Saturday, June 28, 2014

My Town in Three Photos - Newcastle (South Africa)

by Kathy Bosman

Newcastle is the third largest city and urban center in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with a population of 363,236 citizens (as of 2011 Census by statssa). Newcastle is located in the North West corner of the province along the Ncandu River and is moderately industrial.

The upper part of the Drakensberg mountain range curls along the west side of the city. A large proportion of the population live in the Townships of Madadeni and Osizweni which lie to the East. The N11 is the principal road running through the city with the R34 being the alternate route.

Newcastle is the seat of the local municipality by the same name as well as being the seat to the Amajuba District Municipality. (Wikipedia)


Thursday, June 26, 2014

AP Author Spotlight: Amy Mullen

Amy Mullen


Twitter ID: @amyemullen

Describe yourself in three words:
Loyal, silly, grateful

Tell us a little about your latest release:
Redefining Rayne

Rayne de Latham, cousin to King William Rufus, should be enjoying a life of privilege. Instead, she has only known misery. Her disastrous first marriage yielded nothing but pain, suffering, and three stillborn children. She believes she is cursed and is certain another pregnancy will end in another tragedy. When the king seeks to get rid of her by sending her to marry one of his knights, she will do just about anything to get out of her betrothal.

Widower Andre de Grelle is father to two small boys who came to him by marriage. When his first wife jumps off the castle walls in a fit of madness, he keeps the boys he has grown to love as his own. When king sends him a new bride, the lovely but troubled Rayne, he vows to have more patience with her than he had with his first wife.

Once Rayne arrives at Cuxton Castle, Andre realizes there is much more to her than meets the eye. She does everything she can to force him to send her away, but nothing works. Frustration grows as Andre discovers his betrothed is hiding something from him about her past, something so devastating she cannot speak the words out loud.

In the midst of a siege on nearby Pevensey Castle, a truth comes to light that changes everything. As the real story of Rayne’s past emerges, lives change forever. Will love be enough, or will it be easier to walk away?


What is your earliest memory?
I remember sitting on the couch with my feet tucked up under me because my mom was vacuuming and I feared the vacuum was going to eat my feet.


What would you consider the greatest moment in your life?
I can't pick one! The usual moments are the greatest. The day I married and the days my children came into the world.


What’s the hardest thing in in life you’ve done?
My son was a preemie. He stayed in the NICU for 77 days. The first time I had to leave the hospital without him was heart-wrenching.


What have you learned in life so far?
Always be willing to learn something new because there is always more to any story.


Everyone’s favourite question: if you could invite five people for dinner, who would it be?
Anne Rice (for me), Eddie Van Halen (for my husband), my grandmother (because she is no longer with us), one of the Wiggles (for my daughter), and Caillou (for my son - and yes I realize he is a cartoon - haha).


Chance for our readers - what else would you like to know about Amy Mullen?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

RELEASE DAY: Pema Donyo "The Innocent Assassins"


There are three rules to staying an assassin at the corporation of Covert Operatives: (1) your parents must be deceased, (2) your contracts must remain confidential, and (3) you must be under the age of eighteen.

After a murder mission goes awry a month before her eighteenth birthday, Covert Operatives assassin Jane Lu finds herself caught by the federal government and forced to spy for the CIA while remaining in Covert Operatives. Once her spying mission is over, she will be allowed to live a civilian life without facing criminal consequences—a life she’s only dreamed of having.

As Jane leaks information to the CIA, she uncovers secrets with enough power to both destroy Covert Operatives and her own boyfriend, Adrian King, who’s next in line to be CEO of the company. When her identity as a double agent for the CIA is discovered within Covert Operatives, she must decide where her allegiance, and her heart, truly lies.

About the Author:

Coffee-fueled college student by day, creative writer by night. Pema Donyo currently lives in Southern California, where any temperature less than 70 degrees is freezing and flip-flops never go out of season. While she may never be a member of Covert Operatives, for the moment she is pretty content being a student at Claremont McKenna College. Find her chatting about coffee, college, and creative writing at

Now available on
AmazonBarnes & NobelSmashwords

There are three rules to staying an assassin at Covert Operatives: one, your parents must be deceased, two, your murder contracts must remain confidential, and three, you must be under the age of eighteen.
I slammed the door shut while my eyes scanned the room for an object to use.
"I know you're in there. I know who sent you after me!"
"Oh yeah?" My gaze flickered from the empty baby bassinet to the picture books on the floor. I resisted the urge to groan. Of all the rooms in this mansion, I picked the nursery?
"You can't kill me! The cops are coming." The voice on the other side of the door wavered even as I felt him trying to beat down the door on the other side. "You're only a kid!"
A bullet whizzed past my neck, breaking a small hole in the door. I cringed. A chunk of hair fell from the bullet’s impact, the right side of my ponytail splayed on the floor. I'd just had a haircut!
"You are so paying for that." Enough was enough. I reloaded my gun and pushed back the door enough to buy a few more seconds of time. "No one calls me a kid."
"Yeah, well I—"
I gazed down at the man dead in front of me. One hand rested on the doorknob, the other on the trigger of my gun. I frowned at the wound. It wasn't right on the heart. Darn, I wanted a clean shot.
The sound of scurrying boots up the stairs caught my attention. No time to worry about the aim now. My finger rested on the trigger, ready to shoot in self-defense. I lifted up the gun and pointed it in front of me.
A woman reached the top of the stairs and shrieked when she saw the man on the floor. She screamed even louder when she saw my gun, as if her screams would ward me away.
I sighed. "Sorry about this."
She started backing into a corner as I approached her. I dealt a powerful blow to one of the pressure points on her neck with just the right amount of pressure not to kill her. Immediately, her body curled up and her lips pressed shut as she crumpled to the floor.
I pointed my gun to the direction I wanted to go. I passed by the woman, who was now laying on the floor, unconscious and blissful. I winced. I hated when the family showed up. It made the entire mission messier. Still, a job was a job.
The chip in my ear started to buzz. I pressed on it with my free hand, still pointing the gun with my other hand on the way out. No one else was inside, but a CO agent could never be too careful.
"Coast is clear." A pause. "You're getting slow, Janey."
I pressed the earpiece to respond. "Yeah? Says the one who almost got us killed in Cairo last week."
I kicked open the door. My eyes scanned from side to side, checking to make sure I was safe. My finger rested on the trigger.
Within moments, I found myself pressed to the floor.
Adrian smiled above me while his hands pinned mine behind my back. So not safe with a gun in my hand.
"See what I mean? Getting slow." His hands drifted to my hips, and his mouth curved upward into an easy smirk above my lips.
I pulled away, leaving both of us gasping for breath. "Not fair," I grumbled. "You told me it was clear."
He took his hands off my wrists and stepped back. I stood up from the porch of the house.
"We can't just make out during every mission."
Adrian raised an eyebrow at me. "You didn't object during the last one."

RELEASE DAY: L.E. Fred "Lucid"


Devon Alexander is a 15 year-old teenager coping with the monotonous reality of his average life. His life receives an interesting reprieve as he has his first realistic dream of a spaceship. The strangest thing about the dream is that he seems to be the only one on board who isn’t in a dream-like trance. Before he can figure out anything about the dream or his strange shipmates, he manages to. The next day, Devon catches a news story about inexplicable comas taking place all over the world. Devon’s life becomes increasingly interesting as he recognizes some of the victims from his spaceship trip.
Devon, and an unlikely group of other teens, start devising a plan to find out who is behind the strange dreams and the comas. Their plan is not only successful but immerses them in to the fantastical world that only resides in dreams. While in the dream world, the teens learn about the power of teamwork, a new world of culture, and their hidden potential to be heroes.
Suspenseful, funny at the worst times, and just a hint of teenage romance, Lucid takes a group of young adults and throws them into a fantasy world that they only thought could exist in their dreams. In a sense, they’re right.
About the Author:
L. E. Fred is a young adult with a head full of stories. Lucid is her first completed work, though she has many more on the way. She currently lives in New Orleans at her messy writing desk with her red-furred dog.

Now available on
AmazonBarnes & NobelSmashwords

Chapter 1
Day 1: Morning

Sometimes I feel like denying the morning exists and staying asleep forever. Waking up in my dark, frigid room isn’t exactly my idea of a great way to start the day. I rolled over on my side to check my clock.
Nine-thirty; time to get up for summer camp.

As I tumbled out of bed and pulled on my socks, I recounted the dream I had last night. Normally, I’m not one for remembering my dreams, but this time I don’t think I could’ve forgotten it even if I wanted to. It was so real. It started with me sitting in a spaceship. I could tell I was in space, not because of the stars outside my window, but because of the darkness around the stars. I couldn’t recall any other time I had seen such a deep emptiness except for the time we watched a video in physical science on space.

There were other people on the spaceship with me, sitting in different aisles; it was sort of like a galactic school bus. I remember having a conversation with an elderly man sitting next to me. He repeated at least seven times that he must’ve been dreaming. Finally, I realized that I, too, was dreaming. I voiced my thoughts to the man, and he said that even though it felt like a dream, he doubted we were both sharing the same experience.

How could you be conscious in a dream, anyway?

And since when did more than one person dream the exact same thing?

This seemed to be the topic of conversation on the ship; everyone sounded confused and most felt like they were transported from their bed to this alien place. The idea of abductions was slowly becoming a possibility, and the atmosphere in the spaceship became extremely tense.

Although the other people on the ship were partaking in nervous chatter, I remained silent. I knew that I was merely dreaming, and that this was not an alien abduction. There was no other explanation for why I remained calm. Also, I had always pictured an alien invasion being a lot cooler than something eerily similar to my morning bus ride. After twenty minutes of dream time, the ship landed on a dock. We had reached our destination.

The doors of the ship slid open, and almost automatically, the people started filing out. I thought this was a rather stupid move on their part; if this was an alien invasion, why would they willingly walk out to meet their captors? I do remember feeling a sort of sensation pulling me outside along with the other people, but I was able to fight it off. I figured it was the change in atmospheric pressure or something.

I know better, now.

As I was walking down the aisle, I saw something glittering underneath one of the seats. Maybe one of the passengers dropped a watch. I bent down to figure out what the source of the light was, and I found… nothing.

The light continued to shine from underneath the chrome seat, but there was nothing causing the incandescent light. It was strong, and for the first time on my voyage, I felt heat. I think that was when I was sure I was dreaming; everything other than this light was simply not real. I knew the light represented the only fragment of reality in the bus (other than me,) so I did the only thing I could; I reached out and grabbed the burning ball of light.

As soon as I touched the light, I woke up. I untangled myself from the sheets and stumbled to my mirror. Staring back at me was the reflection of a fifteen-year-old, brown-haired and hazel-eyed boy. I’ll admit I was a bit paler than usual. The dream of the space ship was causing goose bumps to emerge all over my arms and on the back of my neck. Even though I knew it was an illusion the entire time, I didn’t like how the other people in the dream thought that it was real. As I was sorting through the confusion in my brain, my mom came into the room.

“It’s time for work, Devon,” she said with a no-nonsense look on her face. Mom dropped me off to camp on her way to work, and she was never late. “You’ve got five minutes to get ready. Just grab a granola bar on your way out.” She closed the door with a snap.

I shook myself from the silly dream. It was just a dream after all. There were more pressing matters at hand, like getting to camp before the Senior Counselor did. The jerk would fire a Counselor-in-Training like me for showing up two minutes late. I dressed with haste and ran down the stairs. As I climbed into the back seat of my mom’s van, I couldn’t stop dwelling on my spaceship bus ride. It spooked me so much, it even made me forget my granola bar.

RELEASE DAY: Phineas Foxx "Last of the Mighty"


Centuries ago, an elite band of thirty-seven, holy warriors called the Mighty would routinely slay thousands in a single battle. Today, the offspring of these heroes of old have all been hunted and killed.
Save one.
Augustine Caffrey is fifteen years old, seven feet tall and star of his high school wrestling team. Known as Og, the born fighter has never backed down from any human. Problem is the ungodly half-man/half-demon who has come to slaughter him today isn’t really human. And when Og refuses the crossbreed’s offer to join the wicked, his first battle against the demonic begins.  
Og soon discovers that the father he has never met is responsible for the war that has come to his doorstep. A probe into his father’s identity leads Og to a secret history of angels gone bad, a sacred law dating back to the Flood that clearly condemns the kid and blood ties that explain why both Heaven and Hell want Og dead.

About the Author:
Phineas Foxx lives in a small beach village with his incurably gorgeous English wife, two perfectly beastly teenagers, a rotund Chihuahua and an elderly cat that may live forever. Last of the Mighty is his first novel.

Now available on

  Amazon Barnes & Nobel Smashwords 




Chapter One

The ugly dog-thing’s massive jaws were two feet from my throat when it all went quiet and time finally slowed.
Like everything was suddenly underwater.

Except me. I was still moving at full speed.

A foot away now, the giant cranked open its maw even more, readied for clampdown. His disgusting yellow teeth could taste me already.

I arched back to let the hyena-beast sail by and seized him by the scruff. With my other hand, I struck—a hammerfist, rock-hard, to the middle of the monster’s neck. The dog’s yelp told me he was not immune to pain. The muffled snap of bone meant he was not made of iron. And when the mongrel’s limp body hit the ground and kept rolling, I knew the mutant hellhound was mortal.

Though the animal appeared dead, I had to be sure. Suppose I could’ve busted out a mirror to make sure his breath didn’t fog it. I opted for a double stomp kick to the spine instead.

“Never liked that one anyway.” A craggy voice came from behind me.

I spun to face the speaker, in Cat stance, ready for another attack.

I stumbled back, shocked at the size of the guy. Seven-and-a-half feet tall with broad shoulders and a bull neck. He stood with the challenging stance of an old west gunslinger—feet spread, beefy hands cocked at the hips. I caught a whiff. Dude was all sweat and tobacco. A shaft of sun grazed across the stubble of his jaw, but the rest of his face was hidden in the shade cast by the upturned hood of a dark cloak. Despite the dim, I caught a glint of an eerie eye peering out from the shadows.

He sparked up a thick, half-smoked cigar, stoked it to life. Between puffs, he croaked, “So. You’re Augustine.”

“O-Og.” I tried to sound tough, didn’t quite get there. “Why’d ya sic that dog on me? You got a—”

“Og, huh?” he grunted, then blew out some smoke. “Charming.” He snickered.

That bugged. The snickering and the interrupting. I was raised in a convent with a bunch of nuns, where good manners were expected, demanded.

“Well…Og,” he grumbled, again with the mocking.

Now I wasn’t a violent kid, but come on. First he sends the dog and now this? I thought of how nice it would’ve felt to let my foot cave in his face. The guy’s size was a factor, but I, too, was freakishly large. Fifteen-and-a-half years old and I was already seven feet tall. On top of that, I’d been studying martial arts since I was four.

“You and I have business.” He hit the lung dart again, and held in the smoke for a good ten seconds, studying me.

A school bell clanged in the distance. Could have been The Committee in my head, but I doubted it. Looked like I was going to be late to first period. Again.

“Business?” I asked.

“Yes, Og.” There it was again. Poking fun at my name. “Or as you might say, bid-nit. There. Is that better…punk?”

My lip twitched at the insult. Though I was a black belt in aikido, wing chun, Krav…you name it, I rarely fought outside the dojo. Mostly because I was a nice guy—like the gentle giant in a Disney movie—and partly because I’d promised my mother I’d only fight in tournaments and club competitions. But Mom was dead now.

I wanted to reply with something witty and mean, but instead, Mr. Disney giant went with, “You got a problem, pal,” and I tried to wrap that last word with enough taunt to provoke a swing from Jesus.

He just stood there, all cool and quiet, his face still hiding in the shadow of his hood. He took another drag off the cigar, then chirped out a short whistle.

Leaves crackled in the nearby woods.

My eyes slid over to see a pair of mutant canines.

            Even bigger than the one I’d just killed.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My Town in Three Photos - Flint, Michigan

by Krysten Lindsay Hager
I grew up in Grand Blanc, which is a suburb of Flint, Michigan. I attended the University of Michigan-Flint first as an undergrad, and then as a graduate student. It was here I developed my writing skills due to the great professors I had and all their encouragement, so I wanted to share a taste of Flint, Michigan with you!
Flint is known as being “Vehicle City,” because of the GM affiliation and the car plants there as well the big pro golf tournament, “The Buick Open,” which was played in my hometown of Grand Blanc for years. While it’s best known for the cars and the historic Flint sit-down strike of the 30’s, it is also a college town with Kettering University, the University of Michigan-Flint, as well as Baker College and Mott Community College and has a large cultural center for the arts. The Flint Art Walk is not to be missed!

First, is a picture of the University Pavilion (formerly Water Street Pavilion) which is part of the University of Michigan-Flint. It has the campus bookstore, offices, and a bunch of restaurants and it’s where I ate lunch pretty much every day and sometimes twice a day (who could blame me, the food was delicious and the staff at the different eateries were so friendly). It was also where I would go to write. My favorite spot to write was near the windows that faced the street on the far left-hand side of the building. There was something about sitting there and people watching as I worked on story ideas. It’s a beautiful structure inside and out and can I just say how much money I spent in that bookstore? Nothing like being able to grab the latest biography or novel during a break and then finding a great spot to read between classes.

This is a picture of the Thompson library which is the University of Michigan-Flint library. I spent so much time here studying and writing. My favorite writing place was on the first floor at a table right near the windows overlooking the Flint River. It was a beautiful view no matter what the season, but it was especially so in autumn and spring. It was one of my favorite places to go during class breaks to read and write. I was even in a commercial for the school where I was sitting—guess where? At my favorite spot in the library.

And here is a picture of that view—the Flint River. While I viewed it from a side angle and saw the trees, sidewalks with benches, and the bridges, this is an amazing shot from one of the bridges taken by University of Michigan lecturer and artist (as well as being my friend), Tim Kranz. So you can see how this view would inspire me to work and write here.

Thanks for letting me take you on a tour of one of my favorite places and share the “softer side” of Flint, Michigan with you!

(Photos courtesy of Tim Kranz and used with permission. )

Thursday, June 19, 2014

AP Author Spotlight: Jo Grafford

Jo Grafford
Twitter ID: @jografford
Google +:

Describe yourself in three words:
A word artist
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Blurb: A career woman ahead of her time, ROSE PAYNE'S world is shattered after a secret betrothal to the duke’s son costs her job in his father's household. Without a letter of recommendation, Rose becomes an easy target for recruiters to the Colonies and signs up for a risky overseas venture. She sails for the New World, vowing never again fall for a wealthy gentleman.
Returning from a diplomatic tour in London, CHIEF MANTEO is bewitched by the elusive, fiery-haired ship clerk who instantly sees him as a man instead of the savage he is so often labeled. Determined to overcome her distrust, he contrives a daring plan to win her heart – one he prays will protect her from a chilling conspiracy involving murder, blood money, and a betrayal of their fledgling colony so terrifying it can only be revealed in BREAKING TIES.
NOTE: BREAKING TIES is the previously untold rest of the story of the Lost Colonists of Roanoke Island. Based on real people and real events, the Lost Colony Series was inspired by century's old sailing journals, the original Roanoke venture ship manifest, years of research in church registries and other archives, and a trip to the island itself.
What is your earliest memory?
I was three years old, and my mother had just laid me down in my crib for a nap. When she tiptoed out and shut the door to the nursery, I was still wide awake. It was the first time I had experienced complete silence. I learned that silence is more than the absence of sound. It is profound and resonating, and (to this day) I believe that is when I first began to daydream.
What would you consider the greatest moment in your life?
There are too many to name them all. One of my favorites is that miracle-of-life moment when my first son was placed in my arms.
What’s the hardest thing in in life you’ve done?
Face my fear of heights. I refuse to let it stop me. I still fly, ski, and climb mountains.
What have you learned in life so far?
Live, love, worship, dream, laugh, dance, sing, and never give up on your goals.
Everyone’s favourite question: if you could invite five people for dinner, who would it be?
John Grisham, Nora Roberts, Mark Harmon, Johnny Galecki, Richard Castle
Chance for our readers - what else would you like to know about Jo Grafford?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

RELEASE DAY: Rachel Jones "To Dance One More Day"


Desertion and death of her family leaves Jillian Russell alone in the world. A medical diagnosis takes away her performance career. Starting over in Charlotte, North Carolina, she opens a ballet company which takes all her resources and leaves no time to build new relationships.

Trauma surgeon, Alan Armstrong, is determined to fix Jillian’s life before he moves on to set up a rural community clinic that had been the top priority in his life, until he met Jillian.

Will their undeniable connection cause them to change their ambitions so they can be together? Or will they walk away from each other to continue on the paths they had chosen before they met?

About the Author:

In 1977 Rachel earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education and taught music for ten years. After the birth of her second child, she returned to school and in 1991 earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing and passed the state boards for registered nurses. She has been a labor & delivery and antepartum nurse since that time.

Anticipating her retirement from healthcare, Rachel decided to write her first novel at age fifty-seven. For years she had experienced scenes of heroes and heroines rambling about in her thoughts and spilling into her dreams. So it was a no-brainer that she should attempt to capture these thoughts on paper.

Rachel resides in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband of thirty-seven years. She has three adult children, who help spoil their Labrador retriever. She is a member of Georgia Romance Writers, Southeastern Writers Association and is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Now available on

  Amazon Barnes & Nobel Smashwords 




Chapter One

Jillian opened and closed her eyelids several times, taking in the darkness accompanied by an eerie silence. She dragged her head from side to side, trying to clear away the fuzziness surrounding her consciousness. Her head hurt. How long had she been knocked out? A minute? Ten minutes? Feeling something warm on her cheek, her fingers followed the sticky trail up to her right temple, touching the gash that caused blood to spill down her face. Without moving, she listened to pieces of refuse falling to the floor around her, making thumping sounds. She shifted her body, and tiny bits of confetti-like debris sprinkled down around her, creating a powdery film of dust on her skin. With guarded motions, she touched her arms and torso, assessing for other injuries. Moving her legs, she let out a sigh of relief when she discovered it was not painful. A ballerina with injured legs couldn’t be a ballerina.

What in the world had happened? She had stopped at Mancini’s to pick up some takeout for a late lunch and decided to run into Goodwin’s Pharmacy next door for toilet paper and shampoo. “God, please help me,” she prayed as she lay on the floor in the dark.

She called out, “Is anyone there?”

Someone moaned. “Over here — I’m hurt.”

The woman took in short breaths as she began to sob. Jillian struggled to shift her body, crying out in pain. She moved her right hand over her left shoulder and discovered something protruding from her shoulder blade. Her initial reaction was to pull it out, but instinct guided her hand to move away before she acted on impulse. Taking a deep breath and gritting her teeth, she moved to a sitting position. Attempting to keep her voice even, to sound braver than she felt, she called out, “I’m Jillian, what’s your name?”

“Cathy — Strickland. There’s something heavy on my right leg. I can’t move it.”

Holding her left arm immobile, Jillian stood up on trembling legs. With caution, she moved in the direction of the voice, but the scattered rubble surrounding her blocked her path.

“Oh — I just felt a gush. I think my water broke.”

“It’s okay. I’m sure someone will come for us soon.” Working hard to keep the sob in her throat from escaping, she sat down on the floor. Her head pounded as she held her arm close to her body. She couldn’t focus on the pain; she had to remain calm.

The crying gnawed at Jillian’s heart as she tried to assess their situation. And then Cathy screamed, claiming her full attention.

“What’s wrong?”

Cathy sobbed. “That was — a hard contraction. I can’t go into labor here.”

In an authoritative voice she had used many times with her students, Jillian took command of the situation. “You’ve got to calm down.”

“It — hurts so much.” She screamed again.

“Take some deep breaths for me.” Jillian wanted to go to her but it was too dangerous to move around in the dark.

“My baby’s too small.”

Jillian wanted to cry but knew she had to take hold of her emotions and figure out a plan. Hearing a loud sound in the distance, she jerked her head up from its bowed position, her eyes following in the direction of the sound as muffled voices reached her ears.

“Listen! Someone’s coming. I told you someone would come.”

RELEASE DAY: Krysten Lindsay Hager "True Colors"



Every day I walked down the sidewalk to school and wished I were one of the interesting popular girls who ran up with exciting news. Just once I’d like to be one of those girls instead of the being the one who didn’t get invited to things because people “forgot” about me.

Landry gets pushed into trying out for the American Ingénue reality show modeling competition with her two best friends.  She doesn’t think she stands a chance, but she advances to the next level in the competition and her friends ignore her when they get cut. 

Enter the gorgeous Devon, who also makes the first cut and includes Landry in her clique. Devon becomes the perfect best friend, but can their friendship survive the competition?

Landry hopes her big break could come at any moment, but soon sees there’s much more to modeling. She begins missing out on being with friends and has the chance to have a boyfriend when she meets a boy named Vladi from another school.

Part of Landry wants to be famous (and have her hair look good for once), but part of her just wants to be accepted. She learns about friendships, being true to yourself, and that a good hair conditioner doesn’t hurt.

About the Author:
Krysten Lindsay Hager is a writer and journalist from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota and Portugal. She currently resides in the Dayton, Ohio area with her husband. You can find her at:


Now available on

  Amazon Barnes & Nobel Smashwords 


Chapter One

Every day I walked down the sidewalk to school and wished I was one of those interesting girls who ran up with exciting news. They were always yelling, way before they got to their group of friends so everyone could hear, about how they got asked out, or their parents were taking them on some amazing vacation or something. I’d prefer my news to be more like, “Guess what? I’m going to be in a music video!” Or maybe, “Guess who’s going to be in a movie?” But nothing, nada, never any news to share. Well, once a stray cat had kittens in my garage, but it was more annoying than anything since it smelled like cat pee in there for months after my mom found homes for them all. I couldn’t even say, “Ooh, guess who got a kitty?” since my mom said I couldn’t keep one because the poor thing would get lost in my mess of a room and starve.

Still, just once I’d like to be the interesting one instead of the girl who didn’t get invited to things because people “forgot” about her. Instead, I was the girl picked last in gym class (like today) and who couldn’t even get noticed there when I tried to get hit during dodge ball so I could sit down.

“Okay, hit the showers,” Coach Daly said.

I hadn’t done anything to cause me to break a sweat, so I didn’t need a shower. I pulled my ponytail holder out of my hair and hoped for the best. My pale blond hair, which behaved so well last weekend when no one saw it, now looked and felt like a broom. The more I tried to fix it, the more it felt like hay. I tried putting in a dab of styling crème, but it just made it greasy. I didn’t know how my hair managed to have a dry texture while looking oily at the same time, but it did.

I gave up on my hair and went to get dressed. I tugged on my khaki pants and navy sweater, which made up my glorious Hillcrest Academy uniform, (it was just my luck my school picked colors which made me look like a dead goldfish), grabbed my bag, and went to join the rest of my class lined up to go to the cafeteria. I was almost fourteen and yet had to walk to the lunchroom in a straight line like Madeline from the storybook. Stupid Hillcrest.

Lunch was my favorite part of the day. For one, it meant the school day was half over. I went through the lunch line and grabbed a ham sandwich, some chips, and a bottle of water and went to join my two best friends, Ericka Maines and Tori Robins. The lunchroom was always extra noisy on Fridays because everybody was talking about their plans for the weekend. Sometimes Ericka, Tori, and I went to a movie, but we didn’t do much else. Tori and I liked to go shopping, but Ericka’s parents thought hanging out at the mall would “morally corrupt” Ericka, blah, blah, blah. And they about had a stroke when she wanted to get a social media page. So I was surprised when Ericka said we should all go to the mall tomorrow.

“Landry, they’re having modeling tryouts to be on the American Ingénue show,” Ericka said, showing me the ad she had torn out of the Grand Rapids Press. “The Ingénue judges are trying to find local teens to compete on their reality show.”

I watched every second of the last show. Talisa Milan won and got a Little Rose cosmetics contract and was on this month’s cover of Bright and Lively magazine. She was also a host on Hot Videos Now, a music video show. Melani Parkington, the runner-up, was the new spokesperson for Bouncy Hair conditioner. You were almost guaranteed to be famous if you made it to the final round of the contest.

“First you have to win in your city, and then your state, and then the regional competition,” Tori read. “Then you get to the tough part of the competition where they vote off someone new each week on national TV.”

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get discovered,” Ericka said, checking out her reflection in her spoon.

“Yeah, except for the fact the judges are known to be brutal when they’re honest. Like when they told Melani her gorgeous face was too pinched, her forehead was too low, and her eyebrows were too high,” I said. “They also told one girl she was pretty, but her lips looked like she had walked into a sliding glass door.”

“Well, they did,” Ericka said shrugging. “The newspaper says the first fifty girls who try out got a free American Ingénue tote bag and Little Rose makeup samples.”

They were holding auditions at the Perry Mall, which was the smallest mall in Grand Rapids. There weren’t a lot of stores there, so you usually just saw old people mall walking around there. Still, it had a decent bookstore and a cute clothing store, so I said I’d go watch while they tried out.

“No, we’re all trying out,” Ericka said, grabbing the ad back from me. She said her mother thought she’d be a “natural” for the show since she always got the lead in the school plays. However, Ericka was usually the only one who tried out for the lead. Everyone else felt too stupid singing on stage in front of the whole school. Besides, you had to stay after school to rehearse, and I liked to go home and watch my favorite soap opera, As the Days Roll On.

“There’s no way I’m trying out,” I said. “They always make the girl stand on a platform while they tell her everything that’s wrong with her. Melani’s gorgeous, and they tore her apart. Besides, I don’t look anything like those girls on the show.”

I didn’t even buy makeup at the Little Rose cosmetics counter because I hated having the salespeople stare at my face to determine whether I was a summer gladiola or a spring daffodil.

“You’re tall,” Tori said. “Remember one judge wanted to kick Melani out for being too short.”

“Yeah, you’re practically the tallest girl in school,” Ericka said.