WIP Wednesday: The Mess


I was at a lecture a few weeks ago given by historical fiction author Geraldine Brooks. Not really what this post is about, but, if you ever get the chance, I recommend going to hear her talk. To be honest, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, and I had never really heard of her before I went to hear her speak–I really just went because she’s a writer and it sounded interesting. (I was apparently the only one who didn’t know who she was, though. The place was packed.) She used to be a journalist covering the Middle East so, in addition to talking about her recent novel The Secret Chord, she had a lot of stories and insight to share.

Anyway, something else she said stuck with me. She said someone asked her author friend once what her writing process was, and her friend replied something like: “Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess…..art.”

Of course, you had to be there, but when she said it, everybody laughed–many writers in the room knowingly. Because often that’s what it feels like. You start out with the “word vomit”–just getting the words down on paper, not worrying too much about egregious grammar mistakes, typos, or the giant, gaping plot hole you might not catch until later. The first draft–and the second, maybe even the third–can be something of a mess. What Ms. Brooks said reminded me of another quote about first drafts, attributed to Shannon Hale, that I like: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” (I love that one.)

That’s what I’m doing right now. Around the end of February, I finished the first complete draft of Reclaim, and now I’m cleaning it up, trying to build sand castles. And it is a bit of a mess. (I mean, I found a part toward the beginning introducing a plot thread I had decided early on to take out. So I didn’t carry it through the rest of the book, but that little section was still in there. It was very satisfying to just highlight, hit “delete,” and move on.)

I’m not actually changing anything major. Although I had an outline for the book, the characters had minds of their own and–as they always do–took the story in some unexpected directions. But I like where they took me, what they revealed about themselves and the essence of the story.

But there are edits to make, and sometimes I feel like it’s going to take me forever. I get discouraged. Frustrated. Especially when other work takes over and I have to put book writing/editing on the back burner for a few weeks. It usually ends up being a good thing when I take a break from it. My subconscious has a chance to sort out some of the issues that have been nagging me, and I go back to it feeling refreshed. But it doesn’t make me feel any less guilty when I can’t work on it every single day.

Thanks for following along, and I’ll continue to check in monthly as the journey to book three continues. I do have the cover, so we’ll do a cover reveal at some point, in a few weeks or so. If you’re happening upon my blog for the first time, you can find out more about my books and WIPs under the “My Books” tab on the main menu. Until next time, happy reading!

~S.L.

 

Weekend Update March 5, 2016


Some very important updates! Followed by some rambling about publishing and marketing.

Note: The article I reference in the vlog can be found here. The author is Meredith Wild, her company is Waterhouse Press.

Reborn series book three is called Reclaim, and I’ve set the release date for October 25, 2016! Get excited!

WIP Wednesday February 10, 2016


Hello dearies! I have finally made enough progress on the ever mysterious Book Three that I felt a short update post was warranted.

I managed to keep my “resolution” of writing about 500-1000 words per day in January. At the beginning of January, the book was at about 38,000 words, and now it sits at around 75K!!! (So, that means I added about 37K to it in the month of January at a pace of about 1200 words per day. What really happened is that some days I wrote nothing, and other days I pumped out entire chapters.) This means it will probably end up being the same length or a little longer than Relapse, which was my original goal. Yay goals.

February will be my major editing month so that it can be fit for beta readers’ eyes. I know there’s a section of Part One that is a MESS because I got fed up with editing it and just decided to worry about it later. Later is now. Also, I’m sure that–even though I’m currently feeling super happy about everything I wrote–I will inevitably want to go back and change a bunch of things. But, at least now I have words on pages to work with, instead of just a bunch of blank pages. There’s nothing really major I would change about the basic plot threads at this point. Some sections will need augmenting, while others will need pruning or cutting altogether.

That being said, there are a few things I’m already worried about with this book, before anyone else has even read it: 1) that it’s not sexy enough, and 2) that it’s sad (the two are not necessarily related…unless you are sad that it’s not sexy enough).

Although my books have a lot of other appealing qualities (if I do say so myself), I think my readers have begun to expect a certain level of sexiness from them, for obvious reasons. And I still consider this series, as a whole, to be more of an erotic urban fantasy series. But, as you know, this is Carly’s book, and she’s not as…liberated?…as Siobhan is. Siobhan is very attuned to the sensual, while Carly’s darker past has made her almost the opposite, except maybe around one particular guy. That’s not to say that there aren’t sexy parts in this book–there just probably aren’t as many as the first two books. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. I should wait and see what my betas think of it first. I definitely want to stay true to her character, though, and not just amp up the eroticism for its own sake, if that makes any sense.

About the second point (it being too sad)…I should say no more for now, lol. Sorry. I’m probably a terrible person for even bringing it up.

Overall, though, I’m excited about it, and I think my readers will enjoy it. Book Three will give you plenty of “feels.” I just have to keep plugging away at the edits.

And while I’m doing so, I will try to pick out a short excerpt or two to post. It’s been a long time since I posted any teasers, and I’m dying to share one with you. I was hoping to post something fun this weekend for Valentine’s Day, but it might not be from this book. I’ll have to go back through the random things I’ve written to see if there’s anything romantic enough, ha. (My writing has been a little darker lately, so I’m not making any promises.)

Happy early Valentine’s Day, and–if you’re living in a state getting hit by the arctic blast coming this weekend–stay warm! (Or, if you already live somewhere warm…eff you. Just kidding…)

 

Book Review: Feverborn


Last night, I stayed up until two in the morning reading Feverborn, the latest installment of Karen Marie Moning’s bestselling Fever series. In typical Moning fashion, she really blew me away in the last 150 pages or so of the book, and I couldn’t put it down. That being said, I had some issues with the first part of the book. But I’ll get to those in a second.

I would say the “big picture” plot point in Feverborn, and this phase of the series in general, is repairing the damage that has been done to Earth since the walls came down. Small black holes (that are only getting bigger) have cropped up all over Dublin–including the one steadily growing towards the abbey–and the squad (Mac, Jada, Barrons, Ryodan, Christian, and Dancer) have figured out the reason and a theoretical remedy. So, part of Feverborn are these very different characters, with strong, and at many times clashing personalities, forming an unlikely alliance to save Earth. This is complicated by the fact that many outside characters and groups want one or the other of them dead for various reasons.

There are a few other interesting subplots interspersed throughout the book as well. We find out what happened to Dageus after Burned and a near-fatal mission to rescue his nephew, druid-turned-Unseelie prince Christian, who was being tortured by the creepy Crimson Hag. Mac’s past also comes back to haunt her, in more ways than one. We even get a few insights into what Cruce, the Unseelie prince trapped underneath the abbey, has been up to, and he’s starting to reemerge as the “big bad.”

That all being said, what Feverborn is really about is Mac and ice-cold Jada, formerly Mac’s energetic, impulsive bff, Dani. This was my favorite part of the book. Through Jada’s impersonal third-person narration, we learn bits and pieces of what happened to her while she was in the Silvers, and–although she never divulges everything–it’s enough to paint the bleak, heartbreaking picture. I actually have to say that, this time around, I enjoyed Jada’s plot thread considerably more than Mac’s. And I love how Moning has challenged their friendship, and the healing process for both of them that starts to take place in Feverborn.

I have to admit, though–and I hate saying this about one of my favorite authors–that the first half of the book was a bit of a mess. I felt like the book didn’t know what it itself was really about (Mac and Jada) until about the halfway point, maybe even further along. Moning often switches between points of view within books, and I usually admire her ability to do so effortlessly and convincingly. I never question whose head I’m in, and each plot thread typically stands well on its own while still advancing the overall plot.

But this style didn’t work for me as much in Feverborn. I have to agree with other reviews I’ve read saying that Mac’s part is basically a rehash of her old problems–issues I thought had been wrapped up by the end of Shadowfever. Also, the strain Moning placed on her and Barrons’s relationship in Burned seems to have completely evaporated now, and they’ve reverted to slamming their walls back up whenever they’re not having insanely hot sex (really, if Barrons can’t just call her Mac all the time at this point instead of Ms. Lane, fts). It’s like all of the progress they’ve made in their relationship throughout the course of the series has been unraveled for no reason.

Further, there are some random chapters written from Christian and Lor’s POVs for seemingly no reason. Okay, Christian’s sort of had a point (although it’s not carried throughout FB like in past books), but Lor’s didn’t give any significant insight into his or Jo’s characters and didn’t advance the plot. I guess it was sort of amusing, but it really should have served some other function than comic relief. I did, however, enjoy the parts with Cruce and Papa Roach, and I really hope Cruce is coming back as the major evil player in the next book (which I think is supposed to be the final, final book?).

By the way, I hate that I have to write this. As a writer myself, I know that criticism can be a good thing and very helpful, but I hate sounding overly critical or mean about a series and author that I love. I still think Karen is an excellent writer. I love the language she uses, the settings she creates–I can picture everything vividly in my mind, and I’m still highly invested in all of the characters. It’s just this book felt like a lot of filler material before the next book. (A lot of readers said that about Burned as well, although it didn’t feel that way to me for some reason. But this book did.)

The last fourth of the book really saved it for me, though. I wish the entire book had just focused on Mac and Jada and their friendship, because those parts were really touching. There are enough mysteries planted throughout FB that keep you hooked and plenty of twists and surprises–toward the end, they just kept coming. The battle at the abbey sort of works as a climax for the good guys/bad guys conflict in the book, but I think the real climax happens right after that, when you find out why Jada goes running back into the burning abbey. It just shows so much about what she must have went through in the Silvers and the person she has become now. Those parts actually brought tears to my eyes, they were so heartbreaking. I’m still intrigued to see where Moning is going with all of this and how she’ll tie up the loose ends she left at the end of FB.

So, in summary, while I felt like Feverborn had trouble finding its footing, the last part of the book saved it for me, and that’s why I’m giving it four stars. I will still probably pre-order the next book and binge read it when it comes.

Goodbye Spaceboy


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that English musician/icon/Goblin King David Bowie passed away last week at age 69 from cancer. (As if that weren’t sad enough, Alan Rickman, the talented English actor who portrayed–among other memorable roles–misunderstood Potions professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise, also passed away. At age 69. From cancer.) I’m not usually one for getting emotional about “celebrity” deaths–then again, this is the first time that someone well-known I actually really liked has died. I mean, when you’ve spent hours upon hours listening to someone’s music, feeling feels (I’m sorry, I’m not good with the words today) and getting inspired, it’s hard not to feel sad. Bowie is an artist who seemed larger than life, but his death was sort of a weird reminder that he was mortal, just like the rest of us. He’s left quite an impact over the years, a legacy I’m sure will endure far beyond his death.

There’s been a huge outpouring of grief over his passing and support for his family over social media, which, of course, not just any normal person would get, and I hope it brings some comfort to Iman and his kids–to know how many lives he touched. As a side note, I’ve found it a little strange that the press keeps calling his death “sudden.” For his fans, yes, it was unexpected, and I suppose that’s what they mean. But perhaps not for his family. An 18-month long battle with cancer is long and emotionally draining for all involved–and yet Bowie didn’t let it get in the way of creativity, of getting out one last album for his fans. That album, Blackstar, has become his first number 1 selling album here in the U.S., which is awesome but at the same time a little depressing. He had many other albums that deserved to get that spot, but death has that kind of effect on art.

I can’t say that, without Bowie, there would be no Reborn series, but it would probably be a somewhat different series. His songs and various stage and film personas have definitely inspired me, and will continue to do so. So, as my own little tribute to the Thin White Duke, here is a top ten list of my favorite Bowie songs. This was hard to compile, since I like most of his work. But I made myself pick 10 that mean something personal to me, or that I just simply love. Also, except for number 10, this list doesn’t include some of his collaborations that I like (like Placebo’s Without You I’m Nothing and the PSB remix of Hallo Spaceboy). They may not necessarily be everybody’s favorites or critical darlings, but this is my blog and my list, dammit. And feel free to share your favorites in the comments!

10. Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy

This is probably a random one, but for me, this is the song that started it all. Before I heard this delightful Bing Crosby/Bowie duet on the radio circa Christmas 2005 (yes, the radio, this was pre-YouTube/Pandora/Spotify), all I had heard about David Bowie was that he was kind of weird. But then I heard this angelic voice singing with Bing and was surprised, in a good way, to learn who it was.

9. Oh! You Pretty Things

Probably one of the main reasons I like Bowie so much is due to my love for science fiction and fantasy. Much of his work, particularly in the 70s, incorporated sci-fi themes and characters. Oh! You Pretty Things has a sci-fi/dystopian flavor to it coupled with a lively tune, and the lyrics are pretty catchy, too. (Anna and Peter sing a duet of it in Relapse, which was also a bit of foreshadowing for things to come in future books).

8. Life on Mars?

I think this is probably one of his more famous tunes, although perhaps an acquired taste. The lyrics string together a series of seemingly disjointed scenes, but together they create a picture of a young person trying to make sense out of the world and images around them.

7. Moonage Daydream

Just like all of the songs that made this list, Moonage Daydream is one of my personal favorites–the only thing is, I’m not even sure why, haha. I just love this song.

6. Underground

I couldn’t write a Bowie top ten list without including a song from the Labyrinth soundtrack. Although there are lots of gems on there (Magic Dance, When the World Falls Down, Within You), I decided I had to go with Underground. At the risk of sounding pretentious, this song, from the soundtrack of an 80s children’s fantasy movie, sounds better than most of the songs they play on the radio today, lol.

5. Five Years

As an urban fantasy/paranormal romance writer, it takes me 200+ pages to create the world and story I envision in my head. It takes Bowie 3-5 minutes, in songs like Five Years (below), and Drive-In Saturday (an honorable mention).

4. Modern Love

80s Bowie likely had a bit more widespread appeal than Ziggy Stardust, and–although there was a disappointing lack of space/aliens–his hits during this phase of his career were fun and catchy. Modern Love is my second favorite thing (Labyrinth is the first) Bowie did in the 80s.

3. Rebel, Rebel

I think one of the reasons Bowie’s glam rock days have had such a lasting impact is that he showed people it’s okay to be “weird” (whatever that means to you). He was a voice for the outcasts of his generation, telling them “you’re not alone” in songs like Rock ‘n Roll Suicide. His most covered track (according to Wikipedia), Rebel, Rebel captures this spirit.  Also note his fabulous getup in this video.

2. Starman

Okay, so clearly Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust/glam rock days are my favorite. So many great songs, especially Starman.

1. Heroes

And, finally, my number 1 favorite song of all time, out of all the songs and all the musicians. Well, it might be tied with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but right now it has a slight edge. Heroes gives me chills and feels.

Obligatory New Year’s Resolutions Post


I realized my last post was two months ago, and a New Year’s resolutions post seemed like the perfect excuse to give you guys an update. I had a relaxing and fun Christmas and New Year’s and cleared my head of any sort of day job or writing-related work. It was a much needed break, and now I’m feeling refreshed and ready to get back into various projects. And I had more time for reading–I finished the second Vampire Academy book, Frostbite, by Richelle Mead, and started reading a non-fiction book that’s pretty interesting: Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough (I highly recommend for all of you education/social sciences/public health nerds out there). Since I completely failed to achieve my Goodreads goal of reading 25 books this past year (I read 15…oops), I kept the same goal for 2016, so we’ll see how that goes. I read a lot, I just haven’t made time for as much pleasure reading or reviewing lately.

Now, the part you’ve been waiting for (maybe): my writing/publishing goals for 2016. If you follow this blog or my Facebook page, you are probably already somewhat aware of these, but I figure if I put them in writing it will be additional motivation for me. First, I want to publish Revenge as an e-book novella–aiming for this summer. (You can read the first draft of it on my blog for free here.) Before I’m happy enough to publish it, it’s going to need some editing/re-working, and I have some ideas to beef it up so that I can actually call it a novella, which I think run from about 17-40K (at least according to Wikipedia). It’s a little over 11,000 words now, and my goal is to get it up to about 20K. I just really haven’t felt like editing lately, which is weird for me because I usually enjoy it.

Actually (and sorry in advance that I’m about to go on a tangent), I’ve been feeling really frustrated for the past few months regarding my writing projects. Mostly because of the editing thing. Ugh. At the beginning of fall I had a nice rhythm going for writing the third book in the Reborn series, and got about 38K written. Then I realized it was dragging/boring, that there were parts I wanted to cut completely, and that’s when I lost my rhythm, even though I still had the rest of the book mapped out in my head. So I decided to revise the beginning before writing the rest of it, but that just made me more frustrated. Looking back at it now, I feel like I didn’t even change that much of it, although I did rearrange chunks of it and added some more action earlier on. But there are still parts I’m going to take out entirely, and then I’ll have to fill in the gaps…and I just don’t wanna right now, lol.

I’m pretty sure I had this phase with the first two books, too, and every time I feel like I’m never going to get over it and the book is never going to get finished. But then I do get over it, and it does get finished. So really I have nothing to worry about (and neither do you!).

Instead of continuing to slog through the edits to Part One, I’ve decided to just plunge ahead and finish the entire first draft this January/February. I just want to write–get the word vomit out first–without thinking too much about it. Then I’ll worry about the specific parts that need more help/attention later. Right now the word count is about 48K. My goal is to write at least 500-1000 words every day in January. That way, if I have a particularly busy day or just a bad writing day, I can at least get 500 words out and then be done with it for that day. On a better day, I’ll exceed the 1000-word goal, and at this pace I’ll be able to finish it this winter.

Except sometimes I think about all of the things that are still going to happen in the book. And then I get discouraged again.

Whine whine whine.

I know I’ve been keeping a lot of the details of Book Three under wraps. It has a title now, but I’m not ready to reveal it. I don’t think it will change, but it might. I’m itching to share a rough excerpt or two, but I’m also resisting that because I’m still changing stuff. I know all of this sounds super discouraging (lol), but I still think I can get it out this fall. I’m in the same place I was with Relapse back in 2014, and I was still able to get that out at the beginning of December the same year. But if you’re getting really impatient with me, feel free to let me know, haha. That will “light the fire” under me. Otherwise it’s not like I have a publisher breathing down my neck about deadlines, which for the most part I like…but then again, sometimes it’s nice to have the extra push.

That’s all for now. Until next time, here’s a picture of a unicorn.

Revenge: The Conclusion


Click here to read previous chapters.

X. Sweet Dreams

Back at Thurston, we huddle together on the Greek Quadrangle, watching our house from a safe distance. At this hour, the rest of the Quad is in sleep mode, but our house is lit up like a carnival ride, lights flashing in every room. Objects are being tossed around inside, their shadows flying across the windows. There’s even music blasting from downstairs, the walls throbbing in time with the bass.

“I didn’t know the Alphas were having a party!” says an eager male voice. One of the Sigma Iota brothers has walked up to us, a wide smile on his face, and gives us a thumbs up. “I’ll get a few of my brothers and we can—”

“We’re not having a party,” I say quickly, and his smile falls. “A few of our pledges are…rebelling.”

“Yeahhhh,” Sam chimes in, nodding. “They don’t want to do house chores.”

“Oh. Bummer.” Sighing in disappointment, he shuffles away. “Show those pledges who’s boss!” he calls back before disappearing inside the Sigma Iota house.

Julia looks back at our house. “I don’t want to go in there,” she says, biting her lip.

“We have to,” I say. “We have to put a stop to this.”

“I know she’s not the real Genie anymore,” Gwen says. “And I know we might not have any other choice, but I—I don’t want to destroy her soul. It sounds so…so final.”

“Don’t think of it like that. Genie never would have wanted to lead this kind of tormented existence, even in the afterlife. We’re not destroying her. We’re…freeing her.” I look to Sam for…I don’t know. Reassurance. A snappy remark to lighten our grim mood. But Sam just frowns at me, giving a sad shrug.

“Let’s get this over with,” she says.

As one, we inch closer to the house. Something crashes inside, and everyone shudders. The others stay behind me as I throw open the front door and march inside, trying to act confident despite my pounding heart.

“It looks like there was an earthquake!” Julia yells above the music. The entire living room is trashed. Furniture has been upended, artwork knocked down from the walls, vases smashed.  Books and stray sheets of paper are scattered on the floor, along with pieces of broken wood and glass.

“Watch your step!” I warn the others. “Turn that off,” I add to Gwen, and she obediently kills the music. Apparently ghosts like dubstep. The ensuing silence is short-lived, the house instead filling with Genie’s moans of agony.

Sam glances up at the ceiling. “Sounds like Hurricane Genie has moved upstairs.” There’s a loud scraping noise overhead, like someone is moving the furniture around, as well as more banging and the shriek of breaking glass.

“Genie!” I shout at the ceiling. “Genie, get down here!” The commotion upstairs stops. Then, Genie’s ghost whizzes downstairs, coming to a stop in front of me.

“Oh. You’re all still alive,” she says, looking disappointed. “I guess the giant wave didn’t do the trick.”

“Genie, stop this,” I demand, gesturing to the chaos around us. “This is madness. It isn’t you.”

“It is now.” As she says it, the small chandelier hanging in the living room starts swinging violently back and forth, lights flickering. The chain attaching it to the ceiling gives an ominous groan.

“This was your sorority house, too,” I remind her. “Your home away from home.”

Genie laughs wickedly. “It’ll be just a pile of bricks and dust when I’m done with it.”

“Why are you doing this?” Julia sobs, watching the swaying chandelier with wide eyes.

Genie glides over to her. “You all love this house. Well, I’m taking that away from you. Everything you love. Everything you care about. Just like everything I cared about was ripped away from me when I died.”

“We don’t care about the house,” I insist. A few of the others gape at me, but I ignore them, continuing, “It’s just a house. It’s just stuff. We care about each other. We care about you.

“Apparently not enough to help me when I needed it the most.” Genie’s tone is bitter, but the chandelier stops rocking.

I take a step closer to her. “You don’t have to destroy the house—you don’t have to hurt anyone.”

“No.” Genie recoils, floating away from me. “You just want me to stop so you can send me back to that place—”

“No one’s going to send you back to the Underworld,” I assure her. “You can stay here. With us. None of us would mind having a…friendly ghost around.” I glance at the others encouragingly. They look uncertain, but nod anyway.

“Well, if I see Casper, I’ll let him know,” Genie sneers. “But for now, you’re stuck with me. And I’m not a nice ghost. All I feel is rage. I hate everyone. Including all of you.

“You don’t mean that—” I start to say, but at that moment the chandelier comes loose, crashing to the ground. The sisters closest to it jump out of the way, shielding themselves as shards of glass come flying out. Julia cries out as her bare forearms are bombarded, small red lines breaking out where the glass bites her skin.

“Wimps,” Genie says, rolling her eyes.

Sam glares at the ghost. “This is over.” She leans into my ear and says, “Read the note Persephone gave you. Finish this.”

“Not yet,” I whisper back. “Let me try one more thing.”

“Note?” Genie repeats, overhearing us. “What note?”

“It’s nothing,” I say, shaking my head. “Genie, listen—”

“I’d love to,” she interrupts me, “but it’s time for a pop quiz!” She does a midair somersault over me and Sam, coming to land somewhere behind us. We spin around to face her. “Anybody know what happens to your body at the bottom of the ocean? Anybody? Anybody?” Before any of us can answer, Genie continues, “Well, first off, it’s cold down there. Like really fucking cold.”

As soon as she says it, the room is plunged into an arctic chill. Teeth chattering, I wrap my arms around myself in a feeble attempt to stay warm. A numbness starts in my hands and feet, spreading throughout my entire body.

“There’s also no air, so you wouldn’t be able to breathe. And the pressure is high. It would push in on you, crushing you. Then your lungs would start to collapse. Your body would shut down.”

My body tries to take its next breath, but it feels like there’s an elephant sitting on my chest. The harder I try to breathe, the harder it pushes down on me, squeezing the air from my lungs. Stars dance before my eyes, and I crumple to the floor, managing to catch myself before hitting my head again. Arms shaking, I lower myself gently, resting my head against the cold hardwood floor. I lie there freezing, suffocating, an invisible force crushing me from all sides. Genie speaks again, her voice sounding thin and very far away.

“Sweet dreams, sisters.”

Genie. Please, I want to call out, but the thought never makes it past my lips. The darkness is coming for me again. It places an icy hand on my shoulder, giving me one final tug, and I relax into it, letting it drag me away…

All at once, the darkness releases me, and a warmth rushes through my body, bringing the feeling back to my arms and legs. My eyes fly open, and I let out a gasp, breathing hard and fast to pump oxygen back into my burning lungs. Still a little lightheaded, I slowly push myself off of the floor and sit back on my heels. Around me, my sisters are also coming to, blinking in confusion as they sit up on the floor, gulping down air. I look around for Genie, catching sight of the tip of a ghostly fin before it disappears upstairs. Getting stiffly to my feet, I fight through another wave of dizziness, half-walking, half-crawling up the stairs after her.

The sound of muffled sobs reaches my ears, and I realize they’re coming from my bedroom. I crack open the door to find Genie hovering above her bed, shoulders trembling as she cries into her hands.

“Genie?” I say, pushing the door open wider. She doesn’t do anything except wail more loudly. I close the door softly behind me and walk over to sit beside her on the bed.

“I’m sorry,” Genie sniffles, dropping her hands from her face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I just—”

“It’s okay.” I go to put a hand on her shoulder, but of course my fingers just slip right through her. Pulling away, I fold my hands in my lap instead. “We know you didn’t.”

“Do you forgive me?”

I hope she misses my hesitation before I say, “Yes. Yes, of course we do.”

“Everything hurts.” She turns away from me, dark hair falling in front of her face. “Everything is cold, and pain, and anger. I want it to stop. I just want it to stop!”

“I know.” I finger the folded up piece of parchment, still tucked safely inside my pocket. “I can make it stop…if you want me to.”

Genie steals a glance at me, dark eyes sad but hopeful. “Can you really?” I nod, and her entire being seems to relax. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I caused everyone so much pain. I wasn’t always like this. At least I think I wasn’t.”

I purse my lips together and shake my head. “You weren’t. You were nice, and smart. Funny. Brave.” Tears spring to my eyes, but I don’t bother to wipe them away. My lower lip trembles as I say, “You’re my best friend, Genie.”

“I’m sorry,” she says for what feels like the millionth time. “And I know you did your best. I know you would have saved me if you could. Did I…kill anyone?” she asks quietly, avoiding my gaze again. Although she doesn’t elaborate, I know she’s talking about the night she died. In her final days, Genie had joined forces with the bad guys and helped lead an attack on the Gamma Lambda Phi’s fall dance. Just like tonight, she created a giant wave that took out the restaurant where the formal was being held.

“No,” I whisper. “No one was hurt or killed.”

Genie laughs bitterly. “Except for me. I am sorry, though. For causing so much destruction. I lost myself at some point. Forgot who I was.”

“I’m sorry, too. I should have known that you lost your way. That you needed help.”

“It’s not your fault, Becks,” she says with a reassuring smile. She stares off into space, looking intently at something that only she can see. “I think I’m ready to go now.”

I nod, taking the note out of my pocket. As I unfold it, my tears splatter the thin, gray parchment, making some of the black ink run. “Be gone, restless one,” I read, looking between Genie and the paper. “Let your anguish cease.” Even after the first few words, Genie’s transparent form starts to fade, oblivion chipping away at her. She continues to look straight ahead, a peaceful expression coming over her face.

“Severe your chains to this life,” I continue. The poem is so short, I’m already at the last line. “Find eternal peace.”

All that’s left of Genie is her head and shiny dark hair. She turns back to me and smiles. It’s the happiest I’ve seen her since before she died. “’Bye, Becks!” she says, eyes sparkling with mischief. Crumpling the note up in my hand, I squeeze my eyes shut, another painful sob racking my body. When I open them again, Genie is gone.

“Sweet dreams,” I say to the empty room.

The End.

*****

I hope you enjoyed my short story, Revenge! I wrote it relatively quickly, but I’m planning to go back and polish it and publish it as an e-book short story or novella. Feel free to let me know your thoughts, either in the comments section, on any of my social media sites, or in some other fashion!

Happy Reading!

~S.L.