Friday, September 18, 2020

Blood Rogue by Linda J. Parisi - Book Blitz + Giveaway

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Blood Rogue
Linda J. Parisi
(Blood Rogue, #1)
Published by: City Owl Press
Publication date: September 8th 2020
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance

There is the blood and can only ever be the blood. So, how will love survive in a world of pain?

Vampire Charles Tower never knew anything sweeter than the taste of Stacy Morgan’s lips.

He never imagined anything crueler than her being marked for death by the only father he’s ever known.

Mikhail reared him. Taught him how to survive. Now he’s gone rogue and it’s up to Charles to put the man down.

But can he convince himself, and Stacy, that love between them is impossible?

That’s hard to do with a woman like her, especially when she offers herself up as bait.

Now they must fight against the centuries-old customs that bar them from being together and the rogue vampire who wants every last drop of Stacy’s blood.

If you like Richelle Mead, Ilona Andrews, or K.F. Breene, you’ll love this vampire paranormal romance!

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


He dipped his head, lifted a brow, and smiled. “Let’s make this a special occasion then. Our first meeting. The Chart House?”

She shifted her pocketbook strap on her shoulder, and some of the tension in her shoulders eased. “I’ve been there. That would be lovely.”

He inclined his head but drew his brows together as if he had a problem. “I have a favor to ask. Would you mind driving? My car is in the garage of my building. We’d have to walk a ways to get it. Or Uber.”

“Sure.” She turned, and Chaz followed, admiring the view before falling into step next to her. That long stride of hers nearly matched his. “You had everyone going, you know.”

“Excuse me?”

“My friends. They’re not exactly subtle.”

He lifted his eyebrows, hoping he appeared ignorant or innocent, but she didn’t seem to buy it.

“Come on. You mean you didn’t see the drool all over the floor? Kelly tried to chain you to her.”

“That’s why I stood next to you. I’m not interested in the obvious.”

“Okay. So if I’m not obvious?” she asked, heading down another block. “What exactly am I?” She stopped next to a beat-up Jeep.

A word popped into his head, and he hated it immediately. “Intelligent. Strong. Beautiful.”

She tipped her chin, head tilted, eyes widened, and huffed. “Really?”

“Really,” he repeated. He climbed in the passenger side while she got in behind the steering wheel. As she put the key in the ignition, he covered her hand with his. Her gaze lifted, filled with confusion, anticipation, and a bit of curiosity. He leaned in and breathed in her scent, a heady mixture of expensive perfume and hormones. Her skin pebbled as he blew lightly on her cheek. Chaz heard the distinct rhythm of her heart as it hammered in her chest, which rose and fell with short rapid breaths.

His incisors grew, and he swiped a taste of her neck. Perfect.

She moaned as he bit down. God, she tasted sweet. Much more like dessert than a meal. He sucked and swallowed, sucked and swallowed, and her heart slowed, pounding in his ears to the same rhythm as the city.


He reared back away from her neck. Had he taken too much? Horror filled his gut. No, her flesh was still warm, pulse low and steady, eyes closed.

Thank God.

He leaned over again and bit down, but this time it was to give her the Lethe, the drug that would make her forget he ever existed. He admired her beauty one last time, then reached in her purse and found her driver’s license, committing her address to memory. Shouldn’t have done that, Charles. He climbed out of the car and placed the bag of coffee in the crook of her arm. She would wake up in about an hour or so and not remember a thing.

Damn. That sucked.

Author Bio:

As a major in biochemistry with a minor in English literature, Linda has always tried to mesh her love of science with her love of the written word. A clinical research scientist by day and NJRW Golden Leaf award winning author by night, she creates unforgettable characters and puts them in untenable situations, much to their dismay. Choices always matter and love conquers all, so a happy-ever-after is a must. Linda is the current Treasurer of Liberty States Fiction Writers. She has served on the boards of other writing organizations, and loves to teach the craft of writing at worshops and conferences. She lives in New Jersey with her husband John, son Chris, daughter-in-law Sara, and Audi, a Cocker Spaniel mix who had her at woof!

Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Instagram / Newsletter

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Birth of the Fae by Danielle M. Orsino - Book Tour + Giveaway

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Birth of the Fae: Locked out of Heaven
Book 1, Volume 1
by Danielle M. Orsino
Genre: Fantasy 

Ride on the backs of fire breathing dragons with the Dark Fae and watch the Light Fae play in the shadows of primitive humanity as they build their magical world.

Abandoned by their creator, two factions of powerful angels remain on earth after the Great War with Lucifer. They struggle to comprehend their Creator’s plan while their angel wings, a symbol of their angelic lineage, slowly and painfully decay. With no hope of returning to the Shining Kingdom, two groups of angels denounce their angelic lineage and develop into separate factions - the Court of Light, led by Queen Aurora, a former Virtue Angel, and the Court of Dark, ruled by King Jarvok, a former Power Brigade Angel. The two monarchs have opposing views on how to govern their kin, but the one belief they agree on is that human worship equals power.
Birth of the Fae: Locked Out of Heaven is an epic fantasy adventure of heartbreak, rebirth, and hope that examines the bonds of family, friendship, and love. It is a fantastic tale of good vs evil in a beautiful world, where the Light Fae and their potent elemental magick are tested by the raw power of the dragon riding Dark Fae warriors.

What really defines your time as writer?

What really defines your time as writer? Obviously the things you write, but take a step back, I think it’s not so much what you write as what inspired you before you knew you were going to be a writer. It’s easy to say this or that about an author after you have read their work or even for the author to discuss their piece. Me? I like to hear about their influences before it congealed. What did they grow up on? Those precious moments in the most informative years I believe set the stage. If the author had a vivid imagination as a child. Did they watch cartoons well into adulthood? Were they comic book readers or were they sci-fi junkies from a young age? You wouldn’t expect an author who wants to pen the next great literary classic to tell you they grew up watching Animaniacs and now owns the entire collection. (I proudly admit it, Pinky and the Brain being a favorite.)

In the Fantasy genre the readers wants the author or as I like to refer to them "tour guide" to have a love and respect for the world they have built. The reader must trust the author. I believe this is where knowing a little more about the author and their qualifications comes into play. I’m not speaking on degrees; this is about influences and the love of the genre. A reader can tell within the first quarter of a book if the author loves a genre.

So I thought I would let you guys in on my background, besides the nursing and martial arts stuff. Here are my influences, this is what has carried me through and as an author colored my landscape...


Star Wars-The first movie I ever saw was "Star Wars" my parents took me to a drive-in when I was two years old and while I can’t tell you I remember seeing it in its entirety I can say they took me just about every Friday night for weeks and I fell asleep to the sounds of blasters, light sabers and Darth Vader’s breathing for the months. Star Wars pretty much became the metric by which all storytelling was measured. Good versus evil, it was clean and uncomplicated.


Disney- Mickey Mouse was the second staple in my house. My grandfather served with Walt and even drew with him. They remained friends and Walt offered him the first animation scholarship. My grandfather refused, not wanting to move his young family out to California. Disney is in my blood, once again the art of storytelling and building around a central villain is old school Disney princess perfection.


Wonder Woman- It gets complicated because I adore Gal Gadot’s movie version, but my heart belongs to Lynda Carter, with a nod to Cathy Lee Crosby because technically I saw her portrayal of the Amazon princess first. Either way Lynda Carter sent my 5 year old heart into over drive when she twirled on the screen exploding into fireworks of red, white and blue. She proved to me women could be superheroes and not play the damsels in distress waiting to be saved.


My first strong female protagonist and my love affair with comic books began. Through Wonder Woman I watched Batman and met Batgirl played by Yvonne Craig. A female who was a book smart librarian by day and motorcycle riding crime fighter by night, yup I was hooked. Now here I have to give a nod to Kato from the "Green Hornet" because watching Bruce Lee kick and punch his way onto the screen obviously left a mark on me. To me Kato was pretty damn cool, he got to drive (Robin never did) he never got captured (Robin always did) and Kato didn’t need a utility belt. He was perfection in my eyes.



The Muppets- The Muppets might seem odd but The Muppet show taught me about imagination and through them I learned to appreciate all that Jim Henson brought to the world of storytelling. From the "Dark Crystal" to "Labyrinth" Henson's idea to push further was a key element I took with me. But most of all, to never lose touch with your imagination. I still watch the Muppets to this very day and find myself catching nuances I never noticed. Henson has a knack for nuance.


"In search of with Leonard Nimoy"- In search of with Leonard Nimoy" was on in the late seventies but repeated throughout the eighties and it hooked me as a kid. The show was all about unsolved mysteries and Cryptids. Cryptids are creatures not yet proven to exist like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. I am still obsessed with Lake Monsters and have a news alert set for the Loch Ness monster. The show usually featured one, maybe two topics and went over the evidence screening eyewitness accounts. It was my first taste of the unsolved mystery machine and the idea there was more to this world.


Looney Toons Cartoons- What child of the 80's did not grow up on Bugs Bunny? Daffy Duck's sarcastic and pessimism still leaks into my mood. However, what I really grasped from these old school animated shorts was life is way too short to care what people think. Daffy Duck had an extra helping of self confidence which I am still trying to master, and Bugs' humor when facing obstacles of insurmountable odds is another life skill I am attempting to utilize in my everyday life.   


If you mixed all of these elements together, I believe you would get my world. It’s a little strange, a bit mysterious, nothing is as it seems, the women are all very self sufficient, imbued with a strong sense of justice and there is a lot of imagination. These factors; Henson, Nimoy, Wonder Woman, Lucas, Disney and that Crazy Wabbit heavily influence my writing. If you can relate, grab Birth of the Fae: Locked out on Heaven because we are going to have so much fun! 


See you in the Veil ~ Danielle M. Orsino 

Destined to be a writer from a young age, Danielle M. Orsino was working as a nurse and treating a patient who needed some distraction during long I.V. treatment sessions. So, Orsino reached back to a forgotten skill, a childhood dream, Danielle had wanted to be a writer and so she decided to tell a story. Little did she know the seed would grow into a fantastically epic adventure of heartbreak, hope and rebirth -- Birth of Fae: Locked Out of Heaven. Drawing from her passion for comic books, Cosplay and fantasy along with her expert martial arts expertise, Orsino brings forth an electric and hopeful debut.

Danielle is embarking on her biggest challenge to date: taking the story born from the long treatment sessions with a patient into a fantasy book series-Birth of the Fae: Locked out of Heaven. Expanding her love of writing, comics and exploring the world of fantasy novels, she delves into the realm of fairies and retells their origins from a completely new perspective.
Orsino has a Bachelor's degree in Kinesiology and Exercise science and is an LPN with a special interest in Lyme disease research. Orsino has been widely recognized from her influence and experience in martial arts realm, training for over 20 years and with over 500 tournament wins, and accumulating national and world titles. She has performed for former President of the United States Bill Clinton and has been featured on "Soap Talk, Fox Five news CBS, TLC and E! With this experience, she worked as a Fight Choreographer on "Wonder Woman: Balance of Power" and has worked with the likes of martial arts legend Vincent Lyn and WWE marvel and action star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Nothing Danielle ever does is simple, look at what NY times Bestselling author Clete Barrett Smith has to say about her debut endeavor: "After summoning this world into existence through an imaginative force of will, Danielle has scoured every inch of the landscape several times over. Critics often praise a story's world building by saying that it feels "lived in." Well, the world of the Fae certainly seems like that because Danielle herself has happily lived there for years as she worked to put all of this together...My favorite part of this story is that it is gloriously depicted in vibrant images."

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

$20 Amazon gift card, Signed Hardback – 1 winner each!


Seed of Tamaris by Penni Louise - Book Blitz + Giveaway

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Penni Louise

In a treacherous world, is it safe to be powerful?

A Brother with a tainted past. A Lord seeking a legacy for his daughters. A Queen in exhile from her ancestral home. For decades, the Lords and Ladies in the land of Tamaris have known peace among their Houses, unlike the Outlanders who face death everyday outside the kingdom’s borders. But when the King, consumed by power, turns against the beloved Queen, she is forced into hiding, and plots brew among the Houses. The threads of peace begin to unravel. From a Lord’s daughters facing the subordinations of womanhood, to the outcast who flees to The Coven of Sacred Sisters for redemption, to the boy in the mines who prefers darkness and worms to the Lightlands, the lives of the people of Tamaris are unknowingly tied to their Queen’s fate. Only the Witch knows to what end their loyalty leads them. They must navigate political ambitions, social expectations, the complexities of relationship, and traitor’s plots to survive in the midst of the building war. But many will forget that the worst peril often comes from those closest to home. SEED OF TAMARIS is an epic fantasy brimming with magik, desire, and wickedness. It is Book One of the Archipelago Series, and Penni Louise’s debut novel.

Amazon →

 Barnes & Noble →



Having tired Timber out in the surf, throwing the stick till her arm hurt, the two weary friends rested on a smooth rock, basking in the afternoon sun.
 “I suppose they’ll be looking for us to get dressed and into the carriage,” Solar
sighed to Timber.
In the distance, the fishing boats were beginning to come into view on the
horizon, gulls circling and diving behind them, returning to their home harbor before the
night fell. She had asked Cook once why the boats did not stay out overnight. They seemed as big as castles, and as sturdy. Cook had shaken her head.
“They used to, little one, but not anymore. It’s dangerous to be so…exposed at
night nowadays. That’s why we tuck away in houses at night; there’s no good to be found out in the open in the dark.”
Cook refused to say why but Solar knew she had to be right.
Solar thought of her sister, always ill, and indoors. She felt badly for her, never
getting any fresh air or sunshine. She shook off the thought of stuffy rooms and stuffy carriages and stretched her legs, examining them in the sunlight.
“Look, Timber, I am getting fur like you!”
How splendid, she thought, reclining in the warm sun, and drifted off to sleep.
Sometime later, Solar woke with a pain in her back, disoriented. She was
immediately overwhelmed by the gloom; it seemed to be trying to suffocate her in shadow. She could hear and feel that the tide was coming in; the water was now splashing against the rocks, the spray hitting her feet and legs.
How long have I been asleep? She peered into the dusk and saw the stars starting to emerge overhead. A long time, then.
Something was missing. The spell of the stars suddenly broken, she realized
Timber was not beside her.
“TIMBER!” she called.
She thought she heard an answering woof but couldn’t be sure over the crashing
sound of the waves.
She stood gingerly, twisting to release her muscles, and called again, “Timber!”
She was certain she heard something this time, and slowly, feeling her way, began to climb the rocks.
She called again when she reached the top but instead of the woof she was hoping for, she heard men’s voices, coming from the direction of home. A Border Patrol! If she revealed herself, she would end up in incredible trouble and worse, the men certainly would not come back to search for Timber. He could be hurt, and was surely lost.
What would make him run away without waking me?
Maybe the fear of the dark was a real concern. More scared than ever, she worried herself with thoughts of Timber being injured, stolen, or devoured by an unknown beast.
The voices were coming closer.
Despite the threat of being truly lost, or being eaten herself, Solar ran away from the voices and into the darkness to find her beloved dog.




As an eager reader from an early age, much of Penni’s life was shaped by Bilbo’s exclamation that “he was going on an adventure!” Originally from Australia, Penni is now an avid storyteller and traveler (both physical and astral), currently located in Denver, Colorado. With a deep love of all things mystical, she also explores the energetic realm through her clairvoyance and channeling abilities.




Penni Louise is giving away 2  Kindle copies and 1 paperback copy of SEED OF TAMARIS!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Three winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive either a Kindle or paperback copy
  • This giveaway ends midnight September 30.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on October 1.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


Where Angels Can't Follow by Jessi Kallison - Book Tour + Giveaway

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I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the WHERE ANGELS CAN'T FOLLOW by Jessi Kallison Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About The Book:
Author: Jessi Kallison
Pub. Date: September 22, 2020
Publisher: Jessi Kallison
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 308
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon

It all started with an inexplicable slab of marble.

And now I can’t get her out of my head. It’s more than inspiration. It’s compulsion.

I see her in my dreams. And I wake up covered in marble dust, her statue more complete in front of me.

I can’t stop sculpting, and I can’t save the angel girl.

Now iconoclasts, a quartet of archangels, and a voodoo queen—along with the plague of little old ladies running my life—are all far too interested in the outcome.

I miss normal New Orleans. (Yeah, I said it.)

But there’s no going back until I free her and get the literal heavenly host out of my life. And maybe there’s no going back then.



“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”—Michelangelo I trudged through the dilapidated street, balancing exertion and hydration in a shuffle common to all of New Orleans in July. Eyeing the angel statues guarding Saint Louis Number Three, I imagined them as they should be, not child-like cherubs, but stone warriors—Heaven’s answer to demons. Grass stained my knees, and my too large t-shirt was heavy with humidity and sweat.

Everything in the thrift store seems made for obese people. Or people who at least eat regularly.

None of it snugs up to a rail thin teenager. I’m not emaciated. Well, not anymore. Marge, my landlady and surrogate grandmother, might seem unfriendly and intimidating at first, but the wrinkles in her eyes get canyon deep as she stares at my baggy clothes and waves me into her kitchen for another round of fried everything.

I have a small room in the lilac colored shotgun house, a quarter cordoned off as mine. An efficiency apartment, I suppose some would call it. I know the truth. It’s just a closet of a room, with one corner pretending to be a kitchenette and another corner pretending to be a bathroom.

For the record, I might be better off in a pop-up camper. But this place feels like home. Marge is just one wall over and would beat anyone threatening us with her rolling pin. It’s a cushion of safety that I can’t bring myself to leave.

The screen door announced my arrival, and I cringed as I heard Marge calling for me. “Nate!”

I could just ignore her.  “Nathaniel!” she insisted.

Turning away from my so-close door, the freedom to collapse on my couch mere seconds away, I stood outside the door to the main house and responded, “Yes, Marge?”

She was still in a shift, an oversized nightgown sack dress that matches the purple of the house, and worn out slippers sheath her toes. “Now, you know, I can’t reach anything. Who ever heard 1

of putting lights so doggone far up on the ceiling? I need some help changing that lightbulb in the hallway.”

She looked up at me, as though I have an obligation to change lightbulbs. As though it were in our contract. Section 5b. Tenant must change light bulbs for little old ladies.  No matter how much he really just wants to lie down in the air conditioning.  

After my sweltering day, I didn’t feel like anything else, but I grunted as I yanked the door open and grabbed the bulb she offered. It’s not really a major task. The fixture is close to the ceiling, but it’s nothing a step ladder won’t fix. Still, Marge isn’t exactly lithe. As though I’ve been granted insight into the future, I envisioned her tottering to the side and tipping over, breaking her hip on the way down. The medics, of course, would look at her and ask, “Now, why were you doin’ a thing like this by yo’self?”

Though we differ on most issues, we were on the same wavelength now. She looked apologetic as she said, “If I fall, that’s the last thing my son’s high falutin’ wife would need to stick me in a home! She’d say I can’t take care of myself. And I ain’t goin’ to no home!”

I don’t like it, being the caretaker here, but I agree. No homes. She’d leave, and I’d be out on the street again. I pulled the ladder out of the garage, exercising an abundance of caution. If I break the little fixture, Marge will harangue me with her sharp tongue and hands on her hips, fingers pointing, and I really just want peace. I climbed up, unscrewed the fixture, changed the bulb, and reattached everything. Putting the ladder away, I turned to leave.

It’s never that easy though.

“You know. We got a strange delivery today. You know anything about that?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“This scary lookin’ man showed up, bald head, sunglasses, big muscles. He’s even a couple of inches taller than you! He had tattoos. The kind in another language. Now, why do you reckon people do that? They can’t know for sure that those people ain’t puttin’ cuss words on their skin.”

Time to get this conversation back on track, before we get the evils of tattoos lecture again.

“I know. I don’t know why they do that. Now, what about this delivery? Are you sure it’s anything to do with me?”

“Yeah. The baldie said it was for you. To make sure you got it. That you’d know what to do with it. And it’s big and heavy. I want it outta my garage, but it’s hard to move at all,” she complained.

A flash of annoyance rushed over me. Honestly, if she’d been able to move my package, she probably would have by now. And I was curious. No one ever sends me anything but bills, much less a package. Occasionally, I order art supplies, but I hover over the mailman when those arrive, worried someone will steal my precious tools.

“It was weird. It didn’t come off no FedEx or UPS truck either. Don’t you know ‘bout the UPS, son? You could be tracking them packages anywhere.”

For Chrissakes! Yes, I know ‘bout the UPS.

I pulled the door up, looking at the person-sized crate in the middle of the room. It’s on a pallet with casters, at least. I studied the box towering over me, looking for a label. “There’s no return address,” I admitted.

“Well, I know that. I looked. Wondering what you been buying. I know people buy crazy stuff on the internet.”

“I really didn’t order anything.”

I hesitated at the box. It’s too big to be anything but interesting. But it had to be a mistake.

“Well, c’mon. Open it up,” Marge prodded, shooing me toward the box.

I grabbed a crowbar from the tool bench and wedged it into the seams, shocked by the weight on the casters. I pried my mystery delivery open, until my eyes registered what was beneath.

Marble. High quality marble. A full person-sized block of it. Statue sculpting marble. And a note taped to the surface, Nathaniel, scripted across the luxurious paper. I pulled the note off, and unfolded it.

“Well, what’s it say?” Marge chirped. She edged closer, reading over my shoulder. “ ‘Don’t be afraid of inspiration.’ Don’t be afraid of inspiration?! What does that mean?”

I shrugged as my eyes bulged at the extravagance before me in Marge’s dingy garage, and in spite of the note, I asked, “Are you sure they said this is for me?”

“Yeah. Baldie insisted. What you gonna do with this? Now, you can’t be leaving this in the middle of my garage.”

“I’ll figure something out. You want me to move it to one side for now?”

When she nodded, I carefully inched my marble to the side. Don’t tip. Don’t crack. Just smooth movement, with just enough force.  It was terrifying.

“Now why would someone send you a buncha marble?” she pondered.

“I don’t know,” I answered quietly, “But I’m learning to sculpt. I just can’t imagine who’d send me that big a piece or why.”

“You sculpt?!” Marge squawked into the evening air. I nodded. “We eat dinner together half the time. How could you take up sculpting and not tell me?”

I watched my feet stamping at the floor, and my hand flew up to cool my burning neck as my cheeks burned. “I—I’m not sure I’m good at it yet,” I stammered.

Marge’s indignation vanished in her next deep exhale. “It’s not easy to have someone laugh at your newborn dreams,” she agreed, reaching up to make my eyes meet hers. “I can give up a little space for a while.”

And before I had a chance to thank her, she was heading off to the kitchen. But I knew better than to follow. She’s still surprised, but eventually there will be a litany on sculpting. I don’t know what she’s going to harp on for certain, but somehow I know it’s sure to include sculpting for God’s glory and how people were meant to be wearing clothes.

I was pushing the mower through the dense air, already soaked at 9:00 AM, when I first envisioned what the marble block could become. I nearly ran over Mrs. Delaney’s day lilies I was so lost in reverie.

A tall, muscular woman with wings. A woman with wings? An angel. But she didn’t look like Michelangelo’s angels. She was thin, but curvy, and she didn’t have a toga on. Don’t all angels have to wear togas? Or be naked? Isn’t that a rule?  She wass wearing tight fitting pants with sheaths strapped to her thighs with blades stuck anywhere they would fit and a clingy chain mail shirt, the outfit finished off with combat boots and her hair wrapped up in braids. Her wings were huge, spanning from her head to her knees, and I could see we would be eye to eye if she were real. I tried to shake her from my mind, but she sprang back. She hardly looked angelic. She looked…fallen.

I’m impressed that my idea is so detailed—like Michelangelo’s David—I could see her eyelashes, her veins. But I couldn’t easily imagine her in color. I only saw her in marble, and I ached with the need to see what she’d be like in color. I imagined her as a blonde, a brunette, a redhead as the day passed in a haze of grass clippings and sweltering heat. I was so drawn to her that I want to walk away from the lawns, from my one source of income, and sketch her, make the plan to bring her to life. Because, by the end of the day, there was no doubt in my mind that she was meant to be sprung from the marble.

I clenched the handle of my push mower. I am part of a sad, two-person lawn crew, but I’m doing what I can with this one little mower and a beat-up truck that barely wants to haul me, let 5

alone the equipment and accessories. Unless you want to mow lawns forever, you have to keep moving.

C’mon, Nate. We can sculpt later. We can draw later.  I tried to talk myself down because I can hardly keep it together—stretching out my funds to attend art classes, pay Marge for utilities, and eat.

Marge doesn’t require much, and I think she spends what I pay her feeding me again later. So, I can’t let her down. My rational side knows best, knows I have to make a certain quota, but the muses were riding me hard.

“What the heck are you doin’, Nate?”

My head jerked around as I loaded the weed eater back into the metal monster. I looked down at the gear and cans of gasoline, wondering if I was doing something stupid. I’m usually not, but you have to wonder when somebody leads with that.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I saw you nearly take out the flowerbeds three times in one yard!” Kiah growled.

My partner in the great lawn cutting business is an unlikely girl. We were both hungry, sweaty, and covered in grass confetti. She wore shorts, her legs impervious to the pelting we took as we mowed. I don’t know if you can get leg callouses, but if it’s possible, Kiah’s done it.

She looked like she might still slap some sense in to me, a feat that would take a step ladder, but it was in her eyes. Kiah might be a foot shorter than I am, but she’s meaner, and she’s the one in charge of our aggressive marketing campaign and interacting with clients. Her wild curls were going into near-afro mode, her hands on her hips.

“I’m sorry, Kiah. I don’t know what’s gotten into me,” I made excuses as I rubbed my palms down my face, looking for a dry spot to wipe sweat.

“You sure it ain’t that hot chick that keeps waving at you from the pool next door?” she retorted. I turned to look. There’s a hot chick waving at me next door?  Sure enough, Ms. Pink Bikini waved at us as I looked.

“Maybe she’s waving at you, Kiah. I think you gotta be wrong. I didn’t even notice,” I placated as Kiah looked ready to slap the back of my head. I heard her muttering.

“I can’t even get a girl to look at me—someone who would definitely notice—and you can’t see them fawning at you! Honestly, if the pink bikini ain’t your problem, then why are you trying to run our business into the ground today?”

I let a breath out because she wass not going to like my reasons. The pink bikini would be more relatable.

“I got this weird delivery yesterday, and I keep thinking about it.”

“If it ain’t for you, you’re supposed to return it, idiot.”

I grinned at her straightforward advice. “It was for me. The delivery guy apparently insisted.”

I wondered how long I could keep Kiah waiting for details before she’d explode, wanting to know who’d send me a package and what it was. I was dead certain that she couldn’t make it to the next yard before she insisted on knowing.

I didn’t have to wait long. “So, are you gonna tell me what you got?” Her eyes flashed.

“Yes, Kiah. I was just waiting for you to ask. Wasn’t sure you were interested,” I teased.

“You know we ain’t got nobody to send us packages but the Hatters, and they ain’t gon’ send anything. We see them all the time.” I smiled at Kiah’s use of the nickname for the trio of old ladies who’d adopted us, a name bestowed in part because of their attempt to join the Red Hat Society and in part because they’re mad like hatters.

“Okay. Get this. I show up from work, and Marge is driving me crazy about changing a lightbulb. Then, she springs the package on me. It’s huge and sitting in the garage. This gigantic box on a pallet with casters. It’s the sort of crate that could house a body or a dinosaur skeleton.

Anything really,” I narrated with excitement. Kiah hopped from foot to foot.

“I slit the sides open, and I can tell the thing’s got heft, you know? And there’s a note taped to the block. It has ‘Nathaniel’ written neatly on top with some bizarre advice inside. It said, ‘Don’t be afraid of inspiration.’ It’s a huge chunk of marble. Statue making size.”

Kiah’s jaw dropped because I can’t make this stuff up. Who sends a cash-strapped art student a slab of marble? And why would I be afraid of inspiration?  

“So, what are you gonna do with it? I mean, you’re in Sculpting 2. You’re good, but you’re not Michelangelo yet.”

“I know. And at first, I was horrified. Afraid of inspiration. That’s laughable. I’m afraid to touch the marble at all. Or at least I was. Until I was gettin’ this idea while I was mowing.”

I wasn’t ready to share yet, and I knew that Kiah would worry at my idea like a scab if I didn’t take evasive action.

“So, I heard a rumor that the Hatters are gettin’ together Thursday night at your house. Now, I haven’t been invited, but I heard that they invited Delia Moore, the head of the local Cotillion Society. I don’t know what they might be intendin’, but I’d be willing to bet it involves shoes you can’t walk in and one Hezekiah Esther Craft being announced at a ball.” I made sure to use my imitation of Mrs. Grace as I said the full name.

Kiah’s eyes widened, and she stepped back like a skittish colt. I knew she was already making escape plans. Kiah can wrestle rattlesnakes, change oil on any machine, send spiders running in fear, and stare down men triple her size. But ballgowns and people using her full name are panic-inducing. I’m an awful guy for bringing it up, but Kiah wasn’t thinking about my sculpture anymore. She was layering her defenses until she was more impenetrable than the DMZ.


Finally alone and on my way home, I thought about the way I joke that I’m a landscape sculptor, shaping grass and hedges to my patrons’ whims. But people think I’m a sculptor like they 8

think janitors are “sanitation engineers”. Still, I needed stone beneath my hands like junkies need their next score, and I pressed the pedal down on the old F-150. It was more embarrassing to drive this old monster than it was to just walk. The squealing belt let everyone know I’m coming for miles away, and I turned the volume up, letting the radio drown it. “This is Terri Salinas with The Underground News. We are sad to report the Bayou Beater has struck again, leaving two new victims on the city outskirts. Police are still investigating, but please stay safe, folks.” I mulled the news over, wondering how many victims the Bayou Beater could take before New Orleans got scared. Was that 6? 7?

Some of the tension left my shoulders as I pulled into my spot. I didn’t bother unloading my gear. I was somewhat sheltered here behind the house, and I walked toward the side entry garage door. I’ve never been nervous about the unlocked garage before, but I was anxious knowing there was nothing separating a miscreant from my marble but a rolling door.

I breathed deeply when it was still there. And I couldn’t stop myself from reaching out for it, my eight-foot slab. I felt her beneath the marble, a pulse beneath the surface.

I jerked my hand back. Marble doesn’t pulse. It’s rock. It’s not living.  I talked myself out of backing away. I’ve just had too much mowing and not enough water. My hands are still jittery from the mower.  That logical thought reined in the others, and I went to fix this dehydration-induced hallucination.

“Is that you, Nathaniel?”

Who else, Marge?

I’m still not up to letting my landlady experience what a smartass actually jabbers inside my head though. So, I replied, “Yes.” If I happened to sound a bit longsuffering, well, I’d had dehydration-induced hallucinations already.

“I was just makin’ sure nobody was sneakin’ in to steal that chunk o’ rock.”

My heart nearly stopped as I saw that she was holding an old revolver. Little Marge, who can’t change a light bulb, was prepared to shoot me to kingdom come.

“Were you gonna shoot me?” I gasped, my voice rising an octave.

“Not you. Just anybody that ain’t s’posed to be here.”

You think you know somebody. And then you find out they have revolvers in their housecoats.

And she shoved that gun back in the pocket of her floral print gown and pushed her glasses up on her nose, which crinkled when it registered what landscape sculptors actually smell like in New Orleans heat.

“You reek! Now go on and wash up. I’m makin’ some fried okra and cornbread. Might scrounge up some chicken or pork chop in a minute. Come get some real food. Nothing you can cook in a microwave is gonna be worth a damn.”

I had to agree.


About Jessi:

Jessi Kallison is a young adult urban fantasy author and poet. Her first novel Iron Shards is currently available, with upcoming releases of Where Angels Can’t Follow and Hell and High Water scheduled for Fall 2020. She is working on her third novel when she’s not exploring caves, prying her kids away from computer screens, running, or gardening. In addition to that rather time- consuming list, Jessi is enthusiastic about sci-fi and anything with enough caffeine to give her heart palpitations.

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3 winners will receive a paperback of Jessi’s book IRON SHARDS, US Only.

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