“A Sinister Game” Release Date

Release date for A Sinister Game, by Heather Killough-Walden:

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

In a world ruled by Game Leaders, a dark and dangerous man proposes a wager….

 “If you can escape me for seven rounds, Victoria – if you can keep from being taken off of the board for that long, I will admit defeat and step down as Gray leader. But if I find you,” he let the words sink in. “And if I capture you….” His voice trailed off just as his gaze trailed over her lips, her throat, her breasts.

His green eyes locked on hers again and she felt she would die right there at that table.

“Then you’ll join me. You’ll give yourself to me for one night.” His smile was the devil’s promise. “This is the wager.”

 But this is a game far more complicated and far more deadly than either of them anticipated. As the real world unfolds around them, what they thought they knew becomes obsolete, and the rules are ruthlessly changed… in this SINister game.

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Tantrum

As I was reading the news this morning, I had this sudden “vision:”

Fifty big kids were on a playground. They’d divided themselves into two teams. The ball went back and forth and the rules were basically followed. One team lost a few times in a row and pouted a bit, but again the rules were rules and fair was fair. And the game continued.
Then the other team lost a few times. Rules were rules and fair was fair, but this second team didn’t really seem to care. Someone in the team began a bluster. Others followed suit.
Finally, one of kids on the second team bent down, stole the ball, and shouted, “I’m going home!”
The other team watched, mystified, as half of the players left the field in a huff. They looked at each other, shrugging. The teams had been dissolved and playtime was ruined.
A once happy place of growth and civility was filled with the hollow echoes of the wins and losses of the past.

Some kids never grow up.

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A Fanged Friday Fantastic Sneak Peek at Death’s Angel

Azrael smiled, flashing perfect white teeth that sported incisors slightly longer than the norm. Some people naturally looked like that, he knew, but on him it looked different enough that he didn’t smile often. On him, it seemed to fit too perfectly and only served to reinforce the otherworldly impressions people often had when looking at him.

He was a starkly charismatic individual. He was taller than anyone he knew, save perhaps Samael. His voice could literally mesmerize. He was also uncommonly, almost painfully handsome. He wasn’t certain why the Old Man had seen fit to bother with such a thing while simultaneously making him a vampire. It was like the curse of Beethoven, who created the most beautiful music in the world and couldn’t hear it. What good was a beautiful face when placed on a monster?

But Sophie didn’t seem to mind the hint of fang he exposed. In fact, as he brushed her mind, unable to help himself from drawing nearer to her in any way possible, he was surprised to find that she found it attractive. My God, she thought. He really does look like a vampire.

This was the second time she had thought such a thing. If he’d been capable of choking, he would have done so the first time her mind had muttered the impression. Hearing it now had nearly as strong an effect on Azrael. Sophie wasn’t repulsed by vampires. And the idea that he resembled one was appealing to her.

Of course, Azrael was no fool. A lot of girls believed they would enjoy the company of a vampire – if vampires existed. In reality, he knew they would cower or scream or run, or most likely all three. Still… he found himself hoping.

“Sophie Bryce, right? The maid of honor?” he asked, his smile utterly disarming. He’d had millennia to practice.

Sophie blinked and he read her thoughts. She was desperately trying to find her head in the wake of his sudden presence. She’d been torturing herself over the last few days, and he knew it. He’d watched her every night. Listened to her. He knew damn well that she was drawn to him – and that she hated herself for it.

He sensed it when a slight pain twinged up her arm and Sophie realized that her friend was holding her tight. Taylor’s fingers curled into Sophie’s forearm in utter distraction, her hazel eyes glued to Azrael. He knew she couldn’t help it and wasn’t aware of what she was doing, but the fact that she’d brought his archess even the slightest discomfort was difficult for Az to ignore. It upset him.

And with practiced control, he tamped down the anger.

Sophie, on the other hand, appeared to be glad for the pain. It shot through the dazed fog that Az’s appearance had caused. It also cleared her senses enough to allow her to pull her arm out of Taylor’s grip, clear her throat, and say, “Yes.” He tried not to smile when her voice cracked halfway through the single syllable. She cleared her throat some more and forced a smile to her lips. “That’s me.” She was so fucking cute with half of her glorious golden locks tucked up underneath that Penguins cap. Wisps of it fell about her face, framing it and caressing it the way he wanted to.

He chuckled softly, watching her carefully to gauge the effect his laugh had on her.

Sophie’s gold eyes brightened, her lips parted, and her cheeks flushed ever so slightly. Az’s monster reared its head and he felt his vision begin to heat up. If he wasn’t careful, his eyes would begin to glow. “We never got the chance to actually meet the other night,” he told her, forcing himself to continue with the charade.

“No,” she agreed, relieved that she was finally finding her voice. “We didn’t.”

He cocked his head to one side and slid his gaze from hers to regard her friends. He needed to look away – just for a moment. Long enough to get himself under control once more. His gold eyes slowly scanned the faces of her companions – and then stopped on the pair of men who sat behind them.

A quick scan of their minds told him they were recent graduates from Carnegie Mellon University. The one on the right was the son of a wealthy factory owner here in the city. His name was Richard. And he’d been thinking all sorts of biblical things about Sophie that night.

Azrael grew very still and something dark flickered across his face. He knew it was there; he knew he was failing to hide his sudden fury. But he barely cared.

Richard fell back into the curve of his seat and swallowed hard as the blood drained from his face. Below him, Sophie cleared her throat, at once drawing Azrael’s attention. Sophie slowly stood and turned to face him. “Az, these are my friends, Taylor and Emily.” She gestured toward them and they smiled nervously, but politely, nodding in his direction.
Emily and Taylor’s eyes were still a little glazed over at his presence, so, Az allowed some of his vampiric influence to snake around and through the girls, easing them into a more comfortable state of relaxation.

It worked like a charm. Within seconds, Taylor was smiling easily and standing to greet him properly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said, extending her hand.

“Likewise,” Az agreed, and with a slight bow, accepted the offered hands of both Taylor and then Emily, who quickly followed suit.

While he shook hands, Sophie’s thoughts echoed through Az’s mind. She couldn’t believe that her friends weren’t guessing he was the Masked One. It seemed so obvious to her now that she knew his secret. Everything about him screamed of the kind of rock star charisma that it took to hold millions of fans in sway.

Meanwhile, Sophie’s gaze traveled over Azrael’s form, and he tried not to visibly crow with the triumph he felt when she shamelessly took in the way the black button-up shirt under his sports coat stretched taut across the muscles of his chest. She was particularly fond of the curve of his neck where it met his shoulder.

Azrael released Emily’s hand, straightened again, and heard Sophie’s heart rate speed up.

He looked up to see that her sunshine eyes were glassy with unabashed desire. And, as if it would hide the way her mouth watered for him, she had pressed her bottom lip between two perfect, white teeth. Azrael’s gaze locked on the plump lip. He quickly slipped his hands into the pockets of his trench coat as they tightened into fists at his sides, and his nails began to cut into his palms. He imagined her pressing hard enough with her teeth to draw blood.

If she did… it would all be over.

“Juliette mentioned you live in Pittsburgh,” he said, trying to break through not only his tension, but hers. “I’d forgotten.” His tone was gentle, personal. He knew that to her, it was as if they were the only two in the arena.

“For now,” she told him flat-out. She didn’t want to bore him with the fact that she would only be there for two more days, but he was well aware. “But what are you doing here?” she asked, honestly curious. It was quite a coincidence to her that she had never seen him before in her life – and then, suddenly, she’d seen him twice in the space of a week. She wasn’t stupid; she was wary.

That was okay with him. He had a story and he would use it, but even this lie was too much of a secret for him to share with her friends. Az glanced at Taylor and Emily and smiled an easy, even somewhat shy smile. “It’s a personal matter actually,” he said. “However…” he paused, turned, and glanced up toward the private booths up above them.

His band awaited him in one of them; they had a bird’s eye view of the entire arena from their vantage point. He knew because he’d been watching Sophie from it all night.

He also knew that Sophie had never been in one of those suites herself, and he was hoping she’d be tempted enough by what he was about to offer that he could pull her away from her companions at least for a little while. “Second period will begin in a few minutes,” he said, looking back down at her and scorching her once more with stark eyes. “And there is plenty of room in our suite for another guest.” He chanced another glance at the men seated behind Sophie – especially Richard – and was smugly satisfied when the young man looked as though he wanted to piss himself. “Perhaps you would care to join me?” he asked, turning his gaze back on his archess.

He could hear her blood rushing through her veins. He was scaring her and thrilling her at the same time. She was finding it hard to think.

He wasn’t opposed to working with that; he had no desire to stand here and play the good guy much longer anyway.

A gentle push of his power, and it surrounded Sophie. In a few moments, she not only found it difficult to think, she found it impossible. Seconds ago, she’d had a thousand reasons why she should keep away from Azrael. And the fact that he belonged to – was destined to be with – another, was the most powerful.
But just then, every reason she’d had, and in fact, reason itself, fled from her consciousness and she found herself saying, “Yes.”

She’d barely whispered it, but it was enough.

Azrael’s smile broadened.

– Death’s Angel, by Heather Killough-Walden (coming Dec. 31st)

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SINister

A Sinister Game
by Heather Killough-Walden

In a world ruled by Game Leaders, a dark and dangerous man proposes a wager….

“If you can escape me for seven rounds, Victoria – if you can keep from being taken off of the board for that long, I will admit defeat and step down as Gray leader. But if I find you,” he let the words sink in. “And if I capture you….” His voice trailed off just as his gaze trailed over her lips, her throat, her breasts.
His green eyes locked on hers again and she felt she would die right there at that table.
“Then you’ll join me. You’ll give yourself to me for one night.” His smile was the devil’s promise. “This is the wager.”

But this is a game far more complicated and far more deadly than either of them anticipated. As the real world unfolds around them, what they thought they knew becomes obsolete, and the rules are ruthlessly changed… in this SINister game.

Coming November, 2012
Yes, November, 2012. 😉

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A Halloween Treat For My Readers

A Halloween Treat for my readers

Angel in the Elevator
Urban Legend – as “told” by the characters of
The Lost Angels series, by Heather Killough-Walden

“You ought to put an elevator in here,” said Ellie as she tossed her long black hair over her shoulder and leaned back in the cushions of the couch, taking her steaming mug of hot chocolate with her. “It’s a workout to get from one wing to another.”

“That’s because there are no ‘wings’, per se,” said Max, glancing up as if to take in the floors and levels beyond the ceiling over their heads. “The mansion simply transforms to accommodate us as we see fit.”

“An’ that means it’s bloody big,” said Gabriel, flashing her a shit-eating grin and then swigging down half the bottle of beer he held in one hand.

Lightning zigzagged outside the dark windows that ran along two walls. The curtains framing them on either side billowed slightly, as the windows had been left open a crack.

Thunder beckoned and Uriel’s brow rose. “Is that you?” he asked, turning to his newlywed bride.

Eleanore Granger, or Ellie, smiled and shook her head, shrugging her innocence. “Not this time.” As an archess, one of her abilities was to control the weather – but the gale building outside had nothing to do with her.

“It’s Halloween,” said Michael, who leaned casually against the mantle above the roaring fireplace. “A storm like this is par for the course.” His smile was a hell of a lot darker than normal for him. Michael was the goody-two-shoes of the four favored archangels. A wry and wicked tilt of his lips was rare. Perhaps it was for that reason that Eleanore found herself caught up in it now.

Uriel noticed, but he didn’t have a chance to say anything before a deeper, nearly painfully melodious voice cut in.

“I would have to agree,” said Azrael.

The inhabitants of the room – Uriel, Gabriel, Michael, Ellie, and Max, their guardian – turned to regard the enigmatic fourth archangel as he came down a long dark hall. The hall led to a winding stone staircase that, in turn, led to his sleeping chamber below ground. Azrael was the former Angel of Death. He was also a vampire – the first and king of the vampires, in fact – and every ounce of his exceedingly tall, broodingly handsome visage oozed the proof.

Azrael entered the living room and gracefully took a seat. The space filled with a pregnant quiet. Az’s presence did that sometimes.

“This weather and your mention of the elevator reminds me of something,” Uriel finally said, turning back to Ellie and breaking the silence.

“Shoot,” said Ellie, her dark blue eyes glittering in the firelight.

“Have you ever heard the story of the angel and the elevator?”

“You mean the urban legend,” corrected Michael, his tone back to its serious self once more.

“Whatever,” said Uriel, glancing sharply in his brother’s direction.

“Nope,” said Ellie. She leaned forward in the seat she occupied across from him, put down her mug, and rested her elbows on her knees. “Tell me.”

Uriel felt his emerald green eyes darken. Ellie’s shirt dipped slightly over one arm as she leaned toward him. The creamy expanse of her neck and shoulder beckoned. He slowly straightened, at once missing the fangs he’d been cursed with and then had lost not too long ago.

Eleanore must have seen the sudden spike of hunger in his expression, because her own pupils expanded, her lips parted, and her breathing hitched. Uriel’s smile turned as dark as his eyes.

“Well,” he said softly as he too leaned forward, closing the distance between them. “It goes like this. Once upon a time, in a world light-years away, a young woman worked in a high-rise building in a very busy city-“

“Leave it to the actor to embellish,” mumbled Gabriel under his breath.

“I heard it was a woman living in a high-rise apartment,” said Max, frowning in confusion from behind his wire-rimmed glasses.

“No, I’m pretty sure it was a woman who lived in a ranch house but sometimes cleaned high-rise offices,” said Michael.

“What-ever,” Uriel repeated, an edge finding its way into his deep voice. “As I was saying,” he went on, returning his gaze to Ellie, who was now hiding a laugh in her twinkling eyes. “A woman who had some sort of reason to spend some inordinate amount of time in a high-rise accommodation, for some unknown purpose one night went to sleep and had a bizarre dream.” He paused, as if expecting to be interrupted. When he wasn’t, he relaxed.

“In the dream, she was waiting for an elevator” he said, applying all of his attention to his bride. She listened intently. “She pressed the ‘down’ button and the elevator dinged on her floor. The doors slid open – and there stood a tall man in a white suit. The suit was so white, in fact, that it was glowing.”

“Sounds familiar,” muttered Gabriel. “The blooming glowy suit thing.”

“Except that Samael is not known to wear white,” said Azrael. Everyone looked at him. The change in subject was so abrupt, Uriel couldn’t help but wonder whether the vampire king had just read Michael’s mind.

Samael, he thought to himself. Sam was their arch-nemesis. The Fallen One. The tall, charismatic, devastatingly handsome and powerful archangel who had once been the Old Man’s favorite but was passed up for Michael was a thorn in the four favored’s sides.

Uriel had to admit that he could see Samael wearing a shining suit. All of his suits were tailored, incredibly expensive, and impeccably clean. But Az was right too. Sam didn’t wear white.

“Getting back to the story,” Uriel said by way of returning to the subject at hand.

“Except you’re telling it wrong again,” said Max, who sat up a little straighter and adjusted the vest in his own three-piece suit. His was brown. His suits were always brown. They matched his eyes and hair. “She didn’t have a dream because she never fell asleep. She was kept up by a light shining under her door, if I’m not mistaken. When she opened the door and looked out into the hall to find the light’s source, she saw the man in the white suit standing at the end of it. He was smiling at her.”

Uriel rolled his eyes and resisted the urge to fist his hand in his hair.

Max went on. “She watched for a while and eventually he turned away from her and disappeared around the corner.”

Uriel pursed his lips, took a deep breath through his nose, and thought fast. “Okay, dream or happenstance, she sees the man in white. Can we agree on that much?”

Max nodded. No one objected.

So Uriel went on. “Day two of our story sees our young lady entering the before-mentioned high-rise building. Somehow, she finds herself on the seventh floor.”

“Thirteenth,” corrected Michael.

“No, I think he’s right. I’m fairly certain it’s the seventh,” said Max.

“Christ,” muttered Uriel.

From where he sat on one of the sofas, Azrael spoke up. “She’s an executive assistant,” he said calmly. Everyone froze and turned to face him, their ears pricked at the sound of his deep, otherworldly voice. “At the end of the day, she is behind on her work. She has to stay late. The hours tick by one after another and soon,” he said, pulling them along with the suspenseful lilt of his hypnotic tone, “she is alone on her floor. Everyone else is long gone.”

There was a pause – one that Uriel was a tad flummoxed to find no one wanted to fill – and then Azrael continued. “When she could work no more, she gathered her belongings and headed to the floor’s elevator. There, she pressed the ‘down’ button and waited.”

More silence.

“When the elevator doors opened, the woman was shocked to feel another body press rudely and quickly past her and enter the car. At first, she was simply dismayed that she was not as alone as she’d previously believed. However, when she regained her composure and looked up to see who had moved by her, she was amazed to find herself staring at no one other than the man in the white suit.”

“From her dream!” exclaimed Eleanore.

“No, from the hall the night before,” insisted Max.

Uriel blew out a sigh.

Azrael, however, seemed unperturbed by the interruption or disagreement. “Her surprise at seeing the man left her stunned and motionless until the elevator doors once more slid shut. Before she fully realized that she’d just missed her ride down, the elevator began to descend. A moment later, however, an odd popping sound reverberated through the floor beneath her feet. A second after that came the thunder of a crash.”

Real thunder rolled across the night sky outside, causing everyone but Azrael to jump.

“The elevator fell!” guessed Ellie breathlessly. She’d moved to the very edge of her couch cushion by this point and her hot chocolate was growing cold.

Michael pushed off of his station by the fireplace and moved to join them at the sofas. “When she took the stairs down,” he said, “it was to find the police were already on the scene because an alarm had sounded and the cops were nearby at the time.”

He would tell this part, thought Uriel. Michael worked as a cop in New York City, so this was his territory.

Michael went on. “She told the police what had happened to her and one of the officers took her statement. When he’d finished, he told her that she was lucky, that the elevator plummeted thirteen floors -”

“Seven,” interrupted both Max and Uriel. Michael shot them a reprimanding look, and Azrael actually chuckled. Everyone looked at him. The Angel of Death shrugged.

Michael narrowed his gaze. “And that if anyone had been in the elevator when it had fallen, they would have been dead on impact. The woman insisted that there had been someone on the elevator – she’d seen the man in white board it herself. But when they pried the doors open, it was to find the elevator empty.”

“So that’s why they call it the angel in the elevator story,” Ellie said.

“Urban legend,” Michael corrected.

“The man in white was supposed to be an angel who kept her from dying by stopping her from getting onto the elevator herself,” Ellie finished as if Michael hadn’t spoken.

“Yep,” came the general agreement from everyone in the room.

A brief silence followed, and then, “Can’t see Sam doin’ that either,” said Gabriel.

“Nope,” everyone agreed.

Max raised his brow and cocked his head to the side thoughtfully. “But I can see him holding the doors open and asking, ‘Going down?’”

The End.

Happy Halloween. 🙂 XOXO

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A Day for the Dead – and the Undead

The temperature is dropping, the leaves are turning, and the smell of wood smoke is carried on a breeze. Fog lingers now, and cemeteries seem a little less unoccupied than they did before. The nights are longer. Shadows are deeper. The moon appears like a Cheshire cat on a stage of velvet black.
Spooky is in the air.
And everywhere people smile, rub their hands together, and begin browsing online for stick-on fangs, gargoyle wings, stuffed ravens, and Styrofoam grave stones they can place in their yards. They get a strange and wonderful chill as they ponder the Haunted Houses going up, pumpkin carving, the orange and black candy, and the global masquerade that is about to take place.
Why? Why does Halloween give us such a thrill?
As a romance writer, I’ve often pondered the infatuation humanity has with, for lack of a better term, fear. “Why would a romance writer be interested in such a thing?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you. Fear is titillating. It’s exciting. Just the right amount of it gets our blood pumping to certain body parts, releases certain chemicals, and even has the potential to enhance – other – experiences.
Fear is a primal response and it engenders primal side effects. And there’s nothing more primal than sex.
Through years of observation and research, I’ve come to realize that this is one of the reasons vampires are so popular amongst paranormal romance readers. The vampire is to romance as Halloween is to holidays. It is that special and different and dangerous-to-a-certain-degree aspect of romance that gets readers’ heart rate up just a little higher than the bodice-rippers of old.
A vampire is dark, he is strong and deadly. He is immortal, so chances are he’s lived long enough to acquire a scary amount of knowledge. He’s powerful. He can control your bloody mind, for crying out loud. That’s seriously scary.
It’s also so very, very wonderful.
For if a man this powerful, this dark and dangerous, this knowledgeable and this out-and-out scary has chosen you as the woman he loves, that means you must be special too. That means something about you appeals to the forbidden in the same way that the forbidden appeals to you. And that scary, forbidden thing will bring you frightening amounts of pleasure-close-to-pain and can protect the hell out of you to boot. There’s also the added bonus that he will never grow old and fat – and by turning you, he can make sure that you don’t either! Talk about an added bonus. The vampire is virtually the tall, dark and befanged fountain of youth.
As All Hallows Eve draws near and the world shifts into blacks, reds, purples and oranges, ponder the spookiness of it all. Slip on your fake fangs, bat wings and silken capes and think about the mists and the unknown and the lurking unnamables. Be grateful for the night and the mystery.
Happy Halloween. ☺
Now go celebrate the tantalizing, titillating bit o’ fear that brings that much more pleasure to our otherwise boringly breathe-easy lives. Trick-or-treat with the best of them and pick up your copy of Halloween’s quintessential paranormal treat: The October Trilogy. There’s literally no better time than now.

The October Trilogy
By Heather Killough-Walden

Book One: Sam I Am
Seventeen year-old Logan Wright has always turned to the make-believe world of her written words to escape the pain of her real life. Through her writing, she lives vicariously, creating gorgeous but dangerous male characters who hunt down, and fight for, their chosen mates. For a vice, it’s a safe one. Normally.
However, this is October.

The moon is full, the cemetery is filled with mists, and the misspoken words of an ages-old spell have released an ancient force. It is shapeless – nameless. Until it happens upon the words of a beautiful young bard and takes the wickedly handsome form of one of her creations.

Now Logan finds herself the object of desire for a boy who appears to be everything she ever dreamed of. Sam Hain is tall, strong, and gorgeous. He wants her; there’s no denying that. So, what’s the problem?

Sam’s kisses come with sharp teeth – and a dark promise.

Logan, her friends, and her long-time crush must band together in order to save her from the force they unwittingly awakened. They have one month. And it’s going to be a rough one.

 

Book Two: Secretly Sam
It’s been a week since Logan Wright and her friends managed to defeat Samhain, the Lord of the Dead, and put an end to the death and destruction he caused in his relentless pursuit of her.

All has been quiet.

But it’s always quiet before a storm, and as the October wind picks up once more and red eyes peer from the darkness, it becomes clear that “Sam Hain” is far from finished. He’s after something precious, something that can only be found here, and he isn’t going to go away without it.

In this second installment of the pulse-pounding young adult series The October Trilogy, Logan and her companions face an enemy that has grown more powerful, more determined, and more dangerous in spades. Samhain, who has once more become Sam Hain the indomitable god-turned-vampire, has his mesmerizing sights set on Logan Wright, body and soul.

Nothing is going to sway him this time. He’s learned his lessons and adapted. Time is running out. And nothing is more deadly than a Death God on a schedule.

Both Sam I Am and Secretly Sam are currently available as eBooks through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Sam I Am is temporarily on promotional sale for $1.00.

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My “Lucky” Marriage

I’ve got a lot of friends and acquaintances who claim they are… “unlucky” in love. They are the products of failed marriages, or they are people who have never been married nor even had lasting relationships. They look at me, and at the man I’ve been with since I was seventeen, and they shoot me with a, “You don’t know how lucky you are to have someone who cares about you that much.”

Hmm.

Well, the subject came up again just recently and it made me realize that it’s been bugging me for a while. I want to address this attitude that I’m “lucky” and that they’re “not.”

My husband is a wonderful, wonderful man. I won’t deny that. I’m fortunate to have him by my side. But then again, I was smart enough to recognize his potential when I saw it and cling to it through thick and thin, through objections from all around me, and through obstacles the world couldn’t seem to stop hurling at us.

And I contribute to the marriage too.

A marriage takes work on both sides, and this is something that too many people don’t understand. They hit me with the “You’re so lucky” routine, and that’s that. As if I won the lottery or opened a good fortune cookie. As if I didn’t put any effort into making certain my husband and I would remain together.

So I’m gonna give it to you straight up. Here it is – the truth of why I’m “lucky” in love.
I take care of myself. I eat right. I spend some time on my hair. I use sunblock and anti-wrinkle lotion. I hold in my farts. I don’t breathe bad breath on him. I don’t let him see me naked if I’m having an off and pudgy day. I make sure my clothes fit well and are flattering. I never smile at him if I’m afraid there is food in my teeth. I support him in his work, edit his papers, give him ideas for his research, talk him up to his peers and bosses. I drive him to the doctor’s when he needs it, take care of him when he’s sick, ask him how his day was. I worked my very poor way through college, earned a few degrees, and continue to learn about the things around me.

I never stop trying.

And if I think HE has stopped trying, I call him on it. I never settle. In the long run, he respects me more for it and appreciates that I love him for all of the wonderful things he IS, and not the wonderful things he could be.

It’s not easy. It’s got nothing to do with luck.

For a marriage to succeed, you have to push through the muck and pull out of the sludge and give each other lifts-up to climb the cliffs. And in the end, you can collapse at the bottom of the mountain together and momentarily rest in the knowledge that you’ve made it this far. You’ll probably make the next mountain too.

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Secretly Sam

Releasing Monday, October 1st, 2012!!
The long awaited book 2 in The October Trilogy: Secretly Sam

It’s been a week since Logan Wright and her friends managed to defeat Samhain, the Lord of the Dead, and put an end to the death and destruction he caused in his relentless pursuit of her.

All has been quiet.

But it’s always quiet before a storm, and as the October wind picks up once more and red eyes peer from the darkness, it becomes clear that “Sam Hain” is far from finished. He’s after something precious, something that can only be found here, and he isn’t going to go away without it.

In this second installment of the pulse-pounding young adult series The October Trilogy, Logan and her companions face an enemy that has grown more powerful, more determined, and more dangerous in spades. Samhain, who has once more become Sam Hain the indomitable god-turned-vampire, has his mesmerizing sights set on Logan Wright, body and soul.

Nothing is going to sway him this time. He’s learned his lessons and adapted. Time is running out. And nothing is more deadly than a Death God on a schedule.

– Secretly Sam, by Heather Killough-Walden
(In honor of the release, Sam I Am, book 1 in The October Trilogy, is on sale for $1 for a limited time. Get your copy now!)

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A Fall

I was born on the first day of Fall. It should have served as an omen, coming to existence on a day that symbolizes the most fundamental change – life to death. The leaves turn colors because they cease to live. They fall, in every sense of the word, and are swept away by a shifting wind.

I woke up this morning, realized I’d forgotten to take my medicine when the alarm went off six hours earlier, looked around at the boxes full of moving junk, the suitcases I still hadn’t been able to unpack, the dishes, the living laundry pile (his name is Hugo and he’s started sending my husband ransom notes demanding Thorlo socks), the knick-knacks stacked one on top of the other on every flat surface in the house, the trash needing to be taken out, the carpet needing vacuuming – nay, shampooing – the car needing washing, and the eight books needing to be written, taunting and daunting from where they stared at me from my still-open computer screen…. And I realized I needed a change.

I’m tired of working so hard.

It’s been a lovely week – MRI’s, numb legs, speeding tickets, rude cops, husband overseas, daughter who has fought me ever step of the way, looming deadlines I feel I’ve no hope in hell of meeting. This day that should by all rights be a joyful, celebratory day, started with tears and a sense of hopelessness and all-too-familiarity.

So now I take a slow, deep, shaky breath and I let it out with a decision.

I am going to throw at least half of this shit away.

I’m cleaning out my closet, I’m sweeping off the flat surfaces, I’m selling my car. I am making a chore chart that my daughter will stick to or I swear to Odin, I will send her to boarding school. I am going to kiss goodbye to all of the things I thought I needed and hopefully say hello to the one I actually do need: Time.

Nothing like a birthday to remind you of how little you have.

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Along the Labyrinth

Today was a special day for my family. So, we put everything aside – work, cleaning, everything – and hopped into the car and headed Up Country.
There is a place in Maui called The Labyrinth of the Sacred Garden, and though I have no idea what the actual address is, I know that you can find it somewhere along the right-hand side on the Road to Hana.
You pull into a tiny parking lot, shut the car down, and step out to find yourself in another world. The first thing you notice is the temperature. It’s much cooler here than it is along the coast. The second thing you notice is the breeze. There is an energy to it that does not exist anywhere else on Earth. It’s like the fingers of some long forgotten god, lovingly caressing you down to the soul, and it feels absolutely unbelievable.
The third thing you notice is the labyrinths. They are everywhere. Walk into the official “gift shop,” and you can run your finger along a worn labyrinth carved into a single large piece of smooth stone. Move a little further into the property, beyond the wares for sale, and you come to a Buddhist meditation area, several koi pots and ponds, Zen gardens in all sizes of containers, and finally a man-made labyrinth formed of small white stones. You can stop here and walk this one if you’d like.
Or you can go outside again.
Out the back door you’re drawn; something about the base of the mountain summons, the green of the forest, that unbelievable breeze.
At last, you come to the first of the two real gems of the Sacred Garden. This is the real labyrinth, carefully constructed, intricately perfect. You begin to walk its length, always looking down, always aware of your steps – one foot after another. Others may be traveling it with you, but they are separate from you, locked into their own channels of this confoundingly comforting design. Time drifts. Sound moves away. You realize so many things, little by little, one after another.
You realize that the labyrinth is a reproduction of life. Sometimes, you seem to be going the wrong way. You pass people who are going in the opposite direction. They walk right by you. It feels odd, disorienting. But you continue; one foot in front of the other, and all the while, unbeknownst to you, you’re drawing ever closer to your goal.
Once in a while, because of the labyrinth’s tight twists and turns, you find yourself moving alongside someone, in step, parallel. But in reality, you’re in different lines of the maze, and in different stages of life. Soon, one of you turns away.
Perhaps most confusing of all is what I realized myself as I drew to the center of the labyrinth and gazed down at the final remaining three feet of puzzle. I had but to take a few steps and I would be at my goal.
But I didn’t want to be there yet. I found myself whispering aloud, “It really is the journey.” And just like that, the center no longer mattered. I looked up – at the world that waited beyond the labyrinth – and noticed the second of the two real gems of the Sacred Garden. A wooden swing rested empty beside a picturesque ravine. The breeze, that wonderful, beautiful breeze, touched the swing there.
Without looking back at the center of the maze, I stepped past the invisible walls represented by the painted stones. I walked across the labyrinth. I walked through it. And I stepped out into the world to make my way to that swing, sit down, and gaze out across a river bed that I hadn’t been able to see clearly until now.
Now I could see that this dry creek bed had been touched by countless people. Towers of pebbles and smooth stone had been erected everywhere, large, small, some almost impossibly balanced, and some clearly created by children. People, at peace, had left their artistic, peaceful mark upon the world.
The breeze kissed me. I smiled – and breathed.

I really like the Sacred Garden. I will definitely be going back there.

Oh! The final lesson the labyrinth taught me was one my eight-year-old daughter helped me to learn as she raced through the channels of the maze to shoot into its center in record time: If you’ve got the zest for life that a child has, you reach enlightenment a hell of a lot faster than everyone else. ☺

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