- The opening scene, of a group of bored, thrill-seeeking teens breaking into a mysterious, creepy, long-abandoned mansion in the New Orleans Garden District, came to me in a dream. I was literally right there with them J
- As I shaped the dream into a series, my original idea was : What happens when your father is a devout Catholic…and your mother is the daughter of a renowned voodoo queen? (The voodoo part, ultimately, got nixed!)
- New Orleans is the most haunted city in America.
- The character of Dylan was originally named Jeb, and not only was he not slated to be a major character, he was scheduled to meet an untimely end…
- For research, I walked every street Trinity walked, explored every place she explored (including the cemeteries!), even those where, um, neither of us were supposed to be…
- Chase’s family home in Chalmette, which was wiped away by Hurricane Katrina, is based upon the home of some friends of mine.
- My editor’s favorite character? Amber!
- The original ending of book 2, Broken Illusions, was going to feature…nah, I can’t tell you that. But it was different. Very different.
- The hardest scene to write? That “spontaneous” ending, followed closely by the beginning of Fragile Darkness.
- If I could change anything about the series, I would get Trinity back to the abandoned mansion on Prytania Street a whole lot sooner…with an entirely different outcome….
- Okay, since I copped out on #8, I’ll go one more: My favorite scene of the entire series happens in book 3, Fragile Darkness, when Trinity takes off during a Mardi Gras parade for a mysterious meeting, with Dylan in close pursuit…and listening to her every word, every breath, through the open phone line.
- And heck, why stop at 11? The abandoned Six Flags park is real. It’s still there, sitting, rotting…waiting…
- And finally, my favorite line: “Will you touch me like you did before, and make the darkness go away?”
Congratulations, Alyssa Llanes!!!!
You've won a Midnight Dragonfly Swagpack!!!
Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by during the YA Scavenger Hunt! And just because I had so much fun, I've chosen one more extra winner!
Christine H (@mrsmonnandez)
…because she Nancy-Drewed around the Internet to figure out the thing with the number 14.
I hope everyone had as much fun with the Hunt as the authors did…and I look forward to seeing you more often!! Any quesitons about my books, be sure to drop me a note at email@example.com, or to check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midnight-Dragonfly-Books-by-Ellie-James/154988421236309
Hello! So glad you stopped by! Ellie James here, your hostess for this leg of the hunt. For those who don’t know me, I’m the ultimate Lost, The Walking Dead, and Maroon 5 fan-girl who loves to write about things that go bump in the night, awesome unexplained phenomenon, fear and terror and excitement, and, of course, the thrill of falling in love. I’m also somewhat of a chocolate chip aficionado. Got an awesome recipe for me to try? Be sure to leave it in the comments! My quest to find the best cookie is endless. It's all in the research, you know?
So. Some of you have probably done this before, but a little birdie tells me we have lots of first-timers, so let’s swing through some general housekeeping to make sure everyone knows the ins and outs of what we’re doing. The YA Scavenger Hunt is an online blog hop created by the fabulous Colleen Houck. There’s no better way-heck, maybe no other way—to get your hands on awesome bonus material by your favorite YA authors. Oh, and prizes. We’ve got some pretty amazing prizes up for grabs, such as, for one lucky winner, at least one signed book from each author on my team. But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours—until noon PST on April 7!
Now if you came here looking for my bonus material, a Cutting Room Floor scene from the third book in the Midnight Dragonfly series, FRAGILE DARKNESS, you’ll have to keep hunting!
BUT you can definitely start your hunt right here…or skip over to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage to find out more info. And if you ever find yourself stuck as you are moving through the hunt, click through to this page.) Oh! And this: there are TWO contests going on simultaneously! I am a part of the BLUE TEAM–but there is also a red team. You can enter both contests!
One more thing: You’ll notice that I’ve included my favorite number at the end of the post. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the blue team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!). Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by December 2, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
ARE YOU READY for something really amazing???
Earlier this year I picked up a book by a new-to-me author, and was utterly blown away by the story unfolding in the pages. The author was the incredibly talented Kate Avelynn, the book her riveting story of a broken family, FLAWED. I’m not sure what trick of fate enabled me to host Kate for this leg of the tour, but I am and now the treat is all yours!
Meet the lovely Kate Avelynn!
When not devouring books, holding down her editing gig, or attempting to coax life out of the weed patch she calls a “garden,” Kate Avelynn writes dark contemporary YA and NA that blends first love, betrayal, and danger. If not for cookies and orange juice, her world would be an equally dark place.
To find out more about Kate and her book, visit her website at http://www.kateavelynn.com .
Now, about FLAWED:
Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago—James will protect her from their violent father if she promises not to leave him. James has destroyed his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely—until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give. As her forbidden relationship with her brother's best friend deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam Donavon has decided he’s going to save her. But neither of them realize James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact…
FLAWED can be bought here:
FLAWED introduced readers to James, Sam, and Sarah. Rather than write a follow up about what happened…after…Kate decided to take the next book in a different, albeit related, direction. Enter fan-favorite Alex Anderson, best friend of James and Sam, and fellow cage fighter at the Armory. In FLAWED, he went from irresponsible pyromaniac running through the forest naked, to a guy dealing something no one should ever have to experience. Last month, Kate posted two alternate/extended endings to FLAWED (which you should NOT read if you haven’t read the book—total spoiler alert) on her website, and one of them shows just how much Alex changed. The boy deserves a book, and Kate is giving it to him, as only Kate can.
So…..what I get to share with you in terms of Exclusive Content is the beginning of Alex’s book. Readers might also recognize the heroine’s tie to the first story, which is going to cause all sorts of problems for Alex. Knowing Kate, this book will be as dangerous, sweet, and sexy as the first, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!
Without further ado, I give you the opening chapter of Alex’s story, as told from the POV of his heroine, Ashley Granger…
Being the younger sister of a drug dealer has its perks.
Instant popularity, for one.
"C'mon," the guy that can't be more than a sophomore whines outside the bathroom stall. "I've got a test in an hour and there's no way I'm gonna pass if I don't take something."
I scoot further back, gingerly placing my feet on the toilet seat, and hug my knees to my chest. "I don’t have anything to sell you," I say to the chipped purple door in front of me. "Go away."
Half a dozen dull, fleshy thuds shake my rectangular metal prison and reverberate against the tile walls. You'd think the guy was already high with how freaky he's acting. At least this stupid school had the foresight to install floor to not-very-high-ceiling stalls or he'd have gotten in by now.
"Everyone knows you're Leslie's sister," he says in a frustrated voice. "Leslie wouldn't leave us hanging like this. Leslie gave a damn."
Yeah, well, Leslie is in jail, I want to snap. But I don't. He knows as well as I do where my sister now lives.
What I want to know is why everyone thinks I'm taking her place.
"Did she tell you I was coming back or something?" My anger explodes into a hateful inferno at the thought. She’s the reason I'm back in this podunk hellhole in the first place. "Is that what this is about?"
"Just give me the fucking drugs!"
His body slams into the door so hard the rusty hinges bend inward. One or two more blows like that will shatter the brittle metal or cave the door in—probably both. Maybe I'll get lucky and he'll knock himself out first.
No such luck. I scramble backward, as if the three or four more inches I'm able to put between us will make a difference, but the ridiculous sheepskin boots my mom forced me to wear slip on the porcelain seat. My butt lands precariously close to the low bowl of toilet water.
If I fall into a toilet on my first day back at school, I'll kill the sophomore drug addict responsible with my bare hands.
And then I'll kill my sister.
The door groans, seconds from collapsing inward, but the guy apparently doesn't notice this or he'd just plow into it one more time and get this over with. Instead, he shouts, "Give. Me. The. Drugs," punctuating each word with his fists.
All it had taken was the counselor saying my name—my full name—to my new homeroom teacher to set the school's gossip mill on fire. Ashley Granger, estranged little sister of the infamous—and recently imprisoned—Leslie Granger, Granite Fall's drug dealer extraordinaire. Mr. Carter pushed his wire-rimmed glasses further up his nose and looked at me with so much disdain, I might as well have slunk into town with Titty’s Traveling Porn Circus instead of transferring from the prestigious Ashworth Academy of Art.
Hang me now.
I take a shaky breath, mentally run through the circle of fifths twice, and try again. "I don't have anything—"
The stall bursts open in a shower of metal shards and purple paint flakes. Shrieking, I hop up onto the seat, plaster myself to the cool tile wall, and try to stay out of the way of the guy who clearly misjudged the strength needed to plow through the door. His shoulder slams into the plastic toilet paper dispenser, shattering it and pinballing his head into the grimy metal pipes between my legs. With a grunt, he falls to the floor beside the toilet bowl.
"You're crying?" I blurt out when I see his shining eyes. "Seriously?"
"Shut up," he grumbles and staggers to his feet. "Give me your bag."
"Hell no!" The faded green messenger bag is the only thing I have left of my former life at Ashworth. I clutch it to my chest and stroke its worn corduroy fabric, mentally calculating the odds of clearing his head if I try to leap over him.
I suck at math, but even I know the odds aren't in my favor.
Before he can wrestle my bag from my shoulder or knock me into the toilet, the door to the bathroom squeaks open. "Thank God," I groan, maneuvering myself into gut-elbowing range. I cock my arm back. "It's about time someone—"
My elbow collides with empty air, knocking me off balance. Or maybe it's the sight of a freckled redhead in smoky blue coveralls roundhouse punching the sophomore I'd been about to seriously hurt. The kid lands in a limp pile of bones and flesh on the floor.
"You okay?" the redheaded guy asks me. "I heard him bust in the door clear down the hallway."
I wait for him to flex the fist he probably just broke, but he doesn't.
"I'm fine," I say, and glance at the white name patch sewn onto his coveralls over his heart. Alex Anderson, it says in red, cursive letters. "Are you the janitor or something?"
He grins. "Nah. Why aren't you in class?"
"I couldn't find my class. I was on my way to the office when this guy" —I nudge the unconscious sophomore's thigh with the toe of my boot— "cornered me in here."
"Nice,” he says, taking in the mangled stall before turning his attention back to me. “You look really familiar. Do I know you?"
"Doubtful," I grumble. The inquisitive look in his too-green eyes tells me we're about to start a game of twenty questions I really don't want to play, so I duck my head and try to escape through the door. "Thanks again."
"Wait a sec," he says, blocking my path with a body wider than a body has any right being. His goofy grin and hopeful puppy-dog eyes destroy my irritation before I can properly unleash it. He looks like a twelve-year-old stuffed in a twenty-five-year-old's body.
"You don't look like a student," I snap. "How old are you?"
"That's a little personal, don't you think?"
I roll my eyes. "Not if you're another asshole senior trying to sweet talk me into selling you drugs I. Don't. Have."
The humor in his smile bleeds away, leaving a shell of pasty, freckled skin and fake friendliness in its place. "Drugs?"
"Let me guess." I put my hands on my hips and give him my best stink eye. "There's a kickass party this weekend and you want to slip a few pills into the hot girls' drinks so you and your buddies can get lucky. Or maybe you have a test next hour, too?"
"You're Leslie's little sister," he says, looking even more pale than before. "You're Ashley, aren't you?"
"Bingo." I toss my frazzled hair over my shoulder and elbow him out of my way. "Nice to meet you, Alex."
Ahhhh! How amazing is that? BUT THAT’S NOT ALL I’VE GOT FOR YOU! I’ve got contests!
YA SCAVENGER HUNT CONTEST
To enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Kate Avelynn, and more!, you need to know that my favorite number is 14. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the blue team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
My very own Midnight Dragonfly Series Contest
You have several chances to win a fabulous prize pack including a signed copy of SHATTERED DREAMS, a signed copy of BROKEN ILLUSIONS, a signed copy of FRAGILE DARKNESS, 3 signed bookmarks, 3 book charms, and a beautiful dragonfly charm:
Here's all you have to do:
- Follow me on Twitter (1 point)
- Get friends to follow me on Twitter (1 point per friend)
- Like me on Facebook (1 point)
- Get friends to follow me on Facebook (1 point per friend)
- Leave me a comment here under this blog post telling me how many points to give you. Just leaving a comment counts 1 point. (And if you have done 1-6, give me your user names and your friends’ user names so I can credit your points.) Please leave all of the information inside one comment, instead of a comment per person. The drawing will be random, but the number of points you get determines how many times your name will be put into the hat.
- If you know why 14 is my favorite number, 1 more point to you!
- Oh…and if you know the song used for my trailer, that's 1 last point!
Note: to be eligible to win you also need to submit a valid entry for the YA Scavenger Hunt grand prize.
Ready to go to the next website on the Scavenger Hunt? Click HERE to head over to Lisa Voisin’s blog.
And as we say in the south…see y'all later! Have fun and thanks for stopping by!
We’ve all been there. You meet a guy, or maybe you just see him across the classroom or at a party. And he seems so perfect. He’s that guy, the one everyone wants. Good looking. Quarterback of the football team. Popular. Charismatic. The kind of smile that makes you feel like you’re the only one in the room. He’s perfect. You fall for him hard and fast, and miracle of miracles, he notices you. You get together. You go out. You become a thing, and suddenly it’s like you’re living your own amazing story. Everything is…perfect.
It’s a story as old as time. Girl meets boy, boy meets girl, everything is perfect. The End.
But in reality, that’s just the beginning, right? So what happens next? What happens after you and the perfect guy hook up? It’s your dream, your fantasy. It’s what you wanted—he’s what you wanted. And yet…
Ah. The and yet. That’s where things get complicated.
Everything’s perfect. You keep telling yourself that. He’s that guy, the one everyone wants, and he’s yours. You’re so lucky. And yet, sometimes you catch yourself not feeling the way you want to feel. Maybe it’s a jealous streak that sometimes feels controlling, or the way he checks up on you that feels like he doesn’t trust you. Or maybe it’s those little half-truths you discover, the times when he tells you he’s going straight home after dropping you off, but instead stops by a friend’s house—or party. You tell yourself that’s all part of it, that everything is perfect, remember?
Or maybe none of that happens. Maybe everything really is perfect. He’s awesome and nice and treats you like a princess.
But then it happens. You’re at a party or maybe at work or a hundred other places, and you meet someone. It’s casual, unplanned. But the second your eyes meet his, this place inside you comes surging to life. It’s overwhelming. Everything inside you in humming and buzzing, and you feel alive, alive in ways you never have before. But you think it’s wrong. You’re with someone else…
Has this ever happened to you? It’s happened to me, and it’s one of my pet peeves about fiction. In fiction, the first guy is almost always the right guy. In real life, not so much. In real life there are usually lots of guys, some pretty darn nice, others not so much, before the right guy comes along. And that guy who seems so perfect? The one who looks the part and acts the part, the one everyone wants…that doesn’t make him perfect for you. Perfect for you is the guy that makes you sing inside, the one that, when you so much as see him, little ripples go through you.
Ah, but what to do? What to do if you’re with one guy, a perfectly nice guy, when the right guy comes along? Are you a bad person for feeling what you feel? Is it wrong?
Those are all questions I played with in the Midnight Dragonfly series. With all the drama and uncertainty swirling around teenage psychic Trinity, I set out to give her a guy who would be her safe place. Chase. I wanted to explore the emotional whirlpool of having the one person who should doubt you the most be the one person to stand by your side. And so that’s what I wrote for the first 200 pages or so of SHATTERED DREAMS. A nice guy. A guy who stood by her. A guy who trusted her, believed in her. In fact, Chase was so nice some readers were suspicious of him, while others lamented that he was boring and wimpy. Then Dylan came along and everything changed—for Trinity, and for me. Chase had the resume of perfection, but it was Dylan who brought Trinity to life. Dylan who made that place inside her sing. And suddenly I had a problem. Chase was slotted to be the guy. Dylan was not. But clearly Dylan was the one.
What to do…what to do? At first I considered going back and rewriting the first 300 pages giving Dylan a bigger role and minimizing Chase, but then I realized life didn’t play like that. We move forward not backward, and sometimes, frankly, we’re just plain wrong.
So I plowed along, letting my dilemma play out on the page. Letting Trinity struggle. Letting her try to be loyal to the first guy, the one who had been so good to her even if sometimes he was a little jealous and overbearing. Making her try to resist the draw she felt to a guy she viewed as wrong, wrong, wrong, but who kept slipping into her dreams anyway. And as this played out in the stories, some readers got pretty vocal about her being with the wrong guy. It was so obvious to them—just as it’s obvious to our friends when we’re with the wrong guy. Suddenly Trinity’s struggle with the illusion of perfection versus the reality of it turned into a major plot point, and I loved it. I loved it because it was real. It was human. And, honestly, I loved that she discovered that sometimes the perfect guy…isn’t. It’s not about how popular or good looking he is, if everyone else wants him. It’s about something more, something deeper. It’s about that place inside of you, the place that sings, the place that knows. Like so many other things in life, we just have to be dialed into the clues we’re getting. Sometimes we want so badly for something to be perfect that we’re blinded to what really is.
Sometimes the right guy comes along at the wrong time, in the wrong clothes, with the absolute wrong resume…but stirs all the right feelings.
It’s happened to me—what about you?
About Ellie James
Most people who know Ellie think she’s your nice, average wife and mom of two little kids. They see someone who does all that normal stuff, like grocery shopping, going to soccer games, and somehow always forgetting to get the house cleaned and laundry done.
What they don't know is that more often than not, this LSU J-School alum is somewhere far, far away, deeply embroiled in solving a riddle or puzzle or crime, testing the limits of possibility, exploring the unexplained, and holding her breath while two people fall in love.
Regardless of which world Ellie’s in, she loves rain and wind and thunder and lightning; the first warm kiss of spring and the first cool whisper of fall; family, friends, and animals; dreams and happy endings; Lost and Fringe; Arcade Fire and Dave Matthews, and last but not least…warm gooey chocolate chip cookies.
You can follow Ellie on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midnight-Dragonfly-Books-by-Ellie-James/154988421236309
Her next book, FRAGILE DARKNESS, is available from Griffin Teen November 27, 2012.
About the Midnight Dragonfly Series
Glimpses. That’s all they are. Shadowy premonitions flickering through sixteen year old psychic Trinity Monsour’s dreams. Some terrify: a girl screaming, a knife lifting, a body in the grass. But others–the dark, tortured eyes and the shattering kiss, the promise of forever–whisper to her soul. They come without warning. They come without detail.
But they always mean the same thing: The clock is ticking, and only Trinity can stop it.
Find out how in Shattered Dreams, Broken Illusions, and Fragile Darkness, available from Griffin Teen!
Once Dylan came onboard, readers automatically found Chase, Trinity’s boyfriend, tepid. Truth be told, so did Trinity, which became a huge part of her conflict going forward. She thought Chase was the perfect guy. She’d had a crush on him since the first day of school, when she first saw him in homeroom. He was that guy, you know? Good looking. Quarterback of the football team. Popular. Charismatic. The kind of smile that makes a girl feel like she’s the only one in the room. As she got to know him, she fell hard and fast. He was…perfect. Until Dylan came along. Trinity noticed. Readers did, too.
So serendipity is a cool thing. One day last fall I was trying to find something out about my editor—I no longer remember what. But there I was, Googling my editor’s name and the next thing you know, I’ve landed at this webpage announcing this big acquisition my editor just made, winning an auction for a fabulous Urban Fantasy series by a new author. Intrigued, I slipped over to that author’s page…and that’s how I first met Leigh Evans. Through her webpage. Already Leigh had a blog going, and it was so….good. I read entry after entry, and felt like I was sitting down talking to a forever friend of mine. I loved her voice. It settled around me like, well, a friend. I kept reading, and suddenly I had goose-bumps and tears in my eyes, as if I was talking to, well…yeah. You got it. A friend. Very few times in my life have I felt so connected to someone I’d never technically met. This led to that, and I found myself emailing Leigh, feeling like a complete stalker-nut, telling her how we had the same editor and I was so excited for her, what a great blog she had, etc. And she answered. Quickly. Nicely. Warmly. And the rest, as they say, is history. Since then Leigh and I have struck up a great—real—friendship. We’ve laughed and we’ve commiserated, we’d sipped wine by a warm fire and sat barefoot around a cold swimming pool All good stuff!
In just one little month Leigh’s super fantastic debut, THE TROUBLE WITH FATE, hits the shelves. Yesterday, my book FRAGILE DARKNESS did. Given all that, when Leigh asked me to participate with her in The Next Big Thing, I jumped!
1) What is the title of your next book?
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea for the series came from a dream…a group of Young Adults sneaking into a mysterious, abandoned mansion in the New Orleans Garden District. The idea for this particular book came from one simple question: what if you suddenly lost everything that makes you who you are?
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Romantic YA Paranormal Thriller
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Okay, so this is something I’ve thought about (dreamed about?!?) from time to time. And it’s funny, but when I let my mind wander that direction, I always end up seeing a TV series, instead. The city of New Orleans, the two shops, one artistic and the other New Age, Trinity and Dylan and Victoria, the musicians Deuce and Trey, Aunt Sara and Julian…oiy. The possibilities are endless! Anyone know a good producer????
As for casting, that’s a tough one. This is a tough one. Some writers cut out lots of pictures and have these fabulous collage boards for their characters. That’s not the way it works for me. I tend to feel characters long before I see them. It’s as if I connect with them emotionally, empathically. I know them on the inside long before the outside.
Okay, actors and actresses. I decided to toss this to my editor, asking her who she would select to play Dylan. Her response? “An as yet undiscovered steamy little sexpot.”
I could have left it there, but I kept going, running a poll on my Facebook page. It took awhile, but finally a lovely reader, one Stacey Pehrson, came through with… Taylor Kitsch. Yes. Yes! Taylor just oozes Dylan’s dangerous sensuality. Perfect!
As for Trinity, I’d have to go with Leighton Meester, who has such strong, tough vibe about her.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In the wake of tragedy, sixteen year old psychic Trinity Monsour’s psychic visions have suddenly gone back, but she can still sense danger, and the danger she senses around a new friend sends her (and the one guy she knows she can never be with) deep into the underground New Orleans party scene…but how can you stop someone you can’t see?
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m represented by the Brown Literary Agency and published by the Griffin Teen imprint of my dream publisher, St. Martin’s Press.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
10 weeks, + about another 8 to hammer out revisions
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hmmmm, that’s a good question, especially in light of #9! But I’d have to say the Midnight Dragonfly series’s closest cousins are Kimberly Derting’s Body Finder series and Sharon Sala’s Lunatic Life series, both of which feature a teenage girl with psychic abilities! Oh, and one reviewer said Nancy Drew, so yeah, Nanch Drew, but with modern, edgy, paranormal twists…and a whole lot hotter guys!
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Besides the super fascinating dream (#2, above?)… I’d have to say it’s my love of All Things Unexplained. I’m a sucker for dreams and visions, possibility, and all those other fascinating frontiers of the human mind! If it’s freaky, I’m your girl J
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
LOL…everyone in my books are human! Seriously! With the explosion of fantasy elements within Young Adult, we seem to have vampires and weres and angels and demons all over the place. However, everyone in my series is human, just like you and me, with the exception of some fairly refined psychic abilities. IOW: it could happen to you, too!
Okay! So up next, I’ve tagged some terrific author sisters as The Next Big Thing:
The delightful Gina Robinson, author of spylicious romances with the most clever, fantastic covers (and titles!) ever!
The fabulous Donna Grant, author of Dark Warriors and Dark Kings, who writes about destiny and desire, magic and mystery, warriors and lovers, and all thing sensuous, erotic, and yummy!
The sweet and fascinating Cassie Alexander, whom I had the pleasure of meeting over the summer, Urban Fantasy Author, Registered Nurse, and Blood Aficionado!
And the adorable AC Arthur, who keeps readers on their toes (and begging for more!) with intriguing plots, sensual love scenes, racy characters and fresh dialogue.
Have at it, ladies…you're it!
A funny thing happened when I sat down to write FRAGILE DARKNESS.
The Midnight Dragonfly series tells the story of sixteen-year-old Trinity Monsour, through Trinity’s narration. The reader knows what Trinity knows. Things that are a mystery to Trinity are a mystery to the reader. Secrets are secrets. However, when it came time to write Fragile Darkness, I had someone else distracting me. Every time I tried to write a scene, he wanted to take over. He had something to say it turns out, and he wanted a voice. My editor and I talked it over, and as much as we wanted to know what he had to say, we decided we couldn’t change the story telling method this deep into the series. These are Trinity’s books, and he couldn’t just barge in and take over…even if that’s exactly what he was doing.
As the story progressed I found ways to get his story out there, but all this time he’s been whispering in my ear, whispering…whispering… And you know, a girl can only resist for so long, right? Especially with someone….um…as persuasive as he is.
So, I surrender. Here it is. My white flag—his voice.
Secret Scene 1 of 5
He awoke to the sound of music. He lay without moving, not even opening his eyes. He didn’t need to. He knew what he would see. Once the soft strains had been a constant in his life, his nights. But for a long time there’d been only silence.
He’d been dreaming. He was sure of it. His heart was slamming way too fast, the way it did when he raced the dogs along the levee. Even in absolute stillness, his breath ripped in and out. But he had no memory of where he’d been or what he’d seen, why he had the crazy urge to get on his bike and ride.
Centering himself, he concentrated on slowing everything down. It was a skill that served him well.
He was being watched. He knew that, too. Opening his eyes, he automatically reached for the big Siamese crouched in on the pillow next to him. The cat’s fur was short and wiry, his gaze round and blue and timeless, his purr barely discernable.
Restless, he rolled from bed and yanked on his jeans, not bothering to fasten them as he grabbed his blade and slipped into the darkness of his father’s house. He didn’t need light or sound to know that Bakta followed.
At the front, he deactivated the security system, undid a series of deadbolts, and opened first the solid oak door, then the screen. Both creaked, even though the house was only a few years old.
Outside, a warm muggy breeze swirled in from the river, flowing quietly behind a wall of cypress and oak. His mother’s wind chimes, fastened from her grandmother’s silver spoons, tinkled in the breeze. Above her favorite Virgin Mary statue, a dream catcher dangled.
The house was new, but the arrangement of the front porch was identical to the one of his childhood.
He didn’t need to whistle for the dogs to come. Elvis and Neville trotted up the three wood steps like they always did, silently settling down on either side of him. They were relaxed, sleepy even, telling him that no one his in the shadows. But, gripping the rail, he couldn’t stop looking.
He had no idea for what.
There was no reason he should have shifted to his left, near the last wooden column. The movement was too subtle. It shouldn’t have caught his eye.
But it wasn’t his eye that it caught.
In the shift of shadows, a lone dragonfly hovered against the breeze.
Instinctively he lifted his hand, and the iridescent creature fluttered closer, hesitating only briefly before landing along his index finger.
Again he became aware of being watched, but several minutes passed before his father crossed the porch.
The dragonfly did not fly away.
“You feel it, don’t you?” his father asked.
He stared off toward a skeletal cypress tree, still fighting to recover all these years after the storm.
“There’s something you need to know.”
Now he turned, his eyes meeting the stark silver of his father’s, so very much like his own.
“ I talked to Joe today,” his father said. “A few days ago a sixteen year old girl went missing—”
“The one from Enduring Grace.” He’d heard it on the news.
His father nodded. “And another girl came forward—”
Instinctively he went very, very still.
“She says she had a dream,” his father said slowly, watching him, studying. “…that she the girl in a dream.”
No. That’s what he wanted to say. No. It’s not her. It can’t be. There was no way that was possible. She’d been gone for a long time—fourteen years. She was far away. Safe.
But the words wouldn’t form. Because finally he knew. Finally he understood the restlessness.
Against his chest the wind swirled, softer now, warmer.
“She’s going to need us,” his father said. Long, silver strands of hair slapped at his face. “Need you.”
Memories crashed in on him, of the last time he’d seen her, with her hair pulled back in a high pony tail and her big golden retriever at her side, gazing up at him as she tried valiantly to hide the glaze of sadness in her eyes.
“You’ll come back, won’t you?” she said. “Next year?”
He’d known what she was feeling, exactly what she was feeling. Without a word or a look, a touch, he’d known. Happiness, fear, terror. Sorrow. Love.
And he’d known he could never go back.
“That was a long time ago,” he said quietly. They’d been only kids.
His dad’s smile was tight. “Time doesn’t change anything.”
He knew that. That was the problem, the danger. “She shouldn’t be here.” She didn’t belong. That’s what he told himself. This was the last place he wanted her to be. But those were both lies. She did belong, and—
The and didn’t matter. It was wrong. Dangerous. The years and miles between them were more like lifetimes.
“Why would Miss Rose let her anywhere near New Orleans?” he asked, not even trying to hide the rough scrape of his voice.
But he didn’t need his dad to answer. He already knew. He’d always known.
Life could only stay paused for so long. Sooner or later, the sun always emerged from hiding, its light seeping against the darkness.
Destiny was destiny, and it always found a way.
“It’s not about trust.”
I kept my eyes on his. “No,” I said. “It’s about letting go.”
His eyes flashed.
“And that’s what I need you to do.” I made myself step back. It shouldn’t have been hard. I had to do this alone. I knew that. It was what Will wanted, needed. “Let go⎯and trust.”
The warmth of Dylan’s body fell away, leaving the breeze to swirl bet
“Where’s your phone?” I asked.
Watching me, he slid it from his pocket.
With another step back, I tapped out his number. “Two minutes,” I mouthed.
His phone started to ring.
“Then you can follow.”
Never looking away, he pushed the answer button.
“You can hear everything,” I said over the hard slam of my heart. “It’ll be like you’re right there with me.”
He lifted the phone to his face. “No, it won’t.”
Through the phone, the words, so raw and threadbare, scraped in ways I didn’t want to feel. “If anything happens⎯”
“I’ll be there.”
It was all I could do to breathe. Because I knew he would. He would be there.
He always was.
Not trusting myself to stand there one second longer, I turned and darted into the crowd.
One minute, two, it didn’t matter, not with the swell of people cramming from all directions. Seconds⎯a heartbeat. That’s all I needed to lose myself. All it took to change everything.
“Talk to me,” he said.
My heart kicked, hard. “About what?”
“Anything. Just let me hear your voice.”
Seven words. That’s all they were. Words through a phone. But with them the racing inside me quieted, and I had something to hold onto. “Tell me more about your grandfather.”
“What do you want to know?”
Up ahead, the parade continued along St. Charles, toward Canal Street. I darted right, away from the noise and the congestion. “Anything. What’s he like?”
“My dad calls him the old tree,” he said, and I couldn’t help the quick smile that flashed through me. “But to me he’s more like a mountain.”
An intersection waited up ahead, fairly quiet given the chaos behind me, but in my mind I saw the starkly beautiful peaks of the Rockies, jutting against the vivid blue of a Colorado sky. “Why?”
“Because he’s always there.”
Always. “When was the last time you saw him?”
“Four weeks ago.”
And for a second there, it was all I could do to breathe. Four weeks ago was two days…after.
“Did you go see him?” I made myself ask.
“No, he came to me.”
I walked faster.
“That’s when he told me I couldn’t pull the sun from the sky.”
Just because it burned.
I started to run. I didn’t know why. I only knew that walking was too slow, and Will was waiting, and I had to talk to him, about Bliss and the things he knew and the disturbing x-ray shadows, and the words from my journal: Time running out.
I sprinted onto an eerily quiet Magazine Street, shoving at the hair blowing into my face. “Where are you?” I asked breathlessly.
I twisted around, scanning the broken sidewalk behind me. “It’s so quiet,” I said. “Like everyone in the world is at the parade.”
“Not everyone,” he said, and with that I swung back toward the jumble of shops crammed along the famous shopping district.
Cars lined the streets. Shadows slipped from alleys. “Yeah?”
“You don’t have to run,” he said and with the quiet words, I would have sworn he was beside me again. With me. “Slow down and take a deep breath.”
Somehow I did.
“But don’t stop talking,” he added, steady, always so steady.
I scrambled for another question. “What do you do…when you’re not helping me?”
We’d never talked about that, because he never stuck around after danger fell into normalcy.
“I work construction, and I’m taking some online college courses.”
Last month, he’d told me he’d had to drop out. “In what?”
My smile just kinda happened. That explained a lot.
“Did you…” I hesitated, not sure if I should ask. Then I took a leap of faith, or recklessness, and did. “Did you ever tell me not to put a dragonfly in a jar?”
He laughed. “Yeah.”
“You were only eight,” I said against the play of memory.
“Was that another of those Native American things?” Why he always seemed completely in tune with the world around him.
“No.” There was an odd hitch to his voice. “There’s no age requirement for knowing what happens when something can’t breathe.”
And then the hitch was mine.
“What…what was the best thing that ever happened to you?” I detoured.
I think he laughed. It was a soft sound, something garbled from his throat, and for a heartbeat I could see the silver glow of his eyes.
“Hasn’t happened yet,” he murmured.
His voice was all smoky, as if even though it hadn’t happened, he knew exactly what it would be.
I didn’t let myself think about that. Instead I fished for another question.
“What about the worst?” I rolled along, not thinking, not thinking about all the things that littered his past, until the question already lay between us.
The edge of his breath roughened the quiet, dragging seconds into eternity. Maybe more. I didn’t think he was going to answer.
Then he did.
“When I had to leave you beside the roller coaster,” he said woodenly, “then answered my phone a few minutes later and heard you screaming my name.”
Nothing prepared me for that. Nothing could have. The words sliced through me like shards of glass, slicing away little bits and pieces of me everywhere they touched.
“And hearing him, LaSalle, threatening you, and knowing how far away I was⎯”
Everything inside me tightened.
“⎯and running,” he said, and with the word I could hear his breath coming faster, harder, as if he was living it all over again.
“Hearing you scream⎯hearing him⎯what was happening-and knowing I should never have left you alone⎯”
“And that I might not get there in time.”
And then I was running, too, not through memory but across Canal Street to the edge of the French Quarter.
“That’s why I was there last night,” he added roughly, and I felt it, the words and his voice, shred all the way through me. “Why I can’t let you try to help Will by yourself. Because I’m not going to turn my back on your again.”
6 weeks to go until the release of Fragile Darkness! For every Tuesday between now and November 27, I'll post a sneak peek
I ran. Darkness bled from all directions. Nothing moved. There was no sound, not even the breath of the night.
“Where are you?” I shouted, or maybe it was a whisper. I didn’t know, it didn’t matter. “Why can’t I find you?”
Around me the stillness deepened, the echo of my own heartbeat blasting against the silence.
I had to find him. That’s all I could think. He couldn’t be gone.
Faster now, I ripped through the nothingness, knowing—
I went down without warning, sprawling against something hot and warm and sticky. I tried to scramble up, but a sudden, rhythmic thudding stopped me. Footsteps. In the distance. Behind me?
I twisted around—
I pushed to my feet, but no longer knew which direction I’d come from, or in which direction I should run. A dark vacuum swirled around me, closer, every direction looking the same. I took off anyway, stumbling as the sound of my name ripped into the stillness.
I stopped as the night stirred, and a sudden gust tore through the trees. Stars exploded against the inky sky, glimmering together, until there was only a white, a white so bright and pure I had to look away. I swung around, but then the white was dripping, huge globs sliding against the horizon to reveal the silhouette in the background, dark and curved and intricate…
I came alive hard and fast, jerking upright to the steady glow against the shadows—the unblinking yellow of Delphi’s eyes, and the green numerals of my bedside clock. 5:21.
And I knew he was gone.
I hung there tangled in the sheets trying to breathe, to understand, but the slippery images receded like silent waves into the cold, dark ether of the unseen.
“Come back,” I whispered. “I need you.”
But that’s not the way it worked.
I had no memory of falling asleep, only of sitting in my bed reading my mother’s journal. Now the notebook lay on top of the bright pink t-shirt on the floor, hiding the single word rhinestoned across the front: Fleurever. I reached down, but instead of soft cotton, something cool and smooth slipped beneath my fingers.
I froze. There in the soft glow of the nightlight, the iridescent dragonfly—the one that belonged on the trunk across the room—shimmered, its glued wing lifted, the other resting against the card I’d thrown away the night before.
It was the third time I’d found the blown glass on the floor since coming home from the hospital.
A few inches away my mother’s journal lay open:
The danger does not come through hearing the shadows, and it cannot be avoided by ignoring them. That would be like pretending your heart doesn't bettor trying to stop it. The silent whispers come to me for a reason, crying out through the gossamer bands of time and space, warning me to pay attention. To open my eyes and see what no one else does. What’s not there yet, in this world, this life.
But will be.
Sometimes I am meant to intervene. Sometimes I’m not. I never know beforehand. I never know when it's about the journey, or when it's about the destination.
When it's about me, or a stranger.
When the two are the same.
Once I didn’t want to know. Once I wished the shadows would go away, and take the previews with them. That I didn't have to know, to see, to live things over and over.
Wish that I didn't have to feel, to hurt.
But then my wish came true, and I realized how fragile darkness can be.
Posted in Broken Illusions, Dragonfly books, Dreams, Fragile Darkness, Midnight Dragonfly, Precognition, Shattered Dreams, Teenage psychic, YA
Tagged Broken Illusions, Ellie James, Fragile Darkness, Midnight Dragonfly, Shattered Dreams
Precognition. Telepathy. Clairvoyance. Empathy. Psychometry. Telekinesis…
The frontiers of the human mind have always fascinated me. How is it that I can think of a friend, and then she calls? How is it that my husband can walk in the door, and without even looking at or speaking to him, I can know he’s not in a great mood? How does music turn on in my infant son’s nursery, during the middle o
f the night, when the CD player is across the room from his crib, and everyone else is downstairs? How does a friend see her father at her bedside, at the exact moment he’s drawing his last breath five hundred miles away? Why is there a cold spot in a warm, enclosed room?
Scientists would give me tidy, pat answers, usually revolving around chance, coincidence and some kind of chip malfunction or delayed reaction. We, as humans, like explanations and evidence. We like proof, to understand. In the absence of that, we tend to dismiss fantastical claims. (Ironic, isn’t it, that for all we accept sight-unseen, for all we believe on blind faith, we reject a whole lot of Mind Boggling possibilities because there’s no…proof.) If it can’t be seen or touched, it must not be real.
And yet the stories are everywhere, dating back to ancient times. The Oracle at Delphi. Nostradamus. Even the Bible is laden with prophecy and the Unexplained. Chances are you know someone with a freaky experience. Chances are you know a lot of someones.
It’s from that place—the lure of the Unknown and the thrill of possibility—that the Midnight Dragonfly series was born. As soon as the character of sixteen-year-old psychic, Trinity Monsour, came to me, quite literally in a dream, I knew I had to write her story. I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to know things you weren’t supposed to know—that no one, at least at first, believed. That’s a pretty huge burden, especially for a high school student trying to settle into a new city and a new life, figure out why the truth about her birthright has been kept from her, and whether she’s really falling in love with the totally wrong guy. But that’s exactly the situation Trinity finds herself in.
Glimpses. That’s all they are. Shadowy premonitions flickering through the farthest reaches of sleep. Some are terrifying: a knife lifting, a girl screaming, a body in the grass. But others— the dark, tortured eyes and the shattering kiss, the promise of forever— whisper to her soul.
They come without warning. They come without detail. But they always mean the same thing; the clock is ticking—and only Trinity can stop it.
From premonitions to dream interpretation, communicating with the dead, hypnosis, mind control, even Ouija boards, laying of the hands and reincarnation, the Midnight Dragonfly series explores the frontiers of the human mind, and the ties that bind us all.
I’ve always been fascinated by the unexplained. I believe we, as humans, are much more capable than we realize, and that no one holds us back more than ourselves. For the most part, we like explanations and evidence. We like proof. In the absence of that, we tend to dismiss fantastical claims. If it can’t be seen or touched, it must not be real. And yet…
- I routinely pick up the phone to call someone at the exact second they’re calling me.
- After my daughter was born, for the first few weeks we were frequently awakened by the sound of my recently deceased grandmother’s favorite lullaby coming through the nursery monitor…even though we had not pushed the play button and there was no automatic timer to turn on the CD.
- One night, my daughter, then 3, woke me up to tell me how excited she was that her twin brother (whom we lost during her pregnancy) was finally going to come live with us—this before we’d told her we were expecting again, and before we knew we were having a son.
- When I was twelve weeks along, a friend who has a history of “knowing things” told me my son would be born severely premature—and he was.
- Another friend who talked to her mom every evening at 5pm continued to receive those calls for weeks after her mom passed away, except instead of a voice she heard only silence.
- My aunt knew her way around an old Irish castle she’d never visited or read about.
- My grandparents’ wedding picture really did fall over, in a quiet still room, the same instant my grandmother took her last breath.
Ask anyone and they probably have at least one woo-woo tale. Cold spots in the middle of a warm room. Intuition about future events. Blasts of mysterious emotion…
Given my love of the unexplained, it’s no surprise that the character of Trinity came to me in a dream, sneaking into a beautiful abandoned mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans. I was right there as she and her friends embarked upon a dangerous game of truth or dare. I saw the premonition that she saw, that of another girl strewn on a dirty old mattress. I awoke abruptly, and very upset. I wanted to know what happened next! Who was Trinity, and what did her vision mean? Why did she have it? What was the trigger? Had it happened before? And….what if it came true? What if, what if, what if….
As I answered those questions, the Midnight Dragonfly series was born.
I’d been writing suspense for years, but Trinity was my first Young Adult character, and she took me by complete surprise. However, I needn’t have worried. Characters have a way of taking over and telling their own stories and I quickly learned that strong characters are strong characters, regardless of age. There are, essentially, two kinds of people in this world: those who wait for life to happen, and those who make life happen.
The characters I most enjoy exploring, whether through writing or reading, tend to be the do-ers. They have:
- Goals. This is one of the reasons a character like Katniss from the Hunger Games works so well. She has a concrete, well-defined goal that pulls her through the story. Initially she seeks to protect her sister. As the plot progresses, she seeks to survive. Goals give characters something to act upon. They put the character in the driver’s seat and allow them to move the story forward. They raise the stakes. Conversely, without goals, the story tends to happen to the character, as opposed to the character driving the story.
- Courage. There are so many kinds of courage, the physical kind that comes from confronting danger, but also the emotional kind that comes from standing up for what you believe in and making tough choices. The strength it takes to confront something you know is wrong and the unbelievable bravery that can be required to walk away from a dysfunctional relationship. Characters with courage tend to step forward rather than shrink back. Courage makes your heart race, the adrenaline flow. Courage makes you wonder what happens next. And courage is what leads Trinity to risk her own life to discover the truth behind her visions, when it would have been so much easier to stay in her condo and pretend that when she closed her eyes, she saw nothing.
- Hopes and dreams. It’s fabulous to be tough and brave and bold, but for a character to be real and three-dimensional, there’s got to be a softer, quieter side, as well. Hopes and dreams turn strangers into friends, and make their struggles more personal—and important.
- Secret fear/Achilles heel. We all have them. Maybe it’s something simple, like a fear of spiders. Maybe it’s more complex, a fear of being left alone in the dark, which triggers traumatic memories. Sometimes it’s more emotional, the fear of being abandoned or not loved, not good enough. These are the traits that embody a character’s vulnerability and make people care what happens to them. Trinity was afraid of being an outcast. She was afraid of being rejected because she was different. At first this led her to try and hide the truth about her visions, but ultimately (because of #s 6 and 7) she realized her goal (to save her classmate) was more important than her fears.
Those four are all concrete. The next four are more behavioral related.
- Say what’s on their mind. This is something I, personally, used to have a hard time with. I’d think something, but frequently bite my tongue. In my very first novel, my editor pointed out my character was doing this, too, and she encouraged me to let my heroine have her say. I did, and the most amazing thing happened: the intensity and energy level of the story soared. As my heroine began to speak up, those around her spoke up, giving way to meaty, emotional conversations. AND, I found myself speaking up, too J
- Make mistakes. Perfection is an awesome goal, but it’s not realistic. People make mistakes, and characters need to, as well. Maybe you believe your boyfriend the first time he tells you he’ll never lie to you again. That’s okay. That’s trust. But when he lies to you again, this time you don’t believe his pathetic claims to “be better in the future” and you show him the door. That’s growth.
- It’s okay to be afraid. Sometimes we all are. It goes back to being human. But a strong YA heroine doesn’t let this fear hold her back. She doesn’t let it overtake her life. She faces the fear. She confronts it (hence the importance of bravery) and, ultimately, finds herself that much closer to her goal.
- No negative self-talk. This is simply my own personal life mantra, which has found its way into my work. Life is hard, and we’re often our own toughest enemy. That’s all normal. But I’d rather not see a YA heroine thinking of herself as stupid or ugly or an idiot. She can be upset with herself—sometimes, we all are. But I prefer to steer clear of the negative self-talk, unless, of course, the journey from negative to positive is part of the story goal J
And then, finally, this one seems rather obvious, but it’s a biggie for me:
- Name. I simply can’t get to know a character until I know her name. When I’m plotting a new story, I can’t get far without the “right” name. There’s just a big difference between Anne versus Phoebe, Courtenay versus Trinity. Each name has its own vibe, and until I find the right vibe, the character can’t fully gel.
I had such an amazing time exploring Trinity—What about you? What are your favorite character traits? Your least favorite?