MEANT TO BE…MYSTIFIED! Edited by Naching T. Kassa
Every romance begins with an element of mystery, and these five tales are no exception.
Cozy up with a whodunnit at a ski resort, a scandalous nuptial theft, the secret held by an antique table, supernatural murders in a small town, and a ghostly encounter at a Regency wedding. Can you solve these puzzles before the amorous sleuths? Or are you…
MEANT TO BE…MYSTIFIED?
Featuring the stories of Emmy Z. Madrigal, Lela Bay, M.M. Genet, Kate Nox, and Naching T. Kassa
An excerpt from MEANT TO BE…MYSTIFIED.
Hair of the Dog
Lori ran through the list in her head. Glancing at the passenger seat, she confirmed the cloth bag and the small, hand drawn map with a red circle drawn around the area where she’d found a bumper crop of porcini mushrooms the year before. Parking on the side of the road, she laced up her boots and pulled a knitted hat over her head.
“Gourmet dinner headed our way tonight!” she texted her roommate, Amber. She slid her phone in her coat pocket and hopped out of her small SUV. The air was cool and the trees were bursting with fall colors. “Perfect,” she thought.
Her AirPods securely in her ears, Iggy Pop and the Stooges blared “Search and Destroy.” Dried leaves crunched under her feet as she looked for the familiar rise in the trail. Her hopes rose when she noticed the dew on the ferns nearby. Damp, cool weather was the perfect condition for porcini fungi. Taking out the map, she calculated just another quarter mile and she would be close.
As her step quickened, her sharp eyes searched the forest floor. Looking for mushrooms in the wild was like trying to find a raven on a moonless night. Porcini mushrooms grew below oak trees. She scanned the leaves of the trees above her. Something flashed with color, making her stop to take notice.
A sapling nearly her height was weighed down with something. As she walked closer, Lori’s heart sank. A pink pet collar with silver tags engraved with the word “Hobbs” on the front. She flipped the tag over. No phone number or address. So many pets from town ventured out and rarely came back after entering the woods. Still, it was strange the collar was so high up in a small tree. A cat or small dog couldn’t have leaped high enough to land in a sapling’s branches unless something larger…
Her thoughts were interrupted by a strange sensation of floating; no flying. Was it flying? Her brain struggled to make sense of it. She was moving way too fast for her own feet and speaking of her feet, why weren’t they touching the ground?
Another sensation blocked out all others. Pain. On the ground, she writhed in pain. She wanted to vomit. She wanted to scream. It was happening so fast. Snarling and howling flooded her ears. In reply, she listened to her own pitiful cries. The mud beneath her body was cold. She was growing colder.
Her plea for help was answered by a sound that made her want to run or crawl away. The sound was something from her nightmares. She heard the ripping and tearing and cracking of bones. There was a distant idea in a forbidden corner of her mind that knew they were her bones being broken, and her skin being peeled away from her muscles, but it was all so far away. Her fleeting thoughts were clear. A monster was eating her alive.
Her blood rapidly soaked into the forest floor. Would she be more delicious with the mushrooms? It was a morbid thought that made her laugh. Maybe she should suggest a mushroom pairing like she would for customers at the Lupin Moon. She tried to say something but her throat wouldn’t work. In fact, it was no longer attached her body. Those were the last of Lori’s dying thoughts before the thing holding her to the forest floor plunged its teeth into her chest and feasted on her beating heart.
To read more, check out Meant to Be Mystified on Amazon.com.
Welcome to Sparkling Pines HighGet ready for romance, angst and high drama in my new YA Romance Series, Sparkling Pines High. Meet twins Sophie and Angela. They’re beautiful, and smart and opposite in every other way; particularly when it comes to love. Join them in book 1 where the girls audition for the biggest musical of the year. They don’t call it “drama” class for nothing. While Brian McKenzie, gorgeous captain of the swim team finds every opportunity to talk books with Sophie at school, he spends a lot of time texting Angela outside of school. Who is he really interested in? Will getting the leading lady role in the musical turn his head towards one sister over the other? Coming this Winter 2021
January 2020: Season 2 of the Agent For the Orchestra Podcast is Live!Who’s your favorite character; the fast-thinking, beautiful Yvonne? The dashing and mysterious Jack? Which is it, team Staccato in support of the underdog robot cello or is it team Legato in support of the sassy, smack-talking cat? Whichever character has stolen your heart, I have good news. Season 2 has just gone live! Listeners will discover to what end Madame Giblen has fallen. With the homicidal potential of The Pirate as well as D’Vok on their heels, will Yvonne abort the mission? The story crescendos in this mystical, science fiction romance Season 2 of Agent For the Orchestra. Listen here Agent For the Orchestra Season 2
Supporting Roles Sometimes Steal the ShowThis week, I joined a group of talented romance authors to create the hauntingly romantic anthology, Meant to Be ….SPOOKED. My contribution to the book was the short, “The Phone Booth.” The story, summed up is a about a teenage boy on the edge of manhood looking for his girlfriend after a tornado has decimated their small farm town. While the story is filled with ghosts and young love and all the parameters that make a good paranormal love story, the one character who stole the show, the story and my heart was surprisingly the one character I added to support the lead. Ahi, the love-struck boy is left to raise himself after his mother dies and his father devotes his life to vocational alcoholism. The day after his mother dies, a cat named Galileo arrives and, like all good strays, never leaves. Galileo is part parent, part best friend and all smack talk. He keeps Ahi going through the valleys of life and celebrates the peaks. I’d like to boast that I was clever and talented enough to have invented this feline wonder, but alas, I’d be lying. Galileo was semi-autobiographical. That is to say, Galileo was a real cat. My cat. While he arrives unceremoniously in a box as a five week old kitten on my suburban farm, he became far more than any family pet. One day, on that farm, a phone call came disguised as the winds of change. I quickly learned the winds were truly a cyclone and before it was done, my life would be completely stripped down, ripped about and reassembled to become something I never knew was even possible. Galileo hunkered down in that storm with me. On several occasions, when I came home, I’d shut the front door, drop my purse and keys and decide to lay on the floor. An author would say that perhaps, if I’d been a character, I was symbolically reaching my low point. Live resembles art. Or is it the other way around? Never the less, there I was remembering that it had been weeks since I’d washed the old oak floors when Galileo would jump, gracefully onto my head, my chest, or whatever platform best suited him. He’d stare at me. I’d sigh. “So, what now?” I’d ask. He’d give me that look like only he could with his harvest moon eyes and sleek, black body, “Get up!” his look demanded. “Lying here won’t make any dinner. And when you’re done with that, make something for yourself too. You’ve worked late.” There was no room to be meek or afraid in his world. He was raised by our two hundred pound Great Pyrennes. The dogs taught him to be assertive. His cat like intuition taught him to be everything else. Like Ahi, I couldn’t have made it through those days without Galileo. This story, “The Phone Booth,” is a tribute to him. He taught me to weather all storms and never give up on the important things.
September 2019: Guest Blog, H. H. RouloFinding Romance in a Zombie Apocalypse Contact: Plaguemastermail@gmail.com By H.E. Roulo Zombie apocalypse don’t seem like the most romantic of situations. Unlike other horror monsters, like elegant vampires and muscular werewolves, these shambling and decaying horror staples aren’t typically objects of adoration. Romance and zombies have been brought together before, most memorably in Warm Bodies, a book from Isaac Marion, that came out in 2010 and three years later became a movie. In my book, Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome, Trevor is trying to find a cure for his infected friend, Kristin. In order to pass tests that will allow them into the Sanctuary, Trevor and Kristin must kiss. Sadly, their tentative interest in each other is never as strong as the impending zombie destruction. When the dome fails, Trevor tries to get the cure to Kristin before she completes her change. He is only partially successful. “Sanctuary Dome starts with a bang, is complicated by a kiss, and ends with a promise. This is a YA zombie love story like no other.” -Jennifer Brozek, author of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming There’s even less time for romance in the second book, Plague Master: Rebel Infection. Trevor has sworn to find and rescue Kristin from the Plague Master that controls her. He has a cure, though it sometimes fails. Confused and looking for answers, he travels with his companions to a snowy planet where they crash and are surrounded by the diseased undead. Trapped with two mercenaries, his young friend Russ, and Elena, there are still moments for lightness. Elena and Trevor have fought side-by-side for two books and share a unique bond that could become something more: Excerpt from Plague Master: Rebel Infection Chapter 14 (440 words) “Remember, just draw them away long enough for Sigrid to get a look at the damage. The more zombies you draw off, the safer she’ll be. I’ll cover her from above and only kill the ones that endanger us, but I won’t hesitate. If the ship’s repairable, the best thing would be to fly to safety,” said Gerd. “Amen,” added Sigrid. Russ slipped a mitten over his hand and off again. “This stuff is amazing.” “So is snow,” said Gerd, plopping a hat on the boy. “My grandmother knitted caps like this.” “Will the zombies even know I’m a person? Or think a ball of yarn is escaping?” Trevor wagged his lumpy arms. Sweat pooled in his armpits. No need to mention he’d never seen snow before, either. “The ambassador carried traditional gear.” Elena finished rolling a scarf around his neck and yanked it over his mouth. “Better.” His cheeks mounded in a hidden grin, but Elena saw it and winked back. Sigrid settled a knitted cap over Gerd’s shaved head, and he left it there. He made no other concession to the weather. Having worked up his courage, Trevor nodded to Elena. She and Russ would remain aboard, attempting to contact her father. He braced himself against the door, counting down. “I have something for you,” said Elena. Trevor figured she was once again offering him her handgun and shook his head. He liked her having it. “Keep it,” he said. “I’d rather not kill them. If I get into trouble, I have this.” He patted the heavy wrench in the inner pocket of his winter coat, reassured by the weight of cold metal. She surprised him by pressing pink and orange fabric into his mitten. He couldn’t feel her fingers but gripped her hand anyway, noticing she’d painted her nails. He stroked a padded thumb across the smooth pink surface and released her. Feeling like a breathless storybook knight about to enter the tournament with a lady’s token, he wrapped the filmy fabric around his white mitten. “For the zombies,” she said, releasing the end of the scarf. She kissed his cheek. “For you.” Someday he’d have to tell her not to aim for the numb spot. Saluting the others, he threw open the door and leaped over the zombies. His boots slammed into the ground. He skidded across rock, crushed golden scrub, and slush. Twenty feet away, seeing the slow-moving zombies turning, he held his ground. Toknan smelled foreign, cold, and piney. He inhaled deeply and whooped, waving Elena’s pink and orange scarf above his head to flash the bright colors like a flag. “C’mon! I’m a tasty, tasty meal!” he said. Read more excerpts and see behind the scenes of the PLAGUE MASTER trilogy. Twitter: @hroulo Facebook: www.facebook.com/heroulo Blog: www.heatherroulo.com Author Central: www.amazon.com/author/heatherroulo Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome (Book 1): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CKAPXWW Plague Master: Rebel Infection (Book 2): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WTQV6M7
July 2019Just wanted to update folks about the podcast. I had some difficulty with recording. I FINALLY figured out the problem and not I’m back in the studio RE-recording all of the chapters. The bad news is that I only have 3 done. The good news is that these recordings are MUCH better and will likely even qualify for the Agent For the Orchestra to be an audio book on Audible (fingers crossed.) Until then, go to the free reads section and read through some of the rough draft chapters (sure the podcast and final novel will be different but that’s what makes it fun!)
May 2019Just an update to announce that Agent for the Orchestra will be ready for podcasting platforms (for free) this July 2019! Jack and Yvonne’s adventures (in rough draft) can be read in the free reads section of the website. The two agents have also inspired a new podcast musical theme that I wrote last month. I’m so excited to bring you both new writing and music!
January 2019Agent For the Orchestra Love comes in all kinds of forms. Sometimes it’s the neighbor next door. Sometimes it’s your lifelong best friend. Sometimes it’s a mysterious stranger. Books can be like that too. Traditionally, I’ve stuck to print and ebook formats for my stories. Recently, I’ve dipped my toe into the audio world. If you skip over to the “FREE” section of this website, you’ll find some of my latest audio book. What you’ll be sampling are the early rough drafts but the basic story all the same. It’s my sincere hope to begin a podcast leading to an audio book in the weeks and months to come. Check back once a month for a new chapter and you can always see new updates at my publisher’s website, Meant to Be Press.
Meant to Be Kissed…I’m in This One!
I contributed a bit of flash fiction to this new holiday romance anthology. Here’s an excerpt: Will I miss James? We’ve never been apart but there is a sick part of me that looks forward to writing him long, aching emails. I might even be driven to pen and paper, which is strangely even more exciting when I think about it. My mother has warned me, “It’s going to feel like a piece of your heart has been taken from you.” Meant To Be Kissed by Meant To Be Press is now available for pre-order at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KGK8RDP
Meant To Be Kissed: A Second Story
From the talented writers of Meant to Be Press, comes the new, holiday romance anthology, “Meant To Be Kissed.” Love sweet romance? Meant to Be – KISSED is a collection of short stories for you to get a sampling of Meant to Be Press romance authors. Excerpt from “Lady Montague’s Winter Kiss” by Emmy Z. Madrigal “I wouldn’t think you the dancing sort,” she said, once they had joined the set. “On the contrary, I am always willing to dance. I believe I won my wife because…” The word wife stuck in his throat and he swallowed hard. They danced a few steps away from each other and he could not look in her eyes when they met again. “I’m sorry I caused you pain,” she said. “Oh no.” He gripped her gloved hand above her head and one at her waist and they spun slowly, looking into one another’s eyes. “You’ve done nothing of the sort.” They split and went round the outside before meeting again and grasping hands for the next set. “I…” She paused, letting out a sigh. “I would never wish to.” He smiled. “I believe that. After all, we’ve saved each other. What more could one do for another?” “What indeed.” Her right eyebrow arched as she smiled a mischievous smile. Meant To Be Kissed is coming soon! Visit http://www.meanttobepress.wordpress.com.
Meant To Be Kissed, A New Holiday Anthology To Be Released
From the talented writers of Meant to Be Press, comes the new, holiday romance anthology, “Meant To Be Kissed.” Love sweet romance? Meant to Be – KISSED is a collection of short stories for you to get a sampling of Meant to Be Press romance authors. “The Grand Gesture” by Lela Bay, takes a public humiliation and turns it into an act of heroism. Rosamund Windham, daughter to the duke, literally drops herself into a pool of filth to save an innocent and in the process befriends the girl’s brother. Read a sample of The Grand Gesture: “My dear!” Lady Termington, their hostess, reached the bottom of the stairs in time to wheel back from the rising, mud-coated form of Miss Shelby. “You must… you must…” With great certainty, Lady Rosamund Windham knew that her mother’s lifelong friend and adversary was going to suggest the child be bundled off in her carriage. The story would be retold at every ball the girl attended in the future. Her soft blue eyes, so eager, would fall with shame and even her stammering attempts at conversation would leave her. The girl was not equipped to handle a long season of subtle jibes about clean dresses and absent grace. “Oh, my!” Rosamund cried loudly. Her feet went out from under her and she slipped off the step into the hearty mud. She landed on her hip, ensuring mud clung to her from top to bottom and stared upward at the hapless footman, who stumbled back with his hands raised, as if to show he had not shoved her. Her sister loomed on the step above, mouth opened in an appalled ‘o’.” Get your copy by visiting Meant to Be Press at http://www.meanttobepress.wordpress.com