Heather Killough-Walden Reading List

For anyone who hasn’t yet seen it or was wondering about series order, here is a list of my works currently in publication. Also, just a heads up – On November 17th, the first two books in The Kings series will go on temporary discounted sale. So if you haven’t yet begun this BBW spin-off series, that would be your chance! :)

Heather Killough-Walden Reading List

The Lost Angels series:
Always Angel (eBook-only introductory novella)
Avenger’s Angel
Messenger’s Angel
Death’s Angel
Warrior’s Angel
Samael

The October Trilogy:
Sam I Am
Secretly Sam
Suddenly Sam

Neverland Series:
Forever Neverland
Beyond Neverland

The Big Bad Wolf series:
The Heat
The Strip
The Spell
The Hunt
The Big Bad Wolf Romance Compilation (all four books, in chronological order)

The Kings – A Big Bad Wolf spinoff series:
(in order so far)
The Vampire King
The Phantom King
The Warlock King
The Goblin King
The Seelie King
The Unseelie King
The Shadow King
The Winter King
The Demon King
Coming Soon: The Shifter King
(future The Kings books TBA; 13 total)

The Chosen Soul Trilogy:
The Chosen Soul
Drake of Tanith
Queen of Abaddon

Redeemer (stand-alone)

Hell Bent (stand-alone)

Vampire, Vampire (stand-alone)

A Sinister Game (stand-alone)

The Third Kiss: Dorian’s Dream (stand-alone)

Note: The Lost Angels series (not including Always Angel, Warrior’s Angel and Samael) and the Big Bad Wolf series are available in print and eBook format. All other HKW books are currently eBook-only.

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Why Bother Voting?

WHY VOTE?
Around this time, we’re bombarded with posts reminding us that we must vote. We get lists of “one-vote wins” that boggle our minds. We are wowed with one-vote tales.
None of them are true. So why do people send out these falsities? Why go to all that trouble, when in actuality, one vote has less of a chance of making a difference than you have of winning the Powerball Lottery? No, Adolf Hitler was not elected by one vote. No, we never even had a vote to determine whether we would speak German or English in the US. Look it all up. One vote is not that much of a deciding factor.
So why bother trying to convince people? Why bother voting?
BECAUSE, damn it.
Because people suffered horribly to give you the right to vote. This is especially true for women. Most women today have no idea what our female ancestors went through to bring us our right to vote. Women (and a few great men) fought for ONE HUNDRED YEARS for voting rights. They were imprisoned, tortured, force-fed, and a myriad of other physical injustices, to say nothing of the slander and public ridicule they endured.
They did this because they knew that alone, we might not produce much of a voice. But TOGETHER, we are a bellow that can be heard across the globe.
So do it, already. Just get up, find the ridiculously-easy-to-find location where you can cast your ballot, and DO IT. Not because one vote counts, not because it alone might make a difference, not because you want one candidate over another (everyone knows no one wants any of them) but because if you don’t vote, it means you don’t care that so very many people in your past risked life, reputation, and health to bring you this right. And because when your voice is multiplied, when one vote becomes a thousand – that’s when you make your mark.
What you are proving when you walk into that office or library or supermarket and make your way to the machine that will accept your opinion is that you are WORTHY of all of the work and sacrifice that came before you. Because you are not taking it for granted.
You are going to make your voice heard.
So go vote already. It takes five minutes. I think it literally took me three. Just do it.
Make your ancestors proud. And make yourself a little proud too.
- HKW

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The Demon King, Now Available!

Dahlia Kellen has been through hell. Raised in a fae society that slowly drove her mad, she turned traitor against her people and was cast out. But in an act of heroism that clearly exposed her for the good she was, she rose up against the true evil threatening her people, and in her efforts to stop that evil, she was terribly transformed. Now dark, different, and feeling truly exiled in her soul, Dahlia has a chance encounter with a man in Boston. A man whose gaze is as dark and haunted as her own… and whose craven desire for her and dangerous, powerful bloodline will show Dahlia that for her, hell is just the beginning.

“I’ve come with a message about your father,” said the stranger.
“You’re speaking of Marius.” Marius was dead. Laz would know; he’d killed him.
But the messenger smiled. “No, no. Not quite,” he said, white teeth gleaming in an unholy grin. “Think bigger. Think badder.”

Steven Lazarus is a seasoned detective with the Boston police force who has always served and protected, and done so by the book. But the Akyri King’s insides are heating up, a painful yearning is tearing away at him, and his tall, strong body has become capable of a dark, violent magic he can barely control. His dangerous past has caught up with him, and he can scarcely stand to look at his own reflection. He doesn’t recognize the man staring back at him, and that terrifies him.
Because he knows the powerful, hungry man in the mirror wants Dahlia Kellen just as badly as he does. And if he has to, he’ll raise hell to claim her.

The Demon King is the 9th book in the best selling The Big Bad Wolf spinoff series, The Kings, by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Heather Killough-Walden.

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Demon-King-Kings-Book-ebook/dp/B01LWVKYPK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473999368&sr=8-1&keywords=the+demon+king+heather

Barnes and Noble:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-demon-king-heather-killough-walden/1124606166?ean=2940156982486

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The Demon King (Teaser #2)

She wasn’t human. And if he wasn’t mistaken, there was just a hint of something sharp revealing itself when she spoke. Vampire? Akyri? She felt like both and neither. Not that it mattered. All that mattered to Lazarus at that point in time was getting her out of that warehouse and to some safer, less conspicuous place where they could be alone.

But now he was staring down at the animal standing between them. It was a dog of all things, and one that was obviously ready to rip his leg off. Dogs weren’t something he would have pegged as a companion for a creature like the stranger before him. Dragons maybe. Or some sort of unicorn-bunny-kitten mix. Something sparkly, at the very least, with really big eyes. Not mutt dogs. And he was pretty sure this one had fleas.

Confusion joined the vexation of his growing impatience. He forced himself to remain calm. “A friend of yours?” he asked, looking back up. Locking eyes on her was like an immediate reward. But the dog’s growl intensified.

The woman’s brow furrowed. She blinked as if she were coming out of something, and his fight or flight instincts kicked in. He prepared to do the former because he was afraid she would do the latter.

“Yes,” she suddenly said, and her expression changed. Fierceness slipped into her eyes, and her jaw set. She looked from the dog back up to him, and as she did so, she placed her hand lovingly on the dog’s head. The animal let out a soft whine, licked its lips once, then slid back into warning mode, baring its teeth at Lazarus. “So if you don’t mind, we’ll be leaving now,” she asserted.

Laz’s attention spiked. “Oh, I won’t argue with that,” he said.
She would be leaving, just not without him.

- The Demon King, by Heather Killough-Walden
Coming summer, 2016

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The Demon King (Teaser)

She quickly pushed herself up. At once, the pain was back. She winced and again inhaled sharply, hissing hard through clenched teeth. Clearly, the spell was designed to punish resistance. With each passing second, Dahlia was more convinced that attacking the hooded figures had been the right choice. She didn’t let up now, despite the pain. Countless years of being forced into a kind of servitude to her Tuathan bloodline and the sexual demands it made on the physical form had taught her well that she was simply not born to be obligated or beholden to anyone. Ever. There was little more precious to Dahlia Kellen than her freedom. She had learned that lesson the hard way.

“Watch it, back off!” It was the same man who’d spoken earlier, warning those who had drawn near to her.

Dahlia’s vision once more shifted, contrasts sharpened, and her hands flooded with power. She cried out as the spell that had been cast on her threatened to crack her bones in half and the malicious cold continued to spread. She glanced down at her body, viewing it through battle-tones and fully expecting it to be blue and covered with rime. But it looked no different than usual.

No damage, then, she thought. Only pain.

The spell was designed to hurt, not harm. For some reason, that made her even more furious. The fire building in her palms leapt with height and took on a reddish-purple cast. It had never done that before. She could feel it draining an inordinate amount of strength from her form, but at the same time, the darkening of her magic’s flames eased the strain up on her eyes a bit, allowing her to better see her targets. It also felt better. At first it was hard to put her finger on it, but Dahlia realized, as the magic continued to build, that it was lessening the pain of the spell that had been cast on her. It was negating it, warming her from the inside out like a hot drink of coffee in a snow storm.

She smiled, allowing her fangs to show. She didn’t even care that she was being drained by this new dark force. It was worth it.

Across the warehouse from her, a single hooded figure slowly pushed back his hood. Piercing blue eyes glowed with a different menacing fire, locking onto her with their own kind of darkness. No, Dahlia thought. Not darkness. This is wrongness.
She would know it anywhere.

- The Demon King, by Heather Killough-Walden
Coming Summer, 2016

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Human Nature

My daughter, who is eleven, likes to do texting role play with her friends. They literally take on the roles of characters and write dialogue and descriptions back and forth and have been doing so in an on-going story that has lasted months. I have had the opportunity to read some of this, and I gotta tell you – it’s good. Better than most of the stuff out there on shelves today. So I say to her as frequently as I can without being pushy: “You know, you could so easily just print this stuff out and slap a good cover on it and sell a billion copies. You’ve got the talent of an author.”
She always shies away from it: “No, this is different. We’re just having fun.” But this last time, she added, “And it’s all cheesy romance stuff anyway.”

I laughed. Because yeah – all you can do with something like that is laugh. She’s right; her texts are filled with power plays between dark, dangerous characters and female protagonists. But… that’s the point. She obviously has no idea how popular romance is. And she obviously has no idea why.

So I went ahead and explained it to her: “Sarah. Do you know how the female old brain is programmed? It’s programmed to seek out the most handsome, most intelligent, most powerful and wealthiest male version of our species and have a child with him. Do you know why? Because the better looking the man, the better looking the baby will probably be. And beautiful people stand a better chance of survival because others are more likely to give things to a beautiful person.”

I can’t tell you the number of free things my little girl got when she was younger because she was so damn cute. I could have freaking died and she would have been well cared for. And that’s the point. She stood a better chance at survival because she was adorable.

I went on: “The more intelligent a man is, the more intelligent his child will be. Which obviously also increases their chance of survival. That one’s a no-brainer. Ironically.”
She laughed.

“Finally, the richer and more powerful a man is, the more capable he is of providing sustenance for both the mother of his child and that child. I.E. – another point in the chance of survival slot. Everything our old brains tells us we want is a trick to make certain that we pass on our genetics to the next generation. It’s human nature. It can’t be avoided. So why be ashamed of it? Embrace it.”
She thought about that in silence.

“I know that society likes to make us feel bad for the things we naturally want to do,” I told her. “Like have sex or eat ice cream or stop our pain with medicine. And I’m not sure why it wants to do that. Maybe misery loves company. But it’s important that you know that there’s nothing wrong with any of it, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting the ‘perfect’ man. That’s natural and it’s perfectly alright.”

She looked at me and then at the hotel bathroom door, beyond which my husband was taking a shower. I knew what she was thinking. I married a man with a less than perfect body and at a time when neither of us were gainfully employed. We were dirt poor. Why did I choose him?

So I continued: “Where we go wrong as women is when we fail to realize that the world is populated by imperfect people. More than seven billion of them. There is no such thing as perfection. That is the cruelty of nature. It makes us crave something that doesn’t exist. There are very few handsome, intelligent, wealthy and powerful men out there, and most of the ones who do exist know they are ‘all that’ and they’re assholes because of it. Which marks them off the viable list immediately. So, Sarah – that’s where people like me… and one day maybe like you, come in. We know that it is impossible to meet the criteria that nature wants us to meet. So we satiate nature by creating books that cater to its demands. We fantasize. And then we move on to our wonderful, kind, loving husbands who are amazing fathers and thoughtful partners and we realize… that this is what we really want. And nature can go screw itself. We know that the next time it rears its picky little head, we can feed it some literature and all will be well.”

I could tell she was getting it then, because that comprehensive shine had cast over her eyes. But she smiled. “Well… this is still just for fun.”

I’m laughing as I share this with you because that is exactly how I was at that age. It was just for fun. And now I’m here – sharing with all of you.
- Heather Killough-Walden
XOXO

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The Demon King

Dahlia Kellen has been through hell. Raised in a fae society that slowly drove her mad, she turned traitor against her people and was cast out. But in an act of heroism that clearly exposed her for the good she was, she rose up against the true evil threatening her people, and in her efforts to stop that evil, she was terribly transformed. Now dark, different, and feeling truly exiled in her soul, Dahlia has a chance encounter with a man in Boston. A man whose gaze is as dark and haunted as her own… and whose craven desire for her and dangerous, powerful bloodline will show Dahlia that for her, hell is just the beginning.

“I’ve come with a message about your father,” said the stranger.
“You’re speaking of Marius.” Marius was dead. Laz would know; he’d killed him.
But the messenger smiled. “No, no. Not quite,” he said, white teeth gleaming in an unholy grin. “Think bigger. Think badder.”

Steven Lazarus is a seasoned detective with the Boston police force who has always served and protected, and done so by the book. But the Akyri King’s insides are heating up, a painful yearning is tearing away at him, and his tall, strong body has become capable of a dark, violent magic he can barely control. His dangerous past has caught up with him, and he can scarcely stand to look at his own reflection. He doesn’t recognize the man staring back at him, and that terrifies him. Because he knows the powerful, hungry man in the mirror wants Dahlia Kellen just as badly as he does. And if he has to, he’ll raise hell to claim her.

The Demon King is the 9th book in the best selling The Big Bad Wolf spinoff series, The Kings, by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Heather Killough-Walden.

Coming summer, 2016

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The Winter King (The Kings, Book 8) Available Now


“If you believe anything I tell you, believe this. You are my queen, therefore, you are my world. You are the most important piece on the chessboard. Everything I do from here on out will be about you. I will eat, sleep, and drink you. I will breathe you. And I will stop breathing without you… If you go, the game is lost.”

Far beyond the easy reaches of the mortal world lies a kingdom of ice and snow. Its glacier mountains reach the horizons of eons, and its cold, hard oceans paint the vastness of its world. It is terribly harsh, and terribly beautiful, and there is only one man capable of ruling from its frozen throne. He has ruled there alone for more than a thousand years.
But the Thirteen Kings are finding their fated queens, and though he’d all but lost hope he would count himself amongst their lucky numbers, the moment she walks into view, his frozen heart and soul are rekindled with by a fire that will melt through anything, even him.

Persephone Glacia Nix – “Poppy” – is a human warlock who has forced herself to fit in with the mortals around her, despite her inherent differences, despite her secret longings, and regardless of the very different way in which she sees the world. Her empathetic nature makes life better for others, but difficult for her. She’s come to accept this as the curse that accompanies the gift of understanding. However, when Kristopher Scaul approaches her on a dark street in a dark city on a cold night and introduces her to a world she at last feels “at home” in, Poppy must finally decide whether to continue faking it in the mortal world – or take her place on a second frozen throne, in the lonely but beautiful Kingdom of Winter.

The Winter King is the eighth anticipated novel in the Big Bad Wolf spinoff series, The Kings, by NYT and USA Today bestselling author Heather Killough-Walden.
Now available at eBook sellers everywhere.

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For the Love of One Mile

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I begin to think on love and all it encompasses. And I am inspired to share with you a personal story of love – and the lesson that gave it birth.

For the Love of One Mile
By Heather Killough-Walden

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” – Simone De Beauvoir

Once, around forty years ago, my father was traveling across country in search of work, and weary from the road. Several hours and several hundred miles into one particular travel day, he noticed a small dark blob on the side of the road far up ahead. As he drove on, the blob drew nearer and became more distinct. Finally, within a quarter of a mile or so, my father could see clearly what it was. It was the figure of a man. But he was not walking. The man’s legs were missing from mid-thigh down. His method of movement was a slow and arduous trek forward by vastly shortened crutches and upon make-shift “shoes” he’d made for his stumps by cutting pads out of old tires.
Swing, shuffle. Swing, shuffle. Slowly, he inched his way along the side of the highway.
The man was long-haired and greasy, and around his neck he wore a sign.

To this day, my father tells the story of that moment. The moment he saw the man on the side of the road and read that sign. And more importantly, the moment directly after, in which my father kept on driving. Twenty years have passed since the event that lasted seconds, but also didn’t. Still moved by the strength of the memory, my father eventually penned a short and poignant poem:

Upon the open road one day,
I saw a man along my way,
He had no legs, his task to ease,
The sign he wore read, “One mile please.”

You see, that day for some inexplicable reason that had haunted him for more than two decades, my father passed up the man with no legs. It wasn’t like him to do so. My father was the kind of man who gave openly, without prejudice, without forethought, even without much at all to give in the first place. He’d been a poor man most of his life, and maybe that was part of the reason he chose to share what he had when he had it. Empathy. That was my father.

The man with no legs was an anomaly and an enigma. “Why didn’t I stop?” my father wondered. Oh… if only he’d stopped and helped!

One day, he chose to share this story with me. He showed me his poem, which was typewriter engraved on a weathered piece of paper, complete with the indentations typewriters make when their letters stick. It was old. He’d had it a while. The incident truly troubled him.

I read the poem and listened to the story. I sat on the edge of that bed and gazed at the profile of the man who had been my hero, my idol, my friend for the entirety of my existence. I realized in that moment that this gentle man with the blue eyes that cried during sad movies and the smile that came easy and the voice that did impressions and told jokes – this man who helped people up and talked people down – came to be the man he is for a reason. Cause and effect. That was life.

I believe that the lessons we learn the deepest are the ones we learn from our mistakes.
“Dad,” I said, “what if you had stopped and helped that man? What if you’d taken him wherever he wanted to go?”
My dad said nothing, knowing by now that his story teller daughter was leading up to something.
“You would have felt good about yourself, no doubt,” I continued. “You would have dusted off your hands and patted yourself on the back and moved on. In time, you probably would have forgotten all about it.”
He blinked, pondering this.
“But the fact that you didn’t stop, just this once – the fact that you kept going – has stayed with you in a way nothing else could. It was a mistake you made, and if I know my father and the good in him, it was a mistake you learned from. Think of all of the men and women you’ve helped since that moment. Think of the ways you’ve tried to make amends. Would you have done so had you stopped to help that pivotal first time?”

I believe that sometimes, when it’s necessary, our stories decide to write themselves. My father was meant to be a good man, with LOVE to give. But in order for this to happen, maybe, just maybe, he had to go one day without it. Light shines brightest in the darkness. And perhaps love is born in the moments we miss it most.

I speak now, twenty years after that conversation with my father, from a position of perspective. Perspective, as you know, is gained through experience. My own “man with no legs” moment was to come for me soon – at a time when I’d forgotten my own words, and the lesson at their core.

My family and I were in Seattle for a convention that was research for one of my books. It was admittedly cold that day down by the water, especially for August. Not that there isn’t always a cold breeze blowing at the waterfront. I loved it. My nose was red, my lips needed lip balm, the sky was that indistinct gray that is impossible to set apart from the concrete, the water, the everything, and I was walking on cloud nine. I was somewhere new! I was next to the ocean! I was living a dream, even if it was a small dream, just to leave behind the hot, flat dust plain that was the home I normally occupied. We had plans, even. We were headed to some nifty little town across the way, where tourists shopped at expensive boutiques and ate eclectic and equally expensive food, and I was with my family. The three of us together, going somewhere, doing something – I had it made.

In this smug satisfaction with my current situation, I purchased a bag of chips and a cola and took a seat beside my daughter on a metal bench while my husband disappeared to buy ferry tickets. The boat would come in fifteen minutes. We had a little time to kill. So, I laughed at a few eleven-year-old jokes, swung my booted feet back and forth, and tore open my bag of chips.

My daughter continued to ramble in that wonderful way children do that goes away far too soon. I half-listened, in that way adults unfortunately never stop doing, as I watched the people around me in the ferry building. Near the entrance, a figure in dark entered, hunched and thin. At once, she reminded me of someone, but I didn’t know who. Not yet.

“Markiplier, yadayada… Five Nights at Freddy’s yadayada…” my daughter continued, and my head tilted slightly, my gaze narrowing with detached curiosity as the woman moved further into the building. She had dark skin and short hair, was dressed in an oversized black sweatshirt, very baggy and stained jeans, and sneakers that didn’t look dirty, but looked old nonetheless. Even from a distance, it was easy to conclude she was homeless. I’ll never be able to pinpoint what it is in a homeless countenance that instantly marks them as such, but there it was in this woman. She wasn’t just a thin woman in oversized clothes – she was without a home, and for some reason, this was clear.

I watched her from that distance, and it wouldn’t be until later, at a moment that will remain with me forever, that I would realize it was not only at a physical distance from which I watched her, but an emotional one as well. She was homeless. I was not. We had separate lives. My mild interest simply wondered about hers in that moment: What would she do? Who would she ask for money? Would she come my way? It was curiosity and nothing more. I was safe in my life.

After a few moments, I turned away from her and focused more attention on my daughter. Several minutes passed, and I’d completely forgotten about the thin homeless woman.
“Excuse me.”
Until she was standing directly in front of me.
I looked up, and my daughter fell silent. We made eye contact, and I felt irritation. She’d interrupted me, and it was just as I’d suspected – she was going to ask me for money. I prepared to fish a dollar out of my purse.
“Do you have any change?” she asked.
On auto pilot, I began searching in my bag for that dollar. I found it, produced it, and held it out to her. She looked at it and smiled slightly, but then she hesitated, glanced over her shoulder, and asked, “Would you by any chance have five dollars?”
My immediate, knee-jerk reaction was one of indignant surprise, which became evident to all when my eyebrows hit the ceiling. “Excuse me?” I demanded haughtily. A dollar wasn’t good enough for her?
She blinked and took a step back, as if my words had actually slapped her. Shame enshrouded her figure like an aura. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “It’s just that I was hoping to buy a sandwich.” She gestured to the Subway sandwich shop that was behind her, against the wall. That was what she’d glanced at a moment earlier.
But as I was processing this, she grew agitated. Clearly afraid I would withdraw even the dollar I offered, she said, “Never mind, it’s okay. I’ll take the dollar. Thank you so much.”
She gently but hastily took it from my hand and stepped away. I noticed her ears. There was a hole in one that was slightly stretched out, as if she’d worn earrings for years. But when she turned completely around, I could see that the other earlobe was torn in two, as if the earring in that ear had been yanked clean through the lobe years ago, ripping it in half forever.
She moved off, her eyes endlessly searching as people entered and exited the ferry building. I, however, did not move at all. I was frozen to the spot on the bench, at once completely and utterly overwhelmed with two horrible realizations.
The first realization was that the person she’d reminded me of was my mother. And because we are products of our parents, the person she’d reminded me of… was me.
The second realization was that I had actually just done what I had just done. What in the name of the Cosmos had just happened with me? Who the hell had I become?

“Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.”
— Iris Murdoch

A simple twist of fate had brought the homeless woman to the ferry building that afternoon, thin and scarred. As I sat there frozen, I thought of my mother and her life, her children, her accomplishments and sufferings, her feelings, her hopes and thoughts – her humanity and the soul that was within her body. And I realized that all life had to do was roll the dice just so, and my mother could be in a ferry building herself, asking for five dollars… Worse yet, it could be my daughter.
And I realized the woman with the scarred ear WAS someone’s daughter. She was someone’s little girl.
My father’s face flashed before my eyes, as did the man with no legs, “one mile please,” the whole of my life, my heart, my hopes, my pains, my fears, the goddamned world.

I swallowed hard. Something settled in my gut that I couldn’t quite name. In the periphery of my mind, my husband had returned to the bench. He was trying to talk to me, to get my attention. But I was as focused as I had ever been, my eyes locked on the woman and all she represented for me in that moment. Ten more seconds of petrified epiphany held me immobile before I finally broke free and rose from the bench. Each step I took toward her stripped another layer of falsity from my person. I moved heavily on, shedding my former self as I drew ever closer.
And then I was there, right behind her, and my hand was on her shoulder.
She turned, her eyes huge, uncertainty warring with lightning-fast thinking on her features. I tried to speak quickly, before I lost the ability to talk at all. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “Let me buy you a sandwich. Please. Anything you want, it’s on me.” Before she could pull away, I took her elbow and gently entwined it with mine.
The next few seconds are admittedly a bit of a blur to me. My heart was pounding so fast, my deep, deep insides fundamentally changing. We walked back to the Subway station, and she began ordering her sandwich, placing layer upon layer of meat on the bread. For some reason, I thought of her heart, of her blood pressure, her cholesterol. I found myself worrying for things I had no business worrying for, but it didn’t stop me from saying, “Please get some veggies on there too. Just a few, at least.” And she did. Maybe she was afraid I would withdraw my offer. I don’t know. I could barely think straight.
The man behind the counter checked us out, and I told him it was all on me. We took her drink and her sandwich and her bag of chips to a nearby table, where she shakily sat down. I scooped from my purse what I had left of my money and gave the lot to her. Again, I said, “I’m sorry. I hope you enjoy your lunch,” before I left her in peace and returned to my family.

After all this time, I am still plagued by my initial actions that day. As plagued as my father was by his. The both of us, confused about what we’d done and why, and wanting nothing more than the forgiveness of those we forgot to love. But knowing what I do now, I believe that what I told my father was true. I am a better person for having made that mistake. My true love was indeed born in that moment when I was missing it most.

“Piglet: ‘How do you spell love?’ Winnie the Pooh: ‘You don’t spell it…you feel it.’”
— A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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From the shadows….

“What are you doing down here?” a voice asked. It was a deep, slightly accented voice that Hollywood would have used on animated bad guys; it had that lilt to it that hinted at wickedness, and the timbre was the kind that wrapped around, then found a way inside you.
She swallowed hard, but her throat was dry, and she ended up choking a little. She coughed, and when she did, her hair shifted before her eyes. She hurriedly batted it away, not wanting to lose sight of the figure in front of her.
But he’d already moved.
He was less than a breath away now, towering over her like a massive, solid shadow. She inhaled sharply and stepped back, but found herself bumping into the wall. There was nowhere to retreat to. She considered her magic again, but something about the figure felt sweltering. Not hot, just smothering. It was as if her magic had a hand over its mouth and a band around its chest. It couldn’t breathe. It was being suffocated.
“What are you looking for, little fae?” the voice asked. His words were so close, they almost whispered across her skin. He was hovering over her, leaning in, and fresh, hard shivers rushed up Violet’s spine. “It’s dangerous down here,” he said. “But you’re figuring that out now, aren’t you?”

- The Shadow King, by Heather Killough-Walden

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