Monday, October 20, 2014

HEIRS OF WAR, CROWN OF FLAMES by Mara Valderran Tour Stop! Check out the except and Giveaway!

The NA fantasy series Heirs of War has taken Wattpad by storm with over one million reads, and the second installment has arrived. Catch up on Heirs of War (#1) for just 99 cents now!

Heirs of War #1:

When seventeen year-old Zelene finds herself thrust into a world of magic and prophecy, she discovers fighting destiny might not be the toughest battle she has to face. Now she must join with three other girls, complete strangers linked only by blood relation, to fight a war they know nothing of and rescue the twin sister she's never met.

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The adventure continues with Heirs of War, Crown of Flames...

Heirs of War, Crown of Flames
Heirs of War #2
Mara Valderran
Cover Art by Gretchen Byers

Weeks have passed since Ariana and Alec escaped from Kellen's dungeon, but danger isn't far behind them. The guilt of his past weighs heavily on Alec’s shoulders, and his secrets only push Ariana further away. As they travel through unknown lands and encounter multiple threats, their biggest challenge might be trusting one another.

The world appears to be going on regardless of the risks Ariana faces. The Duillaine insist that they are doing everything they can to find Ariana, but their actions betray that claim. Despite the danger and the war closing in around them, all of Anscombe seems to be more interested in the upcoming Imbolc festival and Terrena’s betrothal than rescuing Ariana.

Well…not everyone.

Tired of waiting for the Duillaine to help her twin, Zelene starts plotting on her own and finds a surprising ally in Rhaya, even as the Cynewards prepare to make a move of their own. But Zelene’s plans go awry when she finds herself with a new ability, a mysterious new friend, and more enemies within the walls of Anscombe than she thought.

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"You don't understand, Isauria. Their lives have to be about you—the Duillaine. You have to be protected."
"My life isn't worth any more than Liam's or any of the other Cynewards.”
Bianca stopped Isauria's walking with a touch of the arm that slid down to squeeze her fingers. "It is. It's worth more than mine or anyone else's. I know that's hard for you to understand, but it is something you must get used to. Many people would give up their lives to see to it that you are safe. Many will."
Isauria cast her eyes to the ground, feeling her face warm with emotion. "I don't want that," she said softly. "I can't even stand the idea of Liam being miserable because of me. I definitely don't want anyone to die because of me. It isn't right. None of it is. It isn't fair to trade my life for anyone else's or my safety for Liam's happiness. He'll never fall in love, never have children…from what you've told me he won't even grow old."
"That's true. Most Cynewards die of natural causes shortly after their wards do. It's only in your death that the magic binding them to you and keeping them alive releases them."
Isauria started walking again, focusing her attention on her younger sister. "They've been through a lot together. You can't just break that kind of bond."
"You seem to speak from experience. I've never thought to ask you if you left someone behind in Dhara that you cared for."
"Oh, no. I've never been in love. I've never even been on a third date." She could tell from Bianca's silence that she was confused at the terminology. "That's how you measure the seriousness of a relationship in Dhara. You go on a first date, then a second, then a third, and then maybe you call it a relationship. I never got past date number two."
"You probably didn't find any of the men in Dhara suitable because you didn't belong there.”
"They didn't really find me suitable was more the problem," Isauria explained, her freckled cheeks darkening at the subject. "I never really fit in there."
"Then the people of Dhara must not be very smart," Bianca said haughtily. "You are extremely beautiful and kind. They would have been lucky to have you."
Isauria’s cheeks reddened. She had always considered herself to be plain at best, with her pale and freckle-ridden skin and gangly limbs. "I bet you say that to all your patients."

Bianca lowered her head and then glanced up at her. "Actually, I probably shouldn't say that because you are still my patient." She bit her lip with an edge of nervousness at the blush of Isauria's cheeks. "I should probably get back to my other patients."

Mara Valderran is an author of young adult and new adult books, but she's more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She is an avid reader and fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or counting down the days until DragonCon.

Find Mara Online: 
Sign up for Mara's newsletter so you don't miss news on new releases and fun contests!

Want to follow this blog tour? Check out the calendar below!

Monday 10/13
Krystal WadeMargo Bond CollinsHere is What I Read Book Blog
Vicki TraskJessa RussoLorraine Harvey
Priya KanapartiNerd Girl OfficialTerry's Book Addiction
Ali DeanShooting Star Book Reviews
Tuesday 10/14Wednesday 10/15Thursday 10/16
Ali Dean (Review)Jan Farnworth (Review)James Wymore (Guest Post)
Terry's Book Addiction (Review)Jamie Ayres (Promo)
Friday 10/17Saturday 10/19Monday 10/20
Emma Adams (Interview)Laveda Kasch (Excerpt #1)Eliza Tilton (Excerpt #2)
Elsie Elmore (Interview)Jessa Russo (Excerpt #3)
Cait Spivey (Guest Post)Shooting Star Book Reviews (Excerpt #4)
Here is What I Read (Interview)
Tuesday 10/21Wednesday 10/22Thursday 10/23
Michael Panush (Review)Book Lover Blog (Review)Ayden Morgen (Guest Post)
Friday 10/24Monday 10/27Tuesday 10/28
K. L. Schwengel (Guest Post)Katie Teller (Interview)Priya Kanaparti (Guest Post)
Charity Bradford (Excerpt #5)Sharon Bayliss (Review)
Vicki Trask (Review)
Sarah Anderson (Interview)

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

ALTER OF REALITY by Mara Valderran ... Cover Reveal!

Today is the cover reveal for Altar of Reality, the first book from Shifted Realities--a brand new series by Mara Valderran. This YA dystopian is set to be released January 31st, 2015 by Curiosity Quills Press. Mark your calendars, and be sure to add the book to your Goodreads list! Want to stay up to date on all things Altar of RealitySign up for Mara's newsletter so you don't miss a thing!

And now...the moment Mara's we've all been waiting for...

When sixteen-year-old Madeline suffers her first grand mal seizure, she finds herself in an unfamiliar reality, surrounded by strangers wearing familiar faces. Her best friend, Brandon, tells her that the world has fallen to chaos, the aftermath of World War III ten years ago. Madeline doesn’t remember anything from this life— especially not the explosion four years ago that killed her parents and landed her in a coma, or the Lord Commander; a zealot leader of the Southern Territories now searching for her.

Madeline barely has time to process everything before waking up to the life she’s always known. As soon as she dismisses it all as a strange and vivid dream, she finds herself back there once more. Unsure if she’s truly caught in the middle of a brewing rebellion, or teetering on the brink of insanity, she finds herself flipping between the two lives. Her heart becomes torn between two versions of the same boy and the lines between her realities begin to blur as she struggles to save her lives in both worlds.


Mara Valderran is an author of young adult and new adult books, but she's more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She is an avid reader and fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or counting down the days until DragonCon.

Find Mara Online: 

Be sure to check out the Heirs of War, Crown of Flames blog tour going on right now! There are excerpts, interviews, a giveaway, and more. You can find the tour calendar here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gear up for GEARS OF BRASS! Cover Reveal!

Gear up for GEARS OF BRASS! 

A world like ours, but filled with gears of brass, where the beating heart is fueled by steam and the simplest creation is a complex clockwork device.  

Within this tome, you’ll find steampunk fairy tale re-tellings, as well as original stories that will send your gears turning.  

Welcome to the steampunk realm, with eleven authors guiding your path. 

GEARS OF BRASS is a steampunk anthology published through Curiosity Quills.  It will be available for purchase on November 10, 2014.  Within the pages, you’ll come across clockwork inventions and steampunk-ified fairy tale retellings.  Eleven authors will guide you through worlds filled with airships, top hats, and corsets. 

Meet the authors:
Jordan Elizabeth writes young adult fantasy for Curiosity Quills, including ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW which was published in October and the upcoming TREASURE DARKLY; she’s represented by the Belcastro Agency.
J. Million is the author of Last of the Giants and can always be found reading or writing.
Lorna MacDonald Czarnota is a professional storyteller and author of several books including, Medieval Tales That Kids Can Read and Tell, Breadline Blue, Legends Lore and Secrets of Western New York, Wicked Niagara, Native American and Pioneer Sites of Upstate New York, and Dancing at the Crossroads: Stories and Activities for At-Risk Youth Programming.
SA Larsen is represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary and is the author of published short stories, community-interest stories, and magazine articles focused on children. 
Grant Eagar is an Engineer who would take the tales he told his children at bed time, and transform them into fantasy stories. 
Clare Weze is the author of The House of Ash (forthcoming) and the co-author and editor of Cloudscapes over the Lune.
Eliza Tilton: gamer, writer and lover of dark chocolate; author of the YA Fantasy, BROKEN FOREST, published by Curiosity Quills Press.
Heather Talty's stories have been featured in Enchanted Conversation, as well as her own fractured fairy tale site, Mythopoetical (
W.K. Pomeroy is a third generation writer who has published more than 70 short stories/articles/poems across many genres and styles, which now includes Steampunk.
Christine Baker is the author of Lana's End, The Guild of Dagda, and many more. 
Natalia Darcy: a bookilicious reader, tea drinker and Zumba aficionado who enjoys playing cards against humanity and washing her hair with ice cold water. 
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You can get your steampunk fix before GEARS OF BRASS is released in November.  To enter for your chance to win a copy of GEARS OF BRASS, you will need to share the cover.  This can be on your blog, Facebook, Twitter… Each time you share the cover image, log it into Rafflecoper (#insert link) to record it.  It will give you more chances to win.  The drawing for the winner will be held on October 27th
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cover Reveal! ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW by Jordan Elizabeth

You guys know how much I love my authors, right? I mean, these writerly folk pen some pretty awesome stories, and I get to strut around like a proud mother hen because I got to edit these masterpieces, and I read them before you. lol! 

Well, Jordan Elizabeth is one of my favorite up-and-coming authors, and ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW is the first book we worked together on. (OMG JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU READ HER TREASURE SERIES, YOU GUYS! *SWOON*)

Anyway, ESCAPE releases on October 29, 2014, and I can't wait for you to read it! 

Here's the cover and blurb! AWESOME, RIGHT!?

Jordan Elizabeth

How far into the hollow would you go? 

After losing her parents in a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria escapes New York City to Arnn—a farming town with more legends than residents, and a history of witchcraft and secrets best left buried.

Everyone in Arnn knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope when she should be afraid, and a past of missing children and broken promises.  To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness. How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW is Jordan Elizabeth’s first novel.  This young adult fantasy will be published through Curiosity Quills Press on October 29, 2014. 

Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, can’t get enough of the woods, be it splashing through a stream, sitting beneath an ancient oak, or following a path up a hill.  Some of those adventures have led to abandoned foundations.  Exploring the rocks and crumbling bricks sparked Jordan to imagine who might have lived there before, and that train of thought carried her to a wicked legend and an enchanted hollow.  You can contact Jordan via her website,

You don’t have to wait for October 29th to explore Witchwood Hollow.  Jordan Elizabeth is offering up a free eArc.  To enter for your chance to win a copy of ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, you will need to share the cover.  This can be on your blog, Facebook, Twitter… Each time you share the cover image, log it into Rafflecoper to record it.  It will give you more chances to win.  The drawing for the winner will be held on October 20th

Monday, July 21, 2014

RISE UP! Volume Two is NOW LIVE! Don't miss this great chance to help a fellow book nerd!

RISE UP / Volume Two

“We all know how fragile life is, especially when faced with a life threatening illness.” ~Nic, Flirty and Dirty Book Blog.

Fiction introduced us. Reality binds us together.

Stephanie Thomas—co-founder of The Indie Bookshelf—has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. Stephanie isn’t only a blogger; she’s a loving wife, and mother to three young boys.

In the independent author community, we have an extraordinary network of fellow authors, and readers. A special group of people who bridge this gap—helping authors connect with readers—is book bloggers. These men and women dedicate hours upon hours to reading and reviewing our works, and spreading the word to help us reach new readers.

Now, one of these women needs our help.

100% of the proceeds of the Rise Up anthology (volumes one and two) will go directly to Stephanie and her family to help them on this unexpected leg of their journey together.

Inside the pages of this collection, you’ll find amazing works of fiction. But please remember the reality, and help support Stephanie and her family.
Included in Volume Two of this collection are the following novels:

* 1. Always There - Carol Ann Albright-Eastman
* 2. Republic - Charles Sheehan-Miles
* 3. Seeds of Hate - Melissa Perea
* 4. In The Fields - Willow Aster
* 5. Bar Crawl - Andrea Randall
* 6. Totaled - Stacey Grice
* 7. Running from Forever - Ashley Wilcox
* 8. Crossing Paths - Melanie Stinnet
* 9. Going Home - Rhonda Dennis
* 10. Never Goodbye -  Kerri Williams
* 11. Without Boundaries - CJ Azevedo
* 12. Binds - Rebecca Espinoza

* 13. The Forgotten Ones - Laura Howard

Video Trailer:
Please take a minute to connect with these awesome authors online!

Author Social Media Links

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On a personal note . . . SPEAK UP. REACH OUT. #suicideispreventable

I posted this on my personal page, and then I realized I wanted to reach so many more people than my circle of friends. So I'm stepping away from writing/bookish things. I hope you'll take the time to read this and share it.

Amy would have wanted that. 

I share a lot of funny (read: useless) stuff on Facebook and on most of my social media platforms. Sometimes I rant about parenting. Often, I promote my writing. This post is different.

One year ago today, a friend of mine decided to take her own life. She was one of the strongest, most passionate women I've ever known, and someone I respected greatly. We never even met in person.

From the outside looking in--and I want to stress that part: FROM THE OUTSIDE looking in--Amy had everything. All the things that are supposed to keep us grounded, anchored ... here. A loving family, both that which she was born into and the one she created, two beautiful daughters, a circle of friends that was wide and constantly growing wider ... yet she was obviously completely alone in her despair.

She was alone in a sea of people who loved and adored her. Respected her. Looked up to her. Needed her. And she left a wake of grief and confusion in her absence.

I'll never truly know what demons she fought, or what gave them the strength to overcome her love for this life and those she left behind. What allowed them to overcome her.

I write this post today, not for your comments of condolences, but for the slight chance that one of you feels alone in a sea of love and friendship. Please reach out. Please ask for help. Suicide is absolutely preventable.

Suicide is absolutely preventable.

Amy, you are so greatly missed. 

If you or someone you know is in need of help, there are so many sources. Please, I beg of you, REACH OUT. 


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Check it out! HIGH STAKES by Brandy Schillace! @bschillace #amreading #newrelease #Imnotavampire

Brandy Schillace

“I’m not a vampire,” insists Jacob Maresbeth, teenage journalist for the school paper. But what is a vampire, really? What happens if you have all the right symptoms, but are a living, breathing sixteen-year-old boy?

Diagnosed with a rare disease, Jake can’t help but wonder. After eight years in and out of the Newport News hospital, he’s had it up to here with doctors, diseases and dishonesty. After all, Jake’s father, respected neurologist Franklyn Maresbeth, has been hiding some of his more unusual symptoms for years… particularly that part about drinking blood.

In High Stakes, Jake records his summer vacation in the home of his maiden aunt, the bangled and be-spectacled Professor Sylvia. If that isn’t bad enough (and it is), Jake and his theatre-loving sister Lizzy must keep the “unofficial” details of Jake’s disorder a secret from Aunt Sylvia’s seductively beautiful graduate student, Zsofia. Will Jake survive a whole month pretending to be an invalid? Will Zsofia weaken his resolve with her flirtatiously dangerous Hungarian accent? Will Jake lose his heart–in more ways than one?

About the Author
Author, historian, and adventurer at the intersections, Brandy Schillace spends her time in the mist-shrouded alleyways between literature and medicine.

Brandy grew up in an underground house in abandoned coal mining territory near a cemetery. It does things to you (like convince you to get a PhD). It also encourages a particular brand of fictive output. HIGH STAKES, Book 1 of The Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles, came out in 2014 with Cooperative Trade Press.

Brandy is managing editor of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry and Research Associate for the Dittrick Museum of Medical History. She is also editor of the Fiction Reboot | Daily Dose blogs. When she isn’t researching arsenic poisoning for the Museum, writing fiction, taking over the world, or herding cats, she teaches for Case Western Reserve University. Her non-fiction, DEATH’S SUMMER COAT, comes out with Elliott and Thompson in 2015.

Connect with Brandy:
Twitter: @bschillace

EXCERPT—Chapter 3:

Zsòfia left around 1:30, exiting through the backdoor—meaning I didn’t actually see her off. I just heard the ring of her bicycle bell as she rolled down the tree-lined street, the dock-rope braid swaying as she pedaled. She wasn’t looking, but I waved goodbye, and then forgot to put my arm down until my fingers got tingly. I also forgot to quit staring until she’d been gone about ten minutes. I swear, it was like being under a spell or something. Except I liked it. A lot. And, in the interest of getting more of it, I descended on my aunt like a ravenous dog when she got home.
            “But who is she??” I demanded, leaning on the back of a dining chair. My aunt was in the thick of dinner preparations—which is sort of demanding on someone who usually eats frozen-health-food-for-one (the equivalent, I think, of grass and dirt).
            “My research assistant, you silly boy.” She tasted a sauce of some kind and flipped a page in her cookbook. “You remember Leonard?”
            “She is not Leonard,” I insisted, and Lizzy sidled up to punch me in the shoulder.
            “What, you crushing on somebody already?” she asked, as if the experience of Zsòfia could be compared to anything so stupid.
            “No!—she’s, I don’t know—have you seen her yet?” I stammered. “She’s Hungarian.”
            “So?” Lizzy asked, and I decided to ignore her and turned my attention back to Aunt Syl.
            “How did she end up here, in Cleveland?”
            “She’s from Budapest, originally, though her father lives in Krakow, Poland,” Aunt Syl said, sliding by with plates (just two of them). “She studied first at Edinburgh—”
            “Right. But why is she here?” I asked. My aunt set the table and blinked owl-eyes at me.
            “Why not?”
            “Yeah, Jakey, why not?” Lizzy repeated, grinning like the she-devil she is. How was I supposed to explain that Cleveland was—to put it nicely—a bit of a step down?
            “Well, it’s a long way, isn’t it?” I asked. It was a good save. Lizzy looked disappointed.
            “It is, indeed—careful, careful, this is hot, Jacob!” Aunt Syl set down a crock pot that I was miles away from, shooing me as if I was about to stick my hand in there or something. “She has been tracking down some data at the medical library. And, of course, she is a wonderful student. Top of her class.”
            “Top of her class,” I repeated out loud, though I hadn’t meant to.
            “What’s she doing at the medical library?” Lizzy asked, sitting down at the long table. My aunt’s dining room is more of a hallway, long and skinny between the kitchen and the big front room. I slid around the back to make room for Syl and the salad.
            “Dissertations are complicated things!” Syl said, sitting—and for once, I sat, too. I normally try not to join these little dining parties, but I actually wanted to figure out what a dissertation was.
“She is working on vampires in culture, so she looks at psychology, medicine, literature, film. It’s quite an interesting process! Why, some graduate students compile data for years!”
            “She’ll be here for years?” I asked. “Like, every summer?”
“It’s certainly possible,” my aunt nodded happily.
“And she’ll be here, as your assistant? For years?”
It was at this point that Lizzy started giggling.
“What, you think you might eventually be old enough to ask her out?” she laughed. Lizzy has this funny way of sucking the fun out of life. She would have made a much better vampire than me.
“Wha—no—I was just. Curious.” I started fiddling with the breadknife. I think I was trying to trace the tablecloth pattern. Or mentally performing a lobotomy on my sister. Something like that.
“Well, Jacob, curiosity is a very good thing,” Aunt Syl said, smiling at me like I was four years old. “I’m sure it passes the time when you’re unwell. By the way, did you see I put digestive aids in your cabinet? For irritable bowels, you know.”
Yes. She actually said that.
Yes, my sister almost imploded from trying not to laugh.
Yes, I cut myself with the stupid bread knife.
This last bit, however, was a crisis of a different nature. First, I can’t even begin to describe what Aunt Syl’s reaction to blood is. Maybe she missed her calling—maybe she should have gone MD instead of PhD. She’s got some sort of obsession with doctoring, and she saves it up all year just for me. Naturally, I couldn’t let her see that I’d been careless enough to cut my thumb (and pretty deeply at that). But there’s another reason.
“Ah—excuse me,” I said, making a fist over the wound and backing away from the table.
“Why, Jake! What’s the matter!” my aunt was nearly out of her seat again, but Lizzy seemed to put the pieces together (spotting the red dots on the knife helped).
“Oh, well, it’s his digestion problem,” she said unhelpfully. I scowled at her, but really, I had bigger problems.
I scooted out of the dining room, my fist behind my back. Aunt Syl had resumed her seat and Lizzy had managed to get hold of and clean the bloodied knife before she saw it. As soon as I was out of sight, I had another look at the thing: I’d managed to slice it horizontally, and a trickle of blood had escaped to run towards my elbow.
“Crap, crap,” I grunted, slipping into the first floor bathroom. I managed to catch the drip before it got on my sleeves. Then, I waited. It took about seven minutes. In that time, the cut had closed back up without even a scar … which almost beats my busted knuckle record from last fall.
My dad calls it exceler curatio, which is some fancy Latin phrase for fast healing. Apparently they do studies on mice with fast-healer genes. I’m a lot bigger than a mouse, and I heal a lot faster. Beyond that I don’t know a whole lot about it. Lizzy thinks we should try cutting one of my toes off to see it if grows back, mutant style. (She’s loving like that.) Me, I’d like to think of it as a gift—except it’s ruined a lot of my high school career. Why? Because my mother refuses to let me play sports. Why? Glad you asked. I ask every year. But since this whole quick-healing deal is not part of the Maresbeth “official” description, I’m not supposed to let people know about it. My mother apparently thinks it would be hard to explain a disappearing abrasion to the football coach. If it was my dad, I could probably work out a compromise. But Mother Maresbeth is like a pit bull. If she gets hold of an idea, she’s not letting go of it. Period.
I licked my palm (no reason to waste it) and washed up. Then, though it killed me to do it, I flushed the toilet for cover. The only good side to this mess was that Aunt Syl might stop making remarks about my bathroom habits. Apparently the mere suggestion of digestive malfunction sends me running to the toilet.
I hate my life sometimes.
            When I got back to the table, they were partway through casserole. It was painful, the look of pity Aunt Syl was giving me, but I just had to find out more about Zsòfia.
            “Ahem,” I said, trying to act casual. “What did I miss?”
            Lizzy rested her chin on her hand and peered at me ever-so-sweetly.
“Well, Zsòfia is way too old for you—and she’s got a crush on someone else, anyway.”
            “Oh. Sure,” I said—at least I think I said that. I couldn’t hear myself because my heart had just exploded with a deafening bang. Zsòfia with someone else was horrifying enough—but I had just thought of something worse.
            “Not Leonard. Please.”
            “Oh, heavens!” Aunt Syl gave herself a little hug and grinned at me. “Hardly her type, I think. Lizzy is having you—what do they say? Over a barrel? It’s Bela Lugosi!”
            “Wait—the actor?” I asked.
            “Indeed! Zsòfia quite pines for him! Has seen every film, I’m quite sure. Many of them twice. Or thrice!”
            I restarted my heart. Zsòfia: not dating. Loves Bela Lugosi. It was only then that I had a chance to attend to the second part of my aunt’s comment. Frankly, does anyone say “over a barrel”? I sometimes wonder what century she lives in.…
            “So she likes movies,” I said, glaring at Lizzy. “I like movies. What else does she like?”
            My aunt tilted her head a little, unbalancing her bangles.
            “You know, my dear, she keeps very much to herself. It must be difficult adjusting to another university; she left the one in Edinburgh only a year ago. But she is a most excellent assistant, and really quite charming. Perhaps you can keep her company when she’s here.”
            Okay, I’ve never been super fond of Aunt Syl, but right now I could have kissed the woman.
            “Sure. I mean, you know, why not?” I said. Translation: Thank you, Lord Jesus, his saints, and angels, and anyone else listening up there, amen.
            My aunt winked at me and then started clearing the dishes away. Meanwhile, I was getting the stink-eye from my sister.
            “Are you that dumb?” she asked.
            “What’s the matter? For once there’s a girl research assistant. So what.”
            “So what? You idiot. First, she’s not into you.”
            “You don’t know that.”
            Lizzy raised her eyebrows in a pretty good rendition of our mother. Only my sister’s version said: don’t make me tell you what a dork you are.
            “Go away,” I said, heading for the stairs.
            “Hold it, mister,” Lizzy swung around the edge of the table and headed me off. “Listen, you big dummy, don’t go drooling over Dracula-lover, alright? We don’t know her. It’s risky.”
            “What are you talking about?”
“News flash: she’s not from around here! She’s from over there,” Lizzy said, pointing vaguely behind me.
“From the kitchen?” I asked. Lizzy leaned forward and gripped me by the front of my shirt.
“From vampire country!” she whispered.
“For the last time—I am not a vampire—”
“You drink blood,” she hissed, and I grimaced.
“Stop it! Dad wouldn’t let you talk like that!”
Lizzy let go of my shirt and crossed her arms.
“Yeah? Well, Dad’s not here, is he?”
 “I can take care of myself,” I snapped, and then I stomped up the stairs to—well, to drink blood.
There’s just no getting around that.
I sat on the edge of the bed, scrunching my toes in the carpet and drinking down dinner number two (and three). My notepad was open on the comforter: June 9th: Lizzy is a hateful brat. Followed by ten pages trying to accurately describe Zsòfia’s hair, eyes and accent—and one rather bad sketch. The trouble with Lizzy, though, is that she’s sort of right … so much of my life does seem to revolve around what I can and can’t say about what I can and can’t do. It’s worse than annoying. If it weren’t for Henry—who knows all about it, mostly due to an ill-advised attempt to become blood brothers when we were nine—I think I’d lose my mind. And of course, he wasn’t there. So, I dug through my bag and produced my cell phone.
“Hey, Henry,” I muttered when he picked up.
“Yo! What’s happening, Jakey?”
“Nothing. Well, mostly nothing.” I must have sounded pretty low. There was a pause as Henry switched ears.
“Syl’s making you nuts, right?”
“Yup. And Lizzy.”
“Yeah—she’s hilarious,” Henry laughed. I do not agree. But whatever. It was nice to hear a friendly voice. I described the disasters so far, and then went in for my real questions.…
“So, do you know anything about Hungary?” I asked.
“Tons!” Henry said, and I admit this was a bit of a shock.
“Duh, Jake. I’m hungry all the time. Went wind-surfing today, and I’m starving!”
I thumped the phone against my forehead.
“No, Henry! The country! The country of Hungary!”
“Oh. Nope. Why?” he paused. “Dude, did you meet some chick from there or something?”
“Uh,” I cleared my throat … technically we had met. I’d “met” someone.
“Well, yeah,” I said, grinning. “Graduate student.”
“A graduate! Holy crap! That’s like A-double-plus!”
All right. So I was letting Henry get the wrong end of the situation. So what? It felt great to be applauded for my as-yet-untried suaveness by someone who was spending his break wind surfing. It renewed my confidence. Tomorrow, I would be cool, and it would be awesome.
When I hung up, I pitched the empty container back in the cooler and slumped onto the pillows. Zsòfia. (I really liked saying her name.) She likes films. Check. She likes vampire stuff. Check. She likes mature-for-their-age high school boys…?
Man, I seriously hoped so.