Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday Feature: Mermaid fans and fantasies

March has been a fun time in my author bubble (the one I pretend to be in when I'm not at my day job or volunteering at something for one of my kids...)

I spoke at a local elementary school to three different classrooms of fourth graders, answering questions about my books, other books, being an author, and writing in general. Great questions from a bunch of interested, respectful, polite kids... most of whom admitted to being enthusiastic readers.

I was invited to participate because one of the teachers happened to have taught all three of my kids when they were at a different middle school, and is a fan of my mermaid series. Since March was author month, she thought it might be fun for the kids to have a real author come in to answer their questions. It was fun for me too.

And then I also got a call from a local bookstore with a request for more of my mermaid books to carry in stock, as people had come in to request them. They took a few extra to put on the shelves, so if you're on the Cape, the Brewster Book Store on 6A in Brewster now has the whole series (so far) in stock!

I received a nice piece of fan mail recently too - from a young reader in Colorado. I actually met her dad at a conference in California, and sat next to him at a dinner. He shared a funny-in-retrospect story about when his daughter was very young and convinced that she was actually a mermaid... and sank to the bottom of a pool and almost drowned. She still wants to be a mermaid, but is now a little more practical about it.

I sent her a copy of DESCENT. It's always fun to connect with a fellow mermaid lover.

Which brings me to today, and the fun piece of fan mail I received by email from a college student in Mexico City whom I've been corresponding with for a few years, since he first read Book One and reached out to me via my website "Contact Me" page. Jorge has lots of suggestions and ideas of prequels and scenes he wants me to write - - he's really anxious for Shea and his mother to spend time and get to know one another.

And he's really anxious for Shea and Kae to have some intimate moments before the end of the series. Don't misunderstand, the way he phrased his request was romantic and poetic, but he still wants them to go there.

I admit to some bemusement - having just been in the elementary school with the same stories.

I don't think I'm going there with this series. I've gotten enough grief from a certain faction of readers over the fact that the characters are teenagers and using the words "I love you." Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, fifteen and sixteen-year-olds use those words to one another when they're in relationships. They may not "mean" it in the same way as a thirty year old, but then again, Romeo and Juliet were sixteen. But getting more intimate than kissing? I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be appropriate for a young YA book like my series.

But romance? Emotion? Longing? Sure.

Excerpt from DESCENT:

Her body shivered under his touch and he remembered why they’d come upstairs in the first place. “You’re still cold?” He put his arm around her and hugged her. She felt warm against him, her body radiating heat like a bonfire. Her hair smelled of salt air and sunshine.
“I’m not cold,” she whispered and shivered again. “Just scared.”
He cupped her cheek with his hand and tipped her face, looking into her wide eyes. “Don’t be,” he whispered, and kissed her lightly. Her soft lips tasted of salt and sweetness, like the saltwater taffy they sold in the center of town. He wound his fingers through her golden locks, her hair silky and fine like spun sunshine. His heart hammered as he kissed her, the blood pounding in his ears drowning out the world around them. He felt like his body was tumbling through space… until a sharp bark brought him back to the present and he opened his eyes. Lucky stood next to the bed, prodding Kae with his black muzzle.
Kae drew away, her cheeks flaming red once again. “Oh,” she said, jumping to her feet. “Oh, I’m so sorry!”
“Sorry?” Shea stood slowly, his brow knotting with confusion. “What is there to be sorry about?”
“I…I… Maybe we’d better get going. My father will know what to do to help your mother.” She turned and walked into the hallway. He felt like all the heat left the room with her, his heart still pounding with a rapid, steady sharpness. Sorry? Why would she say that?
Lucky stood next to Shea. He frowned at the dog. “Way to go, dog. Rule number one? Never interrupt a first kiss.”
Lucky gave another sharp bark and wagged his tail.
“Stay here,” he commanded and followed Kae. The dog whined. “No, boy. You’ve done enough.” He shut the bedroom door behind him. The dog thumped against the door and barked a frantic warning. Shea ignored the noise and followed Kae down the stairs. He had no idea where they were headed, but after that kiss he’d follow her anywhere.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Grab a copy of DESCENT on AMAZON

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Writing Wednesday: The Responsible Reviewer

I didn't post a book review this week for the first time in a while.

It's not that I haven't been reading. I'm always reading.

It's more that I'm conflicted. I promised a few reviews to a few different people.... and didn't like their books. It happens on occasion. But not usually a few in a row like this. I've counseled others in the past about just this circumstance... and yet got myself into this position again.

Which makes me wonder about my own books, and the difficulty of garnering reviews. Do people feel that way when they read my book? Like, yeah I can't leave a good review so I won't leave one. Or maybe my reviews have rubbed other authors the wrong way and they don't feel they need to return the courtesy? It must be something.

But back to my current dilemma.

Books are subjective. We each like what we like, and have particular tastes for what "works" and what doesn't. For example, as I ranted a few weeks ago, head hopping drives me insane. Certain plot situations trigger me and / or make me delete a book immediately from my Kindle. I'm not going to leave a "did not finish" review - that's not fair to anyone. But.

How do you separate liking a person from not liking their book? And what do you tell them?

Do you tell them?

On a related topic - how can authors ask others for reviews when they don't return the favor? Not that it's a tit-for-tat kind of thing, but it does seem unfair in some way.

What are your rules for asking others for reviews, and for leaving reviews of your own? I look forward to hearing some opinions... and perspective...

Happy Writing - and Reading!


Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
Published April 2015, by HarperCollins Publishers

About the Book:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he's pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he's never met.
Incredibly funny and poignant, this twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance—is a knockout of a debut novel by Becky Albertalli.
My Take:

Last week we had a blizzard and spent a week with no power. Okay, it was two days and nights, but it felt like a week. It was cold. My Kindle died. Our computers died. There was no television. My youngest child and I were here alone with candles and books. So we read. This was one of the books we both read. Him first, and then he basically stood in front of me shoving it into my hands until I agreed to read it too.


I wish I'd written this poignant, funny, sarcastic and emotion-tugging coming of age novel. Because, really. It's a great book. Even though it doesn't fit any of my normal reading patterns as well as pushing a few of my "don't do that!" buttons.

My son had the same issue the first time he tried to read it - alternate chapters are email conversations between the lead character, Simon, and another boy, although they each use pseudonyms online. The other chapters are first person from Simon's point of view. My son put it away last time he tried because of the email chapters, and I have to agree that I might have done so as well if not for his recommendation. He went back and tried again because of the movie which just came out last week, as well as because of the recommendation from a trusted friend.

So if you're reading my book reviews, I'll play the part of the trusted friend. Get over the email chapters. Actually, they hold some of the most insightful and enlightened prose in the book. It's actually pretty awesome watching the relationship develop between the two characters through their anonymous online interactions.

Let's put it out there right up front: the book is different than the movie. They changed some of the characters, did away with a few of the characters altogether, and changed some of the subplots, all in the name of creative license and selling movie tickets. Or some of the changes are likely because of the shortened time slot and attention span of movies versus books. I haven't actually seen the movie yet, I know these facts from both the trailers and from my two children who went to see the movie opening night. (and my youngest went back again on Saturday for the matinee. It's a good movie. But the book is better. A lot better.)

And we're here to review the book. 

Simon is an average teenager, in his junior year of high school. He's figured out that he's gay, but he's not sure what to do about it. As in, he hasn't even told his two best friends, let alone his parents. He lives in Georgia, outside of Atlanta, not exactly a bastion of liberal tolerance. Another boy posts anonymously online about being gay and feeling alone, and Simon writes back, which begins an online back and forth, kind of flirting, kind of getting to know each other. 

And then another boy finds the emails and blackmails Simon. I'm not giving anything big away here, this is all revealed in the first few pages.

How Simon deals with all of this is the story. 

And it's a good, real, gritty, funny story. With characters that feel like real high school kids. The author does an excellent job of not succumbing to stereotypes of any sort - the author is almost color blind in the way she describes her characters, and blends the soccer players and the drama kids in a way that, while we're only seeing from one kid's point of view, makes it all seem pretty real. As our lead narrator, Simon is a normal, self-absorbed sixteen year old, who only comes to realize his own self-absorption as he becomes more self-aware. Yeah, it's pretty cool.

Okay, perhaps I'm not selling this as well as I could, but I totally want you to go try this for yourself. Get over the hump of that first chapter filled with back and forth emails, and keep reading. 

Totally worth it.

Grab a Kindle copy on AMAZON.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday Feature: Fourth Graders Rock and other Mermaid Tales

Next week, I'm headed into one of our local Cape Cod middle schools to chat with a series of fourth grade English classes about writing and publishing. My visit is scheduled for Tuesday, so yeah, I'm hoping that next Nor'easter doesn't ruin my plans or leave me without power and hot showers again next week (this week was a bit like camping out, as 120,000 Cape residents were without electricity, including me.)

Fourth grade is an awesome year. At least, it was for me and it was for all three of my kids. My first book was published when I was in fourth grade. No really.
The Mystery of the Haunted House was 22 pages of text, not including the table of contents, dedication pages, etc. My aunt worked at a printing company, and when she saw me scribbling in a notebook over summer vacation, she told me if I finished writing a book, she would publish it for me.

And she did. Real typeface, illustrations, the whole nine yards.

Honestly, it's not a good story. Yes, I wrote in complete sentences, and it has a bit of a Nancy Drew or Dana Girls feel to it, but the plot is very thin. What does a fourth grader know about counterfeiting rings anyway? The fact that my aunt stayed true to her promise and surprised me at Christmas with a box of 50 copies made me feel like the most brilliant author in the universe. At age ten. I had a book signing at school, on the playground, and some of my old friends still have their signed copies. Yes, I signed my last name, even to my friends and family. What a dork, right? It made me feel official.

I still have several copies, actually, my mom had them in a box that I found after she died and we were clearing out the basement. I thought it would be fun to bring them along to show the students - - dreams do come true, if you believe in them. And work at it. And don't give up.

The books I'm really going to talk with them about are my Young Adult mermaid books - the Son of a Mermaid series. One of the teachers has been a fan since the first book came out with my old publisher. And since the series starts on Cape Cod, there's a strong tie for the local kids. This weekend, I need to sit down and map out what I'm going to talk about to the three classes, but I'm hoping it will be mostly Q&A. Conversations are easier for me than lectures.

Wish me luck, and any advice from you seasoned veterans is welcome!

Happy Writing - and Reading!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday Book Review: Marriage of Inconvenience, by Penny Reid

Marriage of Inconvenience, (Knitting in the City Book 7)
by Penny Reid
Published March 2018 by Caped Publishing

About the Book:

There are three things you need to know about Kat Tanner (aka Kathleen Tyson. . . and yes, she is *that* Kathleen Tyson): 1) She’s determined to make good decisions, 2) She must get married ASAP, and 3) She knows how to knit.

Being a billionaire heiress isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it sucks. Determined to live a quiet life, Kat Tanner changed her identity years ago and eschewed her family’s legacy. But now, Kat’s silver spoon past has finally caught up with her, and so have her youthful mistakes. To avoid imminent disaster, she must marry immediately; it is essential that the person she chooses have no romantic feelings for her whatsoever and be completely trustworthy.

Fortunately, she knows exactly who to ask. Dan O’Malley checks all the boxes: single, romantically indifferent to her, completely trustworthy. Sure, she might have a wee little crush on Dan the Security Man, but with clear rules, expectations, and a legally binding contract, Kat is certain she can make it through this debacle with her sanity—and heart—all in one piece.

Except, what happens when Dan O’Malley isn’t as indifferent—or as trustworthy—as she thought?
My Take:
If you've never read a Penny Reid book, you have no idea what you're missing! Her latest book, Marriage of Inconvenience, released last week, appearing like a late Christmas present in my Kindle library. Don't you love when you forget you preordered something you really-really-really want to read?

This series is filled with smart, unique characters that you can't help falling in love with. Each couple has their individual problems and quirks that aren't really apparent until it's their turn in the spotlight. As this seems to be the last book in this series, each of the other six women in the Tuesday night knitting group has already paired up with their unlikely - but perfect for them - mate, and the rest of the couples are there to help the last woman find her Happily Ever After.

But it's more than that, as the various standalone books weave in and out of each others timelines, something I've been trying to do with my own writing so its fascinating to see it done by an expert. And have no doubts. Penny Reid is an expert. Her books keep getting better and better.

Yes, each of the novels truly is a standalone, and you can start anywhere and understand all the characters and be totally satisfied by the storyline, because each story gives you the perspective of the lead couple, a he said/she said first person POVs that show you what they think of all of their friends. Which is cool. But for the full immersion experience, start at the beginning, with Neanderthal Seeks Human and work your way through them all.

Back to reviewing this actual book.

As Penny Reid wraps up her Knitting in the City series, she proves once again how she is the master of writing smart, quirky romance. Marriage of Inconvenience gives us main characters who appear smart and capable to everyone around them, while their insides are roiled with self doubt and frustrations.

Kat Tanner is the heiress to a multi-billion dollar Boston pharmaceutical empire, hiding behind a fake name while living, working and attending college in Chicago. She met Janie at the architectural firm where they both worked, until Janie was fired but that's another story (literally), and Janie introduced her to the Tuesday night knitting group. Unfortunately, her time is running out as her cousin is determined to take over her father's corporation, and the quickest solution is to have Kat committed to a mental institution. Yeah, it makes more sense when you read the story.

Dan O'Malley is partners with Janie's husband Quinn in their high end security company, but he also came from Boston roots, just not of the billionaire variety. He's had a crush on Kat for more than two years buthasn't acted on his feelings because, well, she's just too good for him because he knows about her past and she has no clue that Dan spent time in prison, or that his brother runs a gang he was once part of. And, oh yeah, that one night in Las Vegas (Book 2? Book 3?) they had a bit of a misunderstanding.

Kat needs to get married, like a month ago, to keep her safe from her cousin's evil intent. She asks Dan, sure he has no actual feelings for her. But then finds out he does. And things get complicated, like all Penny Reid books tend to do. Deliciously, messily complicated.

Told in alternating first person POVs, Dan's chapters are hysterically coarse and blunt, so if the "F" bomb offends you, this isn't the book for you. However... The twists and turns and witty dialogue kept me turning pages all day long - yes, I was supposed to be working, but I kept stealing time to read pages here and there and once it was after 5 p.m., I didn't stop reading until I was finished. And smiling. So maybe don't start reading until you have a whole day to savor this. But definitely read it.

Grab your copy on AMAZON

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday Feature: K.R. Conway Launches DAYBREAKER - the final book in the UNDERTOW series is finally here!

Daybreaker, the final book in K.R. Conway's Urban Fantasy series known as Undertow, is finally out! If you're on Cape Cod this weekend, Kate will be signing books and chatting with fans at the illustrious Titcomb's Bookshop (432 Rte 6A in Sandwich) on Saturday March 10 - but only from 1-2p.m. If you can't make it to the book launch, Titcomb's has extra signed books on hand and would be happy to mail them to you!

If you have yet to read about Eila Walker (you know, the hilarious teen girl who inherits a house with a murderous past along with a snarky crew of supernatural rejects and a killer boy who's determined to keep her alive), have no fear: the link to the first book is here:
The link to all Conway's books are here:

About the Author:
K.R. Conway is a sarcastic bugger who likes to torment Cape Cod's summertime tourists, taunting them about sneaky sharks and traffic-free backroads. She's been a professional journalist since 1999 when several newspaper editors lost their minds and hired her as a feature writer. She is best known, however, for her Urban Fantasy series, Undertow, which reads like a mash-up of Jaws and The Goonies.

Awards, nominations, and features include Barnes and Noble's Seven Terrifying Summer Reads for Teens (2015), Teen Ink Magazine's Best Picks, Girl's Life Magazine Cool Winter Reads, newspapers, magazines, and radio. Nominations include Indie Recon Live (Best New YA, Best Opening Line, Best Book Boyfriend), YALSA, Cybil, Goodreads, IRDA, and others.

The series has spawned fan fiction, fan art, jewelry, clothing, and even tattoos. Conway, who is a member of SCBWI, teaches fiction craft at writer conferences, high schools, and libraries. She lives on Cape Cod with her equally weird family and a strange assortment of critters. When not writing, Conway drives a forty-foot Loser Cruiser that smells like forgotten Pony sneakers from the 80s.

Stalk Find her here:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Writing Wednesday: The Thing About Head Hopping

Hey there and happy Wednesday to all! It's been a while since my last writing post - between hosting other authors and a crazy day job and my latest WIP, it seems my blogging time has been limited lately.

But not my reading time.

In my never ending quest to become a better writer, I thought I'd revisit some classic Nora Roberts. Who could be better than the Queen of Romance to show me the perfect turn of phrase or character arc. The Washington Post calls her "The most successful novelist on planet Earth." Except I found something else that early Nora was the queen of.

Head hopping.

I've been reading so much contemporary, contemporary romance that jumping back just a few decades to the mid-1980s seems so... dated. Granted, she still wrote strong heroines, even then. But she liberally hopped around in the heads of minor characters to reveal plot points or opinions that the reader would have no other (easy) way of gathering.

Harlequin Digital has recently re-released a slew of Nora's early works as Kindle books, so the publishing date claims 2017. But when you read the insides, it tells you "originally published in 1986." I was still in college then. Immersed in Shakespeare and T.S.Elliot, Dickens and Hart Crane. As an English major, I didn't have time to read romance when there was so much required reading to digest. And even when I "discovered" the romance genres, I jumped straight to Jennifer Crusie (romance with a little suspense and a side of sass, no head hopping) and Charlaine Harris (paranormal, first person POV).

So I have to ask, when did this expectation from publishers (and readers) change? Are there many older works of romance that jump between POVs and let minor characters get a thought in edgewise? Does that fall into the "omniscient narrator" thing we're warned against in writing classes?

Do you notice it when you're reading? Because authors still do it.

I fully admit, I don't like the head hopping. I recently chastised a fellow YA author in my review of his latest book for including a few instances of jumping into the secondary characters' heads for a sentence or two in order to reveal an important fact to the reader. He followed up with an email to tell me "he didn't have another way to get the information out there." I disagree. It might be harder on the writer to come up with an alternate scenario, or take more words, but that's our job. To create the world we are portraying down to the last detail, so how could anything be "impossible" ??

What's your take? How do you avoid it in your own writing? Do you cringe when you find it in books you're reading, or take it in stride? Have I taken this writing rule too much to heart?

I guess I have more questions than answers when it comes to including multiple POVs in your story, and hoping that someone else can explain it to me.

In the meantime, Happy Writing!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Monday Book Review: Reclaiming Melanie, by Jody Kessler

Reclaiming Melanie, by Jody Kessler
Published March 2018

About the Book:
Single mom Melanie Jamison doesn't have time for half-naked rescues from Granite Lake by her first love, Braden Keehn — the boy who mysteriously disappeared from her life a decade earlier. Coaching, repurposing furniture, and taking care of her daughter who has severe allergies have her swamped.

But there's one gargantuan problem with this second chance romance - the sexy alpha game warden doesn't seem to remember her.

Special Ops Game Warden Braden Keehn’s recent drug investigation leaves him ambushed in the forest and lucky to escape alive. Helping his brother fix and flip an investment property in Granite Lake is just what the doctor ordered for a quiet recuperation.

But there’s one mammoth-sized surprise — Melanie, the girl he loved and lost, lives in the house next door... and he can’t tell her anything about why he’s returned.

Reuniting with Melanie — and falling in love again is easy — but gaining her trust and finding their happy ever after brings frustrating, steamy, and sometimes hilarious challenges Braden never saw coming.

A steamy, sexy, and fun second-chance romance.

Reclaiming Melanie is a stand-alone novel with a happy ever after.

**Intended for 18+
My Take:

The third book in Jody Kessler's Granite Lake romance series, Reclaiming Melanie gives us a second chance romance mixed with an introspective journey of self discovery. Ms. Kessler's lyrical writing style lends itself to interior monologues plagued with second thoughts and self doubt, as her two main characters weave an intricate dance around each other, their shared past, and the sizzling chemistry they both try so hard to deny.

Melanie Jamison is a divorced mom of a preteen, and the story begins with her driving the daughter to the airport to spend the summer with her father and his new wife. Married at nineteen, this summer will be Melanie's first time actually living alone, and she plans to use the summer for introspection and finding herself. At least, when she's not worrying herself into a frenzy about her daughter's health and well-being. Her entire focus has been on being "Mom" for so long, she's forgotten how to be herself.

Enter Braden Keehn, her high school boyfriend and "one true love" (so, not the guy she married and had a kid with) who left town without saying goodbye more than a decade before, shattering her heart.  Now he's the new owner of the house next door, but at first doesn't seem to even remember who Melanie is. 

Things in Granite Lake are not always as they seem.

The story unfolds mostly from Melanie's perspective, with chapters mixed in from Braden's point of view, as he also struggles with figuring out what he wants from life and finding purpose now that his latest and most difficult case is finally coming to a conclusion.

This is not a fast read. Take the time to savor the writing, and the contrasts between the various characters and the ways they speak and act. Ms. Kessler does a wonderful job of capturing a mother's angst, as well as the sense of needing to rediscover your own purpose once the kids have grown.

Grab a copy on AMAZON

Friday, March 2, 2018

Friday Feature: YA author Kyla Stan and FORBIDDEN TIDES - coming soon!

Coming April 17 2018 from Opal Moon Press

About the Book:

…Some would say I look like a mermaid, the essence of nautical beauty. I looked in the mirror and saw a monster....
... "Astrid, my name is Zander of the Deep Clan, and I am here to bring you home.”

Astrid Murphy, born with strange webbed hands and a thirst for saltwater, feels like a freak. She desires to look and feel normal, just like her family. But Astrid doesn’t realize that she’s meant to be the next ruler of the Deep Clan, a race of merpeople who are dying from pollution and overhunting. She is the only one who can save them.

Zander’s mission was to find Astrid, bring her home, and save their world. Not to fall in love with his target. Surrounded in a web of danger, a forbidden love between princess and warrior blossoms. But Zander knows they can’t focus on each other. The Deep Clan must come first.

But it’s the one enemy Astrid never expected who will tear it all down. Her father. The one person who was supposed to love and protect her, will do anything to keep her from fulfilling her destiny with Zander. Even kill.

As Astrid and Zander fight for their world, they learn the true depth of what it means to love, the power of hope, and what it means to be free.
About the Author:

Ever since she was a child, Kyla Stan enjoyed creating fantasy stories. In fact, she has a notebook from when she was a child filled with stories that are being updated for a modern young adult audience. Kyla knew at a young age that being a writer was her dream, and so she pursued it at the young age of sixteen.

Kyla hopes her writing will help other people with mental illness, such as anxiety and depression. Kyla also wants people to be aware of environmental issues, some of which are reflected in Forbidden Tides and her first self-published book about werewolves titled, Poet Tongue. In October 2017, Kyla also published a dark poetry collection titled Nightshade. She has a degree in communications, and a master’s in English and creative writing. Her dream is to become an English professor and inspire others to write.

Kyla loves animals, and lives with her cat Chippy, a seventeen-year old plecostomus named Suckerfish, two adorable gluttonous goldfish; Lucky and Chance, and nine frogs; Fudge, Gordita, Milagros, Spot, Little Froggie, Prince, Tiger, Sirenia, and Celeste. She also loves chocolate, baking competitions, long walks in deep forests or open beaches, and photography.

Visit for more information about upcoming stories and tips on writing!

·         Facebook:
·         Other Published Works On Amazon:

Book Excerpt: Prologue:

I was born with webbed fingers and a love for the ocean. From a young age, I knew I was different. There was always a thirst for the sea, as if it called out to some deep instinct that I couldn’t understand. My life changed when I was only three years old…
“This here is the best girl in the world,” Finnegan Murphy bragged to his friends in his thick Irish accent. His daughter, Astrid, danced clumsily around to the song “Surfing USA” by the Beach Boys. A humid Californian night encircled the group of friends that huddled close to the roaring bonfire as they celebrated the arrival of the summer solstice. Airplanes resembled blinking comets while faraway stars flickered with life. When Astrid fell in the sand, Finnegan chuckled heartily and helped her back up. She pulled at her tight shoes that hid her webbed toes.

The smell of charred hamburgers on the grill made Finnegan’s stomach growl. Astrid’s mother, Maristella, chatted with the other women from the neighborhood. Her friends cackled from the over indulgence of alcohol.

Finnegan hollered to his wife to bring him a burger. She smacked the back of his sandy blond head playfully, and he wrapped an arm around her hips. He kissed her stomach, full of life with the promise of their first son. The group stopped and listened to the approaching roar of the waves crashing down before continuing their conversation. Astrid watched the beautifully hypnotic ocean with innocent, transfixed eyes. There weren’t any small inlets where they resided, just pure coastline leading out to the vast sea with no boundaries. 

She sat on the ground and played in the sand while giving an occasional tug on her uncomfortable swimsuit bottom. She looked up again as the lion’s roar of the ocean filled her tiny ears and slammed against her heart. She turned towards her father, who was laughing at some unheard joke with a bottle of beer in hand.

“Daddy, can we go to the ocean now?”

Finnegan, still laughing, looked down at his beloved child. “Of course, my dear. As soon as everyone leaves.”

When the adults began talking again, she slowly waddled off down the shoreline. Her eyes widened as the wild waves clawed desperately at her shoes, trying to bring her into the sea. Her small body trembled with delight at the thought of swimming, but she firmly planted her feet down and refused to move. She was warned by her parents that a lot of scary monsters came out at night when the water churned so violently.

Unable to hold back her urges, she bent down and stuck her hands into the cool bliss, then quickly threw them up in the air to create a splash. She giggled at the effect and continued her silly behavior while the waves licked her hidden toes.

Astrid suddenly looked up. She was sure she heard someone call her name. Her little eyes could barely see, and she had to squint just to get a basic shape.

“Astrid… come, child.”

She was frightened, but the voice seemed familiar and comforting, like a warm blanket. From the darkness of the waves emerged a man with a thick mane of azure hair and emerald eyes. He smiled as the toddler inched her way into the sea. The tides swirled around her ankles… calves…waist…

“Astrid! Get away from the water!”

The man in the sea dove back into the abyss.

Astrid turned and saw her father running down the beach. Finnegan snatched her away from the wave’s clutches in his fiercely strong arms. He was about to take her away when she pleaded for him to say hello to the man.

“But Daddy! Look!”

Her little finger steered his gaze out to sea, where a man with pale blue skin waited patiently. Finnegan’s eyes grew wide and his grip on Astrid tightened.

“No… you shall not take her from me, you beast of the depths. Over my dead body…”
 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
 Coming April 17...