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The Glass Butterfly: Release Day Blitz + Giveaway

I am so
excited that THE GLASS BUTTERFLY by A.G.
Howard is available now and that I get to share the news!
 
If you
haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author A.G. Howard, be sure to
check out all the details below.
 
This blitz
also includes a giveaway for some amazing prizes courtesy of A.G. and Rockstar
Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the
bottom of this post.
About The Book:
Title: THE GLASS BUTTERFLY (Haunted
Hearts Legacy #3)
Author: A.G. Howard
Pub.
Date:
 August 15, 2018
Publisher: Golden Orb Press
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 278
Find it: Goodreads,
Amazon
All other formats and vendors will be
available on the official launch date: August 15, 2018
For close to a decade, twenty-five-year-old
Felicity Lonsdale has masqueraded as a dowager almost twice her age—selling
caterpillars to butterfly consortiums—enabling her to hide an ill-fated past
while raising her late brother’s daughters. Together, the three live on an
isolated Irish estate bequeathed by a dying earl. When the earl’s estranged son
arrives to claim his inheritance by threatening to expose Felicity’s true
identity, she longs to pack up her nieces and run. But a ghostly secret within
the castle’s turret holds her captive.
Nick Thornton—a Roma viscount’s heir—is also captive. After a tryst with an
investor’s wife nearly destroyed his family’s holiday resort, Nick forsook
everything to elope with her. However, a tragic mistake at his hand led to her
and his baby’s deaths. Refusing to turn to the family he shamed, Nick travels
to seek the countess who once co-wrote a romance with his sister. There’s rumor
of a special butterfly in her keep—a transparent-winged species with ties to
the afterlife. Nick hopes to contact his dead wife and child, for only their
forgiveness can free him.
Upon his arrival to Felicity’s estate, Nick offers to help her defeat the
earl’s son, on the condition she allow Nick to investigate her glass
butterflies. Felicity agrees, though fears the closer he gets to the ghosts of
his past, the closer he’ll come to uncovering her own. As Nick spends time with
Felicity and her nieces, he realizes the mystery enshrouding this fragile
countess and her castle is more intriguing than the ghosts he originally came
to find. And perhaps putting his dead to rest and helping her do the same will
be his true path to redemption.
About the series: 

Title: THE HUMMINGBIRD HEART
Author: A.G. Howard
Pub.
Date: 
August 15, 2017
Publisher: Golden Orb Press
Pages: 339
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Set 19 years after The Architect of Song:
Shortly after escaping a circus tragedy,
young Italian orphan, Willow Antoniette, seeks refuge at The Manor of
Diversions—a holiday resort in England born of a ghost story. For eleven years,
she’s raised alongside the children of the resort’s owners: Julian, his twin
brother, Nick, and their younger sister Emilia. Now that Willow is of marriable
age, she’s determined to escape finishing school along with everyone’s efforts
to make her a proper lady. The only man she wants to spend her life with is
Julian, after all. Yet how can she tell him, when he thinks of her as nothing
but a friend?
As a machinist and engineer, Julian Thornton
prefers a governable life. He can’t allow his ever-deepening attraction for
Willow to distract from his amusement park plans to lure a younger, wealthier
clientele to their family’s resort. In hopes to escape Willow and find
investors, Julian sets off on a transatlantic ocean liner headed for the St.
Louis World’s Fair, unaware Willow has secretly stowed away on the same ship.
A tiny, mute orphan named Newton and a pair
of haunted Italian shoes bring Willow and Julian face to face on deck. Forced
to work together to solve the mystery of Newton and his vindictive, ghostly
companion, Julian and Willow can no longer fight their untapped passions.
However, time to admit their true feelings is running out, for the ghost and
her murderer have enlisted them as unsuspecting pawns in a karmic game of
cat-and-mouse that could cost all of them their lives.

Title: THE ARCHITECT OF SONG

Author: A.G. Howard
Pub.
Date:
 August 15, 2016
Publisher: Golden Orb Press
Pages: 425
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Find it: AmazonGoodreads
A lady imprisoned by deafness, an architect
imprisoned by his past, and a ghost imprisoned within the petals of a flower –
intertwine in this love story that transcends life and death.
For most of her life, nineteen-year-old Juliet Emerline has
subsisted – isolated by deafness – making hats in the
solitude of her home. Now, she’s at risk to lose her sanctuary to Lord Nicolas
Thornton, a twenty-seven-year-old mysterious and eccentric architect with
designs on her humble estate. When she secretly witnesses him raging beside a
grave, Juliet investigates, finding the name “Hawk” on the headstone and an
unusual flower at the base. The moment Juliet touches the petals, a young
English nobleman appears in ghostly form, singing a song only her deaf ears can
hear. The ghost remembers nothing of his identity or death, other than the one
name that haunts his afterlife: Thornton.
To avenge her ghostly companion and save her estate, Juliet pushes aside her
fear of society and travels to Lord Thornton’s secluded holiday resort, posing
as a hat maker in one of his boutiques. There, she finds herself questioning
who to trust: the architect of flesh and bones who can relate to her through
romantic gestures, heartfelt notes, and sensual touches … or the
specter who serenades her with beautiful songs and ardent words, touching her
mind and soul like no other man ever can. As sinister truths behind Lord
Thornton’s interest in her estate and his tie to Hawk come to light, Juliet is
lured into a web of secrets. But it’s too late for escape, and the tragic love
taking seed in her heart will alter her silent world forever.
International and NYT bestselling author, A.G. Howard, brings her darkly
magical and visual/visceral storytelling to Victorian England. The Architect of
Song is the first installment in her lush and romantic Haunted Hearts Legacy
series, a four book gothic saga following the generations of one family as –
haunted by both literal and figurative ghosts – they search for
self-acceptance, love, and happiness.
New Adult: Recommended for ages 17+.

About A.G. Howard:

 

A.G. Howard was inspired to write SPLINTERED while working
at a school library. She always wondered what would’ve happened had the subtle
creepiness of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland taken center stage, and she
hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek
out the stories that won her heart as a child.When she’s not writing, A.G.’s pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening,
and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century
graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.
 
 
Giveaway Details: All
International
There are four prize packs up for grabs. The image below
shows what each one contains.

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The Prince: Release Day Launch

 

From #1 New York Times Bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout, comes THE PRINCE, a new novella in her Wicked Series, brought to you by 1,001 Dark Nights! Be sure to grab your copy today!

 

From #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes a new story in her Wicked series…

She’s everything he wants….

Cold. Heartless. Deadly. Whispers of his name alone bring fear to fae and mortals alike. The Prince. There is nothing in the mortal world more dangerous than him. Haunted by a past he couldn’t control, all Caden desires is revenge against those who’d wronged him, trapping him in never-ending nightmare. And there is one person he knows can help him.

She’s everything he can’t have…

Raised within the Order, Brighton Jussier knows just how dangerous the Prince is, reformed or not. She’d seen firsthand what atrocities he could be capable of. The last thing she wants to do is help him, but he leaves her little choice. Forced to work alongside him, she begins to see the man under the bitter ice. Yearning for him feels like the definition of insanity, but there’s no denying the heat in his touch and the wicked promise is his stare.

She’s everything he’ll take….

But there’s someone out there who wants to return the Prince to his former self. A walking, breathing nightmare that is hell bent on destroying the world and everyone close to him. The last thing either of them needs is a distraction, but with the attraction growing between them each now, the one thing he wants more than anything may be the one thing that will be his undoing.

She’s everything he’d die for….

 

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon Canada

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EXCERPT:

Did it make you a bad friend if you were completely, a hundred percent envious of that friend? Yes? No? Kind of?

I figured it was somewhere in between.

That’s what I was mulling over as I watched Ivy Morgan brush thick, red curls over her shoulder, laughing at something her boyfriend Ren Owens had said to her.

At least I wasn’t envious of that—their love. Okay, well, that wasn’t entirely true. Pretty sure anyone who was as single as me would be envious of all that warm and fuzzy that was passed back and forth with each long look or casual brush of skin. The two could barely tear their gazes away from one another to eat the dinner we’d grabbed at the cute little diner inside the shopping center on Prytania Street.

I honest to God couldn’t be happier for them. They’d been through so much—way more than two people should ever have to go through to be together, and here they were, stronger and more in love than ever, and they deserved that happiness.

But their epic love story wasn’t the source of a current case of the green-eye monster that was sitting on my shoulder.

Ivy was just such a… badass.

Even right now, relaxed in the chair, surrounded by twinkling Christmas lights with her hand in Ren’s and her belly full of a cheeseburger deluxe and crinkle fries and half of my tater tots, she could kick ass and take names along with addresses, telephone numbers, and social security numbers.

If the proverbial poo hit the fan, you called Ivy or Ren.

If you needed to know what streets Royal intersected with, you called… me. Or if you needed coffee or fresh beignets but were currently busy, you know, saving the world, you’d call me.

The three of us were all members of the Order, a widespread organization that was literally the only thing that stood between mankind and complete, utter enslavement and destruction by the fae. And not the super cute fae found in Disney movies or some crap like that. Humans thought they were on top of the food chain. They were wrong. The fae were.

The only thing pop culture got right about the fae was their slightly pointy ears. That was it. The fae were more than just beings from another world—the Otherworld—they were capable of glamouring their appearance to blend in with humans. But all Order members, even me, were warded at birth against the glamour. We saw through the human façade to the creature that lurked beneath.

 

 

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About Jennifer L. Armentrout:

# 1 New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki. Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV. She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

 

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Cover Reveal: To Dream is to Die

To Dream is to Die

Release Date: January 8th, 2018

Summary:

Eighteen-year-old Brenna Whit is entering Nephesburg College as a freshman and starting to meet new people, but she hides a dark secret: because of an accident that happened three years ago, her spirit wanders the Fade whenever she falls asleep. It’s something she wants to keep hidden from the world, but when she sees someone

watching her in spirit form, she fears the secret’s out. With the demons and fairies that wander the Fade, Brenna has enough to worry about. Now that she’s in college, it’s schoolwork, new friends, new enemies, and something under the surface happening at Nephesburg College. Only time will tell if she will survive her first year of college.

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Prequel Information:
As an intro into the world of Dead Dreamer, I’ve been publishing chapters of a prequel series called The Child Dreamer once a month. The final chapter will be published in December.
George Walker was a child when his world changed
The darkness within his ᛋᛟᚢᛚ planted 
Only to ᚷᚱᛟᚹ with each passing day
Leading to a day when the ᚷᚨᛏᛖᚲᛖᛖᛈᛖᚱᛋ arrive
To take him away
ᚠᛟᚱᛖᚹᛖᚱ

Continue reading

Star-Touched Stories: Author Q&A + Excerpt

Star Touched Stories_cover image

Excerpt:

  • » 1 «•

DEATH

I

I stood outside the home, watching as the light beaded and dripped down the length of the Tapestry thread. I waited. There was never any rush. Not for me at least.

The light dangled from the end of the string, clinging and re- luctant. A passing wind stirred the ends of the thread, teasing out strands of memory. The memories plumed into the air, releasing the scent of a life lived in love. One by one, the memories unraveled— a pillow shared by two heads bent close in secrecy, a frayed blanket kept inside an eternally empty cradle, a table that sagged from the weight of uncertain feasts. Happiness stolen from the edges of sorrow.

I stepped over the threshold.

The lights in the hut extinguished. Shadows slipped off the walls to gather around my feet. Inside the hut, someone had propped up a stingy fire. Cinnamon scented the air. Past the dusty vestibule, rows

upon rows of bay leaves hung from the ceiling. Strange runes scratched into small animal bones and ivory hairpins lay in carefully constructed patterns. I laughed. Someone had tried to ward me away. But there was no door that didn’t open to me.

At the far corner of the house huddled two people. A man in the arms of a woman. Old age had blessed him, yet for all his gnarled veins and silver-streaked hair, the woman cradled him as if he were a child. He murmured softly into the crook of her neck. I watched them. She wasn’t crying.

The woman looked up . . . and saw me. How refreshing.

“Greetings, Dharma Raja,” said the woman in a clear voice.

I took in the bay leaves and bone pins. “You were expecting me, I take it.”

“Yes,” she said, hanging her head. “I regret that I cannot serve you any food or drink or treat you as a guest in our home.”

“Don’t let it trouble you,” I said, waving my hand. “I am rarely a guest. Merely an inevitable occurrence.”

Her husband did not stir in her arms. His breath had grown soft. While the woman had kept her eyes trained on me, I had taken away his pain, siphoned it bit by bit. I was in a generous mood.

“You have come for him.”

“As I will for you, one day. I could tell you the hour, if you wish it.”

“No.”

I shrugged. “Very well.”

She clutched him tighter. Her hands trembled. I knew she could feel his life unspooling. She may have seen me, but she did not see his life pooling beneath him.

“May I ask something of you, Dharma Raja?” “You may.”

But I need not honor it.

“We always wished to leave this life together.”

“I cannot change your appointed time, even if I wished.”

She closed her eyes. “Then may I request, instead, that you not let him pass to the next life until I may join him there?”

Now this was interesting. I sank backward into the air, and an onyx throne swirled up to meet me. I tilted my head, watching her. “Why? I haven’t weighed your life yet. What if you were far more honorable than your husband in this life? I could pour your soul into the mold of a princess blessed with beauty and intellect, riches and wonders. I could add silver to your heart and fortify you from any

heartbreak. I could give you a life worthy of legends.” She shook her head. “I would rather have him.”

“You’d rather have him, and whatever life that entails?” I leaned forward, eyeing the dingy room.

Her eyes flashed. “Yes.”

“He may not even come back as a human. Believe me. I’ve remade emperors into cockroaches and cockroaches into kings. You seem like a reasonably intelligent woman. Would you truly like to keep house for a bug?”

She lifted her chin. “I would be his mate in any form.”

A curious emotion prickled my skin, nudging the back of my thoughts. My hands tightened on the shadow throne. Before I could stop myself, the question flew from me:

“Why? ”

“Because I love him,” said the woman. “I would prefer any life with him than any life without him. Even the deities know love to

the point that they will chase their counterpart through thousands of lifetimes. Surely you, oh Dharma Raja, understand how extraor- dinary love can be?”

I knew very well what could come of love. I had seen it. Been cursed by it. Even now, I thought of her. The way she ran away and left a shadow in her place. Love was extraordinary.

Extraordinarily spiteful. Extraordinarily blind. Extraordinarily misleading. “Bold words,” I said.

“They do not move you?”

I shrugged. “You may appeal and supplicate and wheedle as you wish, but I have heard every excuse and plea and sputter, and my heart has never been moved.”

The woman bowed her head. She gathered her husband to her chest. Her wedding bangles clanked together, breaking the silence. When I left, custom dictated that she must remove those wedding ornaments. Widows did not wear such bracelets. I had not consid- ered until now that the sound itself was a thing near death. And that chime—gold against gold—struck me far louder than any keening. In the echoes, I heard something hollow. And lonely.

I dropped the noose. It slid through the man’s skin, noiseless as silk. Life had left him. All that was left was his soul.

You never forget what it’s like to withdraw a soul. It is an un- clasping. Sometimes a soul is tough and hard, surrounded by sin- ews of memories gone brittle with age. Sometimes a soul is soft and bursting like wind-fallen fruit, all bruised tenderness and stale hope. And sometimes a soul is an ethereal shard of light. As if the force of its life is a scorching thing.

This soul belonged to light.

When the woman looked down, she knew that her husband was gone. The thing she cradled was nothing more than meat soon to spoil. Tears slid down her wrinkled cheeks.

“Come now,” I said, standing from the throne. “I have taken hus- bands when their wives still wore the henna from their wedding. I consider you lucky.”

“I beg of you,” she said. “Don’t let him move on without me. He would have asked the same.”

I swung the soul into a satchel and the light faded. I headed for the door, more out of formality than anything else. If I wanted, I could’ve disappeared right then and there.

“Please. What would you do for someone you loved?”

I stopped short. “I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure of that provo- cation.”

“You love no one?” she asked, her eyebrows rising in disbelief. “I love myself. Does that count?”

And then I left.

Roshani Chokshi CREDIT Aman Sharma

Author Q&A

Out of all the characters in your novels, which one did you have the most fun writing about and who do you relate to the most personally? What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?

In the world of the Star – Touched Queen, I think the one who I related to the most was also the one that I had the most fun writing: Kamala! There’s just something about the demon horse that resonated a lot with me. I think it’s because she does everything that I would do in a fantasy story, which is frantically derail the plot and whine to her friends about how hungry she is all the time.

What inspired you to create this fictional world? Were there anyRomo mythologies that particularly inspired you?

I was really inspired by the childhood stories that my grandmother told me. To me, they were so rich with details and texture that it really shocked me how these worlds and mythologies were never explored in mainstream literature. I was particularly inspired by Greek and Hindu mythology.

Why did you feel it was important to add Star-Touched Stories to this world you’ve created?  What do you want readers to gain from the stories? Do you think there are any more stories to tell from the Star-Touched world, and if so, who you most like to write about next?

For me, this collection of stories is my farewell to the world that I created. It was extremely cathartic to write these three stories. I want readers to gain a sense of closure. I want readers to feel as much as I did when I with the stories. Who can say whether or not there are more stories left to tell in this world? 😉

Will you miss writing this world and characters?

Absolutely! They lived in my head for so long that I feel strangely weightless to be without them.

What was your favorite scene to write from Star-Touched Stories, and what was your favorite scene to write from the whole series?

Honestly, my favorite scene that I wrote was the last scene the last story. I think you’ll see why. As for my favorite scene that I wrote from the whole series, I think it would have to be the moment when Maya first enters the Night Bazaar.

Is there a scene or character from one of your stories that you’ve had to cut which you really wish you could share with readers?

There once was a speaking monkey character… But I had to let go of him. Maybe he’ll reappear some other time.

How is writing short stories different than writing a full-length book? How different is it to write YA and MG? How has your writing evolved?

Writing short stories is really different from writing a full-length book because you’re ultimately writing to a punchline in a shorter amount of space. There is less space to explore so the language must be very deliberate. I think my writing has evolved to become a lot more character focused than I once was. I still love gorgeous, decadent prose, but I believe that the best kind of language is that which is emotionally filtered through the feelings of a character.

What is the best advice you would give to inspiring writers?

Read often. I realize that sounds trite, but so many people retread the same path with stories out of comfort or nostalgia. I totally understand this and I’m one of those people who loves to reread my favorite books but I never found a sense of my own writing voice or writing style without reading a wide variety of works.

What sort of music do you listen to when you write?

I mostly listen to music to get me in the mood for writing rather than listening to music to get me through a scene. I think the only times I listen to music when I’m writing is if I’m in a third or fourth round of revisions. Otherwise I get distracted.

If any of your books were given an adaptation, would you rather it be a movie, TV show, web series, or stage musical?

For The Gilded Wolves, I would rather see that as a miniseries. For both books in the Star-Touched universe, I’d rather see those as movies.

Favorite myth and how has it inspired your writing? What was your inspiration for these stories?

I think my favorite myth is Hades and Persephone. I love the atmosphere, the goth undercurrent, the power dynamic. I love the movement of princess to Queen.

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Author Interview: Moriah Chavis

Check these out on Swoon Reads!

 

What kind of books do you write?

I’ve written in different genres, but I’ve found my niche in contemporary YA. I love to experiment with my writing, so I have lots of different ideas. But there’s always a romance!

Do you outline or just go with it?

My writing style has changed and evolved. In past manuscripts, I’ve been a “pantser” (just went with it). With my current WIP, I outlined it first. It really helped focus the story, this one specifically. It changes story to story, though.

What’s your favorite book you have written? Tell us a little about it.

Every book I’ve written has a special place in my heart. I love the one I’m currently working on. It’s a tie between a manuscript titled The Way to Grace and this one!

What do you find to be the hardest thing about writing? The best thing?

That first page. The first page is always daunting. It’s so blank! The best part of writing is hitting that grove, where you know the story is going somewhere. I really start to believe in a story at around 30K-40K.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer, and when was the first time you wrote a story?

Twelve-years-old. I finished my first novel-length story at eighteen.

What’s your favorite book you’ve read this year? And what’s your favorite book ever?

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

It’s a toss up between Voyager by Diana Gabaldon (really anything she writes) and My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

You also have a Bookstagram account on Instagram. What are your favorite kinds of pictures to take? Inspiration?

I love #copythatcover! Meredith of @fromlibrarywithlove is a huge inspiration and so sweet. I also love @latenightreading, @erinsummerill, and @pink_eye_pro.

When you take Bookstagram pictures, do you take them daily or a bunch at one time?

I usually take them one day at a time. Sometimes I don’t have time for this, so I miss a day. But my pictures are better, I’ve found, if I don’t stockpile them.

What’s your favorite color?

My favorite color changes with my mood! I love red, blue, green, purple! I love purple right now.

Do you have any advice for other writers out there?

Keep going. It’s a never-ending process, but it’ll be worth it (I hope) in the end. You meet wonderful people along the way and get to develop your craft. Every story is a story worth discovering.

 

Author bio: 
As long as she has a book in her hand, her Nikon around her neck, or her laptop nearby, Moriah is happy. She holds a Liberal Arts degree from the University of South Carolina and loves talking literature. Currently, she’s a graduate student at USC working on her Masters in Library and Informational Science. If not being crushed by her cat, she loves being outdoors and sometimes goes for a run. And yes, a turtle passed her a few miles back.
Social Links:
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Author Interview: E.L. Reedy & A.M. Wade + Excerpt

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Summary:

Bound by a dark act of hate and despair, high school freshmen, Andrew and Kiernan, learn that their untimely deaths did not bring an end to their pain, but only began the suffering of those left behind. While his lost memories return, Andrew must master seemingly impossible feats, both spiritual and physical.

As a dark spirit stalks Kiernan through the borderlands of life and death, he must also face the pain his actions have caused his loved ones. To save both their souls, Andrew must convince Kiernan to return to life and open his eyes to the love and beauty which had always been there.

Author Interview: E. L. Reedy & A. M. Wade

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What was the inspiration for Upon Broken Wings?

E.L. – I wrote the first draft many years ago after the sudden and unexpected loss of a family friend. It was a way to let go of my grief. I wrote several more versions including a screenplay, but still the story felt incomplete. A few years back I had my sister read it, she loved it and that’s when we really got work, rebuilding characters and events from the ground up.

A.M. – Several friends and classmates took their own lives and left us reeling, so the book was born of wonder and regret.

Do you have a favorite character in your book? Who and why?

E.L. – My favorite character was our Narrator, Casey, a gifted boy, able to see angels and other assorted things unnoticed by us mere mortals. He was the speaker for all of those left behind after a suicide; he got to ask the questions left unasked and unleash the rants left unsaid to the departed.

A.M. – Casey.  He loved fiercely, simply and with forgiveness.  He also allowed himself to see that not everything was black and white, and that allowed him to see the angels.

Did you find co-authoring an easy process or more difficult?

E.L. I found it fairly easy. I’m great with story crafting, but my sister (A. M. Wade) is fantastic with creating characters, keeping track of details, and for the most part keeping me grounded.

A.M. – It took us a while to blend our styles, but we found that we had the same ideas, just traveled different roads to get there.

How did the two of you connect and decide to write a book together?

A.M. – Well, we started early picking games and teams to play as youngsters.  Our family is really close, for the most part. We both love reading and have written things all our lives.  I just never showed them to adults after high school.

Do you guys outline or just go with it?

E.L. – Before writing the rough draft, I use a very simple outline; five turning points used for screenplays (Michael Hauge theory) It seems to work for books too.

STAGE I: The Setup

TURNING POINT #1: The Opportunity (10%)

STAGE 2: The New Situation

TURNING POINT #2: The Change of Plans (25%)

STAGE III: Progress

TURNING POINT #3: The Point of No Return (50%)

STAGE IV: Complications and Higher Stakes

TURNING POINT #4: The Major Setback (75%)

STAGE V: The Final Push

TURNING POINT #5: The Climax (90-99%)

STAGE VI: The Aftermath

What do you find to be the hardest thing about writing? The best thing?

E.L.—The hardest thing is being able to let go of a story, when it is not ready to be told. The best? I would have to say that long exhilarating breath one gets to take when peening the words, “The End!”

A.M. – The hardest, giving up good ideas, when they just don’t work for the story.  Sometimes we dumped whole storylines to come up with one good statement. Still, we ended up where we needed to be.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

A.M. – I have always written poems and stories in my head and have written some for the littles in my family.  I am always saving scraps, ideas, and listening to songs, thinking, “I wish I could tell that story.”

What’s your favorite book you’ve read this year? And what’s your favorite book ever?

A.M. – My favorite book so far this year, is actually a reread.  Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Born of Legend–not a YA book–lots of triggers, sex, violence, but also love, sacrifice, self-examination, and forgiveness.  I don’t have a favorite book per se, but the first I ever read and reread was Black Beauty: Horses, big cats, and happy endings have always been draws for me. Most of my favorite books are adult reads, Dick Francis, Louis L’Amour, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kristen Ashley.  My favorite books are literally the books that make me forget I am reading.  I am part of the story.

What future books do you have planned next?

E.L. – Our next project is a three-book saga (not in order, so I don’t believe it qualifies as an actual trilogy). The first two books will be set in the modern-day Midwest, where an ancient line of Druids, guards a much older secret, so terrible that a Goddess and the Prince of Darkness take an interest.

A.M. – YA stories that are connected but not sequels, so can be read one and done, or they can be read with each other to see the whole picture–sacrifice, love, demons, what’s not to love?

What’s your favorite color?

E.L. – Cyan, that color of a beautiful sky somewhere between green and blue after the sun has risen and the gold fire has faded.

A.M. – Blue, deep shimmering blue like the perfect sky just as sunset fades and darkness falls.

Do you have any advice for other writers out there?

E.L. – My best advice is to ignore all advice when writing your rough draft. Everyone’s mind works differently, and you have to discover how yours works for you. Once you’ve finished the rough draft, however, to get past any publisher’s door, Indie or Mainstream, your work manuscript must be formatted properly, grammar and spelling should be as close to flawless as possible, and the story should be original and above all else, entertaining.

A.M. – Keep writing, even if no one sees it, just keep writing till your story is told.

Upon-Broken-Wings-painfully-empty

Excerpt:

Upon Broken Wings

by

Elmer. L. Reedy & Ann M. Wade

So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

A Recollection of Death

—from Andrew Harowitz, Memories of the Living

My dearest Michael.

My love.

I still remember the moment I surrendered my broken heart on that last bitter, rainy day of October, burying it with a tattered piece of my soul beneath the cold, still ground.

You were there of course, dressed in your finest black suit and a matching dark tie, and I am sure you saw, as did I, the last traces of autumn fade to winter, in a cycle unbroken since the twilight of the Ice Age—in those ancient times when the last glaciers melted away from the northern continents and poured their essence into every sea and ocean of the world.

Great and small flocks of blackbirds and crows swept over us in their mysterious formations, some late to start their journey to the south, others simply launching into the sky—those that never leave our lands—they are like the keepers of death, winter’s closest ally. Tell me Michael, if you remember, did you hear them sing, as their melodies soared high into the heavens? It was a lonely sound like that of a train whistle before sunrise, or the roar of the long-trucks, rolling down the highways between cities late at night.

Did you know that it’s on the first day of spring that life truly begins for the newborns and young? It renews for the old still blessed to be with us, and for those of us caught up in the turbulent in-between years, it is just another marker of the slow passage of time.

We followed the long hearse that day in a car, black as coal, with windows tinted for the privacy of all. Your parents sat on the back seat beside me. Did you see them there? Listen to your mother’s cries? Watch your father’s falling tears? Did you look upon me, lost so far inside myself that I showed no emotion at all?

Our procession crossed the city of Fair Cedar on a journey spanning from the church to the cemetery. As has always been custom, we ignored the stoplights and stop signs on the way, cutting off traffic and slowing only for turns and bumpy sections of road.

When we at last entered the misty graveyard, the rust-shrouded iron gates squeaked as they swung open. I heard and even felt their haunting echo that followed us along the curving drive through the forest of tombstones and trees.

I saw yellow and orange lilies, and roses, both white and red, among the grave markers and stones. Did you see them dying in weather more unstable than crackling ice on a thawing lake? Looking past them, I saw statues of angels and saints, bright as stars, when brief breaks in the gray clouds let the sunshine pass down to the earth below.

I remember every bump in the road, Michael, as from my window, I watched the passing trees, without a leaf on their branches—they seemed naked in the cold, half hidden by distance, the thickness of the haze, but more so by the tears that refused to drip from my burning red eyes.

Our sad parade parked, stretched along the side of the road, and I lost count of those who stepped out from their warm cars to join us in the damp, cold air. I followed just behind your parents and they followed their parish priest. He was dressed in his cassock and robe and carrying his crucifix before him like an upraised sword. For reasons I still don’t understand, I think I cracked a smile at the oddity of it all, but it was gone before anyone else saw it.

Your mother and father walked close, their hands held tight between them. But I only held white roses, still on their stems, which I had done all too often, and everyone else clutched tightly to umbrella handles, sympathy cards, and bouquets of many colors.

I heard a haunting whistle that filled my soul with dread, but it was only the echo of the wind, blowing through the branches of the trees. It made me feel so alone, Michael, in a place all gray, empty, and almost silent. I truly wept then. I cried in those days and more times after that than I could ever hope to count.

Though it was cold, I wore only a black jacket and matching pants, no coat or gloves to keep me warm. My suit was an older one of yours that your parents let me borrow, not brand new like the one you wore that day. My arms were too short for my hands to even reach the ends of the sleeves. I looked silly and I wanted to laugh, but by then, I had forgotten how.

We came at last to a casket resting at the center of a large velvet cloth—it was the second I’d seen that day, Michael. Do you remember why? I think they were trying to hide from us the open pit beneath it, but we all knew the truth—the ever-hungry earth awaited on yet another feast.

I stayed near you and your parents throughout the entire service, but not too close. I was not their beloved son. They were not my heartbroken parents.

A fire burned inside of me, Michael. Twice, I think I nearly threw up, but I stayed steady and strong. I stood firm for the soul once belonging to the body resting in the mahogany box, too long for a child and too short for an adult, but just the right size for a fourteen-year-old boy. The lid of course remained closed. We both knew why, didn’t we?

Thunder rumbled far and near, and the crows cried out, launching from the trees in formation for reasons unknown. My world went hazy. I wiped the tears away with my sleeves, but they just kept flowing like a waterfall down both of my frozen cheeks.

I watched your mother and father, leaning on one another, as the stone-faced priest read from his prayer book. I wanted a shoulder for my weary head. I needed a hug or at least some sort of touch, but you would not even look my way. You only stared at the sky with your eyelids closed tight. No one, Michael, no one consoled me—my grief ran through me unchecked, a sorrow much too deep for an already grieving boy of thirteen years to bear alone.

A shadow of the approaching storm fell upon us. It grew dark. A strong wind ripped away flowers and stole umbrellas. Then it started to drizzle. And the drizzle became a downpour.

I opened my eyes wide and tilted back my head, with my mouth open. Do you remember when we used to catch raindrops on the tips of our tongues? We were younger then, and the drops tasted sweet, not like the bitterness I felt in those passing days of loneliness and death.

Your father, who had always been kind, offered me his umbrella, but I only shook my head. I wanted—no, I needed—to feel every icy touch of water, as it soaked through my suit. I shivered, but the fires of grief flowing through me remained. I burned inside, hot like an open flame.

The priest’s words seemed mumbled, but I am sure that it was a fine eulogy. My attention was focused on a coffin containing a boy only a year older than me. He was but a child stolen away by twisting metal, exploding glass, and the unquenchable thirst of a river swollen well past its banks.

Your mother lost it then, Michael, did you see? Did you hear her cries? She beat her fists against your father’s chest, and he just held her, whispering words of comfort for her alone.

I watched in tearful silence, as other wives, sisters, and daughters fell into the arms of their brothers, husbands, and sons. Their weeping seemed like a great and sorrowful symphony that only brought pain to my ears. There were no shoulders for me to rest my head upon, though, no one held me. You kept your arms at your sides, and you stared at the sky with your eyes shut tight.

I fell to the ground, and the sky unleashed a deluge. My knees splashed in the sodden muck, but I barely noticed. Then I heard a scream, a roar that knocked me flat. Michael, do you remember? I do. I’ll never forget. That scream was mine, from my own lips, but it came from somewhere much deeper.

I thought that you touched me then on my shoulder, and I thought I heard your gentle laugh, and even a whispering of your voice, sad and quiet. I looked up then, but it was only your father, reaching out to help me back to my feet.

I was all alone, Michael. You were there, but you would not meet my eyes. You didn’t even look my way. You only stared, as ever you will, into that mysterious beyond. I buried my heart that day, Michael. I buried my love on the last day of October, in the rain, when we buried you.

Prologue

Rehearsal and the following dinner had ended some hours earlier, but something had drawn me back to the gothic church and held me there—a feeling I could not even begin to name. Small wisps and curling tendrils of candle smoke still twirled about here and there above the extinguished candles, riding those strange drafts that move mindlessly through the air in large enclosed places. I could smell the hints of smoke amongst the mixed scents of wood polish, sweat, old-lady perfume, and all the other mysterious odors that hover about old churches. I regarded the distant altar, behind which a crucifix towered, and the statues of angels and saints along either side of the altar, but my thoughts were too hushed for even me to hear.

Radiant streams of moonlight poured in through the stained-glass windows displaying the Stations of the Cross—the story of Christ’s last day on this earth as a man—along either side of the great gothic cathedral and shed a multi-color nimbus upon countless rows of pews, empty of people, but decorated with bouquets and arrangements of roses of nearly every color. Haunting voices of the practicing choir, aloft in the air, mingling with the deep notes of the church organ, touched me with a bittersweet feeling of familiarity.

I bubbled inside with happiness, I brooded in sorrow, and stewed in anger. I was entrenched in confusion—I was overwhelmed with every emotion in between. I honestly don’t know what all I felt—my feelings were not my own that night. In my brief fourteen years of existence, churches had only represented death and loss, but that night, the next day, this holy place would represent new life, as my brother took the vows of matrimony, and yet… And yet…

“Yet you fear you’ll somehow lose him,” someone said from behind me. It sounded like the high-one-moment, low-the-next voice of any other boy my age, but I knew better—I did not hear him with my ears—instead his words echoed in my mind.

“Hello,” I said, turning about and releasing my breath, which I never even realized had been pent up. “To you, too,” I added as I nodded at the new arrivals. “It’s been so long. What—seven years now? I was beginning to wonder whether or not you two would even show up.”

“Are you serious? I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” a boy with golden curls and star-blue eyes, said with a wide grin. “When last we met, your brother made me a special promise. We’re mostly just here to make sure that he’s kept it. It’s not like we just stopped in to visit the world or anything.”

They each wore a white karate gi over loose fitting tunics and pants, simple brown sandals adorned their sockless feet, and there was an unmistakable otherworldly aura about them.

A taller boy with straight golden locks, chuckled. “You keep telling yourself that.” He turned his own twinkling brown eyes upon me. “Casey, it’s good to finally meet you in person—well, as personable as can be expected that is.”

“Why show yourselves now?” I pondered aloud. “I know you guys have been hanging around on and off ever since, well, you know. I mean, I couldn’t always see you, but I could feel when you and others like you were there.”

The shorter angel regarded the taller one with a peculiar look of victory. “You see? I told you. He’s the one. And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Who better to tell the—”

“Patience,” the taller one said, putting his finger to the tip of his nose. “How many times have I told you? We can’t just blurt these things out. They take time. Detailed explanations. Some level of tact. In a word, a plan.”

The shorter tilted his head to one side and shot his friend a look of disbelief. “Oh really? What about that time when you told that grandmother that her grandbabies were—”

“It’s not polite to bring up old mistakes,” the other boy said, crossing his arms. “Besides, I was much younger then. Less experienced.”

The other put his hands together and twiddled his thumbs, while smiling and never taking his eyes off his partner. “That was three days ago.”

“There you go again, so worried about time.”

I chuckled as they continued arguing on and on like two little kids, as if they had forgotten my presence all together. The funny thing was that there was no animosity between them—only friendship and it resounded with their every word. It felt like watching a show made especially for me. I felt the arrival of another presence then that started at first as a tickle against my cheek that soon became a soft tug at a tuft of hair, which led to a sense of overwhelming peace. It was very much like how my mother could make me feel simply by listening whenever I was feeling down.

“The roses are beautiful, there’s no doubt, but I could not help but to notice that among the many gathered colors that my favorite is missing.” A woman glowing with a light from within appeared between me and my other unexpected guests. Her hair swept over her shoulders in long golden strands and her blue eyes even outshone the moonlight. She wore a robe that somehow surpassed the whites worn by the other two—she was beauty incarnate.

I found it odd and yet, somehow comforting, that she did not bother with an attempt at masking who and what she and the two boys with her really were. I had seen her once before, seven years ago, when she had sent me a simple nod and kissed me on my cheek, but the endearing memory of that brief encounter had stayed with me.

“Roses? Oh, yeah… That. Well, white’s a popular color this time of year, this week especially. Every store was sold out—could have used some help.” I said perhaps a bit too defensively. “I mean, I’ve seen many others like you. Most of them never even noticed me noticing, but neither of us has seen you three since that day. It was kinda hard on all of us. I’m not sure if it really hurt his feelings though, or if he’d just rather forget the whole thing.”

“Unless foreordained, few in the living world can sense our presence, fewer still catch the briefest of glimpses, but you, you notice much more than you show—by far, more than you reveal, even to your brother,” the angelic woman said. She rested her hand on the side of my face and for a moment I felt joy and sorrow, both so deep and powerful that my knees buckled. I did not falter, however. Her will held me aloft. “Like my own son when he was a toddler, you never lost the ability to see and hear what escapes most others. Would you walk with me?” She indicated the two boys. “When they get done playing, they have a chore to complete, and if you’re willing, so too will you.”

“Me? But I’m just a kid,” I muttered as I followed her down the main aisle to the rear of the church, where we paused and turned about to regard the distant altar. “I’m only human. What can I possibly do that you guys can’t?”

“Time has many effects on the world of the living,” she said, meeting my eyes. “Wounds tend to heal. The world itself ages with every tick of the clock. And people… People unfortunately—they tend to forget, even the most important things, unless there is something to remind them.”

“Believe me,” I said as I met her eyes, “no one in my family has forgotten any of what happened.”

She returned my stare with a look that I am sure saw through to the heart of me. “Has your brother gone back to the way he was when—”

“Oh, no, it’s nothing like that,” I stammered quickly. “It’s just that since he introduced us to his fiancé, he’s been so distant. He hardly ever calls. Sometimes I think he’s forgotten all about us … about me.”

“I assure you, he has not,” she said. “But that’s the rub of it. You, like so many children before, you fear you’ll lose a brother or sister when they enter the bonds of marriage.” She kissed my forehead. “My dearest Casey, you won’t be losing a sibling, you’ll be gaining another! And did you know that they argued for well over a week over who should get to ask you to be their best man?”

With an overwhelming sense of relief, I exhaled sharply. It is funny when you think about it, how sometimes others can see through many of our problems to the heart of our true concerns. Of course, to be fair, she is wiser than most and, well, she and my other two visitors have one heck of an advantage—they’ve been dead for at least seven years now. “The wedding tomorrow. Does it have something to do with the chore you mentioned?”

She raised her brow and offered a half-smile. “Tell me, young Casey Quinn, what helps people to remember? What keeps them from forgetting?” She indicated my laptop, plugged in and charging in a hidden cubby hole just to the right of the main entrance. “I understand you like to write. I’ve heard that you even keep a journal.”

My eyes shot to the laptop then back to her. “It’s kinda like a diary, my personal thoughts,” I said, glancing away. “You, um… You haven’t been reading—”

“No, dear child,” she interrupted. “Our thoughts belong to us alone and none of us, in either world, need share them with anyone, unless by choice. That being said…”

It came to me then like that jolt you get if you drag your feet over a carpet. “History,” I said, pacing back and forth. “The writings of men and women of old. That’s what this is all about. You want me to tell Kiernan’s story? But I’m no writer! And Mom and Kiernan—they won’t even talk about most of what happened.”

“But you were there, too,” she countered. “You saw much of what took place and you won’t be alone on such an endeavor. You’ll have help of a sort—from the three of us, help on a scale rarely offered to mortals. Only to those with a true and high purpose.”

I slipped my hands in my pockets, looked down, and regarded my shoes. They were scuffed, and I’d have to polish them up before the wedding tomorrow… My brother’s wedding—still not used to saying that. “Why me?” It’s a question we all ask eventually, and I figured it was my turn.

“There are many reasons, but I will give you the best three,” Judith said suddenly quite serious. “You were there when it all happened. And you have a certain gift that allows you to see and hear what most others tend to miss.” She smiled and a light like none I’d ever seen rose up around and encompassed us. For less than a heartbeat I knew everything! I felt everything—the breath of the universe, the names of every star in the sky, and the hopes and wishes of every living man, woman, and child.

The feeling left though, as the light began to dim, leaving me somehow empty inside. The light softened but did not go completely out. She took both of my hands into hers. “And lastly,” she said in wonder. “My dearest Casey. Casey Quinn. Son of Kylie. Brother of Kiernan. Know this. It is neither me, nor my sons, who asks this of you.”

****

All right, so this is all new to me. Where should I start? Where do I even begin? What to include? What to ignore? What to shy away from altogether?

I’ll start by making it very clear that I’ve never written anything this crazy big. I once wrote a four-page paper about dinosaurs, but I don’t think that counts. And another thing—I’m just a young teenager—part of that caught-between period between tween and adult when we are still treated like children but expected to act like adults. From my limited experience, however, little changes as we grow older, except that prejudices grow stronger in our hearts, hate coils deeper within our life-wounded spirits, and there is a great loss that many never even notice when it has gone. Unlike most, I still hear the music on sunbeams, I taste the colors of purple and orange, and feel and express love in an innocent form, unhampered by the trials of aging. I am still utterly free of worry. And if you believe the free of worry part, I have this bridge I’d like to sell—got a hundred bucks? Or maybe even just fifty….

At fourteen years, three months, and seven days, I already have such memories filled with laughter and love, and yet, painted by sorrow and marked by tears. I am changed now from who I was back when it all happened. When my dear friends, angels who had once walked the world, appeared and asked, I was hesitant to share this tale, but the writing of it and the knowledge that if only one lost soul reads my words and truly understands my message, and they are saved from the greatest fall—well, then, I guess that’s enough for me .

I decided to open this story with a letter which was never actually written. Instead it was shared on the wings of thought and the light of a spirit. Nothing is free, however. In the writing of this tale, in some ways, I was forced to relive all that took place and so, I required the same of them. My celestial assistants and I captured moments of the thoughts and deepest feelings of everyone involved, and for the record, that is how I know so many things, so many feelings, when clearly, I was not and could not have been there.

They played a trick on me, of course. Take my word—never fully trust an immortal. Look and listen, so they say. There were many times that random thoughts and experiences just came to me, from people whose identities were never revealed. Several I recognized, but the sharing of their names is impossible—the pain they remind me of is still too near. I included all of them at key points—perhaps you might recognize them, when I did not. But then again, who knows?

Though I am quite often involved in the pages that follow, it’s very important that you understand—this is not my story. In truth, it belongs to two others who were also young teenagers at the time, a boy named Andrew, who dwelt just within the Autistic Spectrum and another, my brother, Kiernan, who spent his early childhood hiding who he was, even, I think, from himself. They both made mistakes, as we all do, but theirs were catastrophic in nature and left repercussions in their wake that still echo throughout my part of the living world today.

Andrew Harowitz, a fourteen-year-old boy who in some ways will never age, was a kind child, who loved deeply, but for the most part, was unable to show or express such feelings. He was a gentle soul, one who spent much of his waking life somewhere inside of himself.

It all began, or maybe I only recognized it as a beginning, with a holy vision or sorts, or perhaps it was only a surreal dream, where an alabaster angel of hand-carved marble, somehow stoic in the rising light of dawn, took to watching over Andrew’s family’s plot in a cemetery—if not over the whole of the world. Thick gray clouds rolled in shortly after Andrew’s first sight of her, shielding the earth beneath her feet from the warm touch of the sun, and draping the winged lady of exquisite beauty in a veil of both shadow and mourning.

She was a pristine lady, flawless even, and despite the weather and the cruel passing of time, whenever anyone approached, it would always seem as if she were very much alive, aware, and her so-human eyes, would follow their every movement. She claimed the left-most of four granite pedestals along the top of a curved, wall-like monument that marked the boundaries of the Harowitz family plot—his family’s final resting place. In her left hand, she held a long-stemmed white rose that rested against her heart, and in her right, she wielded a heavenly blade, held high, toward heaven, yet poised and ready if need be to strike below.

She had an unmistakable wisdom about her—you could almost see it in her eyes—an ancient understanding, if you will, of the questions we must each be prepared to answer when death takes us home, about who we were to others in our lives and who they were to us, all of it to lead us to an understanding of life’s greatest truth.

The questions are few and worded simply, and yet, their answers have the power to determine our eternities in the afterlife. While amongst the living, who truly loved us? Who in turn did we love? Who wept for us upon our passing? Upon their loss, for whom did we weep? Can we forgive those who brought us pain?     And finally, upon whom did we bring undue harm?

Perhaps if Andrew, her only son, had asked himself these questions and recognized this important truth before he died, his death and the near-death of my brother, Kiernan, who remains very dear to me, might have been far less complicated. And on further thought, maybe if everyone in the world considered these questions as they lived out their own lives—the world could be a much better place.

To be fair to Andrew though, back during those days, his soul had been grievously wounded and she—the white stone angel—was at that time only an unrecognized semblance of his mother. His first true memory of her, the living woman, however, was very different—they were both very much alive in those early days of light and darkness, joy and despair.

When he first learned to speak, he came to call her, Mommy, and then changed later to calling her Mom, but her name was in truth, Judith, and she was a woman of rare beauty.

Chapter One

A gentleman in blue gripped tightly the hand of a dying man who lay trapped in the wreckage of torn metal before him.

No! No! No! Not like this. Don’t you dare! Not on my first day solo. Not ready for this. No way. No freaking way! I just got my own squad car, my own beat—hell I only graduated from the academy a few months back. Can’t help it but to think of Sarah. You poor sot, you’d like her—young, pretty, well above my level, but she loves me anyway. Just like you love your woman, Judith. You’ve said her name three times already.

“Keep fighting, damn you!” the man screamed. “Hold on to her—her name, her face, everything about her—a kid on the way, she needs you now! They need you…”

What else to say to a dying man? The blood, so much blood, pooling beneath my new shoes. Doesn’t matter, I signed up for this. But no, not this! No dying on my first shift, you hear me? I’ve never even seen a dead body, ‘cept at Grandpa’s funeral many years ago. Everybody’s rooting for ya. Don’t give up.

He glanced up, unable to react to the sounds of ripping and tearing metal that rung in his ears. “That noise? Sounds terrible, but they call it the Jaws of Life,” he said. “Cuts through steel and glass both, but it takes time. Another minute, maybe two, just hold on. Just stay here with me.”

The dying man gestured so he lowered his head down close to his face and listened with a sad sort of acceptance to the whisper of his final words. “I’ll tell them,” he promised as he watched the light go out of the man’s eyes and felt the hand within his go limp and cold. “I’ll tell them myself,” he whispered to no one, for the man was already gone.

****

It was a few minutes past noon on a cold spring day that Andrew first encountered his mother in a private birth suite of St. Abrams Hospital. Icy sprinkles of a misty rain fell from a dense gray sky and light gusts of chill wind teased at all those living in Fair Cedar, a small Midwestern city, here in Iowa—at least those who found reason to be out and about in such unwelcoming weather.

Andrew’s father, Matthew Harowitz, a soft-spoken man who had married the girl of his dreams right out of high school, in a near perfect fairytale wedding, was one such person, and the news of Andrew’s imminent arrival was his reason. He unfortunately encountered a woman, who was not only a fellow weary traveler, but also an embodiment of the fates, who had chosen a different path for the man Andrew’s mother loved, or perhaps the new path was meant for his family.

They met amid an intersection on that blustery day. The woman, whose name we never learned, was running late for a meeting, with a bunch of papers in one hand, a hot drink in the other, and the steering wheel of her car barely controlled with the fingertips of both, as she sped through her light, which she had failed to notice was no longer yellow, or even orange as I’ve hear people say, but instead a glaring red. Matthew’s only mistake that day, in his growing excitement to finally meet his son, was his failure to check to his right when his light turned green, before pulling out into the intersection right into the path of destiny.

It was said by the only witness, Charles Scott, a young police officer, fresh out of the academy, on his way home after a double shift, who had stopped in for coffee at his favorite corner shop, that the scream of brakes and following impact had been surreal and he knew even before he dashed outside to investigate that Death was there stalking the streets, waiting and watching with ravenous eyes.

The sprinkle became a rain over the misty scene, where blood and glass covered the street all around the marriage of the two vehicles, one with its motor pushed back, well into its back seat. The other car, Matthew’s, had been neatly folded in half and wrapped around the first, with twisted metal fitting together tighter than any glove.

While a rescue crew raced against time with the Jaws of Life to save Andrew’s father, his mother’s body lay aching from birthing pains under bright lights in the delivery room. Judith’s long dark hair, which was normally neatly brushed, was pulled back in tatters and matted with the dank sweat of exhaustion. Surrounded by a team of nurses, specialist, and her family doctor, Doctor G. Chouser, she waited for the arrival of both father and son.

It was a fast delivery, or so I was told, and despite her weariness, there was immeasurable joy in her eyes, but a sort of sadness, too. Andrew’s parents had planned from the moment they were sure he was coming to welcome him into the world together, but it was not meant to be. After the usual cleanup, checkup, and measurements, a nurse placed him carefully into his mother’s arms and they both squalled—her in utter joy at his arrival, and him in the indignation at his unexpected expulsion from a newborn’s sense of bliss into the questionable folds of the outside world. The new sights and sounds were overwhelming for him, more so than usual, for reasons he would learn about some years later.

Doctor Chouser, who had briefly exited the room, returned with a haggard, unshaven police officer, who looked like he had not slept in days and that he had just witnessed some horror. Through his face mask, he told Judith words she never shared with anyone to the fate of Andrew’s father. She did tell her son years later, when he inquired, however, that though his father’s final words were said in pain and the knowledge that he would die, they were nonetheless spoken with immeasurable pride. “I have a son,” he had said with his last gasping breath. “A beautiful son. I’ll wait for him past the bridge.”

****

By now in your own life you might realize that we have countless opportunities to meet other people, to expand our horizons, and to become more than who we are. Often, however, fear of rejection keeps us from taking that simple step, to the detriment of us all.

****

On the last day of their stay in the hospital, there was another new mother. present in the maternity ward when Judith went to retrieve Andrew. She was a beautiful young woman of Irish decent, freckled and with long red hair, who held her own recent newborn—a boy also freckled and with a flame colored mop atop his own head. Judith, however, still reeling from the loss of Matthew, saw only Andrew, and the other woman, wrapped up in her own struggles and tribulations at the time, had eyes for only her new babe. They held their children close to them, never meeting each other’s eyes, as they rocked and cooed to them, the redhead singing to her boy, Andrew’s mother humming only a sad tune.

It was a missed opportunity, like I already mentioned, a chance for all of them to see beyond their individual worlds to reach out and connect with other people—the first of several opportunities. It almost seemed as if there was a much grander plan involving them all, but they were each of them so wrapped up in their own worlds, that none of them could see it, or perhaps they only chose not to.

****

It was just over a year later when Andrew caught his first glimpse of the one who would eventually become the center of his heart, though that eventuality would not take place until some years later. His name was Michael, a year at most older than Andrew, a dark-haired toddler with a face that wielded an open grin—a perfect window to the soul of the boy who later revealed himself the very definition of a kind and loving person.

Their mothers of course, like many parents, were harried and rushed, pushing their colorful strollers in opposing directions through a busy grocery store. They did, however, park them side-by-side for a few moments at the head of an aisle. They briefly nodded to one another, not in recognition, but instead in that mumbled way people react when they bump into strangers, as they scoured the shelves for various foodstuffs and other odds and ends.

Andrew’s wandering, curious eyes, attracted to the bright lights above, encountered those of Michael’s looking back at him in an overhead security mirror, and they shared a moment of perhaps predestined recognition. They only stared at first, then their tentative smiles became earnest giggles and despite their best efforts, they could only reach out toward one another—they could not even begin to cross that which to them seemed a vast gulf of space that may as well have been the entirety of the universe. Be it a gift of the same fates that had robbed Andrew of his father before they ever had a chance to meet, or just pure dumb luck, a spark was ignited between them that would remain forever.

I wonder if their mothers knew why they screamed and cried as they departed, taking the boys in opposite directions and barely noting one another’s presence. There was a third woman passing near them with her own baby carriage, the same red-haired mother who had been there in the nursery. Odd as the chance meeting was, no one spoke, all three women continued in different directions, wrapped up in their own personal worlds. Another chance to move beyond themselves slipped away from them forever.

****

As Andrew grew over the next couple of years, his focus moved inward and though at the time, he did not care, he developed a sense that when compared to others, something about him was amiss. His mother, Judith, shared the same concerns, but there were no answers to be found for either of them, until a child specialist gave it a proper name: Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a part of the Autism Spectrum.

Like so many others who shared that same fate, Andrew suffered with something called Sensory Disorders, which among other things, made communication difficult, caused him to wring his fingers, among other things, when stressed, also known as stimming, and left him at times, spinning in place, as perhaps he sought some sort of mystical connection to the earth. He had no sense of self-location and he always felt lost—in every meaning of the word.

Though Andrew dwelt just inside what is called the Spectrum, the sensory disorders were more than enough to leave him unable to tolerate even the lightest touch of others, including that of his mother, and it made him hypersensitive to the feel of nearly everything around him, from the materials of clothes and toys, to the gritty or smooth texture of even the ground beneath his feet—not even foods were immune to his condition. And though it was the syndrome that gave him bouts of depression throughout his early childhood, it was their shared situation that gave it to his mother, or so he naively thought for the longest time.

Though he never spoke of it to his mother—he later told me that he wished he had—Andrew remembered a life changing meeting from when he was about three or so, a few passing moments that he’s never forgotten that managed to greatly sadden his mother, and yet, offered her the faintest glimmer of hope at breaking through to him. As the first months and years of his life passed, he grew quiet and shy, at least to the outside world, lost ground in achieving the normal milestones of baby and toddlerhood, and even seemed to lose the ability to smile.

It was early in the morning at the therapist’s office when Judith offered Andrew every sort of toy, from stuffed bears and kittens and other creatures, to brightly colored blocks and noisy toy cars. He ignored her every attempt to reach through to him, as they both disregarded the droning voice of the therapist, who in all fairness, did his best to warn Judith of what to expect and watch for as she raised her son. That was one of the two ways he heard people—as an irritation to be overlooked, or as a reason to run away, screaming.

I am sure that the room grew heavy with her mounting exasperation, as Andrew all but ignored her presence and even the existence of the therapist. For the most part, he had no idea that she was there and in those early days, made no connection with her until hungry, or in need of something he could not acquire or figure out on his own.

Please do not assume that he was a cold person or uncaring. Truth be told, he loved his mother deeply. He simply had not yet found a way to reach out to her or to be touched, heart to heart and soul to soul.

He stood stock still at a windowsill, his attention transfixed on a vase of white roses aglow in the sunlight. They were the streetlight and he was the hapless moth, drawn in not by radiance alone, but also by a beauty within and the celestial music that as a young child, he still heard in every source of light. It was at these moments that he was able to ignore the sensory overload that he experienced in nearly every waking moment. Unlike how they brought fear to many Autistic people, the light, the color, the symphonic sound that came with sunlight, instead brought him an intense sense of peace.

“What do you hear? What do you see there in the light?” Judith wondered, as she watched her son closely with caring, and yet, exasperated eyes and it was then, in that moment, when Andrew stood aglow like a light-drenched angel, that Judith came up with a way to reach out to him, to the child who had not even started to realize that he was lonely in a vast world he had yet to discover.

 

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