- Action & Adventure
- Alejandra Andrade
- Anita Perez Ferguson
- Atmosphere Press
- Borne Back Books
- Brian Herberger
- Chad Alan Gibbs
- Children's Books/Young Adult Misc. Nonfiction
- Children's Books/Young Adult Social Situations
- Coming of Age
- Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
- Crystal Moon Press
- Dark Fantasy
- Designs by Seraphim
- Dorothea Jensen
- Emotions & Feelings
- Evelyn Puerto
- Fairy Tales & Folklore
- Freya Daree
- Gala Books
- Girls & Women
- Grace Allison
- Grades 6-8
- High School
- Independently Published
- Jane Alvey Harris
- Jenna Marcus
- Justin Doyle
- Luz Publications
- M. J. Evans
- Magical Realism
- Mental Illness
- Military & Wars
- Mysteries & Detective Stories
- New Adult
- Open Water Books
- Paranormal/ Occult & Supernatural
- Past Times Press
- Sara M. Schaller
- Social Themes
- Social Topics
- Space Opera
- Sports & Recreation
- Survival Stories
- T. E. Dickason
- Tabitha Sprunger
- Tarryn Fisher
- Taryn Gilliland
- Teen & YA
- Teen & YA Romance
- Teen & Young Adult
- Teen & Young Adult Fantasy
- Tessonja Odette
- Topical/Coming of Age
- Tracy Lawson
- United States
- Young Adult
- Young Adult Fantasy
- Young Adult Fiction
- Young Adult Nonfiction
- Young Adult Sci-Fi
Bardo by the Sea
"A fun mystery with a clever heroine that offers sharp, surprising takes on big issues." —Kirkus
When Izzy Brown, an anxiety-ridden sixteen-year-old, receives a scholarship to the prestigious Bardo Academy, she leaves the trailer park for a seaside villa in Florida’s most exclusive and secretive community. With a new address, new school, and cute new boyfriend, life is good—for once.
But then dreams of becoming a journalist prompt Izzy to join the school newspaper. With the help of Elton Jones-Davies, a gentle giant with autism and secrets of his own, she delves into the murder of a former Bardo Academy football star.
Together, Izzy and Elton uncover forbidden romance, shady business deals, and political corruption reaching the State Capitol. The case heats up just as Izzy’s life falls apart, but she presses on, risking everything to bring the killer to justice.
Set in 2008, at the precipice of the housing market crash and the height of Florida’s prescription opioid epidemic, Bardo by the Sea is Book 1 of the Izzy and Elton Mystery Series.
Chad Alan Gibbs is the award-winning author of Two Like Me and You and The Rome of Fall. He lives in Alabama with his wife and two sons.
Breathe Deep & Swim
“A timely and moving ode to the lengths we will go for our family…Teen readers looking for realistic contemporary adventure and strong sibling dynamics will delight in the Thomas brothers’ quick-moving journey.” —BookLife
Perfect for fans of We Are Okay and The Thing about Jellyfish, this witty and achingly beautiful coming of age story will tackle what it means to be alive, loved, and trusting in a world gone mad...
All 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Thomas wants is normalcy. But a global pandemic prevents him from having anything close to a typical teenager's life. When Wolfgang discovers his father dead in bed from the coronavirus, his world is thrust into even more turmoil and chaos. Wolfgang and his 16-year-old brother, Van Gogh, know that they must do everything they can to stay together and avoid foster care. In a cross-country road trip, they hit the road in their father's Pontiac to find their only hope: the mother who abandoned them a decade ago. As they journey for answers to their mother's whereabouts, they uncover devastating mysteries about her that they never could have imagined. Just as they near their destination, tragedy strikes once more. Wolfgang is drowning in fear and pain, but he must pull it together or lose his family for good. Can this broken adolescent find the strength and courage to Breathe Deep & Swim?
SCROLL FOR SAMPLE!
"I loved Breathe Deep & Swim by Jenna Marcus and want to share it with the world. This book speaks of hope, innocence, and challenges from the perspectives of teenagers. Highly recommended." —Readers' Favorite
"...compelling...memorable...An often moving portrait of brotherly love.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Jenna Marcus’ incredible story captures the depths of brotherly love and the determination of a spirit faced with insurmountable odds." —Manhattan Book Review
“Do yourself a favor; take the time to pick up and read this novel. It serves as a reminder towards trusting your instincts, the importance of bonds with others and, in the face of challenges or what seems like overwhelming odds, we all need to pause for a moment, “breathe deep and swim’.” —★★★★★ Reader Review
“...this book is very symbolic of current times. It shows how we all currently live, and in future years, I’m sure people will read it and wonder what we actually went through. This book will be a great addition to school and classroom libraries.” —NetGalley Review
“This was a solid read, I greatly enjoyed it! It's very interesting to see COVID-19 in books as well. Breathe Deep & Swim left me heartbroken, but it also made me optimistic. This novel taught me that sometimes all you need to do is go with the flow. Overall, this was a sweet book with a lovely message!” —NetGalley Review
“This book took me on a ride! Finished this in one sitting just to know what would happen to the brothers, and had me hoping they'll finally see their mom. I like how it was written, the characters are engaging and as mentioned, they make you want to root for them. I love how there are references to some classic books, which give clues on what could be waiting for them.” —NetGalley Review
Jenna Marcus is an academic leader and published author of the YA novel, My Unusual Talent. She has a fervent passion for leveraging her decade of expertise to robustly enhance and redefine the quality of teaching and learning. As an avid reader, she believes that every child should find a book to love. In addition to her profession experience, she holds a MS. ED in Educational Leadership, a MS. ED in Middle Childhood & Adolescent English Education and a BA in Literature; she is also certified in School Building Leadership and ELA. Currently, she lives in New Rochelle, NY.
Chapter 1: Not Midnight
It felt like a phantom clock was striking midnight.
I thought I heard twelve chimes, but maybe they were ringing somewhere off in the distance. Maybe I was just imagining it because the sound of midnight—that finite clang—would have fittingly stamped this moment. But even without hearing the distinctive ringing of a midnight bell, even without confirmation of the time, I’d always remember this moment. At some point in the night, Dad had died, and we’d been left to figure out the rest of our lives, or at least the next few hours.
I’d never seen a corpse before, not in its organic form, before being preserved in a coffin—only after being coiffed and cleaned to a perfection that never replicated the actual living person I once knew.
At Uncle Earl’s funeral, he’d worn an intensely black suit with a matching tie, but he’d once said he would rather die than wear one. Well, I guess the suit was fitting then, because if he’d taken one look at that Windsor knot, he would have dropped dead on the spot.
Lying in that shiny coffin, Uncle Earl had been like a wax statue, a pristine, unnatural representation, not the Uncle Earl we knew. That wax figure wouldn’t ruffle my hair while saying, “When are you going to cut that thing? Are you looking to grow a pet?” It’d always driven me crazy when he said that, but he was being true to who he was; he was his authentic self. In that coffin, any semblance of authenticity he’d once had dissipated, leaving a body in a proper suit. I supposed he’d been prepared and preserved to look like that for an audience, to appear “more palatable.”
This was different though, and not because the dead man lying in the bed was my dad. This was different because my dad still looked like himself. He wasn’t made up for anyone; his life had just faded away. His lily-pad-green eyes were dull and staring at nothing on the ceiling. His jaw was slack. He looked like he was waiting to sleep, but his soul had left his body instead.
The most potent difference was the absence of living movements. He was missing those subtle movements, like adjusting himself under the bedspread, or twitching his nose from time to time. He was missing his stare, when he would focus on a particular point as if to turn it over in his mind before slightly shaking his head to refocus his eyes. His dark-brown hair somehow had lost its sheen, which seemed impossible since it had grown oily from not showering for days on end.
It was his stillness that filled the room. His severe lack of movement connected him to all other corpses, but because he wasn’t in the standard coffin, in the standard funeral home, I couldn’t shake the expectation of seeing him move. It was almost like I was taking for granted that people could move. Even if you were a quadriplegic, your eyes could move back and forth, and your chest would rise and fall with every breath you took.
It was impossible to mistake a dead man for what he was, and however I felt about this situation, I knew that he was dead.
“Wolfgang, why is this door open?” Van Gogh called from the hall. His footsteps began to slow to a stop as he hesitated to enter the room. We both knew this room was off-limits, and we both knew why.
Normally I followed the rules, especially ones set by Van Gogh, but I’d felt compelled to go into our dad’s room, almost as if…as if I knew that I would find my dead dad lying in his own filth. As I mentioned, it had been a while since he’d showered.
“Wolfgang, why are you in here? You know you shouldn’t—holy shit!” Van Gogh shouted, stopping a few feet away from the bed.
Although my brother’s eyes were usually a mirror image of our dad’s lily-pad-green ones, his naturally seemed livelier. In fact, they seemed to be expanding and retracting, if that was even possible.
I had no idea how to respond, other than to say what we both knew was a lie.
“I don’t know what happened. He just … died.”
He just died. Yes, he had, that was obviously true, but we both knew what happened, we both knew the cause.
Van Gogh ran his fingers through his short dark-brown hair, staring down at the body.
“Shit, shit, shit.” My brother didn’t always know what to say in uncomfortable situations, but that was probably because he was rarely uncomfortable. Even when he got into verbal boxing matches with Dad, he didn’t seem uncomfortable, just angry and disgusted. But now, as he continued to run his fingers through his hair, it was obvious that he was severely uncomfortable.
“I know. I don’t know what happened. I just found him here,” I repeated. Normally, I was very verbose. It probably came from the fact that I was a bona fide bookworm, at least that’s what my teachers told me. That was one of the reasons I did so well on my compositions, especially in English class. I usually knew how to sew together sentences that sounded articulate, but not obnoxiously so. Dad always said I was too smart for my own good, and that he couldn’t understand a word I was saying—but that was because he wasn’t really listening. He never really tried to understand.
“What are you even doing in here? You know you shouldn’t be in here without a mask!” Van Gogh exclaimed, adjusting his white N95 mask.
“I mean, does it really matter anymore? He’s dead,” I said, reaching for the mask tucked in my back pocket.
“Wolfgang, we don’t know if he’s still contagious!” Van Gogh cried as he pulled a pair of gloves out of a pocket in his tattered Levi’s. He handed them to me before helping me adjust my mask. “There, that’s better.”
We simultaneously looked down at the stiffening body. I didn’t feel his skin, but I knew my dad’s body was getting colder and that rigor mortis would set in at some point; it was only a matter of time. However, how much time we had, who knew? I couldn’t tell you what time it was.
It was at that point that I asked the obvious yet complex question I knew was on both of our minds. “Now what?”
Van Gogh took a deep breath, so deep that I could feel him holding it for some time—as if he needed the oxygen, any oxygen, even if it were contaminated. He slowly exhaled as he looked over our dad’s body.
“Now? We need to get out of this room,” he said, taking hold of my hand and walking me into the hall. My brother hadn’t held my hand since I was eight years old and he was ten. Even though Dad had never instructed Van Gogh to do so, he’d always taken hold of my hand as we walked across the street.
Although it was six years later, and I knew that as a high school freshman I was a little too old to walk hand in hand with my older brother, I was reluctant to let go. Van Gogh had always been my life raft. I knew I needed him, and I also knew I could always rely on him.
Although my brother’s plans weren’t always fully thought through, I knew he would have one. I knew he would do everything in his power to get us safely across that street.
When we were in the hall, Van Gogh released my hand and walked over to the couch, but he didn’t sit down. Instead, he just walked around it, circling it like a vulture waiting for the right moment to land.
I pulled off my mask and tucked both the mask and the gloves into my back pocket. I couldn’t help but watch my brother as he continued to circle the couch, looking down at the brown carpet.
“What should we do?” I just needed to ask this question. Van Gogh always knew what to do, even if he acted on a whim, which he usually did. Me, on the other hand … it took me forever to construct a plan. I had to think it through too much; I’d always anticipate the worst-case scenario and would end up scrapping fully formed plans. But not Van Gogh. No, he would just go with it and whatever happened, happened.
Also, my brother would take full responsibility for his actions, but he never seemed to regret them. For example, when he’d been caught tagging a wall when he was into graffiti art, he said that if Keith Haring could do it, why couldn’t he? Granted, I’m sure Haring’s younger brother didn’t have to use his lawn mowing money to bail his brother out of jail, like I did. Even though our dad had yelled at him for a good hour about getting arrested and focusing more on his art than anything else, Van Gogh didn’t seem remorseful. Although he never apologized to Dad for his actions, he did apologize to me because he knew that it had taken me a while to earn what became his bail money.
The following week, I’d found my money paid back with interest on my dresser. It was only later that I learned that my brother pawned some of his new art supplies to pay me back. I didn’t even attempt to get them back because I knew that if I did, it would hurt his pride. We never spoke of the incident again because there was no need to; we were brothers. We would do anything for one another. That was just a fact.
For this reason, whatever decision Van Gogh made would affect the both of us, and he knew it. He normally worked well under pressure because he never let it get to him, but this was different. We both knew whatever decision he made would determine our fate. Nevertheless, he would figure out what to do. I didn’t need to worry because whatever he decided, that was what we were going to do. Even if it wasn’t the perfect plan, he would make sure it all worked out in the end. He always did.
I knew not to disturb my brother while he was thinking, so I calmly took a seat in the chair adjacent to the couch. I was tempted to pick up the book I’d left under the coffee table, not to read it but just to feel it in my hands. There was just something about holding a book, any book, that just put me at ease.
I eyed the spine, a cracked white crease severing the dull orange spine that read: The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D Salinger. You only needed to read the book once to know why the publisher chose to emphasize the words “catcher” and “rye” in the title, but I chose to read it about a dozen times, to the point where the annotations I jotted in the margins could be time stamped by the evolution of my penmanship. I really liked it when even the publisher would provide readers with a subtle hint about the book’s deeper meaning. It was as if even those binding the book recognized its potential greatness.
As I was just about to lean forward to pick up Salinger’s coming of-age tale, Van Gogh stopped in his tracks. He turned toward me but didn’t really see me. He seemed to be looking off in the distance, at an indiscriminate part of the wall. It could only mean one thing: Van Gogh had come up with a plan.
“Pack,” he commanded. “Empty out our backpacks and pack everything we can carry,” he said, marching toward our bedroom.
Pack? Following him into the bedroom, I watched him riffle through his canvas backpack, pulling out every textbook and notebook that he could find until the backpack was completely empty. I don’t even think that he left a single pencil in there.
“Pack? Pack for what?” I questioned.
“We’re leaving,” Van Gogh stated, opening up his dresser drawer and pulling out a few pairs of socks and some of his boxers.
“We’re leaving?” I sounded like an echo, mirroring his statements but recreating them into queries. “Why?”
“We have to,” he stated, not looking up while continuing to shove his clothes into the backpack, trying to fashion it into a makeshift suitcase. “Damn, this may not be big enough.”
“We have to?” Van Gogh didn’t even bother to address that echo. He just walked over to my side of the room and emptied out my backpack.
“I know you’re going to want to take some books, but don’t take too many,” my brother warned. “We’re probably going to have to carry these backpacks for a while and if they’re too heavy, we won’t make it.”
“We won’t make it? Make it where?” Getting tired of my own questions, I shook my head, as if to reconfigure my brain, trying to prevent myself from being a parrot. “Van Gogh, where are we going? Why do we have to leave? What is the plan?” My questions came flooding out, a waterfall of inquiries that just seemed to spill out of me. I felt like I was talking a mile a minute, but I couldn’t help it, my mouth was trying to catch up to my brain.
“Just pack first, ask questions later,” he stated, punching down his clothes. “We need to make a list of essentials. What we absolutely need, not what we would like to have, okay?” Before Van Gogh could move toward our closet, I grabbed his wrist, giving it a firm hold.
At the touch of my hand, he finally looked into my eyes. His were a steady wash of green, with slightly dilated pupils, all nestled under a furrowed brow.
“Van Gogh, please, I need to know what’s going on. Why are we packing?” I pleaded. “I’m not going to fight you on this, I never would, but I need to know what we are doing.”
Van Gogh nodded, knowing me too well.
Although I would follow any plan my brother would put into motion, I needed to know the intricacies of the plan. This applied to anything, really. I had a habit of resisting something unless I knew exactly what was happening. For example, when I was little, I would scream when the dentist began to work on me because he had never explained what he was going to do before he stuck his instruments into my mouth. Apparently, I was screaming so much that the dentist was afraid to continue unless my dad agreed to having the dental assistants hold me down and give me a sedative. Although my dad agreed to this, Van Gogh yelled at the dentist when he heard the plan. Unfortunately, since Van Gogh was a kid himself, the adults won in the end.
Maybe it was that instance that caused me to hate doctors. I knew that we needed doctors to survive, especially now that we were in the midst of a global pandemic, but I just couldn’t get over this underlying hatred. Well, actually, it wasn’t not that I hated them, but that I didn’t trust them. I would always trust Van Gogh, though. I trusted him more than anyone else, so whatever we had to do, we were going to do it, but I just needed to know what exactly we were doing. I needed to make sense of it first.
Van Gogh took a deep breath and placed my now empty backpack on my bed.
“Wolfgang, we can’t stay here. Pretty soon, the state will discover that Dad died. As far as I know, he is our only living relative in this state. Uncle Earl was his only brother, who never had any kids, and Dad’s parents died a long time ago, so it’s just you and me. So, since there is no one who can take us in, we are now wards of the state, which means that we will be placed in foster care. I’m sixteen, so in the state of Florida, I am still a minor—if I were eighteen, it would be a different story, but I’m not. So, it’s inevitable that we will go into foster care and then we will be separated. I know that you don’t want that to happen, and neither do I, so our only choice is to run away.”
Van Gogh’s tone was so calm, but more than calm, it was steady. His tone was a stark contrast to my mind, which was still racing with questions and trying to process what he was telling me.
Words like “foster care” and “separated” kept flipping over and over in my mind. Was he right? Would we wind up in foster care? Would we be separated? He spoke as if he was speaking from experience. Even though I knew he’d never been in foster care, we did go to school with a few classmates who were not only in foster care, but who seemed to jump from home to home. Actually, to call the places where they lived a “home” was entirely inaccurate. They were more like temporary landing bases until they found a home—if they ever found a home. I did have one friend, Sophie, who’d found a permanent home with her foster family. Sophie said that she looked so much like her foster parents because they all wore the same black-framed glasses, and like her, her foster mom also had asthma. Although Sophie was adopted by a family that she loved, they’d adopted her when she was a lot younger than us, and she was not adopted with a sibling.
Van Gogh was right. Who was going to adopt two teenage brothers? It was a possibility, but we both knew that it was too slim. Van Gogh was right—we couldn’t take that chance, we needed to leave. However, he still hadn’t answered all my questions.
“Okay, but where are we running to? We have to be going somewhere, right?”
Van Gogh looked down at my hand, which was still gripping his wrist. When I let go, he placed both of his hands on my shoulders, and continued to look me right in the eyes. His gaze was even steadier than before, but his pupils seemed to retract a bit, so he looked more like his normal self.
“There’s only one living relative I know about … our mom. I know that she ran away when we were both very young, but I remember Dad once mentioning that she lived in New York when they first met. It’s a long trip but we have to make it. It’s our only chance to stay together.”
As I looked up into Van Gogh’s eyes, I nodded, still processing the plan. Van Gogh always had a few inches on me. For this reason, although we were both pretty lanky, his hand-me-downs were always too long for me. I knew that if our dad was still alive, the blue T-shirt and matching jeans that Van Gogh was wearing would be passed down to me in a few months—but now who knew what would be passed down. Our dad was no longer alive to make those decisions, or any decisions at all. So now, we sought a new decision maker. Our mom.
Our mom. I had not heard that phrase in a long time. She left when I was three and Van Gogh was five years old. Dad never spoke about her and didn’t keep any pictures of her in the house. I barely knew anything about her, except that she ran away and that she was the one who named us. I think that’s why Dad felt the need to shorten our names to “Wolf ” and “Van.” He couldn’t stand any memory of her in his house, and our names—our existence—were constant reminders of her imprint on his life.
“How are we going to get there?” I quickly pulled out my phone and did a search. “It’s nearly 1,200 miles away, and we don’t even know which part of New York she lived in,” I stated, tucking my phone back into my front pocket.
I could feel Van Gogh’s grip tightening a bit before he took his hands away from my shoulders and turned back to my empty backpack.
“The Bronx,” Van Gogh stated, picking up my empty backpack and handing it to me. “She used to live on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. So, that’s where we’re going—the Bronx, New York. Now, pack.”
“How do you know that?”
Van Gogh shrugged as he looked at my backpack. “I just do.”
“How are we going to get there?” I asked, feeling the weightlessness of my empty backpack.
“I have an idea. First, I need you to pack. We are wasting too much time,” he said.
As he started pulling a couple of T-shirts and light sweaters off hangers, I took a look around our room.
I tried to relive that ubiquitous scenario when your house is on fire and you need to grab everything that is important to you. But I was coming up short.
Van Gogh didn’t have to tell me that we would never return—that was a given.
As I scanned the room, I saw cracking white walls that really needed spackling. Aside from the cracks, the walls were dull and bare. In fact, essentially everything was bare. It was almost as if we lived a utilitarian lifestyle. The unmade beds and the clothes in both of our dressers and in the closet were the only signs that the room was lived in, but aside from my books and Van Gogh’s art supplies, you would never know that we lived in this room.
Before packing any clothes, I decided to put on a few of the bulkier items so I could fit more books in my backpack. As we were nearing autumn, with the temperature cooling, I decided to pull on a sweater and wear my jean jacket over it. I was already wearing a pair of jeans, and my sneakers, so I thought I was wearing enough layers to be warm. Even though it was the middle of the night, I never bothered to change for bed. It was only at night that I could read my books in peace, without hearing Dad’s cough reverberating throughout the house, or hearing him calling to Van Gogh to bring him something. With my dad’s death, the house had become eerily silent, but I knew that even in this silence, I could never read here again. Van Gogh and I could never stand still here; we needed to keep moving.
I sized up my backpack and determined that I could take about ten paperback books, a few shirts, pants, socks and underwear. After I riffled through my dresser drawer and closet, I picked out my clothes and smooshed them down into the backpack.
As I scanned the bookcase, I noticed how engorged it was from years of hoarding books. Between the school letting us keep our paperbacks, birthday gifts from Van Gogh, and the library’s weekly bookfairs, I genuinely had an abundance of books.
“Not too many,” Van Gogh warned as he walked out of our bedroom. “I’m going to see what cash we have lying around.”
Alone with my books, I determined that, like with my clothes, I could only take the essentials. But how do you determine which books are essential? They were all important to me, every single one, whether they were assigned or I’d chosen them myself. Each book carried a memory for me. I could tell you exactly when I read and reread each of the texts. Only a few were annotated, though. These were irreplaceable, so these would be the ones I needed to take.
I narrowed my selection down to seven essentials: S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders; Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451; Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; John Knowles’s A Separate Peace; Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club; Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner; and Jean-Paul Sartre’s play, No Exit. Every single one of these texts had Post-its hanging out the sides and annotations in the margins.
After I put each book in my backpack, I zipped it up and swung it over my shoulder. Although it had more heft now, I could still fit a few extra items in there.
I quickly found J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye underneath the coffee table, unzipped my backpack, and added this to the collection.
I can fit a couple more books in here, I thought as I turned back to our bedroom. But before I could take another good look at the bookcase, I heard my brother calling for me down the hall, from Dad’s bedroom.
“Van Gogh?” I questioned, as I inched into the room.
“I’m in the closet!” he yelled. I could see his feet sticking out of the open closet door as he was kneeling on the rug.
I diverted my eyes from looking at our dad’s corpse, trying not to imagine it slowly deteriorating.
Van Gogh moved over so that we were both kneeling, looking into the closet.
“So, I was trying to find some money, and I think we hit the motherload,” he said as he held a huge wad of cash in front of me. “There has to be over $1,000 here, easy. I’m sure there is more back here, we just need to look.”
I nodded, still trying to process seeing that huge bundle of money. It was wrapped in a dingy, white rubber band, so Dad must have had that money for a while now.
“I checked his wallet too, but there was only about $20 in there. He had a few credit cards, but those are useless to us,” Van Gogh said, as he sifted through a few pairs of shoes and pushed aside our dad’s toolbox.
“Why is that useless? Do you think that they are maxed out?” If they were, that wouldn’t surprise either one of us. Between paying the bills and our dad’s growing bar tab, he had maxed out his cards a few times.
Van Gogh shrugged. “Maybe, but they are traceable. Once someone discovers his body, he will be in the system. If we were to use the credit card of a dead man, the card would be considered stolen, and the police would find us. At least if we use cash, the police can’t trace us,” Van Gogh reasoned.
“Well, they could trace the serial numbers,” I noted.
Van Gogh smirked and shook his head. “You read too many detective stories. Hey, what’s that?” he asked, pulling out a small, wooden box, buried deep in the closet. Before I could look at the box, I noticed that hidden behind the box was a stack of papers and two paperback books.
The papers seemed delicate and a little crumpled. In the middle of the papers, there was a photograph of a woman holding a swaddled baby. Before I could inspect the photo, my brother said, “This box is locked.”
“Yeah.” He pointed out the small brass padlock dangling from the middle of the box. “I didn’t see a key, though, did you?”
“No, but it doesn’t look like you open it with a key,” I said, pointing at the four small, metal loops jutting out from the bottom of the lock. Each loop had a set of numbers, zero through nine, etched into the metal. “It looks like a combination lock, but I’ve never seen one like this, have you?”
Van Gogh shook his head as he inspected the lock. “Maybe there’s a slip of paper with the combination on it. Did you find anything like that?”
“No, but I did find this,” I said, showing him the photo.
As my brother inspected the photo, he smiled. “Mom and you. Wow, I almost forgot what she looked like.”
I’d completely forgotten what Mom looked like, as I stared at her shoulder-length, wavy light-brown hair and light-blue eyes. She was smiling down at the baby, who was apparently me. I couldn’t have been older than a few weeks, maybe a few months.
Our dad never displayed any photos, let alone kept any of them, especially of our mom. It was almost as if he was trying to erase her existence from our lives because she left us. However, to our dad, she really left him.
“I also found these,” I said as I handed Van Gogh the papers. He placed the box next to him as he carefully, but quickly, unfolded the papers. Once again, he smirked.
“You know what these are? These are our birth certificates.”
I inched over to him to take a closer look. As we inspected the birth certificates, there was no surprising information. Granted, now I knew what the Mayor, Commissioner of Health, and the City Registrar’s signatures looked like, but aside from this, the time of birth and the hospital in Florida were unsurprising. Mother: Ann Miller. Father: Benjamin Stephen Thomas. It all seemed pretty standard.
My gaze lingered on our full names though: Van Gogh Vincent Thomas. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Thomas. I couldn’t help but wonder why Mom chose those names. Clearly, Van Gogh’s name matched him perfectly. Although he never expressed a particular interest in post-impressionist art or the need to replicate Starry Night, he was unquestionably an artist. Maybe that’s why “Van Gogh” was his first name. Mom had known that his artistic talents would emerge sooner or later. Maybe that’s why she chose “Mozart” as one of my middle names. Perhaps she was questioning whether or not I would be a prodigal musician, like my namesake. By making “Mozart” my second—not even my first—middle name, it was almost as if she were planting the seed of musical genius, but she still doubted whether or not it would emerge. Perhaps she had been right in doing so because I couldn’t play any instruments, and I enjoyed reading much more than I enjoyed trying to learn how to play music.
“I’ll put the certificates in my bag. We may need these,” Van Gogh said, as he pulled out his backpack and placed both the wooden box and our birth certificates inside. “Do you see anything else?”
“Just these books,” I said, holding up the two paperbacks. One was too thin to be a novel. I inspected the orange cover with a black border, and what looked like an upside-down building with white smoke or clouds bleaching the orange cover and a tiny white airplane shooting out as if it was flying into the lower right border. I read the title to myself, All My Sons by Arthur Miller. “I wonder if he was related to Mom?” I muttered.
“What?” Van Gogh asked as he stood up.
“Oh, nothing. I was just wondering if Mom was related to Arthur Miller. I mean, they both have the same last name, but maybe that’s a coincidence.”
“I don’t know. In any case, we need to leave soon. I’m going to see if I can find anything else. Meet me by the front door in a few minutes, okay?”
I nodded as Van Gogh left, leaving me to scan the other book cover. A lonely woman, who looked like she was from the Victorian age based on her attire, stared out at the reader with an expression of boredom. The title, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, hung over her head. Although I had heard of Arthur Miller, I had never read anything by Gustave Flaubert. As I tucked the books under my arm, and stood up, I couldn’t help wondering why these books were in the back of our dad’s closet—a man who rarely read. Despite not knowing who owned these books, I decided that these were the last two books that I would take with me.
Chapter 2: Stealing a Dead Man’s Car
“What now?” I asked Van Gogh, standing outside of our house. It was practically pitch-black, and it felt like the temperature had dropped quite a bit. Wearing layers was definitely the right choice.
I looked back at the house, as if trying to etch it into my memory. I don’t remember living anywhere else other than the house our dad inherited from his parents. Uncle Earl already had a house, so when their parents died, they left their faded blue home to my dad and his new family. Maybe it was a home to them, but it never really felt like a home to me.
Oddly enough, I didn’t feel a sense of attachment to the one-story, pale-green house. For the past fourteen years, I’d slept in the same room, read on the same dingy couch, and mowed the same patchy lawn. But it’d never really seemed like a home to me; it was more like a building where I could rest, read, and refuel. I once read a poem that began with the verse, “People are made of places.” Perhaps this was the case for that poet, but I have to disagree. Maybe some people are made up of places, but it was difficult for me to believe that this house was a part of my identity.
Maybe that’s why I did not feel an ounce of sadness as I stood in front of the closed front door. This “place” wasn’t a part of who I was. This was never my home. Van Gogh and I were each other’s home. Nevertheless, we could not live on brotherhood alone.
Van Gogh dug into his front pocket and pulled out a set of keys.
“Now, we drive,” he declared, walking toward the driveway.
“Drive?” I asked as he approached our dad’s 1995 Pontiac Bonneville— another “inheritance” from his parents. The sea-green car was caked with grime and dirt from years of shunning car washes. When Van Gogh opened up the driver’s side, you could see the tears in the beige interior from miles away.
“Get in,” Van Gogh commanded as he pulled off his mask, flung his backpack on the backseat, and eased into the driver’s seat. Following suit, I slid into the front passenger’s side, placed my N95 mask next to me, and tossed my backpack next to Van Gogh’s, praying that the car would start.
“Do you really think this is a good idea?” I asked, as he fought to turn over the engine.
After a few more tries, Van Gogh muttered that he would give the car a minute. Then he gave it one more attempt, and as if sensing Van Gogh’s determination, the car obeyed with the prompt rumble of the engine.
Van Gogh smiled as he shifted the gear into reverse and looked back at the dark, empty street as we backed out of the driveway.
We sat in silence for a beat before Van Gogh said anything.
“Did you bring your charger?” Van Gogh questioned as he gripped the beige steering wheel.
Charger! Damn! I’d known that I was going to forget something.
“Sorry, I forgot,” I admitted.
“That’s okay, I brought mine, but it’s in my backpack. Can you pull up Google Maps?”
As I was scrolling through my apps, I repeated the question, “Do you really think this is a good idea?”
As my brother eased the car to a stop at a red light, he turned to me.
“We need to get to New York, right? As you said, it’s around 1,200 miles away. I can’t think of a better way to get there, can you?”
Although I felt there was probably an alternative to this plan, which did not involve us stealing our dad’s car, I just nodded.
“Just take a deep breath and relax. Everything will work out,” Van Gogh assured me, hitting the accelerator as soon as the light turned green.
Breathe deep and swim, I said to myself, as I closed my eyes and inhaled all of the oxygen that I could take in. I may not have remembered our mom’s appearance, but I clearly remember that that was her phrase. Her voice was like honey pouring into my ears. “Breathe deep and swim,” she’d advised. Although I clearly remember this statement, I don’t remember being near a body of water. The setting is fuzzy and frayed, but I distinctly remember a lack of swim gear. No water, no inflatable, neon water wings, no swim trunks. I don’t even remember being wet or preparing for this eventuality. However, that phrase had stirred a sense of comfort and assurance in me, especially in that moment. Maybe it was because she was the one who said it, or because there was something about that moment that I couldn’t recall where that phrase would make sense—I didn’t know. All I knew for certain was that she’d said this phrase directly to me, and that this was my only memory of her.
Breathe deep and swim. Perhaps, when we found her, I could ask her what she’d meant when she said those words. Of course, I had a million questions to ask our mom, like, “Why did you leave? Why did you leave us with Dad? Did you leave us, Dad, or both?” The list was endless. However, one of my first questions would inevitably be, “What does ‘breathe deep and swim’ mean?”
Without knowing her intention, I had to apply my own meaning to the phrase. Whether or not it was “correct,” there was no way to tell, but I always said this to myself in order to prepare for a challenging task. First, you take a deep breath to build your confidence, as if you are breathing
in the world to absorb its strength. Then, you just go. You apply yourself to the task and do not stop. You just need to swim. You have to trust in the proverbial water and your own intuition to take you to where you need to go. So, you navigate the watery depths to make your way to your destination. Maybe that’s what Van Gogh did every time he took a deep breath. Maybe I was not the only one who ever received this advice. I could’ve just asked Van Gogh, but I didn’t. I liked to think Mom gave me—just me—one thing that she didn’t give both of us. Even if that wasn’t true, it could be my own personal truth.
“What do you remember about Mom?” I asked.
Although I might’ve been the only one who was told to “breathe deep and swim,” I knew that Van Gogh knew more about Mom overall—after all, he had two years more with her than I did.
My brother stared at the road as if he were lost in thought.
“In 100 feet, turn right on Cleveland Avenue and then keep left to continue onto US-41 North,” the feminine, robotic voice instructed. Although I was the one who’d plugged our destination into Google Maps, the sound of “her” voice still made me jump.
“I don’t know,” Van Gogh admitted, gripping the wheel, preparing for the turn. “She looked exactly the way she did in the picture you found. You know, you look a lot like her, actually. Same wavy, light-brown hair and light-blue eyes. I also remember her reading to us each night. I mean, that is until she left. Maybe that’s where you get it from. I had never seen her reading any books to herself, but I can’t recall a night when she wasn’t reading to us. She mostly read us the Golden Books. I’m not sure what happened to them. Anyway, that’s pretty much what I remember,” Van Gogh concluded, and we took a slight left onto US-41 North.
“Continue on US-41 North for 17 miles,” the female voice instructed.
“I don’t really remember anything,” I admitted. “That picture didn’t even trigger a memory.”
“Well, you were only a baby in that picture. Plus, Mom left when you were really young. It stands to reason that you don’t remember her.”
“I wish I did though,” I confessed. “It’s like a part of us is missing, you know?”
Van Gogh nodded as he concentrated on the road. “Yeah, I get what you mean—but hey, we are headed there now, so she can fill in the missing pieces,” he said encouragingly.
“Maybe,” I responded, playing with the strings of my N95 mask, wishing that I had more than one for the trip.
I hesitated before asking my next question. I knew my brother wouldn’t know the answer, but I was compelled to pose it anyway. I knew it was a question that he must have asked himself. However, I could’ve been wrong. Sometimes, my brother was easy to read. He didn’t believe in keeping secrets, especially from me. He was very upfront with his intentions and beliefs, especially with Dad, which was why they had such a turbulent relationship. However, every once in a while, Van Gogh seemed inaccessible. I didn’t know if this was deliberate or instinctual, but there were moments when he was pensive and withdrawn. Although these were rare moments, they felt isolating. I never admitted this to him—that I needed him to be accessible and open, that I needed to know that I could rely on someone, and that person would always be him for me. If not Van Gogh, then who? Our mom abandoned us. And to our dad, I was just a nuisance that he didn’t really understand. In any case, he was gone now, so it didn’t really matter. Whether or not we found our mom, Van Gogh would still be that person because, unlike our parents, he was always there. Even in those rare moments when he seemed to be living inside his head, I knew that eventually he would snap out of it.
“Why do you think Mom left?” I asked.
Van Gogh’s knuckles began to turn white as he gripped the wheel a little tighter. Even though we were moving, everything felt very still as I waited for his response. It felt like a good minute before he said anything.
“I wish I knew what to say,” he admitted. “I don’t know, Wolfgang. I just don’t know. She must’ve had her reasons, but they were always a mystery to me. I’d like to think she left a note, explaining why she chose to leave. It just never made any sense to me. But the fact of the matter is that she left, and if she did leave a note, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have changed anything. She still chose to leave. What’s worse is that she chose to leave us with Dad.” Van Gogh paused to take a deep breath. “But, in spite of all that, she’s our only chance.”
I nodded, knowing he was right about everything, especially about the fact that Mom not only left us, but that she left us with Dad.
Although we both loved Dad, it felt like an obligatory love. This may seem harsh, but I doubted either of us would associate with Dad if he weren’t related to us. Yes, he was our father, but to say that he raised us would be a lie. Van Gogh raised me and himself. Our dad provided us with a dwelling, food, and clothing—but that was pretty much it.
Some might argue that that was enough. He was a provider, even if what he provided wasn’t consistent. Although he was supposed to provide money for groceries, there were days when our refrigerator was bare. Even though he was supposed to pay the electric and gas bills, there were nights when Van Gogh and I huddled together underneath a blanket, when he held up a flashlight to a book that I was reading so that I could finish the chapter. Since we didn’t have a mortgage, we never feared losing our house, but I remember a few times when Dad almost forgot to pay the property taxes.
None of these actions were done out of spite. I just think Dad envisioned a life for himself where his wife took care of these tasks. I would’ve never said this to him, but I firmly believed that he wasn’t prepared to be a responsible adult, let alone a single father to two sons. But even though I would never criticize Dad to his face, Van Gogh was much more confrontational and open about his feelings. In fact, my brother had even told Dad that he was an unfit father.
It happened pretty recently after we first suspected Dad had COVID-19. His cough was so dry and persistent, we couldn’t help but wonder if it was from our dad’s irrational insistence on smoking one pack of cigarettes a day, or from something else. However, when his frequent coughing fits left him lightheaded and out of breath, Van Gogh and I began to suspect that he had the coronavirus.
Despite our suspicions, Dad had continued to go to his job at the construction site—until he was too tired to move, at least. At that point, Van Gogh called in sick for him. That was only a couple of days ago.
Dad never admitted that he was sick. Even before he got sick, he never wore a mask or socially distanced himself from others. Once it became impossible for Dad to take care of himself, my brother ensured he remained in his bedroom. It became a makeshift hospital room, without a ventilator or any monitoring system. It was the best we could do since neither of us could carry him to the car, and any time we even attempted to call 911, Dad forced all his energy into yelling at us, screaming to get off the phone. By the time he could no longer scream—or speak, for that matter—he was too far gone. Near the end, Van Gogh and I knew there was no point in taking him to the hospital.
However, before this point, Van Gogh had one final confrontation with our dad. It was essentially the last conversation they ever had.
“Face it, you have COVID-19!” Van Gogh had exclaimed as Dad doubled over from his latest coughing fit. “You need to go to the hospital.” Dad cleared his throat and leaned against the wall, trying to balance himself. “Look, Van, it’s just a damn cough,” Dad asserted, wiping the beads of sweat forming on his brow. “Mind your own business.”
“Mind my own business! Are you kidding me?” Van Gogh had screamed, clenching his fists while taking a step away from our dad, trying to keep his distance. “This is my business! We”—Van Gogh pointed to him and me—“are in this house with you! You are putting us in danger!”
“You don’t know what—” Dad was cut off by another coughing fit. He pressed his palm against the wall as he coughed into his fist, which barely covered his mouth. I slid deeper into the couch and raised the book I was reading up to my face, as though I could shield myself from his illness through the sheer force of literature.
“I don’t know what, Dad? I don’t know that you can’t get out a damn sentence because you are coughing up a lung!” Van Gogh raked his fingers through his hair as he scowled out our dad, who continued to cough. “I don’t know that you are endangering the guys on the site! I don’t know that you are endangering everyone in that damn bar who refuses to wear a mask! What don’t I understand, Dad?!”
After his coughing fit, Dad stared directly into Van Gogh’s matching lily-pad-green eyes. They were both so piercing, and so stubborn—firmly believing in their own opinions, deeming the other one as an adversary. But maybe that was appropriate. These fights had come to define their relationship. If they weren’t fighting, they weren’t interacting. They merely coexisted in this house; their relationship was marred by their refusal to try to understand one another.
Dad didn’t understand me either, but unlike Van Gogh, I never confronted him about his beliefs or conjectures. I just stayed out of his way, resigned to the fact that he would never try to understand me, so why bother to fight with him? Why waste my energy? While this attitude came naturally to me, Van Gogh had a hard time letting anything go. Unlike me, he was a fighter, but so was Dad.
When you put two fighters in a ring and do not expect a fight to break out, you are just a fool.
“You don’t know anything!” Dad had growled. “Just stay out of it.”
“Unbelievable! Stay out of it!” Van Gogh’s veins were prominently bulging from his neck as he continued. “You go on about how COVID-19 is nothing and talk about how ‘fake news’ sensationalizes this pandemic! But even when you catch it, you don’t believe in it! To you, it’s none of my business, but it is my damn business because you can give it to me–to Wolfgang! Don’t you care? Don’t you give a damn about yourself, about us?”
To that, Dad said nothing. He just continued to look Van Gogh straight in the eyes. I don’t know what he was trying to accomplish in doing so, but Van Gogh played the game and stared back. I don’t even know if he was waiting for an answer to his question, but Dad’s silence said it all.
“You know what?” Van Gogh scoffed, “You don’t. I mean, how could you? You’ve never been a damn father. You’re only related to us biologically, but you don’t have it in you to be a father.”
By this time, Dad was fuming. His face was as purplish red as a beet, which was caused by a mixture of coughing and rage.
“Get out,” Dad had growled.
Before he could say anything else, Van Gogh picked up his sketchpad and pencils from the coffee table and marched out of the house. As the door slammed shut, a flood of regret had poured over me. Why didn’t I go with you, Van Gogh? What if you don’t return? Why didn’t I follow you?
As I sat next to Van Gogh in the car now—looking down at Google Maps, watching us inch closer and closer to New York—I knew I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. I knew I would follow Van Gogh wherever he led. It was the only way that we could survive.
Collide: The Resistance Series Prequels
Counteract: A YA Dystopian Thriller
“An exuberant start to a promising new YA series about a totalitarian America.” —Kirkus Reviews
The government uses fear to control you. Show no fear, and they will destroy you.
Still raw from the death of his parents, eighteen-year-old Tommy Bailey isn't sure if he wants to live--until he meets complex and intriguing Careen. He comes to her aid during a terrorist gas-strike, sharing his last dose of the government-mandated antidote that, they've been told, is key to their survival. Without enough antidote, the teens expect to die. Instead, they discover the terrorist attack wasn't real, and the antidote was never meant to protect them--it was meant to dull their thoughts and make them easy to control.
As he and Careen search for the truth, Tommy learns that his parents were operatives in an underground resistance group that's fighting to overthrow the government. The Resistance expects him to continue his parents' crusade. The government's hunting him down. Which side will get to him first?
Having her father away in Vietnam wasn't easy for Bets, but she soon discovers having him back home comes with its own set of problems. When a letter from her friend Emmie arrives along with a ticket to the Woodstock Music Festival, Bets has a tough decision to make. Should she stick it out back home or leave her problems behind for a cross-country adventure?
There's a lot happening in 1969, and figuring it all out is complicated. The people Bets encounters all have their own perspectives, each changing the way Bets thinks about the war in Vietnam, the problems America is dealing with, and her own problems at home.
Curse of the Wolf King
A beastly fae king with a deadly curse.
A devious bargain to break it...
All Gemma Bellefleur wants is to leave her past behind and forget the day scandal broke her heart. But when she's captured by a trickster fae king who threatens to hold her for ransom, she'll find herself at the top of the gossip column yet again.
Plagued by a curse that will soon claim his life, the human-hating King Elliot will do anything to save himself. And if Gemma can use that to her advantage, she might be able to bargain her way to freedom. All she has to do is help him break his curse.
There's just one hitch-to do so, they'll have to trick someone into falling in love with the beastly, brooding Elliot.
With a devious alliance made, their scheme begins, bringing Gemma and Elliot into very close quarters. Soon, an unexpected desire stirs where once there was only hate. But Gemma must fight it. For when the curse is broken, Elliot will return to his true form-a wolf-and be lost to her for good.
Can Gemma sacrifice her budding feelings to save the king's life? Or will love force her to give up something even greater...her heart?
ACOTAR meets Bridgerton in this standalone fairytale retelling of Beauty and the Beast. If you like slow burn romance, wolf shifters, and brooding fae royals, then you'll love this swoon-worthy story in the Entangled with Fae series.
*NOTE this book is upper YA/NA featuring mature situations and some adult language. The romance is slow burn but leads to moderate steam.
Curse of the Wolf King is a complete stand-alone novel set in the same world as The Fair Isle Trilogy. Journey back to Faerwyvae or begin your adventure for the first time with this enchanting tale. Each book in the Entangled with Fae series can be read on its own and in any order. Happily ever after guaranteed!
Einstein's Compass: A YA Time Traveler Adventure
"...a riveting fantasy about soul-searching and growth which will keep young adult readers engrossed to the end." —Diane Donovan, Senior Editor, Midwest Book Review
How did Albert Einstein come up with his wondrous theories of light and time?
In Einstein's Compass: A YA Time Traveler Adventure, a young Albert is gifted a supernatural compass that allows him to travel through time and space. He finds wisdom in other dimensions, like the lost city of Atlantis, but evil forces seek the power of the compass, including a monstrous, shape-shifting dragon from a different age.
Can the compass protect Albert from such villainy?
SCROLL FOR SAMPLE!
2020 Texas Indie Best Book Award Winner – YA Fiction
2020 Royal Dragonfly Book Award 1st Place – Historical Fiction
2020 Royal Dragonfly Book Award 2nd Place – YA Fiction
2020 Royal Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention – Sci-Fi/Fantasy
2020 RONE Cover Award 1sr Runner-Up – Fantasy/Sci-Fi
2019 Readers’ Favorite Book Award Winner
2019 eLit Award Winner – Juvenile/YA Fiction
2019 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist – YA Fiction
2019 International Book Awards Finalist – YA Fiction
“5 Stars...an intriguing plot that…comes together with a fantastic swell of energy towards the end and builds to a startling and brilliant conclusion…Einstein’s Compass is a highly recommended story for those readers who enjoy an involved plot with plenty of amazing scenery, details and clever connections.” —K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
“…there’s plenty of world-building and enough character intrigue to keep readers turning the pages. A fun fantasy adventure.” —Historical Novel Society
“Einstein's Compass exhibits a solid writing style and dutifully hits Einstein's developmental and educational milestones while weaving in an imaginative backstory and unique antagonists' perspectives. The what if of Albert Einstein developing his landmark scientific theories through the aid of spiritualism and time travel, all the while battling an immortal dragon-person from Atlantis, is certainly a unique concept.” —BookLife Magazine, a division of Publisher's Weekly
“…a glorious romp through a fantastical world of dragons and god-like light healers who are entrusted with protecting mankind from the realms of evil–wrapped around the historically-accurate adventures of the incomparable Albert Einstein…Although it is intended for a Young Adult audience, it is well suited to adults who enjoy fictionalized history with a wide-ranging epic theme and a Harry Potter-esque plot…This is highly recommended for those who enjoy a saga of good vs. evil that spans tens of thousands of years, for readers who devour novels that blend history and fantasy, and for anyone who is simply looking for a unique story that they will not want to put down.” —Jacqui Murray, Author, Ask a Tech Teacher
“The story is original and entertaining, not only as the Young Adult genre it is geared toward, but also for those adults who wonder about answers to so many questions on the spiritual and mystical plains… I found this story to be entertaining, enlightening, and a must read for those who believe that time travel has possibilities. It is a well-crafted novel with complexities and depth that many will find a fascinating read. I highly recommend this to any adult young or older. A fascinating perspective you won’t want to put down. I hope there is another book along the same lines in my future.” —Rox Burkey, Author, The Enigma Series
“This is an amazing story…I was impressed with how the authors managed to incorporate the known information on the lost continent of Atlantis, Light Workers, souls, reincarnation, time travel and the early years of Albert Einstein before he became famous, into a mesmerizing work of fiction readers will have difficulty putting down." —Doug Simpson, Author of We Lived In Atlantis
“A complex YA time-traveling adventure, Einstein’s Compass combines various mythologies, religions, and science in a good vs. evil battle that takes the famous scientist and gives him a greater calling. Featuring actual events from Einstein’s life, the plot steadily progresses and shows Albert’s growth and increased understanding, which is neatly intertwined with the supernatural light vs. evil plot line…the combination of science with the supernatural is a winner, and the good vs. evil fight is interesting, making this a good book for YA readers.” —Sarah E. Bradley, InD'Tale Magazine
“Einstein’s Compass has a real vibrancy…clearly this is a work of genuine passion from Blair and Bright and it shines in every drip of ink on the page.” —Sebastian J. Brook, Doctor Who Online Reviews
“A great book for the YA audience. I liked how the book shows us the world of good and evil through the magical compass. I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked the fact that time travel, history, and fantasy were combined to tell an interesting story. A well written book.” —Ben Franklin 2020 Awards Judge
“…extremely unique and just downright entertaining! Such a fantastic tale! I highly recommend!” —★★★★★ NetGalley Review
“In [this] young adult fantasy novel Einstein’s Compass, a boy struggles with supernatural forces of light and darkness, hoping to find his place within it all…Both supernatural and scientific, Einstein’s Compass is a young adult adventure that focuses on spiritual enlightenment and cosmic destinies.” —Vivian Turnbull, Clarion ForeWord Reviews
Featured in BookLife’s First Lines: September 2019, a “roundup of some of the best opening lines from titles by BookLife authors.”
Grace Blair is an award-winning self-help and motivational author, and podcast host, who has assisted thousands to find their spiritual wisdom to solve everyday challenges. Throughout her adult life, Grace became a serious student of the spiritual. She found that, often, psychological principles and practices were incomplete, but could be filled out by adding the missing spiritual component. Her approach was always to see practical applications for what she uncovered in the mystical. It was through immersing herself in this field of study and experience that she came up with her idea for her book, Einstein's Compass. She lives in Lubbock, Texas, with her husband, Dr. John Blair.
Circa 10,400 BCE – The Islands of Poseidon
The earth tremor stopped Raka in his tracks. The Atlantean healer priest raised his right hand over his violet eyes and searched the landscape for signs of disturbance. He shrugged when he discovered nothing amiss, then continued his way toward the council meeting. What Raka did not understand was that the jolt he felt was not an earthly shudder, but a spiritual one. He had started walking toward the darkness that was the Sons of Belial, and with his first step, the door of the inner Temple of Light had slammed shut to him. So, began his journey as a fallen Angel of Light.
A brisk summer afternoon sea breeze from the east puffed out Raka’s shoulder-length blond hair. At more than six feet tall, the bronzed man of twenty-five was handsome, and he knew it. He smiled as he swept a hand through his hair, then patted a hidden pocket in his cloak to check the vial of DNA he had stolen from the Temple of Healing.
The feel of the vial triggered memories that he found less than pleasant. His hands curled into fists as he felt a strange rage build in the pit of his stomach. All I do is run around as an errand boy for Uncle Thoth and my brother Arka, he thought angrily. Why won’t Uncle Thoth show me how the fire crystal works? He never includes me in the critical discussions. Until I can control my “impulses,” they won’t let me be privy to the more buried secrets of Light.
His lips curled into a snarl at the thought. My grandfather was the mighty god Atlas! Admittedly, I am meant for greatness, like him.
Raka had been entertaining thoughts like these for months until they had finally consumed him. His Consciousness of Light had constricted as the negativity grew. Eventually, his anger and frustration had built to the point that they overshadowed his judgment and propelled him to action. Thus, the dispirited Prince of Light was on the island of Aryan to meet with the Council of the Sons of Belial. He hoped to be placed in an elevated position in their council in exchange for betraying his Atlantean brethren. But if he wasn’t received in the way he deserved, he had a plan B.
Aryan was a military complex and the promised land of power, pomp, and ceremony. The Temple of Darkness was established by former Angels of Light who, like Raka, had become jealous of the energy in the Temple of Light that they could not access. They had rejected the discipline of the Light of God. The veils of Light that once surrounded the Angels of Light dimmed and the angels became as asleep to the Spirit within. The gross heaviness of fear descended around their bodies.
Throughout years, those attracted to the Temple of Darkness increased in number. Their separation from the Light created trepidation among the people of the world. As their following grew, the Council of the Sons of Belial and its army sought to insulate the five islands of Poseidon from outside invaders. The Atlanteans, following the inner spiritual Light, left the struggles for worldly power to the Council of the Sons of Belial and its warriors.
Atlantis, with The Temple of Light, was a garden of God’s loving and a sanctuary from worldly stresses, a flourishing place of divine innocence and healing. People from the surrounding islands and the world at large came to refresh and restore themselves in body, mind, and spirit. The Sons of Belial knew the real driving force was the Spirit of life that lay on Atlantis. The invisible emanation of the Firestone crystal was the energy source of the planet. Thanks to it, the circling satellites in space recharged the temples and cities around the world. The Council of Five of the Sons of Belial had their own ideas about what could be done with the planet’s most potent energy source and lusted after the fire crystal.
General Tora-Fuliar was the leader of Aryan Island. Seven feet tall, blond and blue-eyed, the fortyish man was typical of his race. He and his cohort of four colonels had agreed to meet with the priest-scientist cum spy Raka, ostensibly to discuss his joining them. But their real purpose was to use his knowledge to wrest control of the Firestone crystal from the Atlanteans, whom they considered weak and inferior. The secret meeting would take place in Belial, the cliff fortress with towering walls that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean.
Arriving at the fortress, Raka was met at its massive twin gates by four Aryan soldiers who had been told to expect him. As they beckoned him inside, the priest of Light saw carcasses of wild boar strewn across an enormous marble altar and recognized what they meant. He held his breath as the stink of foul, stale blood and dark purpose filled the air. The blond, blue-eyed warriors checked Raka for weapons, and he smirked as his precious vial eluded their search. The guards escorted Raka through a second gate inside the fortress to the southern tower. He was led into a vast, foreboding, windowless chamber that had been carved out of the island’s living rock. His eyes narrowed at the pentagram painted in blood in the middle of the torch-lit room. The dark energy of the animal sacrifice held during the full moon of the previous night lingered in it.
At the far end of the war room, the symbol of the Black Sun hung behind the general’s massive desk, which was hewn from dark obsidian that had been formed in a volcanic cataclysm eons ago. Covering the fifteen-foot-high walls to the right of the writing table hung maps of the world. The general and his colonels were seated on severe, straight-backed ebony chairs around a polished black marble table. Dressed in black linen trousers and tan shirts with the Black Sun symbol on each collar and black alligator boots, the five somehow managed to appear casual despite their rigidity.
Raka strode up to the black table to greet the ruling council of the Sons of Belial. Taking in the scene, he thought to himself that while the five appeared relaxed, there was a tension in the room. To Raka, they resembled nothing more than a pack of wolves ready to leap. He straightened his golden silk garment and smiled, nodding to the general. “I am honored that you agreed to meet with me, General.”
As the general stood, he sniffed as if taking in Raka’s scent, then inclined his head. “Welcome. We have been looking forward to this meeting.” He motioned to Raka to sit down across from them. Raka’s eyes scanned the room as he settled warily into his chair. The dark and barbarous energy of the council made him uncomfortable. The general forced a smile that didn’t reach his eyes and began. “We understand you want to help us.”
Raka inhaled profoundly and adjusted his energy field to withstand the negative force emanating from those present. Nodding, he replied, “If you recall, at the Temple of Healing I used energy healing stones to alleviate your pain a few months ago. You had sustained a back injury in a rather unfortunate incident.”
The general frowned but grunted in agreement.
“You stayed with us on Atlantis for several days to recuperate, and each time I came to treat you, you questioned me about the Firestone energy crystal.”
The general nodded. “I did.”
“Its value is obvious, but tell me what your interest in it is.”
The general was not about to reveal his real intention to an untested outsider, so he said, “The firestone crystal is possibly one of the most important artifacts on the planet. You Atlanteans are focused on research and your sciences and arts. You are ill-prepared to defend the Firestone from those who would use it for their own gain.”
Raka nodded in understanding as the general continued. “We Aryans are strong. The Firestone should be guarded by our soldiers. After all, it is the energy source for all of the planet.” The general leaned in as if to thrust his argument forward. “The council and the Sons of Belial are best suited to protect the crystal and you healers of Atlantis. We know that unless we are taught the mysteries of the crystal, disaster could be imminent.”
Raka saw the energy around the general’s body turn dark with flares of red, and he recognized the lust for power. He was also aware the general was not telling him everything. No surprise there. The healer was not some ignorant novice; he knew the warrior wanted to use the firestone crystal to enhance the Aryan’s military might—and his own power. He was aware that with the Firestone, they could be invincible. And that they could and most likely would use this power to attempt to control the Atlanteans and take dominance over the entire planet. Despite his hopes for forming an alliance with the Sons of Belial, Raka now accepted that it would be a long time before these people trusted him—if they ever would. He wondered if he would even survive after he delivered what they wanted. He sighed inwardly, conceding to himself that this was not going to go the way he had hoped.
Still, he would play along for a while. Looking the general in the eye, he said, “General, I believe I could assist you in gaining access to the firestone crystal.”
The general and his colonels nodded with interest as Raka continued. “But there are other things I might do for you. I noticed the beasts you have sacrificed to absorb their power. What if you could have even greater physical power than that you leech from the boars you kill?”
The colonels murmured, and the general’s eyes narrowed. He glanced at his minions, who could barely conceal their grins as each entertained his own twisted fantasy of power.
Raka continued with a sly smile, “Yes, I assumed you would be interested.” He leaned back, appearing casual and said, “Of course, if I were to assist you, then I would want something in return.”
The general leaned forward. “Of course. What do you want?”
Raka pulled the vial from his pocket and held it up as he said with a sneer, “I wanted to be a part of you. But how can I trust any of you when you lie to my face? I am not about to turn over the power of the crystal to someone who would deceive me.”
The general’s face darkened, but before he or the council could react, Raka pulled off the vial’s stopper and downed the contents in one gulp.
In truth, Raka was not sure what to expect. The vial had been received from a planet in the Draconian constellation with which Atlantis had become allied. As part of their treaty, the Draconian had been supplying the healers of Atlantis with a solution of their DNA. Mere drops mixed with herbs could regenerate a limb or restore the nearly depleted life force of an injured or sick patient. The amount Raka had just swallowed had never been tried before.
The instant the liquid touched his tongue, Raka’s body began to change. The five Sons of Belial were frozen in place as Raka’s body began writhing and twisting.
A scream tore from deep within Raka’s throat, and with a shudder, the healer of Light’s form began to shift. His soft human feet started to swell and extrude wicked-looking claws. His skin became rough and toughened. The thick leather straps of his sandals burst with a snap. His legs contracted and bent into a reptilian shape, even as his torso elongated and a tail sinuously extended from the base of his spine. His pink flesh turned a greyish green, then scales emerged from his chest, arms, and neck. His supple lips thinned, and a long serpentine tongue darted out from between them. He tasted the air with his new senses. As he transformed, his airways and throat opened wide. Raka collapsed to the ground, shuddering in ecstatic agony as the pain of bone, sinew, and flesh reconfiguring itself consumed him.
Finally breaking free of their horrific fascination, the council reacted, and the war room erupted into pandemonium. Drawn by the shouts, a score of soldiers bearing spear and shields rushed into the chamber. It was a credit to their intensive training that the scene that greeted their eyes caused them but a moment’s pause. With crisp precision the soldiers spaced themselves around the writhing reptile and thrust their spears forward, their points forming a 360-degree-barrier.
But they were already too late; Raka’s vulnerability had passed. His transformation into a twelve-foot dragon was complete. He was fully awake and ready to take control. The former Healer of Light felt intoxicated with raw power and luxuriated in it. Almost casually, he stretched out the reptilian claws at the end of his fingers and with a flick of his arm sliced open one of the warriors from chin to belt. His long, slithery tongue sensed the blood and offal much more thoroughly than before. With his reptile vision, the dim light in the room became bright. Awed beyond belief, Raka began to realize what his quest for power had wrought. He threw his head back and laughed as the guards’ spears bounced harmlessly off his thick, scaly hide.
The air was electric with his power. He glanced disdainfully at his attackers. Sneering at their puniness, he walked toward the warriors. With a swipe of his tail, he knocked the legs out from under several of them, sending them crashing to the floor. As the others slowed to avoid tripping over their fallen comrades, Raka inhaled, then spewed a blast of fire that blackened and crisped the skin of the soldiers remaining at the front of the charge.
Despite his momentary victory, Raka knew more troops would soon descend upon the chamber. Enough of them, and he might be subdued. With bursts of fire blazing from his mouth, he cleared a path for himself. His eye sought the general and his colonels and found them huddled behind the stone table, which they had upended. “Now you see the power of Raka!” he exulted. “I will be back to claim my seat at the head of the council once you realize you have no choice but to kneel at my feet.” Letting loose a final blast of fire that was absorbed by the thick marble tabletop, Raka ran from the room.
Raka fled through the rock hallways of the fortress until he came to the far wall that rose out of the eastern edge of the island. He gazed over the edge and found himself looking into the angry breakers crashing into the jagged rocks more than a hundred feet below. There was nowhere else to go. Cursing himself for not studying the island better, he prepared to defend himself. As the soldiers started pounding toward the parapet where he stood, Raka saw he had no choice. Exhaling a last massive blast of flame to buy another few seconds, Raka jumped up on the low wall and flung himself off into the air. He appeared to hover there for a moment before plummeting down and out of sight.
A cheer broke from the soldiers’ throats but was quickly stifled as the irate general stormed out among them. “Where is he?” The soldiers feared the general’s reaction, but one finally pointed to the far ledge.
Shaking his head in disapproval at the soldiers’ incompetence, he strode to the parapet and stared down at the rocks below, hoping to see the ruined remains of the dragon’s body. But he saw no trace of Raka’s remains. He turned and screamed for the soldiers to get down to the rocks and find the dragon’s body.
Sometime later, an exhausted captain of the guard hesitantly approached the general. “We’ve searched every nook and cranny below the cliffs, sir.” The general raised his eyebrows in question. The guard captain shook his head and looked at his feet. “Nothing.”
The general snorted but did not appear too surprised. Heartened by the lack of response, the captain frowned and said, “I thought we brought a priest in to see you, sir. Where did the dragon come from?”
The general’s eyes narrowed. “That’s not the question, Captain. What you should be asking is, where did it go?”
Swimming furiously under the water, Raka tried to process what had taken place. His jump from the cliff had been a risk, but it had paid off. After just a moment of unconsciousness after the impact, his body had quickly restored itself enough for him to escape into the sea. Now he found himself barely bruised. He was shaken from his meeting with the Sons of Belial and wanted nothing more than to sequester himself for a while and consider his new body. He also needed to plan his next moves. The remote caves of Aryan Island would suit that purpose, he decided.
With his new strength and supernatural speed, he quickly arrived at his destination; an underground cavern near the shore where he and his brother, Arka, had camped when they were children hunting for crystals. Dragging himself to a pool of water fed by a natural spring, Raka stared at his image. The once handsome, blue-eyed priest/scientist with shoulder-length golden hair was now a twelve-foot-long, flesh-eating changeling. His beady red eyes widened as he shook his head in disbelief. He snorted at his grotesque body. Unsure of what to expect, he gently touched the black four-inch horns on the top of his head. Spongy, he thought. He gazed with some approval, though, at his massive arms.
He turned to find short, black, spiny wings on his back and a long tail protruding from the base of his spine. With his razor-sharp alligator talons, he jabbed and pinched his armored dark-greenish skin. No tenderness, no marks or blood surfaced. He opened his mouth to examine his long, rough, but slimy reptilian tongue and the wickedly sharp bony ridge behind his lips, more like a raptor’s beak than anything else.
His quick self-inspection complete, Raka found himself both horrified and fascinated. He now had so much raw physical power, but... At what cost? His mind reeling, the dragon paced. “Can I fix this and return to normal?” He considered everything he knew about the Draconian DNA, which had been used for healing and even regeneration of organs and limbs. In every case he had studied or been involved with, there had never been a report of reversal of the effects it produced. As the consequences of his rash actions finally dawned on him, Raka collapsed onto the cavern’s sandy floor and sobbed. When his frustration and grief finally dissipated late into the night, he succumbed to his exhaustion and fell asleep.
Raka sat in his grotto on a battered wooden armchair that had washed up on the shore of his hideaway cove. For the last day or so he had done little but experiment with his new form and new powers. He had begun to develop a healthy respect for his strength and the seeming indestructibility of his body. He had come to grips with the realization that there was no going back.
Truth be told, he was beginning to think he wouldn’t have wanted to go back even if it were possible. He had not been appreciated. Neither his uncle Thoth nor his twin, Arka, had ever recognized his promise. “If only Arka had let me practice the mystical arts with him, I would have shown him what I could do. Fool! It’s his fault I am here,” Raka muttered to himself.
The day before his meeting with the Council, reflecting further, Raka remembered his quarrel with Arka.
Arka pointed to the container on the counter. “Where were you today? You were supposed to take the ruby crystals to the Temple of Healing. We had to cancel the treatments when they did not arrive.”
Raka petulantly stared at the ground. “Something important came up.” Then he looked up at Arka defiantly. “But I told Prensa to take the crystals to the temple. It’s his fault the treatments were canceled, not mine.”
Arka frowned. “Prensa? He is our cook, not your servant.”
Arka shook his head as if to disperse Raka’s weak excuse, then changed course. “The temple guard said he saw you walking with a female member of the Belial Brotherhood near the gardens. What were you doing there with her?”
“She wanted to know what we did in the Temple of Healing,” Raka lied. “I showed her around the temple grounds.” That wasn’t all I showed her, Raka thought to himself with a lascivious smirk.
Arka could only shake his head in resignation.
The memory aroused Raka’s anger, which brought him crashing back to the present. “I am meant to do important things, not just be an errand boy!” he shouted at the rock walls of the cavern.
With thoughts of revenge seething in his mind, he snatched at a rat that had the misfortune to scurry past. It was the first sustenance he’d had since the transformation—he hadn’t really been hungry. He angrily tore a leg off and took a bite, the first food he’d had since changing form. As he swallowed, he felt something a transformation begins—short, gray hairs started to replace the scales on his arm. Raka stopped chewing and watched the shift. He was a changeling, he realized, but the transformation didn’t end with his dragon form. Tossing the still squirming rat aside, he plucked a beetle off the cave wall and bit down on it with a sickening crunch. A moment later, his skin began hardening into a chitinous shell. Concentrating, he found he was able to control, or even halt, the changes to his structure.
The thought of changing into other forms intrigued him. His mind flooded with information he had learned in his healing energy classes. Raka felt something else as he sorted through what was happening. It was a sort of knowing, an intuition. Could this be from the dragon DNA he had ingested? He thought back over his transformation.
He discovered that his eyes were now acutely sensitive. He could see in total darkness and normal light. His memory, too, had sharpened. He could repeat his entire meeting with the council verbatim. His memories were much more vivid. He recalled his rage at his uncle and brother and felt it with new intensity. In fact, he could muster no feelings of compassion or love at all. Glancing at the writhing rat whose leg he had bitten off, he studied its suffering. This excited his killing instinct. It took an effort not to inflict further pain on the creature. He craved more of the rat’s blood, and he speculated that human blood and organs would be a delicacy. A burst of intuition revealed that eating an entire human body and drinking its blood would transform him into a doppelganger of that person. He would have to test out how long this would last, but he suspected it would hold until he decided to take on another form.
As he discovered more of the strengths his new form provided, Raka reveled in the thought that he had nothing to fear. Then, an ancestral memory—perhaps connected to his dragon DNA—flared in his mind. He saw many of his fellow reptiles trapped in a burning structure, writhing in agony. Fear welled up in him at this vivid memory. He had at least one vulnerability: fire. Raka tore himself away from the vision and shakily drew in a deep breath to calm his trembling body. “Enough wasting time on what I fear. Now it’s time to plan for the future and my revenge on Arka and his ilk.” That is the task worthy of my new, transformed self, he thought.
Embargo on Hope
Even gods have secrets...
On planet Vastire, worth is set by the sins of one's ancestors. Good families rise to the elite and the wicked fall into poverty. Unfortunately for sixteen-year-old Darynn Mark, his father incited a revolution. Now, Darynn scrounges his way through life in the slums. When Vastire is surrounded by an embargo, it gets even harder to survive.
That all changes when an alien ship slips through the embargo, seeking Darynn with an offer: finish the revolution and the embargo ends. He might have a chance thanks to mysterious magic powers, and his two companions: clairvoyant crush Fyra and soldierly alien Kaylaa.
Cutthroat killers, mystical beasts, Vampires, power-hungry priests and lords, and self-serving spies stand in their way. If the three of them can crack his father's secret, maybe they can end the embargo and save the poor. If not, another poor orphan will be added to the growing piles of dead.
"...Doyle's ability to juxtapose political and social inspection with personal growth and revelations creates a gifted story that is exceptionally compelling. Young adult sci-fi readers who enjoy more than a light social inspection are in for a treat." —Midwest Book Review
"...the ending was pretty amazing ...I enjoyed this story and was fascinated by the diversity of characters. The story is pretty intense in the beginning and end with a stretch of many varied trials and challenges to overcome... I recommend this story as something both sci-fi and fantasy fans will enjoy." —Jim's Sci-Fi Blog
Justin was born in Galveston, TX and raised in the Houston area. In middle school, he fell in love with two life-long pursuits: space and writing. He knew he wanted to work at NASA and write science fiction/fantasy on the side, and lo and behold, that's exactly what he ended up doing.
He now works for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, who manages the International Space Station National Laboratory. He lives in the Houston area with his wife, daughter, and various small mammals.
Eventually, They All Fall
Domino Garrison knows that he is the king of all that is weird, but he would rather abdicate that throne. He would rather be a normal teenager who just goes to school and works at a bookstore-and for all intents and purposes-that's exactly how he appears to his peers; however, aside from his best friend, Griswold, no one knows Domino's secret, or his secrets. His father abandoned him and his only family-his mom-when he was 5 years old, and his mom is a drug addict who has a parade of men coming in and out of their home. Oh, and Domino has the ability to see into other people's fantasies. He thinks this ability is pretty useless; however, little does he know that his ability is more powerful and expansive than he thinks.
When extraordinary circumstances begin to occur, like massive earthquakes hitting the East coast, exotic animals wandering around zoos that they had not escaped from, and black sludge eviscerating everything in its path, Domino soon discovers that not only can he see fantasies, but he can also pull these fantasies into reality; however, doing so causes horrendous pain and mental anguish as Domino is concerned that the power he has could corrupt his mind.
However, he knows that it is up to him-with the support of his friends Griswold and Lucy, and his boss Miles-to put a stop to the unnatural occurrences plaguing the earth before it is too late.
Flight of the Spark: Book 1 of the Outlawed Myth Fantasy Series
"This is a 5-star book that I recommend to anyone who likes an adventurous story of discovery mixed with love, rebellion, and suspense all rolled into one." —Readers' Favorite, 2021 Silver Medal for YA Epic Fantasy
An ancient prophecy, now an outlawed myth. A forbidden love, that could be deadly. A young girl, who never suspected that those who promised safety were her deadliest enemies.
Iskra is committed to following the rules, the rules that keep everyone safe. But when a supposedly savage outlaw rescues her from a gang of vicious bandits, she realizes the price of safety is freedom. And that most of what she believes is a lie.
When her questions prompt the authorities to abduct her friend, Iskra resolves to learn the truth about the rebellious outsiders and their magic amulets.
Even though she knows that her quest for answers could get her killed—or worse—she presses on to discover the shocking truth that has been ruthlessly suppressed. Will she overcome her fears in her fight for truth and freedom, or will the pitiless leaders destroy her and her love?
Flight of the Spark is the thrilling first book in The Outlawed Myth YA fantasy series. If you like dystopian worlds, tenacious heroines, compelling characters, and a splash of romance, then you’ll love Evelyn Puerto’s gripping tale.
"Don't pass up the opportunity to enter the world that Evelyn Puerto has so passionately created for us. Flight of the Spark will fill you with a magic you may have thought disappeared a long time ago." —Long and Short Reviews
"An impressively original, deftly crafted and inherently entertaining read from cover to cover, Flight of the Spark is an unreservedly recommended addition to school and community library YA Fiction Collections." —Midwest Review of Books
"Evelyn Puerto has laid the groundwork for a fantastic fantasy in this first in the Outlawed Myth series...Flight of the Spark is a wickedly entertaining story for anybody who has ever wanted to break free." —Indies Today
Evelyn Puerto reads just about anything and writes in multiple genres. When she married, she inherited three stepdaughters, a pair of step-grandsons, and a psychotic cat. Currently she writes from South Carolina.
2021 San Francisco Writers Conference Young Adult Writing Contest Winner
Alicia Ortega, a 14-year-old Mexican girl, struggles to protect her father's land when she and her older sisters are aggressively courted by land-hungry Yankees and rough-cut fur traders in the Spanish colony. It's up to Alicia, her sister Clara, and their Chumash friend Nina to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the Ortega home and business.
When Alicia's oldest sister is sent to finishing school in Texas for protection and refinement, the remaining younger sisters must run the rancho alone. Dangers on all sides begin to descend as the sisters are pursued by Yankee immigrant merchants and sailors hoping to cash in on rich lands and access to Pacific ports.
Alicia is trying her best to keep her family's home and business afloat and thankfully, her companion, Nina is there to help. But as an indigenous girl, Nina is valuable to traders, trappers, and surveyors for her knowledge of the Californian terrain and her network of tribal relations. However, she won't always be there to help Alicia's family, especially since she has problems of her own. The Franciscan Mission is pressuring her family to convert to Catholicism, a charming trader is courting her, and, worst of all, their tribal territory and tribal ways are vanishing.
The girls struggle to protect the Ortega family's land and black market dock from conniving suitors, but tough family secrets are threatening everything, and Alicia doesn't know if they'll be able to survive until her parents return.
Hart Street and Main
Will you be allowed to pass through to the Second World? Could you escape the terrors of Agenesis? There's only one way to find out...
Skye, your slightly above average teenager, has never left the boring little farm town of Alfaro. Her senior year at Black Pine High School ends up taking a stark turn of events as she meets Olli, who she thought was the school's handsome yet mysterious foreign exchange student. While juggling the challenges of high school, dating, and graveyard golf she starts to realize something is very wrong. Skye begins to see glimpses of an impossible future.
What was believed to be a simple head injury turns out to be much more. As she is taken into the magical Second World, surrounded by royalty, milkweed pixies, and even sorcerers, she is left questioning everything about the life she thought she had in the First World. Skye tries to embrace her new powers, but is also terrified by her discoveries. Can she even trust her own parents anymore? Who or what was the real Skye Hope, and could she live up to the truth?
Heart of the Raven Prince: A Cinderella Retelling
A playboy prince in want of a decoy bride.
A servant girl desperate for a disguise...
Raven shifter Prince Franco is every social climbing debutante's dream. He's handsome, heir to the Lunar Court throne, and deliciously single. Every young woman wants to bed him, wed him, or steal a moment of his time. Except, of course, for Ember Montgomery.
Half-fae Ember craves freedom from her conniving stepfamily. As if they weren't enough to deal with, a chance encounter with the arrogant Prince Franco leaves her humiliated and in a fiery rage. Nothing could convince her the prince is anything but a rake. But when the opportunity to evade her scheming stepmother falls into her lap, she'll pay the price-even if it means impersonating the prince's newest flame...
To prove himself a worthy heir, Prince Franco must marry a princess. But after far too many unsatisfying trysts, he's given up on love. With the social season in full swing, and bringing with it a horde of husband-hungry socialites, he'll do anything to delay the pressures of both marriage and the crown. And what better solution than an alliance with a desperate servant girl glamoured as his false future bride?
Locked in a bargain, Ember must pose as a princess until midnight at the full moon ball. Until then, all she has to do is wear the glamour, pretend to court the prince, and above all else, not fall in love. But when feelings emerge on both sides, she starts to wonder if there's more to their contrived courtship than either of them planned...
Can Ember and Franco find love when the masks come off? Or will illusions and lies prove stronger than their hearts?
ACOTAR meets Bridgerton in this standalone fairytale retelling of Cinderella. If you like slow burn romance, fake engagements, and snarky fae royals, then you'll love this swoon-worthy story in the Entangled with Fae series.
*NOTE this book is upper YA/NA featuring mature situations and some adult language. The romance is slow burn but leads to moderate steam.
Heart of the Raven Prince is a complete stand-alone novel set in the same world as The Fair Isle Trilogy. Journey back to Faerwyvae or begin your adventure for the first time with this enchanting tale. Each book in the Entangled with Fae series can be read on its own and in any order. Happily ever after guaranteed!
Heartstruck at Dawn
Billie Murphy's swoon worthy adventures in New York City continue in Heartstruck at Dawn, the second book in the Moonstruck series.
In the wake of her disastrous, and not to mention dangerous, breakup with Thomas, Billie Murphy is once again trying to settle into her busy New York City life. Yes, she's still got some romantic threads to unravel-including her tricky relationship with her longtime bodyguard Caleb and her on-again-off-again flirtation with her handsome Swedish neighbor William-but with Thomas behind her, she's ready to move on just as someone completely unexpected enters her orbit.
Though things may seem to be finally falling into place, Billie can't help but escape the feeling that the people she loves are keeping secrets. Caught between being the little girl everyone wants to protect, and the bold, young woman she knows she is, Billie begins to learn that the danger she thought was behind her may be closer than she thinks. And this time, the stakes could be unimaginably high.
About the Author
Andrade, Alejandra: - Alejandra lives in Mérida, Yucatán, México with her husband and son. She's a music lover, a geek at heart, and a fan of all things Christopher Nolan, Star Wars, LOTR, GOT, et cetera.Moonstruck at Midnight is her debut novel and Book One of the Moonstruck Series. You can find her on social media on Facebook & Instagram as long as her 30-minute social media app limit hasn't elapsed.
Ignite: A YA Dystopian Thriller
A spark can ignite a revolution.
Tommy and Careen have been vilified in the media for the Resistance's failed attempt to take down the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense. Both teens struggle to survive the circumstances that thrust them into the national spotlight, and this time, they don't have each other to lean on. They're on opposite sides.
Even though both the OCSD and the Resistance believe Careen's convincing defection, Tommy refuses to believe her loyalties have shifted. How can she be in favor of the OCSD's latest plan to monitor all minors with the Cerberean Link, a device that will track their every move?
In the Heart of a Mustang
"In the Heart of a Mustang is one of the finest books ever written for teens and preteens." Literary Classics
In the Heart of a Mustang has been awarded the Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction from the Literary Classics Book Awards, a Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction by the Nautilus Book Awards, a Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction from the Readers' Favorite Book Awards and the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.
Everyone needs loyalty, love and at times healing. Lucky is the soul who finds all three In the Heart of a Mustang.
A boy is told that his father was a brave and virtuous man, a soldier who traded his life to save the lives of countless others. He was the man that Hunter needed to emulate. The only problem is the story is a lie, all of it. The truth, which Hunter discovers as he begins his sophomore year of high school, is that his father has actually spent the boy's entire life in jail, paying his debt to society, but not mending his ways.
A wild mustang mare is rounded up by the BLM. The spring rains had been sparse, the forage on the plains even more so. The mare and her herd are rescued from certain starvation and placed for adoption. In a sandy corral at Promise Ranch, a home for troubled teenage boys, the boy and the mare meet. A weathered old cowboy brings them together - a mentor for one, a trainer for the other.
The bond that forms between boy and horse becomes one that saves the lives of both.
Kiss of the Selkie: A Little Mermaid Retelling
A handsome fugitive seeking a marriage of convenience.
A selkie with a lethal kiss sent to seal his fate...
To evade a vicious sea queen's clutches, selkie Maisie hides on land surviving as a thief. But when she rescues a human from drowning and illegally brings him to shore, she must answer for breaking fae law. As punishment, she'll have to hunt down the man she saved...and kiss him. But with a kiss that can kill, Maisie's mission means more than seduction. It means murder.
Son of a notorious fae-killer, Dorian was never meant to survive the shipwreck that was orchestrated to assassinate him. Now that he's on the forbidden fae isle, he'll do anything to gain citizenship-even marry a fae bride. Desperate for a hasty marriage, he holds a bridal competition in the isle's most theatrical city, where displays of frivolity aren't just encouraged-they're expected. And if Maisie can act like a proper debutante and join the pageantry, she'll get near enough to deliver her fatal kiss.
But getting close to her target brings complications she didn't expect. As she pretends to compete for Dorian's heart, it starts to feel less like an act...and more like falling in love.
If Maisie doesn't deliver her kiss by sunrise on the last day of the competition, she forfeits her life. But if she succeeds, Dorian dies. When the pageant ends, will there be a true victor? Or only death and broken hearts?
ACOTAR meets Bridgerton and The Selection in this standalone fairytale retelling of The Little Mermaid. If you like enemies-to-lovers romance, bridal contests, and snarky fae royals, then you'll love this swoon-worthy story in the Entangled with Fae series.
*NOTE this book is upper YA/NA featuring mature situations and some adult language. The romance is slow burn but leads to moderate steam.
Kiss of the Selkie is a complete stand-alone novel set in the same world as The Fair Isle Trilogy. Journey back to Faerwyvae or begin your adventure for the first time with this enchanting tale. Each book in the Entangled with Fae series can be read on its own and in any order. Happily ever after guaranteed!
Liberty-Loving Lafayette: How 'America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman' Helped Win Our Independence
"An ode to the great Lafayette, beautifully told and richly illustrated..." -Alan R. Hoffman, Translator Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825: Journal of a Voyage to the United States, and President, The American Friends of Lafayette.
"A great addition to the Lafayette] canon" -Diane Shaw, Director Emerita of Special Collections & College Archives, Lafayette College
Inspired by the Broadway hit, HAMILTON, and by Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," author Dorothea Jensen wrote this short rhyming narrative about the Marquis de Lafayette and his crucial role in our Revolutionary War.
A glossary and extensive endnotes supply further information about the historical figures and events mentioned in the poem. This playful historical account is aimed at middle schoolers, as well as young and older adults. It would be entertaining and educational to perform in a classroom or other settings, such as events celebrating the upcoming bicentennial of Lafayette's 1824-5 Farewell Tour of America.
A Few Things You Will Learn from this Book:
- Who the unlikely person was who inspired Lafayette to help America
- How Lafayette's powerful father-in-law tried to discourage his plan
- Why such a high rank was given to an inexperienced 19-year-old
- How Lafayette helped strengthen the crucial French Alliance
- What Lafayette's key successes were as a military commander in America
Jensen has previously written two historical novels for young readers (middle graders and young adults) about Lafayette and about the American Revolution. These are entitled A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE, and THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM.
After moving to California with her parents in 1967 and saying goodbye to her father as he leaves for Vietnam, Bets tries to settle into a small town routine. It doesn't take long before the town's most mysterious resident pushes Bets to reconsider how she feels about her mother, the war that has taken her father far away, and her own role in the events that show up in newspaper headlines and flash across her TV screen. "The characters unfold beautifully. They are complex, intriguing, and most of all, real." Sarah Milne, English teacher, Kilmer Middle School, Fairfax County, Virginia.
Moonstruck at Midnight
★★★★★ "It caught my attention from the start, I was drawn into Billie's world. Every word, every emotion I felt it. Couldn't stop reading and wishing it wouldn't end. (Goodreads Review)
Billie Murphy's life is about to change.
It's her 20th birthday and her final days in Paris after years of living abroad with her father, a top US diplomat, and Billie is feeling all the feelings-saddened to leave her friends and abuzz with anticipation about what comes next. A night of dancing, wine, and a chance encounter with a handsome Princeton athlete, is a near-perfect send-off.
When Billie's dad gifts her the keys to her own NYC apartment, she embraces the chance for a fresh start in a new city, even if she has to remain under the watchful eyes of her caretaker and bodyguards, including Caleb, who may be more than just a protector and friend.
Within days of her arrival, Billie senses a change in Caleb, who's suddenly apprehensive about her rekindled relationship with Thomas-the handsome American, her wealthy new friends, and the beguiling (and not to mention gorgeous) Swedish family upstairs. He's been over-protective of her since the mysterious death of her mother years ago, but lately, he's been acting like there's more at stake than ever before.
As Billie steps into an eye-opening world of wealth and secrets-where everyone may not be who they seem-she'll have to navigate her volatile new relationships and the mysteries of her past to find her path forward.
★★★★★ "The author has a very unique way of developing characters who will make you fall in love with them." (Goodreads Review)
★★★★★ "I just love the way Alejandra writes. She literally makes you feel like you're there. And the unexpected twists will make your heart explode!" (Goodreads Review)
★★★★★ "Couldn't stop reading, love every part of it! Can't wait for book 2!" (Goodreads Review)
About the Author
Andrade, Alejandra: - Alejandra lives in Mérida, Yucatán, México with her husband and son. She's a music lover, a geek at heart, and a fan of all things Christopher Nolan, Star Wars, LOTR, GOT, et cetera. Moonstruck at Midnight is her debut novel of the Moonstruck Series. You can find her on social media on Facebook & Instagram as long as her 30-minute social media app limit hasn't elapsed.
Never Never: The complete series
Resist: A YA Dystopian Thriller
Knowledge comes with a price.
Tommy and Careen's eyes are opened to the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense's abuses of power. After accidentally discovering that the miracle antidote that's supposed to protect them is actually meant to control them, they take their knowledge public and join the fight to undermine the OCSD's next bid for total control of the population.
Being a part of the Resistance brings with it a whole new set of challenges. Tommy and Careen's differing viewpoints threaten to drive a wedge between them, and their budding relationship is tested. Not everyone working for change proves trustworthy, and plans to spark a revolution go awry with consequences far beyond anything they bargained for.
Revolt: A YA Dystopian Thriller
To deny freedom is to deny the human spirit.
Fugitive Resistance fighter Tommy Bailey has come out of hiding to help rescue Careen Catecher from the clutches of the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, where she's being held and interrogated for information about the rebel group. The OCSD is poised to launch the Cerberean Link, a security device that will put all minors under constant surveillance under the guise of protecting them.
Convinced that activating the Link will result in irreversible and total control of the population, the Resistance puts its own plan in motion to sabotage the Link and oust the OCSD's wolfish director. Just when everything seems leveraged in their favor, treachery, lies, and long-held secrets threaten to derail it all.
About the Author
Jane Alvey Harris has a Humanities degree from Brigham Young University with emphases in Art History, Italian Language, and Studio Art. She's crazy about the visual and performing arts! Jane enjoys playing classical piano, painting & sketching, singing & acting, and especially writing poetry & prose. But her real passion is people. Jane loves to watch and study what makes us tick as human beings. She's definitely a dreamer, and her favorite thing to do is weave together sublime settings and stories for characters to live and learn in...herself included. Jane currently live in an enchanted fairy-princess castle in Dallas, Texas, with her three often-adorable children, and their three seldom-adorable cats.
About the Author
Jane has a Humanities degree from Brigham Young University with emphases in Art History, Italian Language, and Studio Art. She's CRAZY about the visual and performing arts! Jane enjoys playing classical piano, painting & sketching, singing & acting, and especially writing poetry & prose. But her real passion is PEOPLE. She loves to watch and study what makes us tick as human beings. Jane is definitely a dreamer. Her favorite thing to do is weave together sublime settings and stories for characters to live and learn in...herself included. She currently lives in an enchanted fairy-princess castle in Dallas, Texas, with her three often-adorable children and their three seldom-adorable cats.
Smile Like You Mean It
Nineteen-year-old Amelie Weathers wishes she could live like a normal girl, yet each day she is reminded of what will never be. In the world of Indivix Corp, powers dictate your entire life-from your job, to how people perceive you-and with Amelie's uniquely dangerous indiviym, she would be executed on the spot if her secret was revealed.
Still, it grows increasingly difficult to stay in the shadows. When she meets runaway scientist Kane Blackwell, forces beyond her control drive her into the limelight. An evil led by an Omniviym named Alexander Kord will stop at nothing to level and corrupt major cities across the country. Under Kane's guidance and instruction, Amelie must awaken the powerful indiviym within her to protect the world from the evils that are crawling to the surface.
The Fair Isle Trilogy: Complete Series Collection
Every young woman dreams of marrying a king.
Everyone except for me.
Because the king I am to wed has razor sharp fangs and a thirst for blood...
The Fair Isle Trilogy is a complete series collection, featuring three full length novels in a single volume: To Carve a Fae Heart, To Wear a Fae Crown, and To Spark a Fae War.
All my life I knew I'd come of age during the Hundred Year Reaping. According to the ridiculous treaty, two human girls are sent to the faelands as brides for the fearsome fae king and his devilish younger brother.
Not me. I was supposed to be safe. Two girls were chosen from my village already. But when they are executed for offending the king, my sister and I are sent in their place.
What a mess. Then again, maybe it's not so bad. The younger brother I'm paired with doesn't seem as monstrous as I'd expected. He's delightfully handsome too. But nothing compares to the chilling, dangerous beauty of the fae king. And when my sister flees the castle and her terrifying husband-to-be, I'm left to marry him instead.
If I go through with this, I might not survive my wedding night. If I don't, no one is safe, neither human nor fae. An ancient war will return, bringing devastation we haven't seen in a thousand years. Can I sacrifice myself for the good of my people? Or will a dangerous desire be the death of me first?
If I don't lose my heart, the king will certainly lose his. I'll carve it out with an iron blade if I have to.
The Fair Isle Trilogy Complete Series Collection is an enemies-to-lovers fantasy, perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince, ACOTAR, and The Iron King. If you like snarky fae, brooding fae royals, sizzling romance, and fierce heroines, you'll love this breathtaking fae fantasy.
BUY THE FAIR ISLE TRILOGY TO CROSS INTO FAERIE TODAY!
The Fair Isle Trilogy Complete Series Collection contains an illustrated map and four character illustrations not published in any other edition!
The three full-length novels included in this single volume are...
To Carve a Fae Heart
Forced to marry a cruel fae king, Evelyn Fairfield must do what it takes to fulfill the treaty and keep her people safe. But can she do her duty without losing her heart?
To Wear a Fae Crown
Evelyn was supposed to despise the king, not fall in love with him. And when the human and fae councils turn against her and her beloved, she has so much more to fight for...and more to lose.
To Spark a Fae War
With the truth of Evelyn's heritage exposed, the line between friend and foe is blurred. War looms and only she can stop it...or start it. Evelyn and her mate must make a final stand against the force that threatens the lives of everyone they love.
The Genesis of Seven
The Illusion Queen
Aleja is the most celebrated young woman on Corazon, an ancient and mystical island where laws and traditions are carved in stone. For one cycle of the moon Corazon's leaders will give Aleja extravagant gifts, hold feasts in her honor, and when the new moon rises they will take her life.
Aleja is a Daughter, a woman raised from childhood to serve the goddess Queen that rules Corazon. Every generation one Daughter is chosen to give her body to be the Vessel of the Queen's spirit. Aleja accepts the honor willingly until she discovers her sacrifice will not be for the good of Corazon's people, but for a lie that keeps them slaves to a sinister cabal.
Rather than accept her fate, Aleja fights back against her captors. In order to survive, Aleja must reject everything about the world she thought she knew, and learn that even rules in stone can be broken.
T.E. Dickason is a writer and teacher from the D.C. area. He has a love for all things sci-fi and fantasy, and can frequently be found lost in thought whenever the opportunity presents itself. He has published the short story "It Was Metal" for the It Was Metal comic omnibus and is currently working on a sequel to The Illusion Queen. In his spare time he indulges in his passion for silent films by drawing portraits of silent films stars.
The Revelation of Three
He thought he was prepared to go to war with the Devil, but what if Satan's not his true enemy?
Ever since the Devil donned a powerful amulet that allows him to walk the Earth, he has grown weaker-and so has his authority. As a result, mutiny is rising in Hell, and the Devil must fight to remain the king of the underworld. Little does he know, there is much more at stake than his title.
After the death of the nun who raised him and his best friend, Jordan Conway cannot think of anything but finding Sophia and keeping her safe. Luckily, he has a team of archangels on his side, and with their help, the two lifelong friends are reunited. But Jordan didn't expect the reunion to include another of Sister Helen's charges-the boy he'd loved like a brother but who had pushed him away, Dane. The three orphans never thought their lives would amount to much, but finding their way back to each other is leading them to finding out who they truly are.
All paths converge when the fourteenth sphere, a celestial object with a power like no other, appears at the Met. The angels must keep it from falling into the wrong hands, and soon, the lines between good and evil blur as they find themselves fighting alongside Satan to prevent the unleashing of a dark and dangerous force hell-bent on taking them all down. But in this world, nothing is as it seems, and the mysterious sphere is possibly the least of their concerns...
Get ready for another adventure as the three friends, and the angels they now consider family, travel the globe in search of a way to save each other-and the world.
About the Author
Schaller, Sara M.: - Sara M Schaller is a young adult author and publishing professional. She lives in Colorado and works at her local library. Sara loves the world of pop culture and the performing arts, so when she is not reading or writing, she is either watching movies and shows, attending conventions, or going out to see live performances. She likes to write stories for all ages in the fantasy genre, and her writing usually contains elements of speculative fiction and features a large cast of characters. Sara has a Bachelor's degree in English, Art History, and Religious Studies from the University of Denver, and a Master's degree in Publishing from Pace University. You can visit her online at www.saramschaller.com.
Twisted Cross: Adventure to the New World
"...a fast-paced novel that would keep a high school student reading." -SM Heacock, Retired Educator, Los Angeles Unified School District
In 1795, eighteen-year-old Salvador Tenorio and his best friend, Blas, embark upon the most adventurous journey of their lives, leaving their impoverished families and painful memories behind in Imperial Spain. On a quest to find adventure, the clever young Spaniard battles the demons of his past and religious uncertainty on an epic expedition to the New World.
Determined to make the best out of their challenging circumstances, they aspire to claw their way out of poverty. Sal and Blas discover more than they ever imagined as they witness the fragmented cultures of California's native people. Tangling with corrupted padres and escaping from ruthless pirates, they realize that all that glitters is not gold. Sal and Blas must quickly learn the rules of the sea and the new western frontier-or die trying. Can Sal handle his own twisted secrets and rise from the depths of his past while discovering his own purpose in life?
About the Author
Ferguson, Anita Perez: - Imagination. You must have it or you would not be reading this page. Curiosity. What is it like to write a book? For me, it was an internal and external journey. A journey I would be happy to share with you. My adventure story, Twisted Cross, reveals people and places that have been hidden in history for centuries. I've written from the perspective of my own California family with roots in Spain & Mexico. Who or what inspires you? There are many hidden heroes whose stories wait to be told, in my family and in yours; in my imagination and yours. Meet me in the Old West and I will share my stories, and a few surprises, with you.