Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Pregnant Women Shouldn't be Writers

     As I was reading over the final edits of my book, Shine 12--Storms and Spirits, I found a huge mistake. Chapter 8 was missing. Instead, it was a duplicate of chapter 7. Unfortunately, I think a few people may have bought the book before the correct version was released. Please contact me if you are one of these people and I will send you the corrected version. Or, you can just read chapter 8 right here. 

You can follow this link to purchase the correct version of Storms and Spirits.

It's really a bummer because this was one of my favorite chapters. You learn more about Memphis's mother, plus get some insight into Memphis's feelings for June. I'm trying not to be too depressed. Pregnancy does that to me already. I don't need more reasons for stress. Alas, I will do what I can to repair an otherwise disastrous situation.

If you bought the book after October 11, you should have the correct copy. I'm really sorry about all the confusion, but I'm hoping to make lemonade from lemons, and hopefully not repeat the same mistakes in the future...

     Tourists crowded around us as we made our way down Bourbon Street. The jazz sounds of the accordion and saxophone drifted from the performers who sat under awnings or along the sidewalks. Smells of fried pastries coated with powdered sugar, accented with the spicy scent of gumbo, filled the air. In the distance, I watched the paddle wheels’ smokestacks peeking above the rooftops as they drifted down the Mississippi. If my life weren’t filled with people trying to kill me and my best friend missing and possibly dead, I might have enjoyed it.
     Memphis seemed to melt into the crowd, as if he was part of the city’s beating heart. His eyes stayed focused straight ahead. I wished I knew what he was thinking. There were times that I felt I got to know him. Other times he was a stranger to me, closed off and distant. Sometimes I wondered who the real Memphis Stone was.
     We turned down a back alley where the crowd disappeared. We traded the sounds of laughter and music for silence the deeper we walked. A sign hung above a door. On it was a rough painting of an open palm with an eye in the center. Below the painting were the words Madame Angel’s Psychic Readings. I noticed that the door was propped open, and a sign sitting by the door read $5 palm readings.
     We stepped inside, immediately assaulted with the pungent aromas of burning incense and cigarette smoke. It almost masked the stale scent of cat urine. There was no a/c in the room, making the place suffocating hot. An old lamp, minus the lampshade, sat on the table. The only window was covered with layers of burgundy fabric. A table, draped with layers of the same fabric, took up the center of the room. A set of dog-eared tarot cards lay haphazardly on the table.
A woman sat in a metal chair at the back of the room. She smoked a cigarette as she stroked a tabby cat sitting on her lap. She eyed us through dark, suspicious eyes.
     “You,” she gasped as Memphis moved toward her. She stood. The cat leapt away.
     “Hello, Miss Angel,” he said.
     She took a step toward Memphis. Her dark skin looked wrinkled, as if years of smoking had sapped away all the moisture. “Memphis Lavalle?” she whispered.
     “Memphis Stone,” he corrected her. “I’ve come here to ask a few questions.”
     She raised an eyebrow. “Questions?”
     “Yes. About my mother.”
     She crossed her arms. “I won’t discuss anything with you.”
     “Why not?”
     “Because you bring nothing but bad luck.” She spat a glob of spittle at his feet. “I won’t have nothing to do with your kind.”
     Memphis crossed his arms. “My kind? What exactly is my kind?”
     She took a draw from her cigarette. “Cursed,” she hissed.
     His shoulders stiffened. He’d mentioned a curse once before. After watching every person around him die, I found it hard to disagree. But he couldn’t seriously believe in a curse, could he? Yes, he had horrible bad luck, but that didn’t mean he was at the mercy of some supernatural voodoo.
     “No questions.” She waved him away.
     He pulled a stack of paper money from his pocket. He counted out a twenty and handed it to her. “Oddly enough, I’ve come for a reading.”
     “No.” She pushed his hand away. “No reading. I don’t want your money. Bad luck. Bad spirits. I wouldn’t tamper with your kind for all the money—”
     I cleared my throat. “Actually, I’ve come for a reading.” I took the money from him and held it out to Miss Angel. She seemed to see me for the first time.
     “Are you with him?” she asked me.
     “Yes,” I answered.
     She shook her head. “Anyone with him I can’t help. Lord help me, I’ll bring a curse on this place. No questions.” She turned away.
     “Wait,” I said. “What if he leaves? It will be just me and you. He doesn’t need to be involved. I’ll pay extra.”
     She raised an eyebrow, then snatched my hand. She studied my palm. Her hands were as cold as ice blocks.
     She traced her finger down the middle of my palm and stopped at the base of my thumb. “Give me your other hand, child.”
     I held it out. She took it and held my fingers in a firm grasp.                “Fine,” she finally mumbled. “One reading. Forty dollars. I charge you extra for bringing him in here.”
     Memphis stood close to me and placed the cash in my hand. He leaned close, his heartbeat a gentle whisper in my ears. “Be careful,” he said. With his nearness, my stomach gave its usual flutter. He turned and made his way to the door.
     Miss Angel focused on him until he had disappeared. She walked to the door and pulled it closed. The thud echoed through the room. I blinked as my eyes adjusted to the dimness.
     She pulled a stool from the corner and placed it by the table. “Sit,” she said as she found her own chair. The room felt suffocating with its heavy fog of smoke. I hoped I wouldn’t pass out as I took a seat on the stool.
     Miss Angel placed the lamp on the floor, making the light cast eerie shadows over the sunken features of her face, reminding me of a skull. I shifted on the seat, listening to my heart beat loud in my ears.
     “You’re afraid of me, child?”
     I steadied my breathing, willing my heart to slow down. The hammering decreased to a steady patter. “No, I’m not afraid.” I thrust out my hand. “Can we get this over with?”
     She looked at me through narrowed eyes, though a sly smile crept around the corners of her mouth. “Have you ever had a reading before?”
     She took my hand. Her ice-cold skin felt rough against mine. She ran her fingers over the palm of my hand, reminding me of the slithering movements of a snake. “He’s not right for you, you know. You should leave him now and count yourself lucky.”
     “Excuse me?”
     “Don’t act coy, young one. You heard me.”
     “Memphis and I are not together.” I looked away. “We can’t be.”
     She leaned forward. “Miss Angel knows when you’re lying. Like you know. The way you hear the heartbeats. The way you can see a lie.”
     I stiffened. “You know?”
     “Of course.”
     If she knew that I was a Shine, then I couldn’t stay. I had to leave now. But I still needed information from her. I forced myself to stay on the stool, although everything inside me told me to run.
     She held my fingers tight. “I can tell you that he’s not right for you. But you won’t listen. Of course you won’t. It’s the heart that thinks. The mind has no power when love is involved.”
     “But we’re not together,” I repeated with steel in my voice.
     She leaned so close I saw the flecks of yellow in her eyes. “You have a gift, yes? A gift to hear hearts, a gift to see blood. Let me tell you about my gift. I can feel what other folks feel. I can see his feelings. I hear them speaking loud in my mind. Plain as day. I see how he feels about you. Maybe he hides it from you. But he’s in love with you.”
     My heart skipped a beat. “No,” was all I managed.
     “Yes.” Her voice grew louder. “He cares about you. He loves you. But his love is tainted. It will kill you, I’ll tell you that. He brings death to everyone he loves. You’ll die just like the ones before you. He’s cursed.”
     “I don’t believe in curses.” My voice was barely louder than a whisper.
     She shrugged. Her fingers tightened around my wrist. “You’ll learn. Soon enough, you’ll see, foolish child that you are.”
     I yanked my hand free. “This isn’t why I came here,” I snapped. “I need answers. Who is his mother?”
     She leaned back and lit another cigarette. The click from the lighter filled the silence. She took a draw from her cigarette before answering. “Joissine was a client. She came to me once a week, every Sunday at three o’clock. Always wanted another reading, wanted to know if her husband was cheating, wanted to know how rich she would be if she stayed with him. I obliged. I told her what she wanted to hear. Like you, that’s all she could hear anyway.”
I ignored her quip. “Who was her husband?”
     “James Lavalle.” Her face wrinkled with disgust as she said his name. “Scientist. Forward thinker.” She chuckled. “Mad man.”
     “Why do you say that?”
     She pointed to her head. “I’ve felt the feelings of thousands of people. Since I was old enough to remember I’ve felt those feelings. After awhile, you begin to realize that everyone feels the same things. Happiness, anger, lust. We’re not so different from each other. But him.” Fear flashed through her eyes. “I’d never felt anything like that before. The evil inside that man is something that stayed with me. Even today. The nightmares.” With shaky fingers she took another draw. She blew out a breath of smoke before speaking again. “I knew he was a monster. I told Joissine. She didn’t listen, of course. And then she got pregnant with that man’s child. I wasn’t surprised when she got sick. That child was poisoning her. He knew it too. He knew what would happen once she conceived, once his blood mixed with hers.”
     “His blood?” I sat up. “What about his blood?”
     She shook her head. “I don’t know what he’d done to himself. Altered himself somehow. He’d used her. She was his experiment. That child was his experiment. She came to me, half dead, beaten, wanted another reading.”
     Her heart rate increased. She puffed on the cigarette as if it was her lifeline. “I saw something that day. Her child, her son, he would kill her. I told her to end the pregnancy while she still could. I warned her, and then I begged her. As usual, she didn’t listen. I worked as her midwife back then, my younger years. The moment I laid eyes on that babe I knew he’d be just like his father. When she gave away her child for adoption, she knew she’d made a mistake. She should’ve killed that child when she had the chance.
     “She divorced her husband after that. Moved up north. Remarried. I haven’t seen her since then.”
     “What about Mr. Lavalle?” I asked. “Where did he go?”
     She shook her head. “I don’t know. And I don’t go looking for him. You would be wise to do the same.” Her heart beat with an agitated rhythm. She wasn’t telling me something.
     “What else do you know about him?”
     “I know that he isn’t like you and me. He doesn’t feel feelings like most people. There’s a reason his son is cursed. That boy has the same blood as his father. Leave him. Leave him now before it’s too late.”
     I swallowed. Sweat ran down my temples, stinging my eyes. “I can’t.”
      Her eyes bore holes through mine. “Then you’ll die like the rest.”
I suppressed a shiver. “You still haven’t told me where to find Mr. Lavalle.”
     “What makes you think I would know?”
     “Call it intuition.”
     She eyed me. “Might try the old plantation. He kept his lab somewhere on the property. Course this was years ago.”
I shook my head. We’d already tried the plantation. Going back wasn’t an option. Our last hope was those journals, if there was anything to be salvaged. “I need more information. Anything you can tell me would be helpful. Please.” I hope she heard the desperation in my voice.
      “As a matter of fact, I do know something. I know he’s looking for you. Right now. I know his assassin is following you. He’s closer than you realize.” Her smile sent shivers down my spine. The lamplight made her eyes gleam as she leaned forward. “He’ll find you before you find him.”

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