writing

EDDIE & SUNNY launch interview with author Stacey Cochran

In November I interviewed author Stacey Cochran about his book, EDDIE & SUNNY, while it took part in the Kindle Scout program. Back then, I asked all of you nice people to nominate it so it could get published by Amazon and, guess what? It got picked! YES! Now, months later, the book’s digital version has been published through Kindle Press and a paperback version is available thanks to Down & Out Books.

EddieSunnyCover.jpg.w560h730So I sat again with Stacey to have a chat about nomination/publishing/what’s next. Check it out:

Q1: Okay Stacey, first of all, thank you for being here and for choosing my page as one of your stops after your book’s launch. Last time we chatted you were campaigning for EDDIE & SUNNY to be picked on Kindle Scout. Can you give us a refresher on what is Kindle Scout?

So, Kindle Scout is a new program by Amazon to discover unpublished novelists. It is essentially replacing the Amazon ABNA Award. In a lot of ways, it’s probably better for most writers than the ABNA contest because Kindle Scout is acquiring a lot more books. The old contest selected just like 3-4 per year. Scout has already acquired close to 30 books in its first few months.

That’s a huge difference right there.

And so far, the first ten titles have launched and we’re all doing pretty well in the first week or so. It’s been a fun ride.

Can you tell us about what happened behind closed doors after your book was selected for publishing?

One of the most surprising things that has been a benefit of getting published via Kindle Scout is that I’ve connected with all the other Kindle Scout selected authors, and we’ve formed a pretty cohesive group on Facebook. There seems to be an interest building in various media places from FB to Twitter to Amazon discussion boards to our books linking on one another’s Amazon book pages that involves a bunch of us, and all the titles are solid, so there’s this strength in numbers thing going on that I couldn’t have imagined before getting into the program.

Q2: I’m really curious about the process that took place right after the campaign was over. We all got notifications about your book having been selected and were super excited. How was it on your end? What took place between being selected and getting the book published, Stacey?

Well, once you’re selected you get 30 days to sign the contracts. During that 30-day period I hired Stacia Rogan to do a copyedit of the manuscript because at the time, the word was that KS was not going to do a copyedit. So that was the first thing. My agent managed to sell the print rights for Eddie & Sunny to Eric Campbell who owns Down and Out Books. That was the second big thing. And then I learned that Kindle Scout was going to do a copyedit, and so much of February, my manuscript went through another professional copyedit process. I also had to prepare a few things for press materials for Kindle Press. I re-designed my cover with a blurb. I secured the rights to the photo in the cover from Javier de la Torre Photography. There was a lot happening between December and now, and the Kindle Press team has been absolutely amazing to work with. They’re great.

I feel tired just by reading this! And that takes me to the third question I want to ask you (that deviates a bit from the book and into the writing).

There have been some sleepless nights, believe you me.

Q3: One thing lots of people don’t realize is the amount of work that has to be done behind the scenes before a book is published. I know you’re a runner and, lately, I’ve picked up running to complement my CrossFit workouts. The blood, the sweat, the occasional tears are all there. Would you say writing and endurance sports have things in common?

Yes, both require a certain degree of self motivation and a lot of internal discipline. They’re also very lonely pursuits, running and writing, and I suspect it suits a particular temperament. I know when I’m out on a 14-mile run, I keep repeating to myself “I’ll just not quit. I may die. But I’m not going to quit.” And that mentality is very much my mantra with my writing as well. Good question.

Love this answer!!

Maybe, too, they’re both in a best-case scenario healthy pursuits. Writing is all about becoming a more compassionate, understanding, complete human being. It’s all about mental health, right? Running, for me, is certainly a physically healthy pursuit. It helps me process my anxieties and worries. I always feel clear headed and free of worry after a run… even if my legs feel like rubber.

My feelings exactly. Running and lifting heavy weights feels like a cleansing at times. Getting rid of negative and stressful thoughts and coming out renewed.

Q4: Writing, like running or any other sport, is also about learning. I bet you’ve learned lots of things after all this. Can you share some of that knowledge with us? What did you learn from writing this particular book? What did you learn from the publishing industry through your Kindle Scout experience?

There are so many things I’m not even sure where to begin.

With the novel, I did do a good bit of research with the homeless. I talked with them in multiple contexts, and one of the key things I came away with from all of those conversations is that every homeless person has a story to tell. So often, people cross to the other side of the street or hurry to their 40-grand SUV in the parking lot when they see a homeless person approaching. I would challenge people to (at least one time in your life) stop and actually talk to one of them. Ask them if they are in fact homeless and living on the street. Ask them how they came to be homeless. Ask them if they have a plan for getting out of the street and into a home. Ask them if they have a dream for where they’ll be in a few years or later in life.

What you’ll find is if you approach them with compassion and understanding and just *listen* to them, they all have a story to tell. And often, their self-esteem just needs a bump from someone acknowledging their situation. Sometimes that’s all you need to do. It’s the little things.

Everyone needs to be acknowledged as a human being. We tend to dehumanize homeless people and that’s super sad.

I also learned that in America at least an extraordinarily high number of families are homeless or live in poverty. I think there’s this perception around the world that Americans are all rich and fat and thoughtless. But in the county where I live, the capital of North Carolina, something like 46% of children in public schools are on free or reduced lunch, which means they have completed paperwork and been vetted to get that food because their family income falls below a poverty threshold. 46% and this is in an urban area. It’s far worse in rural communities. America has become a nation absolutely saddled with poverty, and we have this really screwed up criminal justice system that tends to reward police arresting high numbers of people for petty offenses, which then gets them into jails and prisons and pretty much ruins any chance of meaningful employment for life.

I think the depth of America’s problems with poverty was one of the things that I learned about while researching and writing this novel over 2-3 years. Americans like to pretend they’re rich and live big and drive fancy cars, but for a lot of people, it’s an illusion and they’re living on the brink of financial disaster, bankruptcy, and home foreclosures. I think we’re force fed this rich lifestyle via television and movies, and people’s expectations for how to live are seriously out of whack. And I mean *a lot* of people. Tens of millions of Americans live way beyond their means. And the banks feed it.

Okay, down off my soapbox.

It’s eye opening research you’ve done! What about the publishing industry? Anything new you’ve learned?

It’s a tough business. How’s that? I’m kidding.

Well, obviously the ebook landscape has changed dramatically in the past three years. There was a time in 2009-2010 maybe even into 2011 a bit, where it was relatively easy to get noticed self-publishing an ebook. My novels Claws, The Colorado Sequence, and The Loneliest all cracked the Top 200 overall on Kindle. Those days are over. There has been such a flood of self-published novels into the market (literally millions) and traditional publishing has regained its footing in this market, that’s it’s practically impossible to self-publish as successfully as you could 4-6 years ago.

That’s why innovative programs like #KindleScout are so important to recognize early and take advantage of. If I’ve learned one thing in my career this past decade or so, it’s that the authors who recognize emerging media, emerging technologies, and act on those things… they’re the ones who tend to do well. Maybe not get rich, but certainly get recognized and sell a few thousand copies of your book. And occasionally, a rare talent or two who capitalizes on these kinds of emerging technologies really do knock it out of the park and make a lot of money.

But most people don’t like to be the first to try out a system. They’re either not aware of the new system or they’re afraid it’ll fail, or something. And so they wait and see how others do it. But the problem is if you wait and see how others do it, you’re going to be in that 2nd or 3rd wave and you’re going to get lost in the sea of others who wait and see how it shakes out before trying it. Be bold. Be brave. Give it a shot. And embrace new technologies. There are far worse philosophies with which to approach a writing career.

That’s awesome advise right there!

Now, of course, if you have just wicked talent and a relentless work ethic and luck on your side, you can knock it out of the park in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th wave. People do that all the time. I just tend to try things out first. It hasn’t always paid off, and I’m sure some people chuckle silently at their home computers and say “What an idiot.” People do that, sure. But it seems like practically every new technology I’ve tried since starting in the early 2000s was initially stigmatized ruthlessly, and then over time eventually accepted as viable, and then it becomes “old” technology. I’ve seen that happen a few times.

As with anything new, there’s always skepticism. It’s those who don’t let it stop them that often succeed.

Q5: I have to start wrapping this up but want to know: What are your plans for the future regarding EDDIE & SUNNY? Also, are you working on anything new right now?

Well, Eddie & Sunny has just launched. I imagine this will be the book that I’m pushing for the next year or two. I would absolutely *love* to sell the film rights for it. I think the novel’s 3-act structure, love story, regionalism, and sociological underpinnings would make for terrific source material for an indie film. So I need to push that front somehow, maybe through my agent, maybe by hitting some film festivals. I need to continue to get favorable 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. If I can get up to 30 of those, it would be a good start. So far, we have 10, and they’re all pretty solid. Of course, I’m chairing Bouchercon this October and that has become literally a full-time job, working 40+ hours per week.

And there is a new novel in the works.

Anything you can tell us about that new novel?

It’s spec fiction. Here’s the premise: A man wakes up floating in the middle of the ocean in an airline emergency life vest. He has no memory of who he is, how he came to be floating in the ocean, or where he is. As the novel unfolds, he finds his way to an island where the inhabitants have all arrived the same way as him. And none of them know who they are or why they are there. And they all come to discover various panopticon-esque cameras watching them on the island.

Sounds interesting, and creepy! Will you be self-publishing it or selling it to publishing houses?

Too far away to tell. My writing pace is so slow right now, it’ll probably be 2017 at least before the first draft of this one is complete.

You take all the time you need! We’ll be here waiting while enjoying E&S! Thank you so much for being here today!

Thank you for chatting with me, Astrid!

Be sure to get your copy of EDDIE & SUNNY today!

On Book Reviews

I’ve been writing this blog post for days and thinking about writing it for even longer because I know how touchy this subject is. Still, I’d like to address it, to write about it through the eyes of a not-so-seasoned author that is still developing some thicker skin.

Googling the term “what is a book review” brings this up:

A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_review)

Book reviews have become the modern day/virtual version of word-of-mouth. Readers can post them to retail sites, blogs, and places dedicated to them like Goodreads and Librarything. For a writer in this digital era reviews are crucial, since a huge percentage of readers will base their decision to buy your book or not on them.

Thing is, book reviews aren’t always a writer’s friend. As an author, you need to have in mind the fact that not everyone will like your book, that some people will hate it while others will be telling their friends about how much they loved everything about it and how much they need to read it, NAO. However, our books are like our children. We love them to death and are ready to fight anyone that dares tell us they’re not as pretty as our eyes see them.

“They are all my children. Maybe some are cross-eyed, but I love them all.”

~ Carlos Fuentes on his books

You still haven’t explained the pic of the running girl above.

Last time I blogged I talked about how I was going back to my running days. It’s still going strong and I’m super happy about it and how it has also sparked my CrossFit workouts. My core’s still shaking from working on them overhead squats! But when it comes to running I’ve noticed how much outside things influence me, more so than when I’m lifting heavy weights.

Back when I still had a smartphone (my Note 2 died on me a week ago and I still haven’t been able to replace it) one of the first things I used to do when I woke up was check KDP and my latest release’s Amazon and Goodreads pages. Bad, I know. Whatever feeling I got from that, either good or bad, permeated towards my morning run. Especially when it came to bad reviews, which in turn made me run like a madwoman, almost punishing myself for whatever it was I had done.

I have a really nice network of friends and supporters and I can summarize all the advice I’ve either received from them or read about the whole authors and reviews dilemma with:

“Don’t read them.” “Don’t take them personally.” “It’s just some asshole who hates everything and doesn’t deserve your attention… or your tears.”

The problem is that when you self-publish you can’t have the luxury of not reading your book’s reviews. The problem is that when you self-publish you also become your publicist, marketer, agent, all of the above, and you can’t ignore the fact that people are writing things about the product (your work) you’re selling. You have to be on top of all that stuff so you can design marketing strategies or even writing strategies for future works. You have to read the reviews so you know what’s happening with your book after releasing it into that big, dark, and scary wilderness called The Internet.

Thanks to Nikki Nelson-Hicks for this. ;)

Thanks to Nikki Nelson-Hicks for this. πŸ˜‰

Weeks ago my book The Last Superhero got an awful review on Goodreads. It was a 3 star one which isn’t that bad, but the language the reviewer used was rather inappropriate. As I read it I thought “well, okay, he pretty much hated the book. Whatever.” I can live with people hating my books, hating on my characters, hating the plot, the settings, the covers, whatever they want to hate.

What I can’t live with is someone calling me “a lazy cunt.” The Last Superhero’s first chapters are filled with curse words so reviews with strong language don’t bother me. And, as I said before, I can totally get it if you hate my characters or story, but personal insults? That’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed by any reviewer, ever. We self-pubbed authors work really hard. Our families think we’ll never do anything worthwhile (unless we hit a bestseller list, if we ever do), we battle with characters that populate our minds and are fighting for our attention All. The. Fucking. Time. And then there’s the whole business side of things with the edits and the formatting and designing and marketing and STRESS.

Of course, not everything’s bad. I’ve gotten some glowing reviews for The Last Superhero that have helped me cope with the whole I-wanna-die ones (like this one from Reading… Dreaming or this one from Indieberlin). And, yes, I know this is part of the process of developing that armor all artists need once they decide to come out into the world, yet, as an author, I beg to all the reviewers out there to treat us authors as they’d like to be treated: with the respect we all deserve. Is that too hard a thing to ask for?

In the meantime, I’ll be out there running while muttering under my breath about those reviews. Oh, and writing, because no amount of bad reviews can ever stop that.

I know the Paper Rats agree with me on that. πŸ˜‰

Hello 2015… Or is it too late for that?

13 days into the year.

2 consecutive days that I’ve hauled my ass out of bed early in the morning to go to the track. I really really need to go back to my exercise routines after the whole chikungunya and all-you-can-eat Christmas affair. I’m not starting a diet, I know myself too well for that, I’m just going to start watching what I eat and exercise regularly doing both running and Crossfit. Like last time, because I was seeing results and I was so happy with myself before the chikungunya got me good and left me unable to lift a weight without having to endure horrible pains during the night. Last night I had no pain at all, I’m hoping tonight’s the same.

I don’t make resolutions, that’s setting myself for failure. I only try to keep up what I’ve been doing, stay with what worked last year and add to that, nothing more. That’s why I ended 2014/started 2015 with some book promos. The first one was a Kindle Countdown Deal for The Last Superhero that was a mild success. The book went down to 99 cents on Dec 28, got 12 downloads, then up to $1.99, 5 downloads. It’s a new book, had only a couple of reviews, and it’s in a genre I’m not known for so I’m not banging my head against the wall for those numbers. The best promo sites used were bknights and Just Kindle Books although I wouldn’t recommend bknights for paid books, it’s not their forte, fact that I knew about thanks to Kindle Boards members that had used the service before but I still wanted to try it.

Now is the part where I give you some proof, right?

I decided to start the year with a promo for The Caregiver (Book 1) so I booked promos for it withΒ bknights (Jan 5), Genre Pulse (Jan 6), and The Kindle Book Review (Jan 7-8). The results were great and, once again, bknights took the trophy.

TC promo resultsJan 5: 441 downloads, Jan 6: 275, Jan 7: 73, Jan 8: 171.

Oh, and I was a tad clever before the promo and added a link to the second and the third book right after THE END on books 1 and 2 respectively, which is probably why I’ve gotten downloads for Torn (Book 2). *pats own shoulder* Also, Amazon.co.uk finally caught up with Amazon.com and now the book is free over there too. Woot!

Something else I’m doing in 2015 is starting a mailing list. This is huge because I’ve always been against it although I’m subscribed to hundreds of them. Whatever. I haz succumbed to the pressure. Feel free to join, I promise not to spam you.

I’m getting beta reader feedback on Turmoil (Episode 1 of The Caregiver Prequel) and will be working on that. Of course, feel free to pre-order it if you want, or don’t, if you don’t want.

That’s pretty much it. I promise to blog more frequently and less incoherently during this year.

Onwards.

Bye bye 2014!

This year has been something all right. Since last Christmas’ terrible outturn, I had promised myself I’d turn things around and I think I managed to do so.

Publishing The Beast was a labor of love after what happened but we made it. My lovely editor (Stacia Rogan) was there for me every step of the way and has been my go-to person whenever it feels like life’s eating me raw.

Then came The Last Superhero and that was an even bigger accomplishment in the personal department since it was a story I’d written years ago and only now did I gather the courage to rewrite and publish it. It was also a challenge for Stacia, so it’s kept us both on our toes through the whole editing and pre-ordering and promoting and running around in circles process. [Signed copies still available over at my website]

It was a fun ride, this year. One in which I learned enough to believe I’ve got a clear idea on what 2015 should bring. And that’s more books, of course.

Right now I’m bouncing off some ideas for The Caregiver that involve a series of prequels. When I wrote the first book it was meant to be a standalone short story. You all know that didn’t happen. Three books later, we’re close to finishing the series and there’s been a real interest in knowing more about Scarlett’s past. Where she comes from, her family, her previous relationships. Adrian. Xavi. Jin-Jing. Bobby. Vinny. Romulus. Ferdinand. Young. So many characters are begging for me to give them more page time that I’ll be publishing the prequel one episode at a time. They’ll all be novel length and only 99Β’.

Prequels 1and2

Early cover concepts

Why in episodes? Nothing to do with the recent KU debates and stuff and all to do with how emotionally charged the story is. I feel like if I, the writer, need to walk away and breathe after 20-something chapters, I’m not putting my readers through 60 grueling ones. Also, lots of characters! I’m already experimenting with pre-ordering Turmoil (Episode 1 of The Caregiver prequel) since the book is written and ready for edits.

So keep your eyes peeled for more books. Let’s kick 2015 in the ass!

Save the dates!

These last 9 days have been a roller coaster ride for me and I do love roller coasters, so I don’t mean it in a bad way. Ups, downs, but mostly ups since launching The Last Superhero on December 18 after a successful (at least to me) pre-order campaign.

I had debated whether or not to put The Last Superhero on pre-order since the moment I knew I was publishing it on December. KDP’s pre-order feature had been up and running for some time and the hive mind had a lot of information about it, especially this thread over at Kboards. I went back and forth with the idea, presented it to my editor, and we both came to the conclusion that talking publicly about a book that technically doesn’t exist yet doesn’t bode well with everyone. It’s mind bogging how quick people forget about stuff in this information-overloaded era and having a pre-0rder link while we worked on the last round of edits sounded like the best way to go; a place where we could direct people who showed interest about the book to and not have to rely on praying they didn’t forget how excited they were about it when they first heard the news. Also, it helped make it a bit more real for us… and a lot more nerve wracking.

I wrote blog posts. I ran an ARC copies Goodreads giveaway and a Rafflecopter one for signed copies. I made a Facebook event for the launch. I tweeted and FBed the hell out of it.

I’m not one of those authors with huge sales numbers so, for me, The Last Superhero has done reasonably well (27 pre-orders and a couple of sales trickling in daily). However, I know that with some more promo it can do a lot better.

In comes the Kindle Countdown Deal.

The Last Superhero is enrolled in KDP Select for the moment because I want to take advantage of both the countdown deals and the dreaded Kindle Unlimited. I don’t plan to keep it in Select forever so I’ll try to use it to my advantage while it’s there.

December 28th will be my 10th wedding anniversary. Yes, we’ve survived ten years together! And I thought it a great time to run a two day promo. I could go on about how the main characters resonate with my life but I already did that here. Needless to say, Giana and Steven, as well as Scarlett and Armand from my Caregiver Series, are May December romances, just like Hubby and I. Although, Steven’s 102, which could sound a bit hardcore but hey, he’s a superhero and they age slower so, yeah, age is only a number.

β€œYou’re over a hundred years old?” And you’re not a vampire!

β€œYes.”

β€œCool.”

β€œCool?”

β€œYeah, I mean, it’s interesting. And, well, you look better than most of the hundred-year-olds I’ve met.” And you definitely don’t shag like a hundred-year-old either.

That makes him laugh, lightens the mood, makes the flame on the candle sway with his wine-infused breath.

– Excerpt from Chapter 11

*ahem* The deal?

Oh, yeah, that.

The Last Superhero will be $0.99 on Dec 28, it’ll then go up to $1.99 on Dec 29 before settling back to its original price of $2.99 on Dec 30. This will only be happening on Amazon’s .com site. I’m trying to make it happen on the UK one too but I had to do a price change for that and I don’t know if it’ll be set for tomorrow.

Sites/services I’ve set promos with:

1. eReader Utopia

2. Awesome Gang

3. Just Kindle Books

4. Bargain Booksy

5. Bknights

1 and 4 I’ve used before while 2, 3, and 5 are new to me. I’ve found these sites through web searches, Kboards, and Lindsay Buroker’s awesome blog. I’m still trying to figure all this out since marketing isn’t my forte but I’m confident I’m on the right track, even if it’s only to give the book a bit of a ranking boost.

Another fantastic service I’ll be using is Booktastik, where TLS will be featured as a New Release on January 2nd.

There are other places I’d love to be able to feature the book (i.e. BookSends) but alas, it doesn’t have enough reviews to pass their submission requirements. Another one I want to try is BookBub but that’ll have to wait until the budget allows it (that if they don’t reject TLS once I can submit). This is why reviews are so important to authors. It’s not only a thing of validation, it’s a necessary evil for marketing and therefore, sales, and therefore, surviving as a scribbler in this big bad world.

Save the dates!

December 28 – The Last Superhero will be $0.99

December 29 – The Last Superhero will be $1.99

 

The Last Superhero – Chapter 3 and Launch!

Dontbreakhisheart-Quote

My heart was in Cruz’s expert grip throughout. Love, loneliness, grief, salvation, finely wrought drama and no-holds-barred fantasy… This book has it all.

– Walter Conley, screenwriter of Badderlands

Less than 36 hours to go for the book launch and I’m ecstatic, to say the least. Pre-orders are pouring in and the support from friends and family has been amazing. That doesn’t mean the work is over. Far from that, we’re just getting started!

If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, what are you waiting for?

My editor, Stacia Rogan, was nice enough to write a post about editing this book. A book we both thought she’d hate since she’s a ‘self-proclaimed hardcore non-reader of science fiction’. I was glad I didn’t have to stab her! πŸ˜€

Now, have chapter 3!

3

It’s one of those days when you don’t want to see anyone, but you have to because you have to go to work and run errands and talk to people.

Top it off with the fact that I was running late and you can see the picture.

Daphne had opened the shop.

That bookstore.

The only constant in my life, having been established by my mother before I was born, and the one thing that I was now carrying like dead weight wherever I’d go.

β€œLandlord’s being an asshole again,” I say once I walk in, my eyes on the two coffees I’m carrying, my mind replaying that scene between Mr. Brownstone and me when he knocked on my door to remind me my rent was late, yet again. β€œHe won’t leave me alone.”

β€œGiana?”

β€œI got you coffee.”

β€œThere’s someone here to see you.”

I look up and see him. Steven.

I don’t need this. I really don’t need this.

β€œHi,” he says all shy and charming and innocent like.

I can swear he looks even younger than before.

I give Daphne her coffee and offer Steven mine. β€œI can get another one.”

β€œNo, thank you. I already had my dose.” A smile.

Daphne scurries away and I’m left with Mr. Stalker.

Whatever. β€œJoin me in my office?”

He steps aside for me to cross the store and into the back room we call the office. It’s more of a closet or a cupboard than an office, but it works.

He sits on the red armchair facing the gray desk inside the green walls. My mother has something for colors.

β€œWhat brings you here today, Mr. Wal- Dennis?” I stutter, my hands busy unwrapping my scarf.

β€œAre you okay?”

Don’t answer my question with another question. That’s rude.

β€œYes.” No. I’m not. Nobody cares. London Bridge falls every fucking day.

β€œProblems with the landlord?”

I scowl. β€œHe’s a moody old perv.”

β€œWhat?!” He’s outraged.

β€œOh no, no, don’t go thinking… It’s just that he’s… He’s always wearing these old, stained clothes and he sputters when he talks, mostly when he’s angry. The spit sometimes pools in the edge of his lips…” I almost dry heave at that.

And I’m behind on my rent and he’s kicking me out, but I’m not saying that to his face.

He tilts his head to one side. β€œWould you like to take a stroll with me? Take your mind off it a bit?”

I sip from my coffee. I just got here and shouldn’t leave. At least not with him.

Then he’s looking at me, pleading. This isn’t so much for me as it is for him and I’ll be damned if I ain’t got a thing for pleading souls.

I wrap the scarf around my neck again and this time he leads the way out of the store.

Daphne sends me a questioning look that I respond to with a mouthed ‘I’ll be back.’

There’s a moment of hesitation when Steven hits the sidewalk. He’s unsure, thinking about it twice.

β€œWould the park be okay?” he asks.

β€œThe park would be fine,” I say.

And we’re off.

He walks with purpose, as if not to be distracted. I fight to keep up with him.

Where is he taking me?

Has he changed his mind and is going to murder me?

There’s a lake in the park and heaven knows I never learned how to swim.

β€œI’m not going to hurt you,” he says once we reach the entrance.

I open my mouth to protest. I know he’s not a bad person.

β€œI know you’re not a bad person.”

His eyes change and I see him bite the inside of his cheek as we walk into the park, every step taking us farther into that area where the trees grow thicker and the crowd thinner.

Fewer witnesses.

Dear Mom, I’m only acting on what you told me so many years ago. Don’t take it out on me if this fails.

β€œWhat are you thinking that is making you frown so hard?”

β€œYou wouldn’t believe it.”

β€œTry me.”

We reach the lake and I’m glad to see there are people on the other side. It’s a large lake, but a scream would make it to them. I think.

My coffee secured in my hand, I tell him something I’d never told anyone.

β€œMy mother, she told me about you.”

β€œDid she?”

β€œYeah. When I was little.” Sip from the coffee and yuck, it’s cold already. Wipe my mouth with the sleeve of my coat. β€œYou saved her once from falling off a cliff.”

He raises his eyebrows and it’s clear he can’t remember. It must be awfully hard to remember so many people, so many faces.

β€œShe told me you were a good man. Misunderstood, but a good man nonetheless.”

His eyes are on his shoes, his hands buried in his pockets.

β€œMisunderstood,” he whispers. β€œMaybe. But I’m not a good man, I’m not a good person.”

β€œYou saved me from getting mugged, that gives you some good-guy points in my book.”

For the first time, I hear him scoff. β€œGood-guy points. That’s new. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to you were I not there. It’s not easy to talk your way out of a robbery, much less when it’s a junkie.”

β€œI’ve been there before and managed to convince a couple of them to desist.” I turn my eyes to him and, oh, he’s amused. β€œI wanted to be a psychologist.”

β€œWanted?”

β€œYes. Wanted. Couldn’t afford it.”

Blergh. I feel like shit every time this subject comes up.

He doesn’t say anything.

β€œAnyway. Thank you for being there that night.”

I start back for the trees when he touches my shoulder and I’m compelled to turn around and face him again.

His hand travels upwards, to the side of my face.

I see him so clearly all of a sudden. He’s smiling and says, β€œDon’t go.”

How can I not stay if he’s looking at me that way? Fuck. Can’t deny the fact that his features are more than agreeable, I’d even say he’s quite handsome.

Or is it the light? It’s such a beautiful day.

β€œI like to come here.” He’s contemplating the lake, some deep, sad longing in his eyes. β€œIt’s one of those places that makes me feel better, lighter, as if the world were still a nice place to live in.”

I stand beside him and, dammit, it feels so nice.

β€œHow long have you been hiding?”

β€œTwenty-eight years.”

β€œThat’s a long time.”

β€œIt is.”

β€œEver feel lonely?”

β€œAll the time.”

β€œI bet.”

β€œI bet you don’t know about that.”

Now it’s my turn to scoff. β€œWatch out, mister. There are many of us lone wolves roaming around.”

β€œHow come?”

β€œHow come what?”

β€œYou’re… young.”

β€œIs that a compliment?” He stares a bit too intently at me. β€œI like to think I still haven’t hit my prime.”

β€œHmm.”

β€œWhat’s made you come out of the cave after so long?”

He ponders, brushes the grass with the sole of his shoe. So pretty, so green. β€œIt was time I did.”

Good enough.

β€œAnd when was that?”

β€œA month and a half ago. Still trying to get used to it.”

β€œDo you still use your powers? Apart from saving damsels from getting mugged?”

β€œThat was the first time I used them in a long time, hence the huffing and puffing afterward. It takes a lot of strength to do what I do.”

β€œI thought it was an asthma attack. My mother gets them every now and then.”

β€œWhere is she? Your mother?”

β€œIn Spain visiting my father and, in the meantime, the Madrid Book Fair.”

I sip from the coffee and, as I swallow it, I let its warmth envelop my insides.

β€œOh,” he says.

β€œYou know, about that night with the thief, I’m of the thought that people meet for a reason, that nothing’s random.”

β€œYou believe us two meeting wasn’t a random thing?”

β€œI’m pretty sure it wasn’t.”

β€œGood.” He’s facing me now, a smile on his face, a sparkle in his eyes. β€œI’d like to think that too.”

β€œWhy are you being so charming all of a sudden?”

β€œBecause you need a friend.” He takes a breath, filling his lungs with the oh so pure air around us. β€œMaybe we can have that coffee tomorrow?”

β€œSure. I always get mine from that coffee shop around the corner from the bookshop.”

β€œPerfect. I’ll see you there around eight?”

β€œYeah.”

Another smile and is that my heart fluttering?

What I do feel all of a sudden is my feet hit the ground and I have to step back to keep my balance.

Steven’s hand is retreating from in front of my eyes, curling his fingers away from my forehead.

β€œWhat the fuck?!”

He’s walking away.

β€œHey!” I feel the coffee in my hand and it’s cold as cold can be and the air doesn’t smell as pure as it used to.

I search for him, but he’s disappeared into the trees.

β€œGoddammit!” I cry, frustrated.

Stupid me forgot his most controversial superpower: the ability to project fantasies into people’s minds.

β€œYou bastard!”

Hurling my already stale coffee only contributes to my anger as I encounter a β€˜Do Not Litter’ sign that makes me squat to pick it up and throw it in the trash before exiting the park, swearing there’s smoke coming out of my ears as I go.

###

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You can win 1 of 2 signed copies through this Rafflecopter giveaway.

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The Last Superhero – Chapter 2, signed copies for sale, and giveaways reminder

This week has been pretty awesome. And it’s only Tuesday.

First of all, author friend Stacey Cochran sent me a blurb for The Last Superhero and it’s pretty mind blowing:

“Cruz’s voice is the most authentic to emerge from the Caribbean in the digital age. Edgy, smart, tough, she writes with inspired confidence.”

– Stacey Cochran, author of EDDIE & SUNNY.

And no, I didn’t put a gun to his head or anything! I couldn’t speak for a while after he wrote to me and even when I’ve read it and reread it a couple of times I still can’t believe he’s talking about me. πŸ˜€

Then, something wonderful happened this morning. The print proof of The Last Superhero arrived in the mail!

IMG_20141209_125326

It’s perfect!!!

I love it. I love everything about it and I will sleep with it hugged to my chest tonight.

And I know I have lots of friends and family wanting to do that too so I’m selling autographed copies. Yay!

Click here if you’d like to buy one and I will love you forever!

Also, remember I’ve got two giveaways going on: 2 ARCs over at Goodreads and 2 signed copies through Rafflecopter.

Want to save tress? You can pre-order it from Amazon and have it downloaded to your Kindle as soon as it’s published.

If I keep smiling like this my face will hurt. So here I give you Chapter 2…

2

It’s been a week since the incident and I’m chatting with Daphne – my right-hand, store clerk, and all around guardian angel who has worked here for free for far longer than I care to admit – about hair colors. She’s punk and has purple and white streaks in her hair and keeps trying to convince me about dyeing mine any color I choose from the rainbow.

β€œI’m trying to run a bookstore,” I reply.

Well, it’s not my bookstore, it’s my mother’s, but I’m the one who runs it for her thanks to people like Daphne who believe the written word isn’t dead.

Anyway, that’s another story.

β€œBlue would look perfect on you,” she says, eyeing the customer that’s just walked in. β€œIt might help us attract a younger crowd and less of those.” She nods the customer’s way.

I give a jump.

β€œOh fuck.”

β€œWhat?” Daphne frowns. She doesn’t know.

She doesn’t know the old dude’s back and he’s here to kill me.

He glides through the bookshelves, like some cat.

Shit.

β€œI’ll be outside,” I say, rush through the back door.

He’s on my tail and I hear Daphne trying to stop him.

β€œI just want to talk,” he says once we’ve both made it outside, closing the door on poor Daphne.

β€œIt’s okay, Daph, I’ve got it!” I cry, praying it makes it through the door seams and to her. Address him, β€œYou don’t want her calling the police.”

He opens the door again and there’s Daphne holding her phone to her face.

β€œIt’s okay,” I tell her, my arms crossed over my chest to hide my trembling. β€œHe’s a friend of Mom’s.”

β€œOh,” Daphne lowers her phone.

β€œI’ll be back in ten.”

She shuts the door.

This is it. This is where I die. Next to the dumpster. So classy.

β€œPlease make it quick.” My voice quivers, breaks. β€œAnd don’t let Daphne see my dead body, she’s squeamish.”

β€œWhat?!”

β€œLook, I didn’t tell the police it was you, just some Good Samaritan that then ran off. The surveillance cameras haven’t worked for years, so there’s no evidence.” It’s difficult to speak, but I push through. At least let me explain myself before he kills me off.

His brows furrow, every time a little deeper.

β€œThe guy’s in the hospital. He has no family or anything so no one will miss him.” I can hear him breathing hard. β€œAnd I think you should know I’m an only child and this bookstore is my mother’s, so maybe you’d like to dump my body somewhere they can’t find me.”

β€œWhat the fuck are you going on about?”

β€œYou’re here to kill me, aren’t you?”

β€œI’m not.” He looks around, exasperated.

β€œWhat are you here for then?”

He brings his hands to his head. β€œThis is fucked up.”

β€œNo shit.”

β€œI’m not here to kill you and it wasn’t my intention to injure that man.”

β€œIt’s not like you haven’t done it before.”

His stare is so intense, I step back and bump into the wall behind me.

β€œWhat do you know about me?”

I feel my knees buckle and lean on the wall to remain vertical.

β€œThat your name is Steven Waldorf.”

β€œWhat else?”

β€œThat…” Should I say it? He’s pressing me with those menacing hazel eyes… β€œYou’re the last superhero to roam the Earth.”

His face falls for a second before he steps back, away from my quaking self.

I know too much and now he knows I know and he’ll do to me what they do to all the people who know too much.

β€œI’m not here to kill you.”

I brave a glance at him and he’s standing next to the dumpster, his head down.

β€œYou’re not?”

β€œNo, I’m not. What made you think that?”

β€œApart from all the glaring and the sneering?” And the fact that I witnessed you almost murder someone?

He runs his fingers through his graying hair. β€œLook, I’m sorry I was rude to you.”

β€œAre you even real?”

β€œOf course I am.”

β€œAnd you are Steven Waldorf.”

β€œI go by Steven Dennis now.”

β€œOh.” A pause. β€œYou’re supposed to be dead.”

β€œYes. And I would appreciate if you didn’t tell anyone that I am not.”

β€œOkay.” Sure. Or you’ll kill me. I get it.

He’s about to say something, but it dies in his throat. His face’s softened and giving him a second look, he’s not that old or bad looking.

It takes a depraved mind like mine to think such a thing in a moment like this.

Something drives me to talk. Maybe it’s that same thing that made me get out of the car and read the plaque.

Step closer to the boogeyman so he can slash you straight.

β€œWere you looking for something? Is there anything I can help you with?”

Now he softens further and there’s the ghost of a smile on his lips.

β€œI came to buy more books.”

β€œOkay. Follow me.”

Don’t touch him in case he’s startled and then kills you.

We walk back into the bookstore and I signal Daphne that all is okay. She gives Steven an ‘I’m watching you’ look that he doesn’t notice.

He’s got superpowers, yes, but not all of them. I think there’s a rule about that; you only get one or two, not more. He’s got telekinesis. It explains why the hobo flew through the air. He pushed him with his power.

We’re in the poetry section and I try to interest him in some crime novel that just came out.

β€œDon’t read crime.”

Of course you don’t.

A long, elegant finger settles on a particular poetry compilation that happens to be one of my favorites and pulls it out.

The guy seems to know. β€œGreat choice.”

β€œIs it?”

β€œOne of my favorites.” I’m regarded with a quirked eyebrow and a satisfied nod. β€œI must ask…”

β€œNo questions.”

And here I was thinking he’d softened.

Why am I following him, I don’t know.

Well, maybe because he’s the last fucking superhero in the fucking Earth and, right now, I’m the only one who knows he’s still alive.

When I turn around, he’s staring at me.

β€œCan you read my mind?”

That makes him burst out in laughter.

β€œNot funny.” I give him an about face and his hand lands on my shoulder, startling me.

β€œSorry,” he says.

Daphne’s checking on us from a distance.

β€œIt’s okay.”

β€œGot any naughty thoughts you don’t want me knowing about?”

Is that humor? Must be.

β€œMaybe.”

That amuses him.

β€œI’m taking this one but only because you said it was your favorite.” He hands me the book.

β€œOne of my favorites. I’ve got many.” I lead the way to the register, where Daphne’s sitting.

She’s quick to slide off the stool and run for cover.

β€œThen I shall come back for the rest.”

Am I getting hit on by a man twice my age? From murder to flirting. This is new and unheard.

He’s smiling. It makes him look less menacing. Almost nice.

Apart from the murder thing.

He pays, I bag the book, give it to him.

β€œWhat’s your name, by the way?”

β€œGiana.”

It hits him, something, don’t know what, then says, β€œBeautiful.” And it’s as if it physically hurt him.

A slight bow and he’s out. Out the door but not my mind.

β€œWhat did he want?” Daphne approaches me.

β€œI don’t know,” is my reply and I have to shake it off. β€œI’m getting lunch.” Hit a button on the cash register and see there’s not enough.

β€œI’ll get it.” She pats my shoulder and is off the same way Steven was seconds before.

I bend over and hit my forehead on the counter.

β€œFuck everything and everyone, dead, alive, or about to die.”

###