A to Z Challenge: Z is for Zone

a-to-z HEADER [2015] - aprilWell, we made it! Time to do the happy dance and breathe a sigh of relief. It’s been a crazy, hectic month, but I’Badage linkedm so proud of myself for meeting my commitment to blog every day, and I intend to continue checking out posts on the list as long as I can.

On this, the last day of the month of April, I look outside and see mini leaves on the trees. The sun is shining, and the temperature is expected to hit 15 C (60 F) this afternoon. Plus, to make the day even more special, tonight is the annual Mother-Daughter dinner, a fundraiser for breast cancer research. Tonight my natural daughter, my chosen one, and I will all sit down to be wined, dined and pampered with this year’s them, A Night  in Paris. Oh yeah. After a signature cocktail or two, I’ll be in the zone.

Z is for Zone

ZTime and Again, my husband will say to me, “I told your that yesterday, but as usual, you were In the zone.”   And nine out of ten times, he’s right. When I’m involved in something, I’m so completely focused on that one thing that, just like someone looking through a telescope, I can see that little point, and nothing else. It becomes my world, the object of my concentration, the center of my universe.

Needless to say, getting into the zone is essential when i write. I need to put the characters inside my head in charge in order for me to be able to let the story flow. Right now, I’m within ten to twelve pages of finishing The White Lily, and that’s my goal for the day, so don’t talk to me, don’t even blink in my direction, because, until it’s done, I won’t even know you’re there.

When I’m blogging, I have to give my muse free rein to organize my thoughts into a coherent whole, and when I’m out celebrating, I have to stifle her and all the voices in my head clamoring for attention, forget plots, and heroes and heroines, and relax, enjoy myself, and the company I’m with. This summer, I have plans to do just that, but I know myself only too well. The voices in my head will get their say every now and then.

As I reread that last paragraph, I realize that I sound like someone with a serious mental issue, but every author knows exactly what I mean. I’ll be taking my first ever cruise this summer. When I board the ship or enter a port, go into a room or attend a show, I’ll have to fight the urge to look around and engrave the details in my head to use in a later book. I’ll force myself not look look at people and imagine them as characters in a book, Ans most of all, I’ll have to tamp down my urge to write it all down in the notebook I carry in my purse–well maybe I’ll jot some of it down..

Tonight though, the zone I’ll need to be in is the one where I’ll set all those wayward thoughts aside and concentrate on having fun. The fun zone–seems to me it’s been a long time since I made it there.

Take a moment to check out the other Z blogs and have yourself a wonderful year!  If you’ve got time, drop by again, or visit my website for more about me.

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2015.html

http://www.mhsusannematthews.ca/

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Look Who Dropped By Today: Megan O’Russell

Writing books in a series where the main characters remain the same is harder than writing a new plot. I ashed Megan to tell me a little about the challenge she faced writing book Two of her series. Take it away, Megan.

downloadMy premier novel was The Tethering, and now after a thrilling year, book two in the series, The Siren’s Realm, has arrived.

Getting The Siren’s Realm ready for publication was very different in many ways. I knew a lot more about the editing and publication process this time around, which made a lot of things much less stressful. But there were things like cover design that were harder. When I first started talking to the designer about The Tethering, I pretty much knew what I wanted. The tree of life consumed in flames and the hands reaching toward each other. All of those things were important symbols in The Tethering, and I was lucky enough to have an artist who managed to bring all of those elements together.

For The Siren’s Realm I wanted to have a cover that complemented The Tethering, that continued the same theme and helped show the two books as a unit. I was lucky enough to be able to use the same artist, but finding what elements of the story should be portrayed was more difficult. I am thrilled with the result, but finding the continuity between the stories while making The Siren’s Realm cover intriguing in its own right was challenging.

TSR_ebookAnd that challenge translated into the actual writing of The Siren’s Realm. All the primary players are the same, the world is the same, but everything else is different. The characters lives have changed. They’ve grown, learned, and been hurt. The Siren’s Realm finds them in a magical world embroiled in a magical war. The rules of safety and survival are changing for these characters on a daily basis.

Simple things like taking someone’s hand has a different meaning now. So, where do you draw the line between old habits and new realizations?

You can’t completely change the way characters interact. Then you’d be negating all the building you did in book one. The challenge comes in creating believable ways for your characters to evolve under changing circumstances that allow the essence of the characters to remain the same.

Jacob Evans is still Jacob Evans. He is scarred and changed. He joined a magical world that has begun to crumble. But he still loves Emilia Gray. And that is what he as a character has to hold onto. It is the thread that leads the reader from one book to another and turns two books into the beginning of a series.

About The Siren’s Realm

Jacob loves Emilia Gray, but things aren’t always that simple in the world of Magickind…

The war has begun.

The Dragons are gaining power, and the Gray Clan stands alone. Desperate to find a way to stop the Pendragon, Emilia is forced to seek answers from someone who hasn’t been seen in seventeen years… Her mother. Embarking on a magical journey filled with witches, wizards, centaurs and a dangerous and powerful Siren, Jacob and Emilia must take a leap of faith to a land neither could have ever imagined… and hope they can then find their way home.

You can get Megan’s books through:

Goodreads links

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21480311-the-tethering

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23445448-the-siren-s-real

The Tethering Buy links

http://www.amazon.com/Tethering-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00ONFROCU/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1428529226

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-tethering-megan-orussell/1120593353?ean=9781941650226

http://www.silenceinthelibrarypublishing.com/tethering-megan-orussell/

The Siren’s Realm Buy Links

http://www.amazon.com/Sirens-Realm-Tethering-Book-ebook/dp/B00V8RYJKQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1428526745&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Siren%27s+Realm

http://www.silenceinthelibrarypublishing.com/product/the-sirens-realm-by-megan-orussell/

About the Author:

Megan O’Russell is thrilled to have her premier novel The Tethering published with Silence in the Library Publishing. Book two in The Tethering series, The Siren’s Realm, is currently available for pre-order. Megan’s work can also be found the anthology Athena’s Daughter’s 2.

Originally from New York, Megan is a professional actress who spends her time traveling the country for different shows. When not on stage or writing, Megan spends time with her beloved ukulele and her wonderful husband. To follow Megan’s writing adventures, you can

visit her website at meganorussell.com.

Website: meganorussell.com
Twitter: @MeganORussell
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ORussellauthor

TSU: https://www.tsu.co/MeganORussell

Mid Week Tease: The White Carnation

MWTease15Hard to believe it’s the end of April. It seems only weeks ago, I was taking down Christmas decorations and bemoaning the snow, and now I’m looking at budding trees, knowing the worst of spring allergy season is right around the corner!

Today, I thought I’d finish off the month with a final taste of The White Carnation. So far, the reviews have been great. I’m putting the finishing touches on The White Lily as we speak, and will round off the series with The White Iris when I come back from vacation later this year.

So, once more I thank Sandra Bunino and those who faithfully follow this blog for the opportunity to share my writing with you this way, week after week.

The Blurb: 

The White CarnationThe last person disgraced reporter Faye Lewis wants back in her life is Detective Rob Halliday, the man she blames for ruining her career and breaking her heart. But when she finds an old friend murdered, he’s the one she calls.

For the past year, Rob and his team have been hunting the Harvester, a serial killer who ritualistically murders new mothers and vanishes with their infants. What Rob doesn’t need is another case, especially one involving his ex-fiancée.

Then Faye is assaulted, and Rob realizes the cases are connected. She may hold the answers he needs to find the elusive killer. But the more they investigate, the more complex the situation becomes. Can they set the past aside and work together, or will the Harvester and his followers reap another prize?

Buy links can be found on my website:

http://www.mhsusannematthews.ca/

Today’s tease: 

Faye hung her coat on the hook in the hall and walked into the living room. She stared at him as if she blamed him for everything that had happened, and, he supposed, in a way, she was right. She claimed the damn file had been on his desk, and even though he’d never seen it, she believed he’d torpedoed her career. He’d been too angry and hurt to investigate her allegations, and after she’d broken off the engagement, he hadn’t seen the point. If she could believe he’d do that to her …

“Can I change?” She looked down at her blood-covered clothes.

“Take a shower. I’ll make you some tea, but give me the clothes. I’ll need them for evidence.”

“Don’t bother bringing them back.”

She walked away from him toward her bedroom and its en suite bathroom. Moving into the kitchen, he filled the kettle and set the water to boil. In the year they’d been apart, nothing had been moved, but many things had changed. He reached for the box of tea bags—they were a cheaper brand than the ones she’d favored before. Opening the fridge to get the milk, he stared at the bare shelves, the generic yogurt, and the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables. Margarine? She hates margarine. He opened the freezer and saw hamburger and a couple of packages of chicken, but even it was almost bare. Where was the Rocky Road? She always had her favorite ice cream on hand.

The kettle whistled, and he turned off the burner. Pouring the boiling water into the brown teapot as she’d taught him to do, he rinsed it, poured the water out, and then added the tea bags and refilled it. He set it on the tray on the counter to steep. Opening the cupboard to get a mug, his hand froze when he saw the red, ceramic, Who loves you, baby? mug he’d given her, and he let sadness wash over him. Why had she kept it? He’d given it to her with the diamond ring she’d returned tucked inside it. He grabbed a yellow mug and slammed the cupboard door. Knowing how she felt about him now, she’d probably forgotten he’d given it to her in the first place.

When he heard her bare feet slap the oak floor, he picked up the tray that held the teapot, milk, and mug, and returned to the open-concept living room/dining room. He set the tray on the coffee table.

Faye entered the room at the same time he did. She looked like a lost little girl in the oversized Patriots jersey and pink plaid pajama pants she wore. Her bare feet, toenails painted hot pink, poked out of the bottoms. She dropped a plastic bag on the floor near the hall table, walked over to the green tweed wingback chair, and sat in it, curling her feet up under her.

She’d pulled her wet hair away from her face into a loose ponytail. When it was loose, her hair curled slightly and reached midway down her back. How he’d loved running his hands through her silky tresses. Her complexion, so fair she could get sunburn in the shade, was blotchy now, the freckles she hated standing out against the translucent skin. Her expressive eyes, sometimes blue, more often green, were shadowed as if she’d been losing sleep. Was she still haunted by nightmares? She was thinner than he remembered, her cheekbones more prominent.

He walked over to the liquor cabinet beside the breakfast bar that divided the kitchen from the dining area and pulled out a bottle of Irish whiskey. Like everything else he’d found, it was a cheaper brand than she’d preferred. He grabbed a glass and carried them both over to the table where he poured a generous measure into the mug before adding tea and milk. He handed it to her. He splashed a couple of ounces of whiskey into the glass.

He’d heard about her stepfather’s death and had meant to call, but each time he’d picked up the phone, he’d put it down again. He hadn’t known what to say. She’d been close to Ralph Edwards, the man who’d rescued her mother from poverty and shame. Glancing at his watch, he grimaced. Technically, his shift had ended twenty minutes ago. He lifted his glass and took a mouthful of whiskey. It was going to be a long night.

A to Z Challenge: Y is for Youth

a-to-z HEADER [2015] - aprilWell, we’re a day away from the end of the challenge and it’s been an incredible journey this year. As we’ve traveled along this route together, I’ve met new friends and read excellent blogs on literally everything fro A to Z.

Badage linkedThis morning, as everything winds down, I’d like to blog about youth or rather lost youth. As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” I never appreciated my youth. I always wanted to be older so I could do this, that, and the other thing,. Now that I have to admit I’m no spring chicken, not even a young pullet, but an old hen, I finally understand that wishing for something doesn’t make it so.

Y is for Youth

I once heard someone say, youth is wasted on the young, and I think that’s right, Young people don’t understand what a wonderful gift youth is. They can stay up late, burn the candle at both ends, participate in all kinds of thrilling activities, and get up the next day full of vim and vigor and ready to take on the world.

YI regret not taking advantage of my youth to do more of that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret my life, nor would I change any of it, but I might’ve tried more things, things I can’t do today. For example, my niece set a Canadian Master’s weight lifting record on Sunday. Imagine that, and because of the arthritis in my wrists, I can’t even lift a 25 pound turkey out of the oven.

The biggest thing I’ve lost now that my youth has passed is my flexibility.  Oh, I can go with the flow as well as ever, but parts of me no longer move the way they did. I may still be young at heart, and have a youthful spirit, but I have an old woman’s body. I can’t get up and down as easily as I could, and my balance isn’t what it was. The few yoga poses I could handle are beyond me now, and the bottom line is that it’s all my fault.

If I had used and moved my body more, those joints might not have stiffened the way they did. People older than me can do more than I can because I didn’t do what I should’ve when I could’ve. I was too bust to exercise and because I didn’t I’ve lost the capacity to do things I used to. So, let this be a lesson to you. Don’t do as I did. While you’re young flex your joints. Lift weights, bend, twist, do yoga, because once that youthful ability to move is gone, you can’t get it back.

Check out the other Y blogs.

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2015.html

A to Z Challenge: X is for Xanthippe

a-to-z HEADER [2015] - aprilGood morning and welcome to the day dedicated to the most unpopular letter of the alphabet. My Webster Badage linkedCollegiate Dictionary, purchased when I was in university has only a page and a quarter of X words. So, it didn’t take me long to go through them. We’ve all seen Xmas used for Christmas, but I didn’t know you could abbreviate Christina with Xn, and Christianity with Xnty, or that there was a three-masted Mediterranean boat called a xebec.

I read through the other words, now quite interested in X words and finally found one that piqued my curiosity. You guessed it: Xanthippe, which interestingly enough was Socrates’s shrewish wife, and according to the dictionary can be used to describe an ill-tempered woman. Finally, we can give the word bitch a rest.

X is for Xanthippe

XAccording to http://www.in2greece.com/english/historymyth/history/ancient/xanthippe.htm

Xanthippe was Socrates’ wife and matron of ancient Athens. The couple had three sons, Lamprokles, Sophroniskos and Menexenos, and she is said to have had a bad temper and to have been the very personification of the constantly nagging wife.
Her contemporaries did not picture her as such a terrible person as the later Romans did. According to later stories, Socrates knew he was marrying a hag, but did so to practice his patience.
A well known anecdote about the angry Xanthippe is the one where she was so angry with her husband that she threw a bucket of washing water on him. The philosopher then replied: after thunder comes rain. Socrates’ saying “Marry or marry not, in any case you’ll regret it” was supposedly in contemplation of his wife.

I recommend you visit this blog post for a humorous and probably realistic take on the story.

http://blog.xanthippas.com/about/

When you’ve done that, check out the other X blogs.

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2015.html

A to Z Challenge: W is for White–the color not the race!

a-to-z HEADER [2015] - aprilGood morning and welcome to the last four days of the A to Z Challenge for 2015. It’s been a great experience, and I’ve met some wonderful authors and bloggers along the way.Badage linkedThere’s a certain amount of sadness I find when you come near the end of something you’ve enjoyed, especially when I’m nearing the end of a book which is why writing the Harvester series is such a unique and wonderful experience for me. I’ve written books where characters make a return appearance, and, In Holiday Magic and The Perfect Choice, I wrote in the same time frame with the same four basic main characters, but with the POV changed in each one. I took that, one step farther in what I can now call my white flower series.

WToday, W is for White–the color not the race. Actually, as my seven year old granddaughter is quick to point out each time I say it, white isn’t a color, it’s all the colors together that make up light. Pretty smart cookie, right? She’s quick to point out that you can’t make white by mixing all the other colors together again though.

Colors have long since had not only a literal meaning but a figurative one.Look at roses for example. Yellow means friendship, red means love, and purple means mysterious, while white stands for purity and innocence. How many people remember the original Lone Ranger? On black and white television sets, he was dressed in white.–seriously how practical a color was that? If you’ve ever dressed a child in white and then gone anywhere, you know they get dirty in seconds–child HA! I can do it too. I learned long ago that I could handle white shirts, but I stay as far away as I can get from white pants.

The White CarnationWhite also represents good. We see angels in white and demons in black. I’d originally chosen different titles for my Harvester series, and it was my publisher who suggested  focusing on the symbolism in the first book and creating a unified series with it.

In book one, The White Carnation, currently available (Buy links are on my website http://www.mhsusannematthews.ca/ ) the main character, Faye, receives a single white carnation roughly every three months from what she believes to be a secret admirer. The flowers, in a mini vase,and tied by a beautiful, lacy pastel rainbow-colored ribbon brighten what otherwise has been a miserable year. She’s lost her coveted job as a crime reporter and the man she thought to marry because someone, probably him, betrayed her. She believes the flowers may be from a shy coworker, so she doesn’t suspect  a stalker. Why would she? She’s nobody now. When she brings the latest flower to give to a friend and finds that friend dead, the spotless carnation falls from her hand and the blood stains the petals, an omen that things are about to change for the worse.

The White LilyWhile the hero, Rob, and the heroine Faye, get their happily ever after at the end of book one, the plot isn’t resolved. In book 2, two new main characters join the others in search of  the Harvester. Rob and Faye are still part of the story, but they are secondary characters. As a detective, Rob features more prominently than Faye, but it is her knowledge and expertise that Jacob needs to understand how New Horizon has changed. The White Lily follows BAU special agent Lilith Munroe in her search for the Harvester and a niece lost to her fifteen years ago when the child’s mother was part of a cult’s mass suicide. Now, considered an expert on cults, Lilith partners with Jacob Andrews, the Prophet’s nephew to bring him down before he can set his ultimate plan in motion.  Brought together by a vicious kidnapper-killer whose signature is a bouquet of flowers containing white lilies, tThe White Irishe couple must overcome their own personal demons as the search for a man who is evil personified. The White Lily will be available in October.

Jacob and Lilith will get a happy for now in book two that will become a happily ever after in book 3, The White Iris. But this time, they’ll be joined by another heroine who will help Trevor Clark, the hard working BAU team leader take down the man who’d kill millions in his delusional belief he’s doing what the Creator wants him to do.  All those touched by evil will get their just rewards as this book wraps up the series. The White Iris will be available in late December.

So there you have it: my white flower series.  W is for White, but in my books, it doesn’t stand for innocence.

Now, go to

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2015.html and check out more W blogs.

Look Who Dropped By Today: Rori Shay

Suspected banner
It’s my pleasure to be part of the book blitz for Suspected (#2) by Rori Shay. This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 20 April till 3 May, you can view the complete blitz schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.
So far this series contains 2 books: Elected (The Elected series #1) and Suspected (The Elected series #2). The Elected series is about the environment and environmental change and what can happen after climate change. It’s about a girl pretending to be a boy for the good of her country. Fans of Mulan will love this series.

SuspectedSuspected (The Elected series #2)
By Rori Shay

Genre: Dystopia
Age category: Young Adult

Blurb:
East Country upheld the laws. Mid destroyed them.

In the year 2185 Earth is rebuilding after a global eco-crisis. Countries maintain complete isolation so there is no warfare over scarce resources. One Elected family is chosen to lead each country for 100 years to ensure stability. Women aren’t allowed to take office and must reproduce at all costs. Technology use of any kind is banned to preserve what’s left of the environment.

And yet, I’m my country’s Elected. I’ve just sanctioned technology use to ready us for war. I’m about to cross the border to spy on our neighbor. And…I’m a girl. Shhhhhh…..

Excerpt: 

Even the terrain in Mid Country senses we are intruders. Jagged rocks and thorny brown weeds jut out of the earth, scraping our ankles and slowing our progress. I didn’t have as much trouble hiking up East Country’s side of the border, but now that the three of us, me, Griffin, and Margareath, descend the steep slope into Mid, we’re constantly catching ourselves mid-stumble.

“You ok?” Griffin asks, reaching out a hand to steady me.

“Uh-huh.” The lie sounds hollow, even to my own ears. But I say it anyway and pick up my pace. I don’t want Griffin to convince me to turn back again like he tried to do as we waited for Margareath at the hill’s crest. Going back to East Country is the one thing I can’t do, and Griffin doesn’t even know the whole reason why. All he thinks is, I left East Country to spy on our neighbor and to help him escape our country’s death penalty.

Yet there is another reason, and thus far, there has been no good time to tell Griffin he’s going to father not one, but two children in the Elected family. My pregnancy is something I want to divulge in a special way, not as we run like fugitives, breaking almost every law of our forefathers.

When the lights from Mid catch my attention again and almost set me into a forward tumble, I try to focus on doing one thing at a time: get down the hill, cross into Mid Country, then tell Griffin the news.

Everything about Mid so far is offensive: their flagrant display of electricity, the strange way Margareath didn’t remember her family when asked about her children moments ago, even the air on Mid’s side of the Nirogene mines smells different than ours. There is a faint scent of wet metal and something sweetly acidic, which I can’t quite place, but that’s causing me to gag. I stop for a second, burying my face into the fabric of my shirt sleeve to take a deep, clean breath. Vienne warned me that newly pregnant I’d have a heightened sense of smell. That, on top of my perpetual nausea, is overwhelming to say the least.

I blink my eyes once hard before proceeding forward again. The massive amount of illegal light emanating from Mid’s epicenter miles to our west is tremendous. It’s so dark on the mountain and so bright in the distance; our direct path seems even bleaker.

“Just a little more to the bottom of the hill,” says Margareath. She pants in between every other word, the exhaustion of our trek down this treacherous mountain evident on her features. “Once we reach the bottom, it’s about a day and a half walk to Mid’s city.”

I try to estimate the number of miles from the border to Mid’s center. Maybe fifty, given Margareath’s statement and the fact that our pace is relatively slow. How long, I wonder, would it take a group of fighters from East to traverse the plains if an invasion was required? Every nugget of data on Mid gets me one step closer to understanding why they’re trying to invade my country, steal our resources, and kill my people. And closer to figuring out how to stop them.

I turn my head to peek at Griffin. Even in the inky darkness, I can see his brow furrowed in concentration. He’s been trying to act calm as we make our unlawful descent into enemy territory, but I can see the uneasiness in his eyes. He’s an escaped convict, and I’ve just broken at least two of the world’s Eco Accords. He’s as determined to thwart Mid as I am, but sneaking into the country is dangerous for both of us.

And Margareath is only barely helping. She’s been strange ever since we met her at the hill’s peak, giving hints about Mid Country, but not really telling us anything tangible. Her apparent glorification of our enemy and its “amazing” capabilities is unnerving.

What if it’s a trap? Could Margareath, the first and only spy I sent into Mid, have defected? Would she dare lead us straight into the hands of Mid’s Elected? Breaking the Eco Accords and country isolationism would be a good enough excuse for their leader to execute me and Griffin right on the spot.

You can find Suspected on Goodreads

You can buy Suspected here:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Smashwords
Silence in the Library

First book in the series:
ElectedElected (The Elected series #1)
By Rori Shay
Genre: Dystopia
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: April 8, 2014

I’ve read Elected and believe me, it’s an excellent book. I look forward to reading Suspected in the near future. 

Blurb:
It’s the year 2185, and in two weeks, Aloy will turn eighteen and take her father’s place as president of the country. But to do so, she must masquerade as a boy to avoid violating the Eco-Accords, four treaties designed to bring the world back from the brink of environmental extinction. Aloy hopes to govern like her father, but she is inheriting a different country. The long concealed Technology Faction is stepping out of the shadows, and as turmoil grows within her country, cryptic threats also arrive from beyond their borders.

As she struggles to lead, Aloy maintains her cover by marrying a woman, meanwhile battling feelings for the boy who knows her secret—the boy who is somehow connected to her country’s recent upheaval. When assassination attempts add to the turmoil, Aloy doesn’t know whom to trust. She understood leadership required sacrifice. She just didn’t realize the sacrifice might be her life.

Excerpt: 

ONE BLONDE CURL IS wrapped lusciously around my pointer finger. I gaze down at it and then force my eyes upward to drink in the image of my face. Long, blonde hair trails past my shoulders and onto my back. In the cracked mirror, my eyes squint, trying to capture this one fleeting picture of myself as a girl.

This is what I could look like if I weren’t forced to masquerade as a boy.

I am staring so intently into the mirror I don’t even hear my mother—my Ama—come into the room behind me.

“Take that off immediately!” Her voice is tight and stiff, like rubber being stretched too far, about to snap. “Can you imagine the controversy it would stir?” She whisks the blonde wig off my head and bunches it into a ball. Before I can say anything, she throws it into the fireplace in my room.

I look at my fingers, the ones that a moment ago delicately touched the wig like it was my own hair. “Sorry, Ama,” I say, head bent downward. “I was just looking.” My voice comes out gravelly like a dull knife coaxing butter across a dry piece of toast. I lick my lips and let a few beads of cold perspiration appear on my forehead without bothering to wipe them away.

My mother comes to stand behind me, peering into the shards of mirror in front of us both. She lays a hand on my fuzzy head. I try to imagine my dark blonde hair grown out, looking like the wig. But all I can see in front of me now are the short tufts my parents insist get trimmed every other week.

“My darling, your eighteenth birthday is coming so fast. Just two more weeks.” I look up into her wistful, worried eyes as she tries to smile back at me. “You’re going to be a powerful leader. I know it.”

I’m not as sure as she pretends to be. I’ve been training to be the Elected all my life, but now that it’s two weeks away, the worry makes me feel like I’ve eaten moldy bread.

I want to tell her my concerns. How I’m not sure I’ll like Vienne, the girl I’m set to marry. How I don’t think I’ll be able to convince everyone Vienne is pregnant with my baby when it’s utterly and physically impossible. How I wish the real future leader hadn’t run away from the job, leaving it solely in my incapable hands. It’s almost laughable how many ruses we’ll have to pull over on our own people for me and my family to stay in power.

But I don’t have time to voice any of these thoughts because there’s a sharp knock at the bedroom door.

“Come,” my mother commands. Her tone is authoritative, as it should be in her position as Madame Elected.

The door opens, and a maid with a bob of shoulder-length red hair steps inside the room. I can’t help but stare at her, wishing my life was easy like hers—that I could be who I really am, instead of playing a part constructed for me. The girl is beautiful. I don’t even know if I could be that beautiful, but one day I’d like to at least have the opportunity to see. For now, I shudder, remembering the ragged, short hair on my head and the men’s clothing, which doesn’t sit quite right on my curving waist.

“Ma’am, it’s time for Aloy’s lessons.”

I stand up without having to be told. I actually like my lessons. Tomlin’s been my tutor since before I can remember.

The maid leads me into the hallway, down a flight of stairs, and into a room once called the Oval Office. Tomlin is already sitting on the large, reddish couch near the fire. It’s particularly chilly this time of year. I know August has grown colder since I was a child. Thoughtfully, someone has already laid a stack of blankets on the side of another couch, and I grab one for my shoulders before I sit. It smells like moth balls and bleach, but I wrap it around myself anyway.

“Are you well today, Aloy?” Tomlin asks, not even looking up from a book open on his lap.

“I’m fine. And you?”

“A bit cold lately, isn’t it? I can’t seem to shake the sniffles.”

I look at Tomlin carefully and see the tint of blue shadows under his eyes.

“Have you called anyone to look at your cold?” My eyebrows rise with concern.

“No, I don’t have time for the bother of it.”

I know what he means. There’s a serum stored in our house. The stuff will practically erase all traces of a malady the second you swallow one of the little pills infused with the serum. We have bottles upon bottles of it. However, because we don’t have the ability to manufacture any more, the serum is guarded behind vaults, and only the Elected family is allowed to take any of it. No one is even worried I’ll catch Tomlin’s cold because I can easily be given one of these purple pills to cure myself. It’s a waste really. But for Tomlin, a cold in August weather can mean months of coughing, sneezing, and sore throats. Unfortunately, there’s nothing our doctors can do for him. So I understand why Tomlin doesn’t want to bother seeing a doctor.

“We just have two more weeks until you’re in office,” he says, getting right to it.

“And just two more weeks till I’m married.” My voice carries a distinct crack.

Tomlin looks me in the eyes for the first time, his brow furrowed. “Are you backing out?”

I purse my lips and smile, finally able to lose the formality I’d held around my mother. “No, don’t worry. I’m still planning to be the Elected.”

After all these years, I think they still worry I’ll run away from my birthright, not wanting the responsibility and the farce, which goes along with it. But it’s my duty to family and country. It’s what I was born for. So while I may be reluctant, I’m still committed.

“Well, good.” Tomlin relaxes a bit back into the couch. “Political history seems like a good starting point for today, given the upcoming events, don’t you think?” He goes on, not expecting an answer from me. “So tell me, what was the year of the Elected Accords?”

I answer immediately. “Twenty-one fifteen. Too easy. Give me another.”

He smiles. “All right, what countries signed the Elected Accord in twenty-one fifteen and why?”

This is a trick question, but I know this one too. “All of the ones still left.”

“Go on. What kind of stability is provided by the Elected Accord?”

“Voters choose a whole family to take each country’s Elected office for a century at a time. Which means more stability and less chance of a new official negating any of the Accords.”

“Very good. All right, what was the last Accord enacted by the countries?”

I stop for a second. “The Technology Accord?”

“No, you continually get that wrong. It was the Ship Accord.” Tomlin doesn’t look in my direction as he delivers this slight admonishment, like somehow my error signifies a foreboding, more significant ramification. He shifts in his seat with an uncomfortable tic of one shoulder.

I always get it wrong because I don’t understand why the Technology Accord didn’t fulfill its designated purpose. It was supposed to make all the fighting—all the world wars—stop. If people couldn’t fire guns, fly missiles, or hurl bombs across oceans, then fighting should have ceased. My brow creases and Tomlin shakes his head.

“The Technology Accord banned creation of technology for two distinct reasons,” Tomlin continues. “One, so we wouldn’t keep destroying the environment, and two, so countries would become isolated from one another. It should have forced peace. Yet, people still rode ships through the oceans to reach distant lands and fight in hand-to-hand combat. The Ship Accord finally stopped world travel and communication as a whole.”

I see my opportunity to ask the very thing that’s been on the tip of my tongue for months. Something I know my parents won’t answer but that Tomlin might—if for no other reason than to further my education. “The Ship Accord didn’t stop everyone, though.” I know I’m bringing up something painful.

“You’re right.” Tomlin looks down.

“My brother.” I lean forward in my chair, expectant for some new tidbit of information from Tomlin. “What happened to him?” I am unwavering with my request for information on Evan.

“We don’t know.” Tomlin’s sadness is apparent.

“You were his tutor, right? What was he like? Would he have made a better Elected than me?” I’ve always wondered if Evan would have been better suited for the role than I. I know the answer must be yes since he was the true Elected, the only male heir of the family. Only men are allowed to be the Elected since women must focus on repopulation. But my parents and Tomlin encourage me to have more confidence. They have to, I guess, since they have no other choice. I’m their only option left.

I know Tomlin doesn’t enjoy talking about my brother. No one does. Evan was everyone’s pride and joy until he ran away. But I never knew him at all. My parents had me as a hurried attempt for another child after Evan disappeared.

I keep pressing Tomlin for other information, knowing I won’t get an answer about Evan’s character. “How does everyone know Evan escaped via boat? How did he even find a ship to get away? I thought my grandfather destroyed all of them.” I see Tomlin cringe at my word ‘escaped’, and I chide myself that I’ve yet again made the Elected role sound like a prison sentence.

“As far as anyone knew, they were all dismantled, the parts used for building materials.” Tomlin rakes a hand through the thin wisps of his hair.

“So how’d Evan get one?” I am relentless. “And how’d he get it past Apa?” I can’t imagine how Evan managed to plan such an elaborate departure under my father’s tight scrutiny.

“Enough.” Tomlin’s tone is harsh but quiet. I know he can’t be budged when he doesn’t want to proceed. “We need to keep going with your studies. The public will expect you to be well-trained when you take office.”

“Okay, just one more question?” I ask, looking at my fingernails. They are perfect half-moons except for the two pinkies on whose nails I obsessively gnaw. As I get nearer to the date of my inauguration, the two nails seem to get shorter and shorter.

“One more, then we go on. But it must do with the Accords.”

“It does. Sort of. What do other countries do with people who make it through the sea to their lands?”

I can’t look at Tomlin while I wait for the answer. It’s something I already know in my heart, but I want to hear it out loud.

Finally, Tomlin answers, his voice a mere whisper. “What would we do?”

I stretch my palm out so I’m playing with my fingers instead of concentrating fully on my own words. I almost don’t want to hear them—don’t want to hear what might have happened to Evan.

“We use hemlock.”

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Silence in the Library

Rori ShayAbout the Author:
Rori Shay is a strategic management consultant living in the Seattle area with her family, black lab, and cat. In the writing world, Rori is primarily know for her science fiction trilogy, The Elected Series. She enjoys running, reading, snow-shoeing, pumpkin-picking, and right now…writing the third ELECTED novel! Rori is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

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