Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Forever – is composed of Nows


I love my new book cover! My daughter made it. 

I also have a website in the works. Here are some of the graphics. My son is making it.






I'm feeling blessed. 
Even though I'm sad.
My friend died yesterday. She was my age. She never had children. Once she told me that having children was something she was supposed to do in her 30s and it just didn't happen. Because she edited a few of my books, I can attest that she was a brilliant editor and a lyrical writer. She was an editor for the LA Times. She was also a witty, kind, and thoughtful person.

She wrote a beautiful book. It took her several years, but just recently it was picked up by Scholastic Books. It will be published in the spring of 2017. I'm so sad that she won't get to see it on people's book shelves.

I really think that we only have a few chances at immortality--having our essence live beyond our death. One of them is our children, Another is art. Inventions could also be placed in that circle.

I believe it's the Boy Scouts who say leave only footsteps behind, but I'm glad that someone like my friend has words that she's leaving for the rest of us. And I'm oh so grateful I have children.

Forever – is composed of Nows – (690)

Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –

From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –

Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies –

(Do you wonder what Anno Dominies means? I did, so I looked it up. It's Latin for "in the year of our Lord" or A.D. as opposed to B.C.)


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Book Cover Mock-ups



Which one do you like best? I love the colors on the first, but the couple look like teenagers, and while I love YA books, this is not one of them. I might have to save that image for a YA story. Here's the first chapter of THE LITTLE WHITE CHRISTMAS LIE.

Millie sat at the window of her Brownstone apartment, watching the shoppers scurry down New York’s busy streets. Head lights, streetlights, and the just-hung Christmas lights sparkled on the slowly drifting snow.
“Meow,” Byron cried as he jumped into Millie’s lamp. He settled down with purr.
“It’s just me and you this year,” Millie told the cat. She tried telling herself that she needed the solitude, that she deserved a respite from her demanding career, and that she didn’t have the time or the energy to devote to cultivating meaningful relationships, but the longer she sat at the window watching everyone else pursue their Christmas with such purposefulness and pleasure…
No, that couldn’t be right, could it? Surely, there had to be a few Ebenezers in the crowd. She couldn’t be the only one wishing that Christmas would pass her by. Leaning back into her wingback chair, feet propped up on the ottoman, she closed her eyes. It was just so embarrassing
How could she, one of the world’s most beloved romance writers, be alone for the holidays? Again? She’d taken a cruise to the Holy Land last year, thinking that what could be more spiritually uplifting than Christmas in Bethlehem? But it hadn’t been uplifting. It had been a tour full of senior citizens complaining about their food and hotel beds. But at least it had been better than the Christmas the year before with Liam in Monaco.
Millie stood, knocking the sleeping Byron to the floor. He complained loudly while arching his back.
“Maybe this year we’ll just stay home,” Millie announced to no one, since Byron had twitched his tail and disappeared into the next room.
The shrill of her landline broke the silence. She studied the phone. She’d been meaning to shut off the service for months, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Or at least that’s what she told herself. The truth was, it was her mom’s voice on the answering machine and Millie couldn’t bring herself to throw it away, even after all these months.
Millie listened to her mom ask the caller to leave a message. No one who really wanted to talk Millie ever used the landline. Her friends and business associates always called her cell…well, they usually texted, or just sent her an email. No one, other than scam artists and telemarketers called her landline. Millie stood in the center of the apartment where she’d lived as a child, waiting.
“Hello? Camille? Hello?” An elderly woman’s voice warbled through the room. “You probably don’t remember me, but I was a friend of your Grandmother LaDonna. My name is Joy Baker.”
Joy Baker. Millie didn’t recall her grandmother ever mentioning a Joy Baker, and that was the sort of name she would have remembered because she really liked baked goods, and a joyful baker seemed like a good person to know.
“Anywho, I was hoping you’d give me a call. LaDonna told me you are a writer and I have a little business proposition for you.”
Millie frowned at the phone, debating. Her head told her that this happy baker person was probably a crook, but her lonely heart urged her to pick up the phone.
Joy heaved an audible sigh. “I know you don’t know me…but I also knew your Grandpa Horace and your Uncle George. Anyway, I run a little inn out here in New Hope, New York and, well, it could use some publicity. I just thought that maybe if you’d like to come and stay—” Click.
The answering machine only allowed a few seconds per message, which often took the callers by surprise. Millie smiled, wondering if this joyful baker person was on the end of the line, still yammering, completely unaware that she’d been shut off mid-sentence.
Millie honestly couldn’t remember her mom, grandparents or her Uncle George ever mentioning this Joy Baker, or New Hope, but the information tickled in the back of Millie’s mind. She settled down on the sofa and pulled her computer onto her lap.
Seconds later, images of an upstate village with a church on every corner flashed on the screen. A springtime shot showed the town green’s gazebo surrounded by tulips and crocus.  Another image had the gazebo decked in autumn’s bright fallen leaves. At this time of year, Millie knew there would be a blanket of snow. And sure enough, she soon found images of New Hope, New York in full Christmas glory. It looked like a picture perfect place to spend Christmas, if you had someone to share it with.
Millie closed her eyes against the flashing recollections of Christmas’s at her grandparent’s home in upstate New York. Sledding with her bright cheeked mom and dad, hanging the lights with her Uncle George, Aunt Helen and little Midge.
Ring. Ring.
The phone. Millie poised her fingers above her keyboard waiting. Once again, her heart told her to pick it up, but her sensible side told her to stay put.
“Oh dear,” Joy Baker’s voice floated back into the room, “I must have been cut off. Now, as I was saying, I have this darling inn. The old house belonged to my grandparents and their parents before them and I’ve recently converted it into an inn. And it’s just beautiful. My niece, Lorraine, is an artist and she’s made the whole thing just as cute as a button from the attic to the basement, but the thing is—” Click.
Millie typed in lodging, but the closest place to stay was a Motel Ten fifteen miles down the parkway.
If Joy Baker didn’t even have a website, no wonder her inn was failing. A place could be cute right down to its cement foundation, but if no one knew it existed, it would always be empty.
The word empty made Millie cast a glance at her calendar. She had half a dozen parties penciled in, but not one of them filled her with anything other than dread. And the most dreadful one of all was happening tomorrow night. The annual Book Bash. Simone Shusterfield hosted it every year at her South Hampton mansion. Simone liked to collect writers and artists the way other rich old ladies collected designer purses and pedigree poodles. Her publisher insisted that she attend, baring raging illness or a family calamity. But Millie didn’t have any family…or did she?
Could this Joy Baker count as an old family friend? And could her failing business be called a calamity?
Millie smiled. Of course, she wrote fiction for a living. She could make up anything she wanted to. She did it every day. And she got paid for it. And if she could think of a reasonable excuse to avoid Simone’s party and not have to watch Liam kiss his beautiful fiancé beneath the mistletoe, then she would go to New Hope, or just about anywhere.
Ignoring the frantic be-sensible-voice in the back of her mind, she googled the distance. If she took the early morning train to Scranton, she could rent a car from there and be New Hope by noon. She didn’t even have to stay the night. She’d just stay late enough to ensure that she’d miss the party.
Her sensible voice scrambled for reasons to stay in the city. What if there’s a blizzard and she’s trapped there for weeks? What if this Joy Baker is a serial killer? Who’s going to take care of Byron if something should happen?
Telling her sensible self to shut up, Millie reserved a rental car in Scranton. Picking up her phone, Millie shot her friend and neighbor, Dorie, a quick text. Dorie’s daughter, Amber, often cat-sat Byron when Millie traveled. Then she headed for her closet, pulled out her overnight bag, and dusted it off.
#
Millie had to run to catch the nine-fifteen train. With her bag slung over her shoulder and banging against her side, she slipped into the train seconds before the doors slid shut. Taking a deep breath, she headed for the one available seat. At this time of the morning, most of the commuters were students, retirees, and mothers with children.
The only seat left was next to a man about her age, early thirties, with thick brown hair. He had a strong jaw, a thick dossier in one hand and a red pen in the other. Unless he abandoned his place on the aisle, she’d have to crawl over his long legs to get to the window seat.
Their eyes met, and for one small moment, the world around her froze, like a black and white photograph. The train lurched, sending Millie on to the man’s lap.
“I’m so sorry,” Millie said, scrambling over him and pulling her bag with her.
“It happens,” he said, “although not very often, and almost never unless I’m wearing a Santa suit.”
But something like that had never happened to Millie before, and she wondered if he had experienced the same time-stopping moment. Pulling down her navy sweater, she adjusted her pea coat, and to cover her flushed cheeks, she tucked her bag beneath the seat in front of her, refusing to meet his eye again, and wondering what would happen if she did.
“Do you often wear Santa suits?” she asked, finally raising her gaze to meet his. His eyes struck her, they were color of chocolate, but time continued around them. The train clacked away from the city. Lower Manhattan’s gritty landscape flashed by the windows. Mothers hushed crying babies. Conversations filled the air. This man had the sort of red lips that women paid plastic surgeons to attain.
“No. Almost never,” he said, his voice thick with humor, “but I will be tonight.”
“Are you going to work at a mall?”
“No. I—never-mind.” In a decided effort to change the subject, he nodded at the book in Millie’s hand.
“My grandmother reads her books.”
“Then she must have excellent taste,” Millie said.
The man chuckled, his laugh as warm as eyes. “No. Quite the opposite, in fact. She’s a connoisseur of The Helping Hands Thrift store. She loves the hunt and the kitschy.” He wore a luscious camelhair coat, so soft that Millie longed to touch it. He had a Burberry scarf draped around his neck and a @ watch on his wrist. He didn’t look like the sort of man who frequented thrift shops. 
“Sounds like my kind of gal,” Millie said.
His lips twitched. “That sappy writer’s books fill my grandmother’s book shelves and her movies are all over the Hallmark station.”
Millie bristled and tucked the book in her pocket, praying he wouldn’t see her picture on the jacket cover and realize that she was the sappy writer his grandmother loved.
“What takes you out of the city?” Millie asked, taking her turn to change the subject.
“My grandmother. She told me she had a Santa emergency.” He sighed and shook his head. “I hope this isn’t another one of her ploys.”
“Ploys?”
He nodded. “She’s a schemer.”
“A schemer and a thrift store shopper. I like her already.”
“How about you? Why aren’t you headed to work?”
“Who says I’m not?”
He laughed, and something about the sound filled Millie in a way she couldn’t describe. It was as if she’d been empty, hollow inside, but this man’s laugh warmed her.
“What do you do?” he asked.
Come on, you write fiction. She thought up something close but not quite the truth. “I’m a travel writer.”
She was a writer and at the moment she happened to be traveling. Good one.
“Oh yeah? That’s great. I’d love to travel. Where have you been?”
“Hmm, lots of places, of course.”
He smiled. “Of course. But where are you traveling to now?”
“There’s a brand new inn in New Hope, New York. I’m going to check it out.”
His face paled, his lips pressed together, and a calculating look filled his eyes. “Is that so? What magazine did you say you work for?”
“I freelance.” Sometimes.
“Ah.” He cleared his throat, a low, grumbling unhappy sound. “So, you’re coming all this way to see this new inn.”
She nodded. “The Snowfield Inn. I even love its name.”
“But will you still love it in July?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“When it’s sunny, no one wants to stay in a snowfield.”
She raised her eyebrows. “I think that depends on how sunny it is. There’ve been plenty of melting hot summer days where I longed for a good snowfield.”
“It’s a ridiculous name for an inn,” he said in a tone that made her wonder why he should care.
“Do you know it?”
“I’ll be playing Santa there tonight.”
“Really?”
“Yes, you should come.”
“I won’t be staying that long. This is just a day trip.”
“You’re coming all the way to New Hope for just the day?” He nodded at her bag. “Then what’s that for?”
“I have my computer and just a couple of things in case I decide to stay the weekend.”
“So, there’s hope.”
“Hope that I might stay in New Hope?”
He nodded.
“Not really. I’m mostly trying to avoid a party tonight.”
“Really? How come?”
She took a deep breath, looked out the window, and relived the pain. “My ex is going to be there with his fiancé.”
“You’re divorced?”
“No, but Liam and I…we’d been together a long time.” She didn’t know what made her open up to this man with the chocolate-colored eyes, maybe it was because she thought she’d never see him again, or maybe it was because she hadn’t told anyone for so long about how badly she’d been hurt, or maybe because she just liked the way his gaze touched hers, but she found herself telling him all the sordid details: the purple panties under the sofa, the anonymous posts on her writing blog asking her why if she was such an expert on romance was her boyfriend partying with Scarlett McFaye.
“Wait, your ex is marrying Scarlett McFaye?” His eyes widened. “Wow, just wow.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s what Liam and all the rest of mankind think, too.”
“Hey wait, don’t lump me into Liam’s camp.”
“I can’t believe I told you all of this.” Millie flushed and looked out the window. “I don’t even know your name.”
He reached out and took her hand, as if to shake it, but he didn’t. Instead, he held it in his own. “I’m Carson Trent, but tonight, if you come to the inn, you can call me Santa.”
When she didn’t respond, he gently squeezed her hand. “This is where you tell me your name,” he said.
“I’m Millie Cruise.” But most of the world knows me as Camille Harper, AKA the sappy writer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Marketing and Promoting Books

Free for a limited time

With some feet dragging and hesitation, I'm slowly trying to transition my focus from writing to marketing. This means that I now set marketing goals every morning and I have to accomplish them before I settle back into my story. I try to market before lunch, leaving me the afternoon to write. Just yesterday, Amazon price-matched my award winning novel, Beyond the Fortuneteller's Tent, making it free. It's interesting that while I haven't promoted it at all on Amazon, it's already had more than 350 downloads, making me wonder how readers have found it. I did mention it in my most recent newsletter, but there I provided the Barnes and Noble link because when I sent out the newsletter, it wasn't free on Amazon. Because Amazon is my heaviest player, I'm sharing the stats for Amazon only. Currently, before promotions, here are my Beyond stats. Keep in mind, the reason I'm giving my book away is to drive sales to the sequels.

Beyond the Fortuneteller's Tent
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Tomorrow will be the first of my promotions with Book Machine. Membership for readers is free and will give you access to free Kindle books and quality deals, especially tailored to your favorite genres. This link will take you to the page: http://www.thebooksmachine.com 

I'm excited about this marketing blitz for my Beyond series. It piggybacks with a countdown deal at the beginning of the October for Witch Winter, the sequel to Witch Ways, which will be followed a free promotion of The Highwayman Incident that coincides with the release of my third book in the Witching Well series. 

As you can see, I've decided that the secret to selling books is pretty much the same secret to any level of success. You have to show up. Every day. It's like running. You have to put on your sneakers, regularly--whatever that means to you. If you want to run a marathon, if you're smart, you'll have a training schedule and you'll follow it religiously, because if you don't, at best, you'll probably find yourself vomiting along the side of the road, and, at worst, you'll be picked up lying on the side of the road by the National Guard. (That was my only goal when I ran a marathon, not to be carried away by the National Guard. I made it, by the way. It was a long time ago, but I'm still learning and practicing those lessons of endurance.

Even though I've found marketing challenging, now that I'm armed with my spreadsheets and I've made up a plan (that will be sure to fluctuate as I learn) I'm finding it easier to spend my mornings plugging my books. 

Be sure and drop by to see how the stats change in the upcoming days!

September 17th

It's two days into my promo. Today, I had listings with AskDavid.com and BKnights Fiverr and I gave away 342 copies. More importantly, though, are the sales of my other Beyond Books. Here's my listing as of now. 


    Thursday, September 10, 2015

    A Review Rant


    Two days ago I started writing Witch Wish. I've had the outline for a few months, so I know where the story is going. What I don't know is whether this will be the third book in a very long series, or if this will be the end...for now. I have plans for 2016, and they mostly focus on marketing. But what I do know for sure positive is that not everyone is going to like my books.

    I knew that my witchy--books would offend some of religious folk. I  expected that, but I was also counting on the fact that those who might be offended by magical arts wouldn't be reading books about witches. After all, my books are not, nor do they aspire to be, required reading.

    What I didn't know was that some witchy-types would be offended. Some reviews make me laugh (I love the ones that say this is totally unrealistic. Well, of course it is, it's a time travel book!) And some make me scratch my head. Like this one: seemed liked the author was more trying to convince you to join her religion and that witches should be burned. 

    Really? Because I love Evie and she's a witch. In fact, I can relate to Evie more than any of my other characters. In writing her, I've channeled my 15 year old self. Like Evie, I really wanted to be on the school newspaper. Like Evie, I lived alone with my dad (although Evie lives with Uncle Mitch). And I had to watch my father and his courtships, which was hard. Having my dad remarry was even harder. Why would I want Evie to burn? 

    And although very few of us have the luxury of being a witch, we all have to decide who and what we want to be. We all make that decision over and over again everyday. Some might try and shirk that responsibility so that they can lay the blame for their screw-ups on someone else, but no one really likes those people...even the people that are those people don't like being those people.

    My husband and friends have assured me that I can't worry about those who choose to be offended. After all, reading my books is purely optional...and practically free. If you want reality, find a news station. If you want religion, pick up a book of scripture. If you want witchcraft...well, you get the idea.

    Aesop said it best about 1500 years ago. Warning, this doesn't end happily.





    Æsop. (Sixth century B.C.)  Fables.
    The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
     
    The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey
     
     
    A MAN and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”  1
      So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”  2
      So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”  3
      Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor Donkey of yours—you and your hulking son?”  4
      The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the Donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the Donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.  5
      “That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:
            “PLEASE ALL, AND YOU WILL PLEASE NONE.”
      6
     

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015

    Halloween Kisses

    My friend, and talented writer, Susan Hughes has a new book out!




    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B014UA6XPQ

    One kiss can change everything. Dulcie has had a secret crush on her 
    co-worker Rowan for ages, but she’s too shy to let him know, and 
    preoccupied with raising her rebellious teenage sister. When she bumps 
    into him in the darkness of a haunted barn, she can't resist stealing 
    just one kiss.

    That kiss enchants Rowan. If only he could figure out the identity of 
    the woman whose kiss haunts him. While running from a troubled past, he 
    may find that the woman he least suspects could lead him out of the dark 
    forever.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2015

    Why I Put My Book in the Kindle Scout Program

    My amazing friend, author, and critique partner, Melanie Jacobson, was the head chair of the 2015 LDStorymakers conference, and she convinced me to go. Almost immediately after I paid my  registration fee I began to have second doubts. Not that I don’t think the conference is wonderful, but the last time I had attended I felt that it was geared toward the traditionally published and those hoping to be traditionally published, and since that wasn’t my hope or plan, I really regretted my decision to go.
    At one point, I decided that I didn’t want to pay for the flight, the rental car, or the hotel, and I considered ditching. I felt so conflicted I made it a matter of prayer. I received a strong prompting that I needed to go, and I needed to put my finished but unedited book, Witch Ways in the Kindle Scout program and ask people that I met at the conference to vote for my book. 
    So, I polished the book, sent it to my editor who got it back to me in a remarkably short period of time, went through the edits, asked my daughter to make my cover, and made up business cards with a “vote for my book” sticker that I placed on the back. Finally, I put the book in the Kindle Scout program and announced to the world that I had done so.
    Witching Ways rocked the hot and trending list from the very beginning and had more than 2000 page views. I never would have put the book into the program if I hadn’t waffled over my decision to attend the LDStorymakers Conference.

    Faceboo

    Further more, once I decided I would go a series of amazing things happened. My friend who owns a 125-year-old house just a few blocks away from the conference told me her house was empty (aside from a sofa—my bed) and that I was welcome to stay in it. My sister, who lives in Utah, asked if I wanted to borrow her spare car. She also provided a sleeping bag, towel, and umbrella. And suddenly, the cost the trip didn’t seem like such a big deal. 
    I think it’s interesting that I had to decide to go, finish the book, enroll it in the program and make up the cards before my friend offered up her house and my sister mentioned her spare car. On a very small and minor scale, it reminded me of how the Children of Israel had to enter the Red Sea before the waters parted and gave way to dry land. We have to prove we’re willing to wade in before amazing things can happen.
    And yes, I still had to pay for the flight, but it was less than $200. And yes, I still had to be social and rub shoulders with friendly strangers, but the workshops were wonderful and the speakers inspiring. I’m glad I went.
    I believe in prayer. But I also wonder if prayer isn’t more effective when I don’t have my own agenda. I was really ready to stay at home, or go. Either one. I was open. And I’m glad.
    And now that Witch Ways is rocking Amazon's top 100 teens, science fiction and fantasy list, I'm really glad I put it in the Kindle Scout program. 

    Magic, Mystery, and Romance, for Only Pennies for a Limited Time

    Only .99 cents for a limited time.
    View this email in your browser

    Witch Winter 

    Buy Now For Only .99

    Despite her shaky beginning at Despaign Academy, a school built on the property of Connecticut’s last convicted witch, Evelynn Marston finds friends and hopes to score a reporter position on the school’s newspaper. But in a place founded on a bedrock of magic and mystery, Evie discovers there are some willing to summon great evil to gain power. When a friend’s life hangs in the balance, Evie gathers her wits and a heaping dose of her own brand of magic to right a terrible wrong, never suspecting the life she saves might be her own.
    Now at Amazon for only 2.99 cents

    Witch Ways

    A 2015 KINDLE SCOUT WINNER
    Evelynn Marston didn’t mean to burn down the science room. A little anger, some flames, and an expulsion later, Evie finds herself destined to spend the rest of her high school years at Despaign Academy—named for Connecticut’s last convicted witch.
    Despite its shadowy past, Despaign has the same cliques as other schools, and Evie struggles to fit in and to be noticed by the handsome and mysterious Dylan Fox—that is, until she casts her first spell.
    But even in a magical place, evil lurks. When Evie’s friend, Laurie Silver, turns up dead, Evie must rely on all her newfound powers and friends to find the truth. But bringing a killer to justice may require stronger magic and true love, the kind that can’t be found in a potion.



    WITCH WINTER
    By Kristy Tate
    Copyright August, 2015

      It’s not the monsters beneath the bed, or the ones lurking in dank and shady basements, or even those living behind bars in our prisons that frighten us the most. The real monsters, the ones we are too afraid to face, live inside us. We listen to them. We let them guide our decisions. We call them common sense, and wisdom, or prudence. But really, they are just fears. They are our monsters, these creatures of our own design, constructed out of our hurts, wounds, and insecurities. They hold us back. They become our excuse, our justification, our rationalization. And we embrace them.

    But what would happen if we allowed these monsters to take shape and form? Could we beat them and restrain them with the same strength they use on us? What if we gave them a voice, a voice loud and strong enough to battle our wits? Most of us never take that chance.
    But I did. And I thought I had won. I faced the monster, confronted my fear, and sent him back into the chasm of hell.

    Only to find I’d made a terrible mistake.

     
     
     
    CHAPTER ONE
     
    The creature stared at me with his unblinking yellow eyes, watching my every move, as if he knew. I turned my back to him, grateful for the bars that separated us.

    “I don’t think he has eyelids,” I said.

    “Mmm,” Bree muttered, staying focused on the computer monitor. “Any luck?”

    “No. You?”

    Moonlight streamed through the windows, illuminating the piles of papers on Uncle Mitch’s desk. I didn’t dare turn on any lights, knowing that Uncle Mitch was across the street at Janette’s house, and that he wouldn’t like me poking around his lab.

    “Maybe we should just go online to see if we can find the experiment ourselves,” Bree said, sending me a quick glance over her shoulder. “Didn’t he say that he based it on some university’s study?”

    I set down a pile of papers. “Yeah, but we know his worked.”

    Bree grinned. “No, we don’t. Remember the love potion?” The light from the computer screen cast a green pallor on the angles and planes of her face.

    I turned away, shivering, my attention landing back on the creature staring at us.

    Bree followed my line of sight. “It’s a guinea pig. It can’t hurt you.”

    “It’s creepy.”

    “No, the fact that your uncle used a recipe to make Janette fall for him is creepy.” Bree scrolled down a page on the screen. “I mean, I love your uncle, but it’s just so not like him.”

    “I know. That’s what makes it interesting, right? Usually, he’d say it’s all hokum.” I turned my back on the guinea pig. “That’s why it would make such a killer article for the newspaper.”

    “Even though he specifically told you not to use it.”

    “No, what he said was,” I dropped my voice to imitate Uncle Mitch’s professor speech, “‘It would be dangerous and irresponsible to introduce it to impressionable youths in the throes of puberty’.”

    “Like fireworks.”

    “Exactly. And who doesn’t love fireworks?”

    But fireworks were exactly why I’d been expelled from Hartly, the school I had attended since kindergarten. Not that I had intentionally set fire to the science lab a few months ago. An itch crept up my neck. I didn’t want to be expelled from Faith Despaign Academy as well.

    But I did want to make the high school newspaper, and the only way to do that was to write a great article. A wave of discouragement washed over me, because I knew that even if I wrote a great feature article on how to make anyone fall in love with you, it couldn’t match the news article I’d written about the Thornhill Thespians’ murders.

    “I’ll never find a story like that again.”

    “I know. There’s been one murder in Woodinville in about a hundred years and you discovered it.” Bree paused.

    “It’s lame your advisor won’t let you use it.”

    I swallowed hard. “That’s why I need a story that will create buzz.” I paused and used my fingers to make air quotes. “’And doesn’t even hint at witchcraft’.”

    “But what did Lauren’s murder have to do with the witch’s coven?”

    “She was a witch.”
    “Huh.” Bree leaned back in her chair, clearly surprised. “Well, she wasn’t a very good one.”
    “Why do you say that?”

    “If she could use magic, why didn’t she try to make her life better? I mean, why wear an orange parka every day and live in a hovel if you don’t have to?”

    “Maybe she was happy with her life. Maybe she was okay with the orange parka and her house on Old Barn Road.”

    “Maybe…” Bree sounded skeptical. “If I was a witch, I’d at least get a nice coat.”

    I didn’t tell Bree that there was a lot more to being a witch than choosing what to wear. Not that I really had any idea. I only had a tickle brewing in the back of my head, and I pretty much tried to ignore it. I disliked being tickled, even by ideas.

    “Hey,” Bree said, leaning closer to the monitor. “This is pretty good.”

    I peeked over her shoulder at the screen. How to Make Anyone Fall in Love With You, the banner read.
    Bree squinted as she read. “It’s not all sciency like your uncle’s experiment probably would be, but it’s not too Cosmo Girl either.”

    I scanned the article, liking it. “It’s not as if teenagers don’t fall in love every day, if not every second.’”
    I pulled out my phone and copied the URL onto my browser, tucking my phone back into my pocket after I got the link pulled up. “But you won’t try it on Dylan, right?” Bree had been my best friend since my dad and I had moved next door after my parents’ divorce eight years ago, but last month Dylan Fox had interfered with that. Mostly because Dylan liked me and Bree liked Dylan. We were past that now. Sisters before misters…mostly.

    “Yes…” Bree puffed out an exaggerated sigh, as if I’d asked her to give up shopping for Lent. “Even though I think it’s dumb.” Bree switched off the computer and pulled herself out of Uncle Mitch’s office chair. “I mean, if you don’t like him, why shouldn’t he fall for me?” She squinted at me through suspicious eyes and pushed her red curls off her forehead. “You don’t like him, right?”

    Josh, Bree’s older brother, flashed in my head, with his dark hair, even darker eyes, and football-hard muscles. He was nothing like his wispy, fair-skinned, red-headed sister. With my pale hair and complexion, I looked more like a Henderson than Josh. I told myself that we were talking about Dylan, not Josh, and I shook his image away. Bree would make my life hell if she knew I thought of her brother like that.

    Like what? I couldn’t answer that question. Besides being Bree’s brother, Josh was also Dylan’s best friend, and that just made everything complicated and weird. I fussed over the papers on Uncle Mitch’s desk, hiding my face from Bree, and trying to make it seem as if we’d never been in the lab.

    Which would have been easier if it hadn’t been for Clarence, the guinea pig.