Thursday, October 23, 2014

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World Review and Giveaway

-209 pages
-Parent Resources
-Discussion Guides for every chapter (perfect for a bible study!)

Is technology bringing your family closer together or driving you farther apart?

Children today are no longer playing hide-and-seek outside or curling up with a good book—instead they’ve been introduced to a world of constant digital entertainment through television, video games, and mobile devices. And while technology has the potential to add value to our lives and families, it can also erode a sense of togetherness and hinder a child’s emotional and social development.

In Growing Up Social, Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane will empower you with the necessary tools to make positive changes…starting today. Through stories, wit, and wisdom, you’ll discover how to take back your home from an over dependence on screens. Plus, you’ll learn to teach the five A+ skills that every healthy child needs to master: affection, appreciation, anger management, apology, and attention.

•Equip your child to be relationally rich in a digital world
•Replace mindless screen time with meaningful family time
•Establish simple boundaries that make a huge difference
•Discover what’s working for families that have become screen savvy
•Learn healthy ways to occupy your child while you get things done

Now is the time to equip your child to live with screen time, not for screen time. No phone, tablet, or gaming device can teach your child how to have healthy relationships—only you can.

Cassandra's review- As a blogger I can see the points and facts put into this book at face value.  Sometimes I get so busy it is hard to not let the kids entertain themselves.  However to be able to set boundaries and keep everyone on a time schedule with limited technology gets more difficult everyday. This is the book for you if I am writing and you're nodding your head in agreement as it will be a useful guide. 

 Gary Chapman- author, speaker, and counselor—has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships. He is the bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages series and the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. For more information, visit

Arlene Pellicane- is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. She has been featured on The Today Show, The 700 Club, and Family Life Today and formerly served as the associate producer for Turning Point Television with Dr. David Jeremiah. Arlene lives in Southern California with her husband, James, and their three children. Find out more at

Official Website:
Book Trailer:

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

100% natural Australian jojoba oil Review


Jojoba is the only plant known to produce wax esters similar to those in our skin.

Skin health is maintained by an oily (waxy) solution called sebum; 25-30% of the skin's sebum is made up of wax esters. The prime role of wax esters is to hold moisture in the skin, which keeps skin looking and feeling firm. As we hit our early 20's, our production of wax esters starts to decrease, allowing moisture to escape from skin cells. This begins the aging process of skin. 

Jojoba is the only plant known to produce wax esters similar to those in our skin. Jojoba is naturally hypoallergenic and contains powerful antioxidants, Omega 6 & 9 fatty acids, and Vitamins A, D and E. Remarkably, when applied to skin, the wax esters in jojoba provide similar nurturing and moisturising properties as our own sebum. Skin recognises jojoba as its own and lets it in to deliver active ingredients into the deeper layers of our skin.

The remarkable qualities of 100% natural Australian jojoba are at the foundation of The Jojoba Company's entire skin care range.

Jojoba nourishes and moisturises your skin, hair and nails.

Powerful natural moisturizing
 Jojoba moisturisers face, body, hair, lips and cuticles
Jojoba is known to soothe problematic skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, rosacea, acne, cradle cap, nappy rash and sunburn.

Skin Types: Suitable for all ages and skin types.

Usage: Use daily as a moisturiser, makeup remover and to soothe the appearance of skin.

Key Ingredients:
Pure Australian Jojoba – antioxidant, rich in Vitamins A, D+E, hydrating
Ingredients List:

Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) seed oil*
* 100% Natural Australian Jojoba. 

NO harmful detergents, chemicals or parabens. 
NO artificial fragrances or colours. 
NO PEGs, mineral oil or sodium lauryl sulphate.
NO animal products.  

Cassandra's Review- Even though this is an oil, it is not super greasy and does absorb give excellent results. It does not have a harsh smell and I like to use this on my cuticles, but it can also help with acne. 

I have received complimentary product. 

CapriClear Review

100% Fractionated Coconut Oil, and Nothing Else
What is Fractionated Coconut Oil?

Fractionated coconut oil (FCO) is a fraction (portion) of the whole oil, in which the different medium-chain fatty acids are separated for specific uses. Lauric acid, a 12-carbon chain fatty acid, is removed. Fractionated coconut oil may also be referred to as caprylic/capric triglyceride oil or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil because it is primarily the medium-chain caprylic (8 carbons) and capric (10 carbons) acids that make up the bulk of the oil. MCT oil is most frequently used for medical applications and special diets. As part of this method, the familiar coconut smell is eliminated.
CapriClear logo

Sprays on for Even Coverage
Absorbs Quickly and Deeply
Won't Irritate Sensitive Skin
Can be Used Daily
All Natural Benefits of 100% Fractionated Coconut Oil

• NO Fragrance• NO Phthalates• NO Artificial Color• NO PABA• NO Mineral Oil• NO BHT• NO Parabens• NO Gluten

Cassandra's Review- I love that you can use this one product all over your body from your head to your toe nails.  It is light and absorbs fast leaving results that are spa like.  You do not need a lot per application to get the best results.  You can find this product at CVS and Walgreens.

I have received complimentary product.

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"This post was created in partnership with eAccountable. All opinions are my own."

Family Christian Giveaway

Family Christian Giveaway Sponsored by Family Christian

Hosted by Pea of Sweetness

Co-Hosted by Deals of Sweetness

Family Christian Giveaway
Family Christian provides an enhanced selection of everything from Christian books and family movies to a wide array of Bibles, plus exclusive content and convenient ways to connect with a community that’s just like you. Emilee at Pea of Sweetness recently reviewed Buck Denver Asks... What's in the Bible? Coloring Book which encourages learning the Bible while doing one of their favorite activities - coloring!
How would you like to win a $10 Appreciation Certificate for Family Christian? This giveaway begins on 10/23 and ends on 11/6 at 10:00pm (times are Central) and is open to US residents ages 18+. Winner is subject to eligibility verification and will have 48 hours to confirm before a new winner will be drawn. For any questions/concerns please email (consider adding this email to your “Safe List” as winning email notification will be sent from this email.) Please refer to the full terms and conditions in the Giveaway Tools.
  Disclosure: Pea of Sweetness received complimentary product(s) or service(s) in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was received. Participating bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment.  

THE BACHELOR By Stehpanie Reed | Kindle Giveaway and Facebook Party!

Don't miss Stephanie Reed's newest book in the Plain City Peace series, The Bachelor. This compelling second book deftly weaves together the strands of a solid, simpler time with the turmoil of an era of change, revealing the strengths of both in its powerful narrative.

Join Stephanie in celebrating the book's release by entering her Kindle giveaway and RSVPing to her Facebook launch party on October 28th!
The Bachelor, Stephanie Reed
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Bachelor by Stephanie Reed
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 11/9. RSVP for the Facebook launch party today for a chance to connect with Stephanie and Amish fiction fans and a chance to win some great prizes! Winner will be announced November 10th here.

Bring Me to Life by Emma Weylin Blog Tour and Giveaway

 Bring Me to Life

Time Walkers 

Book 1

Emma Weylin

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Liquid Silver Books

Date of Publication: September 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-622110-153-5

ASIN: B00N740ED4

Number of pages: 162

Word Count: 64,000

Cover Artist: Valerie Tibbs

Book Description:

Being dead sucks, or so Vincent Asher believes. He’s spent the last two hundred years of his death

 battling vampires because his boss won’t let him kill demons. 

Known as a force called the Wraith, Vincent has become bored with preventing the 

apocalypse. When he hopes his boss will give him a more exciting assignment, he 

gets the shock of his afterlife. He must protect the woman who killed him.

Bryna Wildrose accidently killed the only man she ever loved. In a self-imposed 

death sentence, she’s spent the last ten years of her life trying to get herself killed. 

She never meant to kill Vincent, and the guilt is eating her alive. A vampire gives 

her a dire warning. The Wraith is coming for her. She can run, or she can let death 

take her.

Given no choice, Vincent goes back in time to find the one woman he loved more 

than life itself, but when he expected to torment her for causing his death, he learns 

nothing is what he believed it to be. Real love never dies, but Vincent’s power 

might not be enough to keep Bryna alive.

Available at Amazon


Death sucked. Sure, the women were hot and the ability to move back and forth 

through time to fend off the apocalypse was entertaining, but even the afterlife could become 

monotonous. Fast times and even faster women had become his stint in existence. True, such 

things as illness and pesky bullets couldn’t kill him any longer, but Wraith was getting bored. 

At some point in the last two hundred years he decided his fate had been Hell instead of Time 

Walker limbo; he’d just been too na├»ve to know it at the time of his death. Actually, it was 

probably about the time he’d earned his moniker instead of going by his Earthly name.

He ducked down when a vampire swung at him with a two-by-four. He popped up, 

caught the board on its second swing, cracked it over his knee, and then stabbed the undead with 

the sharp end. Why should he have to endure Hell by his lonesome? The vampire burst into a 

smoky cloud of ash which fell to the alley before it was gently blown away.

Wraith looked at his watch.

New York City, 1939. He pulled his crumpled list out of his pocket and checked where 

he was supposed to go next. New Orleans, 2085. Great. There was nothing worse than having to 

go to the largest vampire nest in North America, but they were still boring. He perked up a little. 

Maybe it wasn’t a vampire this time and he’d get another crack at a demon. Those were always 

so much more interesting to kill when Felix decided to let him, which wasn’t very often.

He checked his list again and watched as all his assignments vanished one by one.


What the hell had he done now to get in trouble? He’d been good for the last decade—

well, there had been that one night in a Hestia temple with two virgins, but it hadn’t been his 

fault. They’d asked him to stay. Besides, that was five years ago. Surely he wasn’t getting into 

trouble for that.

Headquarters appeared on the page in big glowing letters. He walked down the alley and 

visualized headquarters, and the imagery around him blurred from dank, garbage-ridden streets 

to bright white halls lined with gold trim.


He was in Hell all right.

He walked down the hall with its never-changing view until a large door out of nowhere 

swung open.

“Get your ass in here!” Felix bellowed.

“I’m here.”

“You’re late,” he snapped.

Wraith arched a brow at him, but didn’t say anything. Felix was like a bazillion years 

older than he and could send his ass back to the Bronze Age to deal with babes who didn’t know 

how to bathe or shave. “Yeah, so sue me. What did I do this time?”

“We found out the point in time that causes the apocalypse. It’s your job to go stop it.”

Wraith sighed. Same old, same old. When was he going to get an exciting assignment? 

He stuck out his hand for the transparent cellophane-like material Felix handed to him and 

looked down at the forming image. Two hundred years of annoying monotony drained away as 

raw rage boiled in his system. “No. I’m not doing the job.”

Felix rolled his eyes. “You’re not supposed to kill her, dumbass. You’re supposed to 

protect her.”

Wraith glared at his asshole superior. “Like hell I am. Find someone else, or I guess it’s 

The Apocalypse Meets the Twenty-third Century.”

“It’s this or judgment.”

Wraith started to curse. “You’re kidding me? I have to save that bitch or you’re going to 

throw my ass in Hell?”

“Yeah, ain’t the afterlife a bitch?” Felix said without sympathy. “Get going. I need you 

there a day before the main attraction.”

Wraith pulled out his assignment sheet and looked at the time. It was the day before what 

should have been his twenty-eighth birthday. He’d never had an assignment so close to his death 

date before. That wasn’t affecting him nearly as much as having to save the life of the woman 

who killed him.

About the Author: 

Emma Weylin fell in love with the written word as a child. She loves to create her own worlds full of magic and wonder. One of her favorite things is populating those worlds with interesting and true-to-life characters who experience everything from epic love and heartrending battles to seriously silly or embarrassing “duh” moments. She believes love can and does conquer all things. When she’s not writing, she enjoys her family and has a copious yarn addiction.

Tour giveaway

 1 $25.00 Amazon Gift Card 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

In Your Dreams by John Swan Blog Tour and Giveaway

In Your Dreams 

The Aldaya Series

Book One

John Swan

Genre: Epic Fantasy 

Date of Publication: Sept. 14, 2014



Number of pages: Estimated 276 

Cover Artist: Natalie Spasic

Book Description:

On an ancient planet within our galaxy, a dark and fearsome terror has awoken from its long slumber. Its task is to work quietly from the unseen, spreading dissent through the vulnerable territories of the free races; weakening them for its master. By a chance meeting, it comes across a young girl in the swampy and mist choked lands of Endmoor. Her name is Mim, and the pairing of her platinum hair and violet eyes has not been seen since the Great War 1,000 years earlier; and has attracted unwanted attention. Knowing it hunts her, Mim flees and starts on a journey that takes her far across the Great Isle of Aldaya; the only landmass that now sits above the waves. Unbeknownst to her, she is the key to unraveling the darkness that is falling over the Great Isle; an emptiness that threatens to swallow not only Aldaya, but the Sphere as well, and all its futures to come.

Available at Amazon US Amazon UK Amazon Canada


Her words caught in her throat and she was unable to breathe. The woman at the table 

was the strangest looking person she had ever seen. Her body was thin and gangly, and her pale 

skin stuck out jaggedly in places as if it were trying to cover too many bones. Even sitting down 

Mim could tell she was tall, and her thin robes were midnight black and hemmed in places with 

dark maroon embroidery. 

Then Mim took in her face, and it was paler and more terrifying than the rest of her body. 

Her cheekbones were set a little too pointy and high. The mouth was nothing more than a 

thin slit stretched too far across the length of her face. The nose looked as if it had been removed, 

shrunk, and poorly placed back on. And her eyes were ghastly and titled upwards too far, and 

completely black with veins around the outer parts. Their color matched the hair that came down 

from her dark hood, which had jagged protrusions poking out at a few points near the back. 

“Oh! I didn’t smell a child,” the creature said. As her black eyes met Mim’s purple ringed 

with blue, she stopped. “Well, what do we have here? How strange...” She got up from the table 

and circled her. At full height, the creature stood at least two feet taller than Mim.“I can smell 

the sweet scent of youth a mile away, little piglet, yet somehow I had no idea you were here.” A 

cold, pointy, finger ran across Mim’s cheek and up to her temples. “And what strange eyes you 


Mim was rooted to the ground and dared not move. Whatever stood before her seemed to 

be a demon that had jumped off the pages of one of Ilanya’s stories, and as she glanced towards 

Miss Barley and Candy for direction, the two were expressionless. They stared ahead in some 

sort of trance. What was wrong with them?

A lightning bolt cracked overhead and the woman let out a high-pitched laugh. When 

her oversized mouth opened, Mim could see two rows of sharpened teeth that filled the inside: 

one in the front like normal, and another jagged row sitting just behind it. The two figures that 

accompanied her said nothing, remaining still and hidden under their cloaks.

As she looked down at the blond girl, for the first time in over a thousand years, curiosity 

crept into Morra’s mind. The girl had no smell, and try as she might, Morra Losis couldn’t sense 

a trace of her except with her vision. But even stranger were her eyes. Purple eyes like those she 

had only seen many ages ago, and the bearers of them had disappeared from the sphere before 

the Great War in the north had begun. 

But yet here in front of her one remained, and she wondered to herself whether her queen 

would find interest in this young human. Oh, most certainly, she thought. This revelation was the 

only thing keeping her from devouring the succulent girl on the spot. But if she lost her now, she 

would have to hunt for her like mortals did, and that was certainly not going to happen. Then the 

most wonderful idea came to her mind. 

With the centaurs it had always been the hunt, the Dwarves their precious jewels, and the 

Elves their knowledge. But with humans it had always come down to their desire for freedom 

and independence. And although she hadn’t been awake for long, she knew in this age that 

true freedom could only be attained by one thing:wealth. She knew exactly what this poor little 

mongrel desired most just by looking at her torn outfit and dirty hands. “Well, it seems that one 

servant around here knows how to appease a guest of status. And I have always prided myself on 

paying the help.” 

Morra Losis snapped her fingers and one of the tall hooded figures glided over, 

producing a large coin purse. She dipped her hand in and pulled out a large handful of endins and 

sprinkled them into the pot of meat with a smile. The taller creature then went back to standing 

by its twin before she drew herself closer to the girl onceagain. “That is for the meat, dear.” She 

then reached into a pocket from the inside of her cloak and pulled out a very small black purse. It 

was made of a shimmery fabric and all over it were dark maroon shapes. “And this is for you.” 

As her hand placed the small pouch in the girl’s free hand, a tremor went through her. 

She could barely contain her appetite. She grabbed Mim’s jaw with one hand and effortlessly 

lifted her off of the ground, running her forked purple tongue up Mim’s cheek. The pot dropped 

to the ground, sending pieces of raw pork and coins spilling onto the rough floors. Her grip was 

so tight that she felt the girl’s jaws beginning to crack. She hadn’t had a meal this intriguing in 

an age, and her resistance was crumbling to the need to satisfy her hunger. What can one little 

bite hurt? she thought. But as she thought of her master, she quickly let go, dropping the girl 

back to the ground and turning back towards the table. As she bent down and picked up a raw 

piece of intestine and dangled it in front of her face, she said, “I just don’t think this will do. I 

certainly do not eat off of the floor, and when I feed I have always desired something with a little 

more...spunk.” She turned towards the dark greasy haired girl and let out a low gurgle, briefly 

revealing her jagged rows of teeth. Lifting her enchantment, the girl came out of her stupor, and 

after a moment began shrieking and backing away. 

About the Author:

John Swan has been an independent fiction writer since 2003, with the Aldaya Series being his first published work to date. During that time, he attended  Southern Illinois University and graduated with two degrees, both with high honors. He has an Associates in the Sciences and a Bachelors in Meteorology and Climate sciences, with emphasis on research and written dictations.

He spent several years during school helping to open and manage a French Bistro before moving to Honolulu, HI, where he worked for the local Parks and Wildlife service and was finally able to give his writing career the full attention it needed. His love for writing began at an early age, never passing up chances to submit his works to young writers’ forums through school and his local community. He grew up on a small farm in southern Illinois, but spent his summers in an enchanted little blue cottage on the banks of the Mississippi River. In this valley is where he wandered beneath the trees along the bluffs with his best friends, and where tales of hobbits, mages, boy wizards, enchanted wardrobes and Native American folk lore shaped his writing style and drove him to create an entire universe all his own.

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Tour giveaway 

1 grand prize Kindle fire

 5 prize packs featuring digital wallpapers and ebooks

 5 prize packs featuring a paperback and character poster.

 VIP Prize pack one conversation with the author and an advance copy of book 2. 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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-save 40-90% off of bookstore prices
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RentBack is new initiative that allows students to rent the textbooks they own - to other students... which is awesome because it makes them 2-4x more money compared to what they'd make through buyback options (selling their books back at the end of the semester.)

I was compensated for this post.

KFBB The Noru by Lola StVil Book Blitz and Giveaway

The Noru

Blue Rose

Book One

Lola StVil

Genre: YA Fantasy


Number of pages: 397

Word Count: 73,062

Cover Artist: Renu

Book Description:

"After speaking to the other angels on the team, I hang up my cell and sigh. No one's heard from Aaden in months. This bothers me not only as the leader but as his girl--well if I was his girl--which I'm not. Great. Now on top of being grounded, I'm sitting here acting girly and needy. Argh!!! Screw this! I start to head downstairs to plead my case to my parents again, when something out the window catches my eye. I lean in closer to get a good look. What I see astounds me: soundlessly and without hesitation, the humans line up and jump off the roof one at a time..."

PLEASE NOTE: This book contains a scene in chapter 12 that is for mature audiences only. Readers can skip this chapter without missing any info vital to the plot.

Available Free at Amazon

Also Available at iTunes Nook Kobo


“That didn’t look like nothing, Pryor. He’s terrified. You were Binding

him,” my dad accuses.

"A little,” I admit, avoiding eye contact.

"You could have killed him,” she says.

"I wasn’t going to hurt Principal Walsh. I just wanted him to shut up. He

was going on about conforming to the status quo, and frankly that’s unacceptable

behavior for an educator. I was doing humanity a favor by rendering him silent.”

About the Author:

Lola was seven when she first came to this country from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She attended Columbia College in Chicago, where her main focus was creative writing. In addition to plays, she also writes screenplays and short stories. She has been commissioned to write for ABC, CBS and Princeton University. She won the NAACP award for her play "The Bones of Lesser Men". In addition to being nominated for LA Weekly awards. Her work has also received positive reviews from The LA Times, Variety and LA Weekly.

Twitter @guardiansgirl

Instagram @authorlolastvil


Tour giveaway

5 WINNERS will get a free copy of THE NORU: BOOK 2: THE LAST AKON a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Zodiac Collector Blog Tour and Giveaway

The Zodiac Collector

Laura Diamond

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Spencer Hill Press

Date of Publication: September 23, 2014

ISBN: 1937053636


Number of pages: 314

Word Count: 70,000

Cover Artist: Lisa Amowitz

Book Description:

For almost-16 year-old Anne Devans, the annual Renaissance Faire means three things--her dad spending weeks in the smithy, her bipolar mom doing some manic costume making, and another ruined birthday for her and her twin sister, Mary. This year, Anne wants things to be different, and she's going to do things her way. On the eve of the Faire, Anne, along with a reluctant Mary, conjures up a spell that will make their 16th birthday party a whirlwind event. Little do they know that it's a literal request.After the mini tornado in their room subsides, the girls realize they've invoked the power of the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux. That's the good news. The bad news is they also caught the attention of a sorceress named Zeena who has been collecting children born under each Zodiac Sign to enhance her power. Once she captures Anne and Mary, Gemini twins, the entire Zodiac, and the world, will be hers.

Anne leads the fight against Zeena, but her one-sided decisions could throw them into a world so far from home, even the Renaissance Faire would seem like a brilliant vacation. Between managing their new Zodiac powers, dodging their manic mother and trying to stop Zeena, they'll get a 16th birthday they'll never forget.

Available at Amazon BN Kobo Book Depository


The Renaissance Faire wrecks my birthday every year. A month before the actors and 

merchants arrive to transform Hopewell Falls Park into a sixteenth-century towne—yes, with an 

“e”—Mom stops taking her lithium. Within forty-eight hours she’s higher than a prom queen 

accepting her crown. As the best seamstress east of the Appalachian Trail, she thinks it’s her 

duty to stay awake for days, surviving on double espressos and cigarettes, to make the royal 

court’s costumes. She says mania makes her more productive, but all it does is turn her into a 

raging beast that puts Sauron, the Basilisk, and the Kraken all to shame. 

Her internet business, Devans’s Dazzling Dresses, caters to the Renaissance crowd and 

occupies her all year long, but our local faire gives her the most sales.

“These orders came in months ago. Why wait until the last minute to finish them?” I 

hover near the doorway to the living room—a.k.a. Mom’s studio—and try not to choke on the 

stagnant air. A wheeze plays at my lungs. I finger the inhaler that I always carry in case I have to 

take a puff.

The room has the best natural lighting in the whole house. A large bay window, 

stretching from floor to ceiling, is the envy of every do-it-yourself crafter on the block. I dream 

about curling up on the seat cushion with a book and a cup of hot chocolate, but Mom never lets 

anybody in there. No. Matter. What.

I’d need to wear a gas mask, anyway, to prevent an asthma attack.

Heavy-metal music throttles my eardrums. I resist the urge to clap my palms over my 

ears. Mom says she can draw energy from the sound waves. She thinks the bands create their 

music specifically for her. No amount of lithium makes that go away.

“What else am I supposed to do? This is how I create.” Her blue eyes spark with fury 

as she takes a drag on her cigarette. Two inches of ash hang on the end. It’s beyond me how 

it doesn’t fall off and burn the fabric she’s working on. At least the dry cleaner can erase the 

smoky stench from her masterpiece after it’s done. She throws a pincushion at me and returns to 

her ironing. “Now get out of here. Don’t you have finals to study for or something?”

“But Mary’s and my birthday is coming up and I wanted to talk to you—” My voice 

squeaks and tears burn at my eyes.

Her head snaps up, sending wild-colored curls swaying with agitation. “I’m. Working.”

I can’t even get two sentences out and she’s in attack mode. My stomach twists on itself 

as instinct claws at my chest, begging for clean air. Ask quickly and get out. That’s the plan. I 

lick my dry lips. “We’re turning sixteen. It’s important.”

She plucks the cigarette from her mouth and pulverizes it in a nearby ashtray. Her 

nicotine-stained fingers shake, fumbling to light another one. It takes two flicks for the lighter 

to ignite. Her cheeks hollow out as she sucks in along drag. She holds it in for a few seconds, 

eyes closed in fleeting bliss, and blows it out. The lines of her face—webbing crows’ feet, jagged 

wrinkles across her forehead, arcs from her nose to the corners of her lips—deepen. Pale gray 

fog surrounds her like she’s a smoldering dragon working up to the big explosion of fire.

“Everything’s about you and your sister, isn’t it? Well, did it ever occur to you that the 

work I do helps pay the bills around here? I don’t see you bringing in a paycheck.”

“Whatever.” Like a defenseless knight who’s lost his courage, I retreat. I storm upstairs, 

my ever-ready puffer in one hand while I wave away the haze of smoke with the other. The 

whole house smells like stale nicotine and my asthma is flaring like Jenny Johnson’s face that 

time she farted in gym class. I slam the door behind me.

“You interrupted Mom, didn’t you?” My ever-perceptive twin, Mary, guesses right. She 

removes her earbuds and sets aside her biology textbook.

“No.” I take a hit from my inhaler and flop on my paisley bedspread. Doesn’t matter that 

I stare at the ceiling. Her accusation crashes over me like a tsunami. I roll on my side to face her. 


She runs her hands through her curly espresso-colored hair and glares at me with her jade 

eyes. “Why?”

“Why not? We’ve never had a real, disaster-free birthday party because of the 

Renaissance Faire. Isn’t it about time?” I refuse to surrender to her disapproval. She’d never 

challenge Mom. At least I try. My Papillon dog, Castor, leaps on the bed. The fringe of his sable 

ears flutter like streamers as he licks my cheeks.

Mary averts her gaze and picks up his brother, Pollux. It was Mom’s idea to name them 

after the Gemini twins. She called it “kitschy.” Pfft. Amazing she didn’t name us after them.

“Well?” I sit up. Castor’s and Pollux’s dark eyes stare at me with sympathy. The cozy 

bedroom is their safe haven as much as it is ours.

“The more you bother her, the less likely it is we’ll get a party. I bet she won’t bake a 

cake this year, either.” She presses her chin against Pollux’s head.

“So it’s my fault we won’t get a party?”

She winces. “I didn’t say that.”

Regret presses on my shoulders and slides down my spine to nestle in my gut like a 

snake. It coils in my stomach, tail rattling with agitation. “I don’t mean to make things worse.”

“I know,” she barely whispers.

I take a deep breath and imagine the regret snake spontaneously combusting and 

evaporating into nothingness. Better than having it strike and lodge its fangs into my liver. 

“What kind of cake would you want?”

“It would be cool to have a tiered one, with piping and flowers. Maybe even edible pearl 

candies or something.”

The corner of her mouth hitches up.

Mary likes pretty things. I prefer edgy. “What about one with a knight beheading a 

dragon on top? Blood-red icing can trail down the sides and pool around the base.”

She scrunches her nose and scratches behind Pollux’s ear. “Gross. Maybe we can get a 

Papillon cake. It’d be so cute.”

It’s not a bad idea.

Her half-smile fades. “Doesn’t matter. Mom won’t go for any of it.”

“It’s so unfair.” Amped on the pain of injustice, I launch myself to my feet and pace our 

bedroom, from our window overlooking the wooded park across the street, to the desk we share 

on the other side. The braided rug between our twin beds massages my bare feet.

“Yeah, and what are you going to do about it? Nothing, that’s what.” Mary cradles 

Pollux in her arms and carries him to his doggie bed. After gently lowering him to the round 

cushion, she stares at her closet, gaze scanning every inch, and taps her chin. Sucking on her 

bottom lip, she falls into an OCD trance, and I’ve lost any chance at wrangling her back into the 

conversation about Mom.

About the Author:

Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist and author of all things young adult paranormal, dystopian, and horror. She’s a lucid dreamer, meaning she can direct her dreams while they’re happening. When she’s awake, she pens stories from her dreams and shares them with her readers. Laura has many published titles including the Pride Series (New Pride, Shifting Pride, soon to be re-
released, and Tsavo Pride), the Endure Series (Endure and Evoke, soon to be re-released), The Zodiac Collector, a novella Sunset Moon in the Lore anthology, and several shorts stories. When she’s not writing, she is working at the hospital, blogging at Author Laura Diamond–Lucid Dreamer, and renovating her 225+ year old fixer upper mansion.






Tour giveaway – open to US Shipping Only 

 Prize pack 1: Autographed set of Shifting Pride, Endure, & Lore and swag bookmarks 

 Prize Pack 2: Autographed copy of Lore (the anthology) and swag bookmarks 

 Prize Pack 3 &4: Swag postcards of books, a zodiac ring, & a zodiac bracelet representing main characters from The Zodiac Collector (Libra & Gemini) 

 Bonus: Laura is giving an ecopy of the short story, Tsavo Pride, to everyone who purchases The Zodiac Collector--simply email her proof of purchase and she’ll send the short. Laura’s email: 
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