My daughter gave me this  extra-large mug.

My daughter gave me this extra-large mug. This week, I’ve put an extra shot of whiskey in it.

It’s been quite a couple of weeks. First, there was the awesome visit to the new motorsports stadium at Daytona International Speedway, which included a breakfast with the nieces and grand-nieces, then it was back to work writing all but the last 20,000 words of The Dark Mage of Lotus Hall.

Corrina Lawson, Daytona Speedway

Alas, this replica of a Sprint Cup car doesn’t have an engine. photo copyright Corrina Lawson

Then things kinda hit the fan.

My publisher, Samhain, announced that it would be closing.

The pertinent parts to readers: all my books are still up on all sites. SamhainPublishing.com itself, Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo. You can still buy them, though if you want a print copy, you may be out of luck there. They will be there for a little while longer, as Samhain doesn’t expect to close up shop for months yet.

What will happen next? The agent is handling getting my rights back and, damn, it feels good to have someone handling this for me. The head of Samhain Publishing sent out an email just yesterday, promising something hopeful coming and whether that means a cash infusion, takeover by a big publisher, or something more than that, I have no idea.

At this point, I want all my rights back, so I can choose the future of my stories but, who knows, by Friday, I might have changed my mind. In the meantime, those shots of whiskey in my tea at night have helped a great deal. 🙂 It helps that I have 3 unpublished manuscripts to sell.

Also changing is the status of my non-fiction career. GeekMom.com is merging with GeekDad.com to create the premiere Geek Parenting site on the web. We’ll be fully integrated into GeekDad’s post feed but for those wishing for a GeekMom only experience, there will be a way to get that.

Plus, spiffy new site design for EVERYONE. ::tosses confetti::

Oh, hey, did I mention I’m going to Comic Con International in San Diego this summer for the first time ever! My press application was approved. Bucket list item to be checked off.

In the meantime, enjoy the article I wrote about season 2 of Marvel’s Agent Carter and Wynonna Earp, the new television show coming from Syfy Channel that I’m stoked about.

mugs

My mom gave me this one. 🙂 photo by Corrina Lawson.

Good evening! Today’s tea is Assam Loose Leaf because I needed serious caffeine.I’m off Thursday-Monday to Daytona Beach for a press junket to tour the new Daytona Speedway facility and witness the Daytona 500 for the first time, so there was much preparation to accomplish.

Still, there was time for fun. The youngest boy and I headed to the local mall for his last day of a short winter school break and we feasted on Wetzel’s pretzel bites. (We have tried other brands and Wetzels are the best.)

We picked up a bargain book at Barnes & Noble for $9.98 about the worst decision in history. Hah! Perhaps it will be a positive influence on the boy? I also picked a few items up from Sears’ Land’s End clearance sale because their clothes are comfy and last a long time.

Of course, still writing. Passed 42,000 words on The Dark Mage of Lotus Hall. I lost a few words  as I revised from my original intent. I also had to ponder the wisdom of having too much happen at once and decided to spread it out just a bit. (Should I crash that flying car? Would that be too mean?) Anyway, that much murder and mayhem in the space of six hours was overboard, even for me. I must find some space for sexytimes!

Also, I seemed to have renamed the young daughter of the Duke from Beatrix/Trixie to Anne. Hmm….

In the meantime, enjoy the reviews of last week’s DC Comics, in which I gush about The Legend of Wonder Woman series and lament the return of the ultra-grim unhappy Batman, and my Agent Carter recap from last week.

Next week, I promise many photos of my trip to Daytona Beach and my view of the Daytona 500 race!

“Chrome-wheel fuel injected and steppin’ out over the line….”

Wonder Woman, geeky mug

You know people know you’re a geek when they start giving you mugs like this. 🙂
photo: Corrina Lawson

Happy Tuesday all! Today’s tea? Assam Loose Leaf because I seriously needed the caffeine boost to wake up.

The work on the steampunk, tentatively called The Dark Mage of Lotus Hall, continues at a good clip. Last night, I hit 35,000 words. I had to backtrack a bit, however, as I encountered what writers call “the saggy middle.”

In other words, things were going far too well for my intrepid heroine and it was time to pull the rug out under her feet by asking “what’s a horrible thing that can happen that will upend the entire cast?” and then doing that. I also wrote a scene between the antagonist and my heroine that it contained many-layered dialogue, my favorite thing ever. Hopefully, all those layers will be fully seen once the villain’s scheme is clear.

What those poor dears must endure for the sake of story. Mwwhahahahah! 🙂 (I’ve not put a foot in George R.R. Martin territory yet but I begin to see how his landscape develops.)

We’ve had several snow days here in New England, leading to a four-day weekend for the teens and less writing time for me. But, still, I managed to bang out a few fun articles.

Out my office window this week. photo by Corrina Lawson.

Out my office window this week. photo by Corrina Lawson.

My first post on Heroes & Heartbreakers which concerns, naturally, Wonder Woman, was published this week. Or, rather, it’s about her longtime love interest, Steve Trevor. Fate has not always been kind to Steve but now he’s Chris Pine, so it should work out all right in the end.

I’m still loving, loving Agent CarterThis week, it even did flashbacks well!

I enjoyed several of this week’s DC Comics, so check out the full reviews of DC’s entire slate and ended up riffing about my most hated trope: the all reaching conspiracy.

“Yeah, we’re supposed to believe Mother is this all-powerful person who can predict what children will be suitable and what won’t be suitable but, c’mon. I’d believe in superspeed more than seeing into the future to predict that this child will turn out to be exactly what someone wants. I’ll give Mother the ability to send women out as trophy wives for the rich. But to know which kid will be a superhero? Just no.”

Suspension of disbelief broken. 🙂

full-frontal-nerdity_largeGood morning. I raise my overfull mug of red velvet tea to you this morning. It’s time, I’ve decided to have a regular report on what I’ve been doing.

The first, and most important bit of work is writing the sequel to The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, tentatively titled The Dark Mage of Lotus Hall. I’m approximately 27,000 words into it but now the writing should come faster because I have a climatic scene that came to me, of course, in the shower. No spoiling but suffice to say it involves one of these:

ballroom-2

Yes, that’s an underwater ballroom. Intrigued? Sign up for my periodic newsletter. I’ll be sending out excerpts and other exclusive information once every couple of months or so.

As for the rest, well, looking at the list below makes me better because, at the end of each week, I always feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. These links tell me otherwise.

At the Barnes & Noble Science Fiction and Fantasy blog, reports on a new collection of Batman vs. Superman stories, along with a history of their relationship, which was more friendly than not, plus the problematic history of DC’s Green Lanterns.

Over at GeekMom.com, reviews of every single DC Comic published last week, including a killer Black Canary story and a review of the final season of Downton Abbey. (For all my GeekMom posts, check out the “Author Corrina” link.)

Over at GeekDad.com, commentary on the third episode of the marvelous Marvel’s Agent Carter and a review of a Vertigo anthology with some outstanding comic book short stories.

Finally, at CriminalElement.com, a review of the finale of the Heroes Reborn miniseries which, alas, did not match the fun of the original’s first season.

Happy week, everyone and remember, tea is the geekiest drink of all. 🙂

I have an excuse for neglecting my personal blog. No, not running marathons or fighting crime or any of that.

I’ve been writing.

I’ve been writing a lot. I revised/rewrote three manuscripts this year to the point where they were new works, and wrote another entirely new book. I also have been doing weekly reviews of DC Comics at GeekMom, plus myriad blogging here, there, and elsewhere. If I have any regrets, it’s that I should do my blogging in this space more often.

But, good news first.

Galaxy Express/SFRQ believes my Phoenix Institute series should be adapted for television!

romance novella, police drama

Christmas can be murder on a relationship that’s on the rocks.

“Corrina Lawson’s Phoenix Institute series could join the ranks of SUPERGIRL, DAREDEVIL, ARROW, and THE FLASH to draw both romance and superhero fans.” That’s the fun quote but you should go read the whole article because it recommends some awesome, awesome books. (Also, yes, Hollywood, Get On This! 🙂

Philippa Lodge, reader extraordinaire, put Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past as part of the “Best Books I read in 2015:”

Ghosts of Christmas Past” and “Luminous“, Lawson (super hero romance. I love her novel-length books, but these two novellas really hit me just right.)”

Best part? Her list also includes Kristan Higgins and Nalani Singh. That is fine company, indeed.

Last year at this time, I said I was jumping off a cliff and writing my first urban fantasy. It took me longer than I wanted, given the distractions offered by life and the other manuscripts, but I finished a polished draft of The Crystal Tower and sent it to my agent in early December.

It’s not a romance, though there is sex in it. The general high concept is that a descendant of King Arthur, Aurelia Artos, must confront her magical legacy that includes a curse that’s warping the present day. It’s set in the fictional American city of St. Isca, there are Native American legends as part of the magic, and, naturally, some modern versions of characters in the Arthurian myth. It’s also about situations like Ferguson and Baltimore. In fact, you could say Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past were dry runs at the concept since the setting is similar.

I know, I may have bitten off more than I can chew but, for this book, it was either go big or go home. Boom or bust. Hopefully, when I write this New Year post in 2017, it will be to list “sold The Crystal Tower” as one of the accomplishments.

WriteHardDieFree

 

 

Welcome to the release day Five Past Midnight, a special boxed set from Samhain Publishing! I’m so proud to be a part of this with my fellow supernatural thriller authors. Each of our stories is unique, but I think you’ll find some elements in common: sexy and smart heroes, independent heroines, and action galore!

Below you’ll find excerpts from all the books but, first, the giveaway! This will run for a week and enter to win the entire digital set.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now the sneak peaks! As you can read, I’m in excellent company.One of the fringe benefits of being in this box set is that I found four new authors to read. 🙂

From Veiled Target by Robin Bielman:
Tess Damon had no intention of telling the man holding the gun to her head what she was capable of. If he believed he had the upper hand, maybe she’d get out of this alive.

She silently fought the knots in her stomach and gripped the leather safety straps hanging in the open lift gate of the small, private business jet. As she struggled to keep her footing against the howling gale-force wind, shivers raced up and down her body. The frigid temperature stole precious air from her lungs. Her eyes watered and her ears ached. Pressure from the gun barrel hurt right in that tension headache spot above her eye.

Her first time flying in an aircraft that combined the comfort of a Cessna with the functionality of a sky-diving plane wasn’t exactly working in her favor.

“When we started this date, I’d no idea of your true intentions,” shouted the sharp- toothed businessman over the painful air currents. “You were wrong to think I’d be easy to get rid of.”

Tess let a practiced smile slip over her lips. She might be wrong about a lot of things, but eliminating the vampire who’d killed dozens of innocent people using weapons—with delay and torment—because he hated to get his fangs or hands dirty, wasn’t one of them.

From Blood, Smoke & Mirrors by Robyn Bachar:

I hate after-midnight meetings. Anyone who wants to talk to a witch after the witching hour doesn’t want to chat about the weather, and my boss wouldn’t call this late unless something was wrong. Bad news should be heard after I’ve had a good night’s sleep and a cup of coffee, not after I’ve worked a ten-hour shift that featured lousy tips and three of the loudest screaming babies I’d ever encountered during my restaurant career. Already I wished I’d done the smart thing and hung up, turned off my cell phone, crawled into bed and hidden under the safety of the covers.

The anxious feeling in my gut made me indulge in my first cigarette in over a month as I left my apartment building. I’d dug the half-empty pack out of the bottom of a purse I hadn’t used since winter, and the cigarette tasted stale and bitter. This was my tenth failed attempt to quit—I’d have to remember to cuss Mac out for it first thing at this meeting of his, because it was clearly all his fault. Maxwell “Mac” MacInnes is my boss, the owner and manager of the Three Willows Café. He’s also my friend, and has been for several years now—one of the few I have left.

Though it was a warm, muggy summer night, the air outside was much more comfortable than my stuffy apartment. I puffed away on my smoke as I headed down the sidewalk, and the streetlight closest to my building flickered as the bulb exploded with a loud, angry pop. Feeling guilty, I ignored it and picked up my pace.

Most of the windows were dark in the houses I passed, the occupants fast asleep at this hour as they rested up for another day of work. My neighborhood is a nice place in general, though I don’t recommend walking through it alone at night, particularly if you’re a woman. Of course I don’t follow my own advice, but my case is…unique. Sure, I look as threatening as a grade-school librarian. I’m on the overweight side, I wear glasses, and my mouse-brown hair is most often pulled back into a messy braid or ponytail. My wardrobe consists of T-shirts, blue jeans, and unintimidating white running shoes. I might as well have “Mug me” stamped in the middle of my forehead.

From Slayer’s Kiss by Cassi Carver:

“Just lie back and relax, asshole. I swear you won’t feel a thing.” Kara adjusted the bindings around the man’s wrists and plunged the syringe deep into his thigh. When the concoction started making its way through his veins, he bucked under Kara’s weight. She stood and put one boot heel against his throat to quiet him as the relaxant started taking effect. “How is she, Abbey?”

Abbey frowned and brushed her red hair out of her eyes. “She’s going to be all right, but I put a call in to 911. We need to hurry.”

Kara glanced at the man lying on the dirty pavement of the alley. His expensive slacks were around his ankles, and after all these years, it still struck Kara as odd that the assailants never fit a certain mold. She and Abbey had taken down everything from homeless men to men who drove hundred-thousand-dollar sports cars. Money didn’t matter, and it wasn’t for the sex.

These men wanted power over others. They got off on the degradation and the pain they inflicted.

“He’s ready for you. Let’s help this gentleman get in touch with his manners.”

Abbey tucked a coat around the unconscious victim, shielding her lower half from view of the police officers who would shortly be arriving on the scene. She rose to her feet and walked to Kara. “Don’t bruise his throat, Kare-bear. The knot you gave him with your elbow is bad enough. His temple looks like he got hit with a baseball bat, and we don’t want the police thinking he was the victim here.”

From Soul Bound by Anne Hope:

Jace had always suspected that someday someone would try to kill him. He just hadn’t expected it to be tonight. Especially not in some rundown bar that reeked of beer and unwashed flesh.

He should have, though. The place was ripe with negative energy, this evening more than usual. An undercurrent of violence permeated the air and resonated from the patrons. The tattooed lump of flesh who went by the name of Viper was no exception.

“Did you say something to me, bitch?” Viper shattered his beer bottle on the corner of the bar and approached him menacingly.

The biker didn’t resemble a snake. He was big and round and lumbered more than he slithered, but there was definitely something snakelike about him, a predatory gleam in his eyes that would warn any sane man to back off.

Sanity had never been one of Jace’s strong points. He had too much anger inside him, was sick and tired of seeing men like Viper terrorize everyone around them and get away with it. “I said, leave the guy alone,” he repeated, ignoring the broken bottle aimed at his throat.

Viper’s original target had been some lanky accountant-type, who’d walked into The Hangout—a renowned bikers’ bar—dressed in a goddamn suit. Then he’d added insult to injury by ordering a glass of Chardonnay. Smelling blood, Viper had come in for the kill, incessantly poking fun at the man and not allowing him to leave when the idiot realized the error of his ways.

FivePastMidnight-Box72lg

Note: Those dealing with the problem on a daily basis don’t need this post. I was debating about publishing this but my tweet on the subject is mentioned in Newsweek, so…here we go. 🙂

This year, one of the nominees in the inspirational category of the Romance Writers of America Rita Award for Excellence in romance fiction, For Such a Time, featured a romance between a Jewish concentration camp survivor and a German concentration camp *commander.*

In the end, both find God and convert to Christianity.

If you are appalled at that very concept, you’re not the only one.

Once the storyline of For Such a Time became widely known, there was an uproar that eventually caused the RWA to issue a statement about the inclusion of the book in the awards, which basically boiled down to “yes, we see the problem with this book but we can’t censor entries for content rather than quality, that’s up to the judges.”

Most of the blowback, especially outside the romance community, has not only come back to the author and this book but on inspirational writers and their stories in general. That makes me wince because there are so many wonderful inspirational novels out there with love stories that work beautifully.

But controversy is part of a larger discussion that we, as romance writers and readers, need to have about diversity in our books.

As someone who wrote a Jewish heroine, I have first-hand knowledge that the inspirational community isn’t the only one with a problem with Jewish heroines.

These are the judging comments I received this year in a prominent published RWA contest for my steampunk, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract:

I would also advise the author to be cautious about bringing in religion into a novel if it is not necessary and is mixed with magic. Culture, including Indian, Jewish, or Christian, sure, but it can drive readers away if it is not essential to understanding the story. Although the author might believe some of those Jewish tenets are necessary to the plot like man being the head of the household in this historical context, those tenets are actually in other religions like Hindu and Christian at the same moment in time – which is why I’m suggesting to treat it more like a cultural/family history belief rather than a religious teaching within the context of any story. Quite frankly, who cared that August was Christian and wanting to marry our heroine? It didn’t really add anything nor add conflict. 

When I first began reading these comment, I thought they would concern the dangers of cultural appropriation (as I’m not Jewish myself) and a warning not to cross that line, which would have been absolutely appropriate.

But it quickly becomes clear that what I was being told is that there had to be “a reason” for the heroine to be non-white or non-Christian. In other words, the book would be better if my heroine were Christian and not Jewish. WTF?

This is faulty and dangerous reasoning.

As one of my fellow panelists at the Diversity in Romance: Why it Mattters panel at RWA National last month said, diversity isn’t important only in providing a wider range of stories for everyone–g: changing people’s minds and hearts about those they view as “different” is literally a matter of life and death to people who live with this prejudice everyday, people like Sandra Bland.

Being a straight white Christian is only *one* of numerous choices authors can make for characters.

There doesn’t have to be a “reason” to write non-white characters.

Your characters simply have to be characters you’d like to write about. Period.

This false, insidious reasoning is an attitude that filters down from publishing to writers and has a chilling effect, leading to comments like the ones I received.

The fascinating part of all this is that this is the first *negative* comments I’ve received on this story about the heroine being Jewish. I’m not even close to a bestselling author but this book is my bestselling book.

What that tells me is readers are already way ahead of the curve.

But the purpose of sharing these comments isn’t to slam the judge or the contest or RWA. It’s to illustrate a problem. (ETA: Yes, I emailed the contest coordinator with a polite note that basically said ‘this is so not right’ but they never emailed back to even acknowledge receipt of my email.)

And to suggest some solutions:

1. We have to acknowledge and get this stuff out in the open so it can be shot down as myth and we can, as writers and readers, move past it. Bury this whole “but they need a reason to be…X.”

2. Two, we need to let publishing know they’re wrong for believing readers won’t read books about non-white/LGBTQ or other marginalized groups.

A great start would be to tell Harlequin to stop segregating romances written by black authors featuring black protagonists in their separate line. As Farrah Rochon said at the Diversity panel I mentioned above, it’s segregating pure and simple. All of Harlequin’s other lines are segregated by genre: suspense, spicy, sweet, etc. Only the Kimani line is “black” and has all romance subgenres in it.

Send an email to Harlequin about this at CustomerService@Harlequin.com

Better yet, send a snail mail to either

United States:
Harlequin.com
P.O. Box 5190
Buffalo, NY 14240-5190

Canada:
Harlequin.com
P.O. Box 615
Fort Erie, ON L2A 5X3

Dear Harlequin, 

I’m a romance readers and I love romances of all kinds. Stop the segregation and place black books by black authors featuring black protagonists in their proper subgenres. 

Sincerely, 

You. 

It won’t solve every problem but it’s start.

3. We, as a romance community, need to have this discussion and, more, we need to listen to authors of colors, LGBTQ authors, and authors with disabilities about the change that needs to happen. Their voices must be heard. At the RWA Board meeting at National last month, the board established a diversity ad hoc committee. That’s also a start.

The very last thing that those of us who are straight, white authors should do?

Actively discourage diversity, as this judge did for this contest.

Don’t be that judge. Don’t be that person.

 

Hey all!

Should you be infused with a burning desire to meet me, this summer is your chance.

First, this Wednesday, in New York City, I will be part of the massive Romance Writers of American Literacy Autographing at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.  That’s Wednesday, July 23rd. From RWA:

“At the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing, hundreds of romance authors meet with and sign books for fans in this two-hour event, with the proceeds from book sales going to literacy organizations. This year’s beneficiaries are ProLiteracy Worldwide, Literacy Partners, and Literacy Assistance Center.

In 2014, Romance Writers of America raised more than $53,000 to benefit literacy organizations. Since 1990, RWA has raised more than $878,000 to fight illiteracy.

RWA_FB_CorrinaLawson

Thank you to the Nora Roberts Foundation for underwriting the Literacy Autographing!  The 2015 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing will be on Wednesday, July 22, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the New York Marriott Marquis in the Westside Ballroom.

Note: While the event takes place in the Westside Ballroom, the queue will be in the Broadway Ballroom (6th floor).

Second, I’ll be in the Chicago area, mid-August! Come see me and other authors! Hope to see some of you there!

Schaumburg graphic.pages

In the last excerpt from Phoenix Inheritance, I left Charlie and Renee in trouble in the last teaser and now here comes a cat, doing what cats do. 🙂

The book is available at Amazon on the link above, at Samhain Publishing, and at iBooks. I also have a Goodreads giveaway running.

****************

 

“You okay?” she asked Charlie.

“Scared.” His teeth chattered. “I didn’t go higher. I’m sorry.”

“You went plenty high. Not your fault the tree didn’t cooperate.”

Her back set against the tree, she wondered how long before their perch gave way from
the weight of the snow collecting on its leaves. Seconds, minutes, hours? She really did need Captain Marvel right now. Damn.

She swatted around the flakes that had gathered on her face and eyelashes and tried to stare up into the storm. She caught a glimpse of her scarf, hanging from what was left of the tree branch. She glanced down at her wrist. It was still attached. It must have ripped apart.

“Ma, the kitty’s here,” Charlie said.

“What?”

“Look!” He pointed and she heard a meow above them.

I could kill you, cat, she thought.

The cat meowed again.

“He’s worried about me,” Charlie said.

The cat did sound scared. Join the club, furball.

“He says he could have gone to a warm spot, but he likes me. He says I need a cuddle.”

To her disbelieving eyes, the cat picked his way down the slope, through the branches, leaves and snow, and jumped onto Charlie’s chest.

Oh, great, she thought. Now I’m not just trapped out here in the storm with my son, now I have to deal with a stray cat on top of us. Wonder of wonders, the cat started purring and settled down against Charlie.

“I guess he does like you,” Renee said. “But be careful and don’t move around too much.”

“He’ll be calm. He likes me, likes me better than other people he knows.”

“He sure seems to like you.” The cat was distracting Charlie from their situation, so that was good, so long as it didn’t scratch or claw at them.

“Ma? We’re stuck, aren’t we?”

“Yeah, we’re stuck. For now. But I’m catching my breath and then we’ll try something else.”

“You’ll get us out. I know you will. Even if he says you can’t.”

“Who says I can’t?”

“Odin. The cat.”

Great. She was being doubted by a cat. Not just a cat, the cat who’d caused this problem in the first place. No, wait. Charlie was probably the one who was scared and doubting her and pretending it was the cat.

To show you how my writing process goes, this was originally the first scene in Phoenix Inheritance. It’s now scene #3, as Renee has just picked up her autistic son, Charlie, after an incident at school.

A storm’s coming, quite literally.

**************

Renee’s hand-knit scarf rippled in the wind as she wrestled the last patio chair toward the open garage. The sky overhead had already turned from bright blue to a foreboding shade of gray. The colorful fall was now more like a moving, shifting Ansel Adams photograph.

Charlie trailed behind her, but she kept watch on him all the same, especially since he was particularly afraid of storms. She didn’t want him panicking inside while she was busy outside.

“Almost done,” she said.

“Can I help?” Snowflakes dotted his dark hat and he looked so sweet in that instant that she wished she could bottle it. He was a great kid. There had to be a way to help him cope. There had to be.

“Nah, I’m good. Just keep me company and remind me next time not to buy such heavy patio chairs.” She’d bought them so the winds wouldn’t knock them around. She’d forgotten about the part where she needed to drag them inside for the winter.
She glanced at the huge oak trees that dotted the borders of her yard. Their branches were still laden with leaves, making them vulnerable to the weight of the falling snow.

Charlie tugged at her sleeve. “When will it be time for hot chocolate?”

“Right about now, soon as we get the chair set and go inside.”

“Great.”

Thor and Loki barked from the inside of the house. They didn’t like her being out
without them. Silly boys. Too cold for them to romp outside now. The temperature must have dropped twenty degrees in the last two hours.

She turned the corner and slid the chair into her garage. There. Done. Nothing left now but hunker down and hope for the best.
Her son tapped her hip and pointed. “Mom! Look! The cat’s back! I have to get him!” Not that stray cat again. “He’ll be fine. Cats can survive storms.”

“But he says I have to come get him. He wants my help.”

The problems at school were bad enough. She’d hoped this insistence on talking to animals was just a phase. Could he really be hearing voices?

“I’ll walk over there to see how he is. You stay here,” she said.

“No, he said I have to come!”

Renee reached out to grab Charlie’s sleeve, anticipating what was coming, but he was too fast for her and she missed. He took off at full speed across the lawn, toward the trees and the edge of the forest. She sped after him, yelling at him to stop but he ignored her. She ran full out, the cold air stinging her lungs.

Just before she caught up to Charlie, her feet slipped on the wet leaves. She stumbled, went down to one knee and saw him plunge into the woods, helpless to stop him.

“Wait!” she yelled again but the only response was the sound of leaves crunching far ahead. She scrambled to her feet.

Oh, God, oh God. There was a nasty drop-off only about ninety yards into the trees. Visions of Charlie going over the edge had her stomach in knots. She might have thrown up if she wasn’t so busy running after him. Here she’d been pissed at the school for letting him out of their sight and she’d made the same damn mistake.

She leapt over a bush and hit the brambles at a run. Branches swatted her face and prickers grabbed at her pants. The snow fell harder and faster. The trees seemed to all meld together, obscuring visibility. She couldn’t see Charlie at all, and she wasn’t sure she heard him anymore either. She wanted to rage, to slam against the nearest tree in frustration.

But panicking would be the absolutely wrong thing to do. She halted.

“Charlie!”

Her throat was so closed up in fear that her yell came out as a whisper. She drew a deep breath and tried again. This time, his name came out as a scream. Still no answer.

Everything she’d learned in her search-and-rescue work told her panicking would get her nowhere. Yeah, that training worked awesomely when it wasn’t her own kid. She cupped her hands around her mouth and screamed his name again. Answer me!
Silence. Where could he have gone so fast? She had visions of him going over that edge and hitting the bottom hard. She blinked away tears.

“Mom! Help!”

Oh, God. That came from the direction of the drop-off.

“Coming, Charlie!” She tried not to run because she couldn’t see more than two feet in front of her, but the fear in her son’s voice drove her.

“Mom, I’m gonna fall!”

“I’m right here!”

Her lead foot pushed against empty air. She grabbed the nearest branch before she went
over the edge, only just halting her fall.

“Charlie!” Where was he? She dropped to her knees to peer over the edge, trying to see
through all the fat, wet snowflakes. This was the only place he could be. But where? All the way to the bottom? No, no. Dammit…

“Mom!”

The voice came from directly below, and she finally spotted him. He smiled, but she fought not to collapse in terror. The only thing keeping him from plunging to the bottom was that he was hanging on to the exposed roots of a white birch tree that was growing half sideways out of the cliff.

After the birch tree, it was a thirty-foot drop.

Oh, and a little arm porn for you all.

To save their son, they might have to sacrifice their love--and their lives.

To save their son, they might have to sacrifice their love–and their lives.

« Previous PageNext Page »