somewhere. Anywhere.

It might sound counterproductive to leave your desk if you want to get a book going, but getting on your feet will probably get your creative juices flowing. Where does your main character live? Hows is that place similar or different from where you live? Where would the like to go if they were in your shoes? Who would they meet once they get there? The questions and possible plot threads are only limited by how far you want to walk/run/bike/drive/unicycle/whatever you want to do. You’ll also be getting exercise, which we writers often don’t get enough of, so you’ll body will thank you later along with your story.

Downtown
City streets are some of my favorite places to walk. 🙂

Rina’s school, James-Child college, borrows a lot of elements from my old stomping grounds. I spent so much time walking to and from class that the place left a permanent  imprint in my mind. I knew one day I’d have to use it in a story eventually and I’m glad I got to sooner rather than later. The scene where Jocelyn meets Rina at school is one of my favorites in the book.

 

 

 

 


 

These five ways to get writing are only the tip of the creative iceberg. For those of you out there who have been writing for a while, how do you get started? What advice would you give to a writer just starting out? For those newer to the craft, what scares you the most about starting? How did you overcome those fears? Leave a comment below and lets talk!

Interview with Author Tay LaRoi prt 2

Originally hosted by Happily Ever Chapter 

PortraitsoaFQ-f

How do you answer the question “Oh, you’re an author…what do you write?”

I usually say, “Harry Potter-like stuff. There’s magic, but it’s in the real world.” That’s usually enough to satisfy people’s curiosity without them looking at me like I’m crazy, haha.

What does your family think of your writing?

They’re so excited! My mom was basically my editor in high school, so she’s seen all my stuff and has always supported me and my dad is still convinced I’m going to be the next J.K Rowling. He pretends not to hear me when I tell him that’s unlikely. My aunts and uncles are all trying to call dibs on copies already, even though I’ve tried to explain it’s young adult, so they might not enjoy it that much. Still, we’re a big family, so having all of them cheering for me makes me feel incredibly loved.

Tell us about your current work in process and what you’ve got planned for the future.

I’m currently working on the third “Faerie Court Chronicles” book and trying desperately to the world building done for that story I started in high school. The “Faerie Court Chronicles” will have two more books after the one I’m writing now, but I really want that other one done by the time I’m thirty. That’s five years from now, but a lot can happen in five years, especially when you have too write around the type of day job I’m about to start.

Do you have any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?

Get off Facebook, get off Pintrest, sit your butt down, and write. I don’t care how you do it (though I highly advise outlining), just write. I’m not saying you need to get it all down in one day. We’ve all got jobs, kids, and twenty million other commitment, but that book’s completion is up to you and only you. If it’s something you really want to do, you owe it to yourself to set aside some time and at least get started. I swear it gets easier after that (in some ways, at least), but you’ve got to at least start. Do it. I believe in you. 

Also, network, network, network. Get on social media, leave comments on blogs, what ever floats your boat. It’ll pay off in the long run when you’re trying to spread the word about your book and you want to spread the word about books you love along the way.

If you could travel forward or backward in time, where would you go and why?

Forward. Then I’ll come back knowing what I need to prepare for and what I need to do differently so, when the future does finally come, I can be completely ready.

We’ve all got a little voyeurism in us right? If you could be a fly on the wall during an intimate encounter (does not need to be sexual) between two characters, not your own, who would they be?

I’d like to see the moment Arthur and Molly Weasley met. They were my favorite part of the Harry Potter series growing up, especially Molly, and I want to know what first drew them to each other.

If I were snooping around your kitchen and looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?

Not a whole lot, honestly. Left over soup, milk, and some vegetables. I work nights, so I haven’t been cooking much lately and I try not to snack too much.


Purchase “Portraits” wherever you buy paper or electronic books!

NineStar Press     Amazon     Smashwords     Barnes & Noble      Kobo 

“Portraits” Deleted Scene

Originally hosted on Boy Meets Boy Reviews

PortraitsoaFQ-f

This scene was more seriously overhauled than deleted. In the first draft of “Portraits,” Jocelyn was the dark and brooding Joshua and Rina was Maeve, who honestly didn’t have much of a personality in hindsight. They also knew each other in high school. The book also started on the door step of the biggest conflict, so I had to back it waaaaay up and let Jocelyn’s family live.
Moral of this story: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water if you realize your project has major problems. Mine for the gems within and build around those. 🙂
***
I inch away from the girl speaking as she leans on the counter and talks to the bartender. She’s so small and simply dressed that I didn’t notice her between the three others. The bartender has her attention, so I take the moment to really look at her.
Her green eyes are familiar and her dark brown hair is in a cute pixie cut that makes my heart skip. Her nose is slightly crooked with a faint scar along the right side. She crashed into a tree and broke it our freshmen year of high school.
It’s Maeve Fischler.
She takes the glass with a smile, but the bulky dwarf on her other side turns in his chair and bumps into Maeve’s arm, splashing the water onto the counter. Looking around for napkins, her eyes rest on me for a second, but I look away, spotting a dispenser within arm’s reach.
“Here,” I mutter, handing it to her with my face still turned away.
“Thanks.” As she mops up the water, I light up another cigarette and keep my body angled away from her. She nudges with me the napkin dispenser. “Can you put this back?”
I do.
“Thank—wait…” She cranes her neck to see my face. I try to swivel out of view, but she’s too fast and my range of movement too limited. Her eyes get wide with recognition and I know I’m busted. “Joshua! Joshua Ricc—”
“Maeve! Fancy meeting you here!” I exclaim, trying to cover up my old name. “What brings you to the Time Between?”
Maeve blinks like I asked the question in Mandarin. “What brings—Joshua, what are you doing here?”
One of the girls yells, “Mae, come on,” in a drunken slur.
Cupping her hands around her mouth, Maeve replies, “I’ll be along in a sec,” and hops into the barstool the redcap vacated. “Joshua, are you real? Am I dreaming?”
“Nope,” I sigh.
“After the accident you just vanished. What happened?”
I should just run. I could leave, drive away and blend back into the city for the three months I have left. These girls aren’t safe here though and I can’t bring myself to abandon them.
“It was a lot to deal with. I needed space,” I say. Someone across the bar wears a Los Angeles T-shirt. “I went to California to live with family.”
Maeve drums her fingers on the counter as I tap the ashes of my cigarette into the tray. “That’s it? No reason why you didn’t say ‘good-bye?’ No reason why you didn’t…” She sighs and runs a hand through her hair. “Okay, so you’re back. How long?”
I shrug.
“Are you staying with friends?”
I shake my head.
“Are you going to college? Working?”
A quick glance reveals that her friends are still fine for now. Just dancing together under the spastic lights and having a good time. If only I could figure out a way to get them to leave that wouldn’t draw attention.
“Helloooo!” Maeve lightly punches my shoulder. “Earth to Joshua! What gives? You disappear for two years and now you won’t say a word?”
“What is there to say, Maeve?” I snap. “My family died, I freaked out, I ran, now I’m back until I form another plan. That’s all.”
Maeve cocks her head and her eyebrows disappear under her bangs, one slightly higher than the other. It’s a silent way she has of saying “bull shit.” I see that she has perfected it in these two years.
“Anyway, that’s all water under the bridge.”
Maeve groans and rolls her eyes. “Your parents and sister dying are not ‘water under the bridge!’”
I ignore her, more to seem apathetic to the faeries around us, and take a drag on the cigarette. “What’s new with you? I imagine you wrapped up your freshman year of college, right? Still pre-med?”
Maeve glares at me. “Joshua—”
Her drunk friend barges in again, grabbing Maeve around the waist and holding her a bit too tightly. “Mae,” she whines, “We brought you so you could learn how to have fun!”
“Yeah, Maeve,” I chime in. “Go have some fun.”
She keeps on glaring as her friend drags her off the stool. “Joshua, seriously. Tell me what’s going on with you.”
“Go dance for one song and we’ll talk,” I say, giving her a little salute. “Promise.”
Her “bull shit” face is back.
“Have I ever lied to you?”
Somehow, that works and she goes off with her friend, looking back at me every few seconds. Soon, she’s so deep in the crowd that she can’t see me.
Too bad the answer was to my question was, “Yes.”

Purchase “Portraits” wherever you buy paper or electronic books!

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The Official “Portraits” Playlist!

Originally hosted on Love Bytes Reviews 

Music always plays a key part in the formation of a book for me, whether it be inspiration for characters, scenes, or conflicts. Here’s a few tracks that either had a huge influence on “Portraits” in its early days or helped me get in the zone while writing certain scenes.

Find You/Beating Heart: Confession time. I liked the “Divergent” soundtrack more than the movie or the book. It was just a great collection of interesting, flavorful, unique songs and I loved it. Zedd’s “Find You” and Ellie Goulding’s “Beat Heart,” conjured up images of two characters finding each other in a dark, seedy, crowded night club and having to run away together to escape some sort of dark force, even though they didn’t know if they’d ever see each other again. Three years later, those characters are now Jocelyn and Rina.

Tam Lin/Beloved Enchantress: Shortly after I stopped playing the “Divergent” soundtrack on repeat I went on a sort of European folk/fantastical/traditional music kick, which lead to the discovery of the Mediaeval Babe’s rendition of “Tam Lin,” which laid the foundation for “Portraits.” The Moon and the Nightspirit’s “Beloved Enchantress” popped up one day on a Spotify radio station while I was working on the first draft and wound up influencing the antagonist quite a bit.

Half Acre: This song stars with “I am holding half an acre torn from a map of Michigan. And folded in this scrap of paper is a land I grew up in,” so naturally I love it. I was very intentional about setting “Portraits” and the rest of the “Faerie Court Chronicles” in Michigan, so it felt important to have a song around that always brought me home.

Lime Tree: Whenever I need to write cute and/or romantic scenes, this is always the first song I play. It’s so relaxing and chill. Perfect for making characters cuddle. 🙂

Deep End: My girlfriend introduced me to Ruelle somewhere between drafts two and three and this song instantly made me think of Jocelyn’s struggle to keep her head above water in the dark depths of the Faerie Realm. When I brought that up to my girlfriend, who had read the most recent version of the manuscript, said she could see it, but it needed to be clearer in the book. I made a few adjustments in my next round of edits and I think it made a world of difference.

Our Solemn Hour: No real story behind this one. I just get SO EXCITED to write fight scenes when Within Temptation comes on! They always sound so much larger than life and there’s so much energy in their sound. They’ve been my go-to artist for action scenes since high school and this track is one of my favorites.

The Times They Are A-Changing: I listen to this one whenever I’m writing a final chapter. It’s a good relaxer after writing the final battle and has a sense that things aren’t really over, just changing.

 

I hope you enjoyed this playlist! Maybe you even found some new music to listen to. 🙂 My inbox is always open and I love to talk about music, so feel free to message or email me any time and we can geek out. I also hope you’re as excited about “Portraits of a Faerie Queen” as I am to share it with you, soundtrack and all.


Purchase “Portraits” wherever you buy paper or electronic books!

NineStar Press     Amazon     Smashwords     Barnes & Noble      Kobo 

Excerpt from “Portraits of a Faerie Queen” pt. 2

Originally hosted on A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

Hello again! Here is another excerpt from “Portraits” for those of you who want to read more.

 


I’ve never told anyone, but my fear of the dark lasted long into high school. Since striking the deal with the queen, however, the monsters that hide here can’t hurt me. It’s a comforting thought as I walk through the trees.

 

In a small clearing sits a large hill ringed with white mushrooms. Its grass is still lush while the surrounding area lays cloaked in dying grayish-brown. As I climb over it, the energy of the world shifts. The air feels thinner, the colors sharper, and the earth more alive. It feels like a fresh spring morning rather than a bitter autumn night.

 

If that doesn’t tell me I’ve entered Faerie, the houses protruding from trees and rocks certainly do. Lights glow in windows like fireflies and bonfires. Colorful smoke and earthy herbal scents waft down from chimneys built from hollowed branches. Hushed conversations ride the wind, and I can pick up English and a few modern European languages, but I suspect others are older than these woods. The unease in all the voices crosses any barrier made my language. Nervous figures peek outside at the sound of my footsteps. Some are only as big as a human hand and others stand twice as tall as any adult.

 

Members of the queen’s guard patrol the paths. They scowl at me from the slits in their black helmets. Once they spot the painting, they ignore me and look for other people to harass. I’d scowl back, but I’d hate to cause a scene, mainly because that scene would end with me getting my ass kicked.

 

The queen’s labyrinth of a keep rises out of the night. Its trunk and roots are so massive and sprawling that they remind me of a mountain range. I don’t raise my eyes to the branches anymore. The sight makes me dizzy, and I know the sky is hidden, even as the autumn leaves fall. Two knights stand at the entrance, a root arching tall enough to walk under, and let me pass without a word.

 

Once inside, the bark turns into a system of corridors and chambers too vast for anyone to explore all at once. If they didn’t drive you mad, the thick aura of magic would. It hangs in the air like a muggy scentless perfume. Luckily, the path to the Grand Hall is a short one.

 

Red, gold, and brown banners wave limply in various states of decay. They span from new and silky to moth-eaten and crusted with dirt. The tablecloths and silverware are in a similar state, as are the decorative paintings and tapestries. The scenery has nothing on the patrons.

 

They wear similar autumn colors as they dance and peruse the tables. Many of them sport ripped gowns and trousers spotted with dried blood and dirt. Leaves and acorns adorn elaborate and simple hair styles alike, which complement corsages made of dead flowers. Those wearing clean clothing stand out with their otherworldly physical characteristics: skin like bark and twiglike fingers, enormous onyx eyes and sharp jagged teeth, hair like weeping willow branches and bodies with more thorns than a rose bush.

 

I know better than to stare into the crowds, but I can’t help it. Both the beautiful and horrifying enchant me with the way they move. The way they dance and weave together.

 

The way they torture each other.

 

The only folk that look like they could be from fairy tales are living a nightmare. One small mangled arm hangs out of a gremlin’s bloody grin. To my right, a doe-like woman kneels as a footrest for a harsh-looking pair of gentlemen. A young man gingerly weaves past me, his back hunched with defeat, to set more food on the table. Two dark bloody holes protrude from his shoulder blades where a pair of glistening wings once fluttered.

 

If I stay here too long, I`ll be sick. I need to deliver this painting and get out.

 

I lift my gaze to the most beautiful and terrifying being in the court. My refuge from all this ugliness and my worst nightmare.

 

The Queen of Faerie.


 

Purchase “Portraits” wherever you buy paper or electronic books!

NineStar Press     Amazon     Smashwords     Barnes & Noble      Kobo

PortraitsoaFQ-f

Interview with Author Tay LaRoi

Originally hosted on My Fiction Nook

Let’s take another look at what went into “Portraits of a Faerie Queen” behind the scenes!

PortraitsoaFQ-f


 

When did you write your first story and what was the inspiration for it?

Freshmen year of high school. It was a joint effort between me and my best friend. We had a notebook and we would pass it back and forth between classes. I don’t remember any real inspiration, per se. We just really enjoyed those characters we had created and wanted to see what they would do. I was particularly attached to one character in particular, Caleb, because he was biracial like me and I had honestly never seen another character with my background at that point.

I’m still trying to put together a real book out of our ideas. I think readers would enjoy them as much as we did, especially since they’ve grown so much over the years. I just have to figure out how to piece it together.

Do you have a writing schedule or do you just write when you can find the time?

Mostly when I can find the time, but I do try to find the time everyday.

Briefly describe the writing process. Do you create an outline first? Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music? Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?

I’m a hardcore plotter. I used to pants when I was in college and nothing ever got done, so I switched gears. I do listen to a lot of music when I write, though. I have different Spotify playlists for each type of scene I go back and add to from time to time.

Where did the desire to write LGBTQIA+ stories come from?

I realized I was queer while I was attending a Christian college and I was a very involved youth group kid growing up, so coming to a place where I feel comfortable in my skin has been quite the journey. While I always had plenty of accepting friends and my college had a good support system in place for LGBTQIA+ students (they did in my opinion, anyway,) seeing characters like me still did loads of good. It helped me feel like we had a place in the outside world and seeing those characters experiencing happy endings gave me hope.

I’d like to pay that sense of peace and comfort forward, especially to teenagers. High school was honestly not a great time for me, and I think a lot of that was due to not feeling like I fit in the world the way I was supposed to. I want to teens to know that they’re fine the way they are and that they are worthy of love, and all the adventures life has to offer. Most importantly, I want them to know things will be okay in the end.

How much research do you do when writing a story and what are the best sources you’ve found for giving an authentic voice to your characters?

It depends on the story. For “Portraits,” it was mostly researching faerie lore, and reading other retellings of Tam Lin. For “Smile Like You Mean It,” a short story also coming out from NineStar Press, it was watching a ton of Japanese horror movies. For the book I’m working on now, it’s been reading old manuscripts about Ireland’s mythological history. My curiosity is all over the place, so my research is all over the place.

As far as an authentic voice for characters goes, I try to start with a theme for each character. For example, the theme for both the antagonist and protagonist of “Portraits” is “Responsibility.” I sat down and tried to figure out what sort of struggles would a person deal with if their sense of responsibility, whether to a family or an entire realm, was a central part of their identity? How would they interact with other people? How did that come to be so important to them? Questions of that nature usually get me off and running.

What’s harder, naming your characters, creating the title for your book or the cover design process?

Character naming, hands down. You’ve got to find names that stand out and are memorable, but still appropriate for the time and place all while making sure everyone can still pronounce them if you decide to get creative.


Purchase “Portraits” wherever you buy paper or electronic books!

NineStar Press     Amazon     Smashwords     Barnes & Noble      Kobo 

Excerpt from “Portraits of a Faerie Queen” pt 1

PortraitsoaFQ-fHi, everyone! Long time no type, but I’m back! While I was gone, my first book, “Portraits of a Faerie Queen” came out! Want to know if it’s for you? Stick around for book excerpts and interviews from the Book Blog Tour to fine out! For now, check out this excerpt originally hosted at A Booklover’s Dream Book Blog.

Portraits of a Faerie Queen

Portraits of a Faerie Queen
Tay LaRoi © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

I don’t breathe.

The slightest nudge could ruin the brush stroke, destroying the entire effect I want. According to the Faerie Queen, I have yet to properly capture what she calls her “unique blend of splendor, grace, and power.” She rejected the first two attempts in mere seconds. She’s a picky one, Her Majesty.

On the canvas, she looks over the wild fields outside as if she has just conquered them. Wreaths of roses surround her in honor of the fallen. An auburn waterfall of braids frames her heart-shaped face, tumbling over her bare shoulders and brushing against her elegant gown. It’s a funeral shroud that silhouettes her curvaceous body. She could be wearing it in memory of any number of the dismembered skeletons beneath her feet.

Or is it to honor her next victim? It’s a toss-up.

All those details were a cakewalk this time around, compared to the depths of her green eyes. Those eyes are always the hardest part. It’s nearly impossible to mimic the way they trap you. The way they sparkle as you pour out your heart and plead for a miracle. The way they coldly calculate whether you’re worthy.

I lift the brush from the canvas, leaving all of her mystery and seduction embodied in oil paint. My body and soul alike give a relieved sigh.

Six paintings down. One to go.

One more painting and Mom will wake up.

Thanks to my housemate, I don’t get to savor the moment.

Faeries like him have this power about them. They heighten your senses, bringing the world to life and sharpening everything in it. He thinks I spend too much time in my head and the only suitable remedy is spontaneous guerilla attacks, apparently.

I take a breath, then tumble out of my chair and fling a clean paintbrush at him, letting loose a war cry like the world has never known.

The kitchen broom comes down and raps against the back of my chair. The brush sails past my housemate’s face and he watches it land in the hallway.

“Better, Jocelyn,” he concludes, “but now you’re defenseless. And what exactly was that god-awful noise?”

“My war cry,” I answer, propping myself up on my elbows. “It was supposed to either startle or confuse you. Judging by your expression, it worked.”

He smirks, drops the broom, and offers me his hand. “Oh, I’m confused, all right. Confused as to why you thought it would startle me.”

I take his hand, stand up, and point a paint-covered brush at him. “Keep it up, and I’ll give you whiskers while you sleep.”

“Do so and I’ll steal your firstborn child.”

I study him and wonder if he’s serious. He can’t be. Can he? He can’t.

The day we first met, the day I made the deal with the Faerie Queen, he asked me to call him Dominic, but I doubt that’s his real name. Faeries aren’t keen on giving them out, especially to the lowly humans they’re supposed to babysit. Lucky for me, he doesn’t take his job seriously. Given his disheveled clothes and messy pine-green hair, he’s literally been sleeping on the job.

“You feeling okay?” I ask, retrieving the clean paintbrush.

“Right as rain.” He yawns, itching a pointed ear. “Just needed a nap before I meet a friend.” His yawn closes to a grin when his obsidian gaze falls on the painting. “You finished it?”

“Sure did,” I reply as I begin to wash the paint-covered brushes. “Come have a look.”

Dominic sets his hands on his hips and studies the canvas. “To be fair, ruining this would have been a pity. This is stunning, Jocelyn.”

“It better be.” I sigh. “That’s my third attempt.”

“I’m sure Her Majesty will love it.” Patting me on the shoulder, Dominic adds, “You deserve a break. Could you take something to Iver for me?”

“Running errands counts as a break?” I tease.

Dominic digs in his pocket and pulls out a small wrapped package. “Well, you don’t know how to relax, and it’s pitiful for a seventeen-year-old to stay home on a Friday night. Maybe you’ll find inspiration for your last painting.”

I take the parcel. “How is a nightclub going to inspire me to paint the Queen of Faerie?”

Dominic shrugs. “You tell me. You’re the artist.” He points to my shirt. “Change first, please. You know how we folk are about appearances.”

“Paint-spatter and turpentine aren’t all the rage in the Faerie Realm?”

“Not at the moment, no,” Dominic replies crisply.

I quickly change into clean jeans and a black T-shirt, barely noticing the large scar on my chest shaped like deadly nightshade; its badass aura wore off a while ago. It’s the only real noticeable mark left on my body. The scars from last summer’s car accident, the beginning of all this faerie craziness, have mostly faded.

After my mother and I swerved to miss a small figure in the road early last spring, everyone told me it was a fawn, or maybe a lost bear cub. Neither of those walk upright on twig-like legs with a hunched back, so I went looking for answers shortly after being released from the hospital. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled onto a whole hidden world of strange creatures, including the Queen of Faerie herself. And, lucky me, she was in a bargain-making mood. Unlucky me, she likes to physically mark those she makes a deal with. Apparently a simple signature isn’t binding enough.

A metal cross hangs around my neck. My sister, Annalise, gave it to me before I moved to Grand Harbor, supposedly to enroll in an intensive art program for high school seniors. In reality I’m here under the queen’s orders since it’s the closest human town to the Faerie Court. I’m only an hour away from them, but they feel a world away sometimes. It’s better than Her Majesty’s original idea of making me live with her at court, I guess. Dominic stepped up and offered to look after me, thank God. I don’t like to think about the kind of life I’d be living now if he hadn’t. All I know is that it would be the farthest thing from a fairy tale.

I look in the bathroom mirror long enough to rake a comb through my hair. Light blue eyes that match my dad’s stare back. I’ve got his thin Anglo features too, but with a softer jaw, longer lashes, and a slender figure. Mom always said he was good looking and I guess I am too, except in a girlish sort of way. Emphasis on the “ish.” My shaggy pixie cut, lack of makeup and simple wardrobe prevent me from being labeled anything close to “girly.” That’s okay, though. I’ve also got my dad’s killer sense of humor to help me get the ladies.

I mean, it hasn’t helped me lately, but it will one day. Mark my words.

Downstairs, Dominic skims his vast collection of herbs and spices. There are so many jars, bags, and boxes that I hardly remember what the counter looks like. “Care for some tea?” he asks.

“No, thanks,” I reply, hunting for my tiny leather satchel and keys. They’re on the table. The only photos in the house catch my eye as I slip them into my pocket.

Nine-year-old me took the first, so it’s crooked. I took it in our backyard. Annalise stands behind my mother in a bright yellow dress and weaves flowers into Mom’s hair. A temporary unicorn tattoo glitters on her chubby cheek. My mom kneels in a matching dress with her crow’s feet revealing how often she used to laugh. I hope she still laughs like that once she wakes up .

The other photo is of my dad. He sits at a picnic table wearing flannel and denim, warming his hands by a campfire as he grins at the camera. Our hair even seems to fall in our faces the same way.

He died of leukemia shortly after I turned thirteen. Annalise was ten.

He would never let us know how much the disease ate at him. Even toward the end, when he couldn’t even sit up, he’d crack jokes and tell stories. He only got serious when we were leaving the hospital. He would always say, “You’re in charge till I get back, Jocelyn. Take good care of your mom and sister for me.”

Safe to say I wasn’t the best woman for the job.

Dominic breaks through my thoughts. “Are you sure? I need a taste tester.”

“Save me some. I’ll drink it when I get back.”

Dominic frowns but doesn’t argue. “If you insist.”

I grab my jacket and head out the door.

The crisp evening air blows through the woods surrounding the old farmhouse where we live, carrying the smell of fall leaves. Even on gloomy days, the surrounding trees glow with bright reds, shining yellows, and warm oranges. I imagine it’s because we’re so close to the Faerie Court.

That’s probably why the shadows look so sinister after dark too.

My old green Volkswagen coughs to life and sputters down the dusty driveway. One thing I didn’t inherit from my father was his knack for cars. At this point, I’m pretty sure it runs more on prayers than gas.

The worn brown “Welcome to Grand Harbor” sign flies by as the town springs up from the northern Michigan forest. Tall old houses with wraparound porches line the street. Smaller brick homes and tiny shops sit in the mix. All of them hold their own against the newer seasonal cabins and retreats.

Two of the main reasons people come to Grand Harbor pan out on either side of Main Street: Lake Michigan on my left and James-Child College on my right. It’s a small private college with a tiny student population and little athletic merit but nationally renowned academics. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. I never had the grades to even sneeze near the place.

The town passes by in a flash, and I cross the railroad tracks into the old run-down industrial area. Most of the buildings are tombs of abandoned outdated manufacturing practices and home to a plethora of supposed hauntings and campfire stories. It’s probably the work of faerie troublemakers–imps and pixies and such–but I’m not stupid enough to go investigating.

Besides, I already know exactly where to find said troublemakers.

The Time Between is a refurbished factory-turned-nightclub packed with local fae who live in or near the Human Realm. Many come wanting to escape the watchful eye of the Faerie Court. Others find humans fascinating. Some see us as easy pickings.

They all stop by the club to purchase spells and charms to ward off the effects of iron, which saturates the human world. For faeries, iron is like an allergy with a license to kill.

The burn on my chest grants me protection and entrance. No faerie in their right mind would touch someone wearing the queen’s mark, human or not. The bouncer gives me a nod, and I sink into the sea of music, magic, deception, and alcohol.

Iver, the elven bartender, spots me, pours me a cola, and waits.

I yell over the pounding music, “Hey, where’s the rum?”

Iver lets out a booming laugh far bigger and deeper than one would expect from his slender frame. “I think not, young one,” he chortles in his Scandinavian accent. “Human Realm, human rules.”

“Since when do faeries care about human rules?” I ask, taking a sip. Drinks with blood, poisonous plants, and insects are on the menu, but serving a minor alcohol is not allowed? How is that fair?

“Since you’re an important human,” he answers, tightening his long pale-blond ponytail. “How are the paintings coming along?”

I sit up a little straighter with pride. “I finished number six. Just gotta paint one more, and I’m done. In the meantime—” I pull the package from my pocket. “—Dominic has me running errands.”

Iver’s expression hardens as he takes the delivery. He looks it over and puts it into his apron. “Thank you, Jocelyn. The drink’s on the house.”

He goes back to serving patrons with a new smile on his face, leaving me to survey the crowd for a bit.

The flashing lights from the dance floor and the shadows around the bar make it hard to tell who’s what in here. A lot of them are probably wearing glamours, a disguise woven of magic. Most of the faeries appear humanoid with a hodgepodge of deviations: translucent wings, the occasional pair of goat legs, deer noses, stonelike skin, long floppy ears, and eyes that resemble the cosmos. I wish they’d stay still enough for me to sketch them.

Someone bumps into me and plops down on the next stool. He takes off his bright crimson beanie and runs a hand over his spiky black hair. The smell of blood on him is impossible to ignore.

The smell and the beanie tell me that he’s a redcap. Dominic once told me they have to dye their hats with blood on a regular basis to stay alive. The universe must have been in a pretty bad mood when it made these guys.

“Give me the strongest thing you’ve got,” he barks at Iver. “No ice.”

“Bad day?” I ask.

“Terrible,” the redcap grumbles. “Source fell through. Had to get my own damned fix. One of the queen’s knights spotted me and asked all sorts of unpleasant questions. Had to think fast.”

Iver sets a glass of clear liquor in front of him and the redcap takes a sip.

“And I thought life was rough under Queen Titania—she was an angel next to her sister. At least she left us solitary folk in peace.”

From my understanding, solitary fae are the vagabonds of their realm. They normally live outside the queen’s lands and do as they please but behave themselves in her territory for their own sake. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.

Grand Harbor is close enough to the queen’s borders that one would think she’d do more to stop her subjects preying on humans, but no. Such stories are commonplace. How they stay clear of human suspicion is even more baffling. Magic and all that jazz, I suppose.

The redcap twirls his beanie in one hand, looking at it with disdain. “I was nearly out of juice, too.” With a sigh, he puts it down and nurses his liquor. “And I had to settle for A-positive again. I’m damn near sick of A-positive.”

Well, there goes my quitter’s streak.

Shortly after moving to Grand Harbor, I started smoking. It’s not exactly legal, given my age, but after the first month of this madness, Dominic’s teas stopped being sufficient stress relief. Lucky for me, Dominic is the worst babysitter ever. I collect plants from the woods around the farmhouse for him and he buys me cigarettes. I’m trying to quit, but this conversation is kicking my craving into overdrive. The idea that someone is out there, possibly bleeding to death, while this asshat is complaining about what kind of blood he had is stressing me out. I can’t do anything for him, and that gets under my skin. That’s probably exactly what this jerk wants.

“You humans aren’t easy to nab these days,” the redcap continues. “You’re all so suspicious. Greedy, too. Want to keep all your blood to yourself.”

“Gee, can’t imagine why,” I mutter, fishing in my jacket for my pack and lighter. Guess I “forgot” to check it when Dominic and I purged the house.

The redcap gulps down the rest of his drink and motions to Iver for a refill. “It’s not like I killed the guy. A few transfusions and he’ll be fine.” A sharp-toothed smirk creeps onto his face. “If they find him in time.”

He should know better than to mess with my head. I’ve been around his kind too long to take such obvious bait. I light my cigarette and take a long drag instead to calm my nerves.

The redcap finishes his second drink and says, “You’re the painter girl, right? You go to the court a lot? Any juicy gossip you’d like to share?”

“I actually haven’t been there in a while.” I take another drag to replace the redcap’s toxicity with something less poisonous. “You?”

“Nah. They don’t like my kind poking around. I hear tell that the queen’s changeling daughter is getting popular, though. Her Majesty must be slacking if her thrown-away kid has more fans than her.” The redcap orders yet another drink, even though his speech has started to slur.

Fun fact: faeries are lightweights.

“No idea why she keeps her,” he continues. “Most monarchs would have slaughtered a changeling that came crawling back. The queen’s losing her marbles.”

I just want to finish my rum-less cola in peace. Is that too much to ask?

Since there are no more empty seats, I chug it and get ready to leave. My gaze falls on the exit as I search for Iver to say goodbye.

Five human girls walk in and catch my eye.

Five very lost, very oblivious, and very vulnerable human girls.


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Portraits of a Faerie Queen: OUT TODAY

Portraits of a Faerie Queen is now on sale!!!

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In the midst of a summer storm, seventeen-year-old Jocelyn Lennox swerves to miss a strange creature in the road. The resulting accident leaves her mother in a coma with doctors skeptical about her recovery.  Desperate for answers, Jocelyn returns to the scene of the accident to discover that the creature was one of the good folk—a faerie. Not only that, but their queen is willing to listen to Jocelyn’s story and offer her help.

For a price, of course.

The two strike a deal: Jocelyn will paint the queen seven portraits and, in exchange, the queen will heal Jocelyn’s mother. Unfortunately, nothing in the Faerie Realm is ever that simple. The closer Jocelyn comes to finishing the paintings, the harder malicious magical forces try to ensnare her. If she isn’t careful or can’t complete the portraits by October 31st, the day of the Hallowed Offering, her mother’s life won’t be the only one in jeopardy.

Head over to ninestarpress.com or amazon.com to get your copy! Don’t forget to leave a review!

Thank you to everyone who’s followed me on this journey. Every view, like, and share means the world to me and I can’t wait to see where the next book, “Tales of a Faerie Knight” will take us. 🙂

Beyond the Portraits: Part 4

Here we are! The final Beyond the Portraits post! I hope you’ve enjoyed this short little series. From here on out, posts and updates are going to be mostly information about the release of “Portraits” itself. I hope you’ll stick around for them and the book itself! Thanks for reading!


Growing up I was an absolute menace with a camera. Every museum, every landscape, every EVERYTHING was captured on film. I still have an old photo album from when I was a kid and a third of those images are of random city streets. Another third are of clouds and animals. The rest are friends and family members in mid-motion. Once digital cameras came out I was even worse since I didn’t have to worry about film. Now that I have my phone with me all the time, I’m sure I can get downright insufferable at times.

Well, maybe not insufferable, but my family has to wait time and time again for me to snap pictures of different buildings, vehicles, and clouds in multiple angles. Can’t imagine that’s fun.

I can’t help it. I know one day I’m going to be writing a scene, mapping a fictional country, putting a fantastical army into formation, or something else just as bonkers and I’ll need a visual reference. Characters will escape through narrow mountain passes and find safety in secluded valleys. I need to know what those look like. They’ll stand among aspens in the fall, marvel at the golden leaves, and conclude that the world isn’t so bad after all. I need to know what that looks like.

Growing up in Michigan, where “Portraits of the Faerie Queen” takes place, there were always plenty of photo opportunities. I could have sworn I saved all the ones from my old digital camera, but, alas, they’re nowhere to be found. Luckily, my mother rocks and has agreed to let me share some of hers. The Michigan pictures (enlarged four) belong to her. The moments they captured played a key roll in shaping the world of the Faerie Court and the characters that dwell there. I took the others (far left) during my time in Colorado. I just wanted to take a minute and show you the roots of the worlds in my writing to get a better idea of where you’ll be transported when “Portraits” comes out and where you might go in future works. 🙂 Thank you for sticking with me through this short series! More “Portraits” news to come! Enjoy the pictures!