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It’s the Fall 2017 #YASH Young Adult Scavenger Hunt GO TEAM PINK!

Welcome to the YA Scavenger Hunt!

 Hello there happy hunters! I am Jennifer M. Eaton, the Author of the FIRE IN THE WOODS Series. Welcome to my humble home. Well, sort of, anyway.
While you are here, be sure to pick up your free book and check out the great content from the lovely Faye Bird. Happy Hunting!

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 120 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PINK TEAM–but there is also a red team, a gold team, a blue team, an orange team, and an indie team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the PINK TEAM, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
 
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 8, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
Today, I am hosting Faye Bird for the YA Scavenger Hunt!
Faye Bird worked as a literary agent representing film and television screenwriters before becoming a writer herself. She is the author of My Second Life and What I Couldn’t Tell You. She lives in London with her husband, two children and one very fluffy cat
 
Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here! Goodreads

About My Second Life:

25377165Fifteen-year-old Ana has a good life–she has friends and a boy she likes and a kind mother–but still, she’s haunted by her past; she knows that she lived once before as a girl named Emma, and she still misses her old family. When, by chance in her life now, Ana meets a woman she knew in her previous life, a terrifying memory flashes through her mind of a young girl drowning. Was Emma responsible? And should Ana pay the price? Consumed by guilt, Ana sets out to find out as much as possible about the person she was before and what she had done, only to discover that the family she misses so deeply had dark secrets of its own. To come to terms with her life now, Ana must figure out how to let go of the past.
 
And here’s some inspirational photos about the book.

The Old Oak Tree

I sat down on the tree roots of the old Oak.

I knew I’d tripped over these roots before…

I recognized the raised and battered roots at my feet

 

The Sky

I let myself stare into the blue.

The sky was clear and crisp. It was beautiful.

 

The Water

Catherine’s body is in the water…

cradled by a mass of twigs and branches in the water…

 

Insomnia

Sleeplessness is part of my life now

 


I don’t know about you, but I’m scratching my head, intrigued.
Thanks for the though-provoking photos, Faye!

Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books from me, Jennifer M. Eaton, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 17. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the Pink Team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

 
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! Click here to shoot over to the fabulous Romina Russell!
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Ready to Win 100 Paperback Books? It’s the #YASH 2017! Let’s go!

Hey there!

My name is Jennifer M. Eaton and today I am hosting the YA Scavenger Hunt, where you can win a set of TWENTY paperback books!

There are five teams playing, which means you can enter to win all 100 paperback books that are up for grabs!


This year I have a special BONUS giveaway of my own!

Enter to win your choice of book from BookDepository.com (Value $10 or less)


Enter Rafflecopter HERE


YA Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for five days!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are FIVE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the Pink TEAM–but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a purple team, and a green team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the pink team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
 
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 9, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

SCAVENGER HUNT Bonus Material
I’m Not Her 

9468234“For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel envy…” Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that’s okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. Yet the smiles of her picture-perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn’t hold it together, who will?


Bonus material! This happens after “I’m Not Her”…

Almost three years after I’M NOT HER is over, Tess is graduating from high school and there are a few familiar faces joining her….

GRADUATION DAY

Teenagers in navy blue graduation gowns are swarming the main floor of the convention center.

“I just wish Tess could have worn something a little more appropriate underneath the gown,” Mom whispers to Dad as we make our way through the crowded room, but of course it’s loud enough that I hear it. I think half my graduating class and their families hear her.

I glance down at my grad gown. Against my better judgement and motivated only by the desire to make my mom happy, I’ve given in to social protocol. Underneath the gown, I’m wearing what has to be considered an extremely appropriate dress by every mother in this building. I’ve also allowed her to drag me off to her hairdresser and my ginger locks are shiny and wavy, the way mom likes them. I’m even wearing make-up. With a sigh, I lift a foot and admire my shoes. This is what she objects to, but this is where I quite literally put my foot down. I have a suitable dress and fluffy hair but I’m wearing my purple Converse sneakers. In my opinion, they’re the most appropriate part of my outfit.

“You look amazing.” Kristina links her arm through mine and narrows her eyes in the direction of our shared nemesis. “She looks perfect,” she calls to mom and she overemphasizes the word perfect as she squeezes my arm tight. Kristina smells delicious of course, she always does. We stop walking then, halted by the growing crowd. Kristina lets me go. “The shoes are perfect, too,” she says quietly. Her eyes twinkle because we’ve grown pretty fond of abusing that word over the last couple years.

Kristina is even more startling beautiful these days. Her blond hair glistens and she sparkles in a loose short dress, even though we both know Mom suggested she wear a nice pair of slacks. The dress kicks ass though and also shows off her new prosthetic leg.

“You girls,” Mom says from where she’s also stopped, just ahead of us. She blinks quickly and wipes away tears, dabbing under her eyes to make sure her make up isn’t ruined. “Giggling together like you did when you were toddlers. You both make me so proud.” She means it too. That’s part of her paradoxical charm.

I feel a big hand sweep in and take hold of mine, engulfing, and swallowing it up. My heart beats happily as I turn and look up. “Superman!” I say. “Wow. You look amazing.” And he does. The blue grad gown makes his floppy dark hair look dapper and kind of polished. I swoon a little, even though he’s been my boyfriend for over two years now.

“Lois Lane,” Clark answers with a nod of his head, his eyes dancing behind his dark rimmed glasses. “You look pretty amazing yourself. Especially the sneaks.” He squeezes my hand and bends down and kisses me on the cheek. “But everything else too,” he whispers before he straightens.

“I tried, Clark,” my mom tells him. “I tried to get her to wear heels like a normal girl, but she wouldn’t give in.”

“Nor would I expect her to,” Clark tells my mom and gives my hand another soft squeeze.

Mom rolls her eyes but steps forward to pat him on the arm. She’s grown fond of Clark over the last couple of years. At first when we were just friends, she didn’t really get him, but he’s grown on her. I think even more so since he filled out and got hot. She tries not to care about things like that, but she is who she is, and she does.

“Oh, my God, Clark,” Kristina tell him. “You look amazing. You guys are so freaking cute together. Put your arm around her and stand closer for a picture.”

Kristina’s iPhone is out and she’s snapping pictures of us while Mom finds a friend to gab with and Dad wanders off in search of something to drink from the bar.

“Jeremy would have loved this,” Kristina says when she’s done snapping photo’s. Her eyebrows push together and the old sadness that she used to wear like a sweater around her shoulders appears on her face.

“He would,” Clark agrees and then he lets go of my hand and puts both hands around my sister and hugs the shit out of her.

“Hey!” A deep voice calls, powering over the buzz of voices around us. “You making moves on my girl?”

The three of us turn towards Adam, Kristina’s boyfriend who’s hurrying towards us and Clark lets go quickly.

“You know I can arrest you for any number of reasons in my profession,” Adam jokes. He’s a cop, but he’s sweet and gets extra points for being madly in love with my sister. Kristina met at a cancer fundraising event a couple years before. He chased her for months before she agreed to go out with him.

Clark’s cheeks turn a little pink. Adam’s part of our lives now, but Clark is still adorably awkward around him sometimes. Adam’s only about five years older than us, but he just seems way more grownup.

Kristina smacks Adam on the shoulder when he reaches for a hug, and he laughs. “I’m just bugging you, Clark, don’t look so worried,” he tells him and turns to me. “Tess. You look great!” He smiles widely. “Congrats on your big day, guys!”

“High school graduation,” I tell him. “So, it’s not exactly the biggest accomplishment in the world.” “Graduating near the top of your class with honors and however many academic and art scholarships you have, is though,” Kristina says. “I barely even passed my Senior year.”

“You were going through other stuff,” I remind her. “And now you’re halfway through your Journalism degree and on your way to other adventures, so I think you’re doing just fine…..” I roll my eyes to show that she is, as usual, setting the bar pretty high.

Adam puts his arm around her. “Beauty and brains run in the Smith family. As well as good taste in men.”

Kristina smiles at him. “Whatever, Charmer. This is Tess’s day.” She smiles at Clark. “And yours too.”

She waves her hand in front of her face then and blinks fast. “God. I can’t believe you’re moving to San Francisco soon, Tess. Art College.” She blinks away tears. “I’m going to miss you so much.”

I reach for Clark’s hand and squeeze it.

There’s an announcement over the speakers for all grads to report to the Source Room. “It’s time,” I say to Clark. I glance at Kristina, to make sure she’s okay but she’s smiling again and I know the bubbling over emotions are probably due to her pregnancy, too.

Adam reaches down and pats her bump. Kristina is young, and the baby unexpected, but it’s a miracle baby and everyone is thrilled. After her chemo and surgery, the doctor’s thought she couldn’t get pregnant and yet, here she is only a few weeks away from giving birth.

“I’m proud of you, Tess,” she says. She reaches out and hugs me. “You’re going to have an amazing time in San Francisco. But you better not leave until this baby is out of me. You’re going to be the best Auntie ever.”

I hug her back hard. I haven’t told her yet. That I’m not going to Art school after all. Everyone I love is right here in Tadita. In Washington State. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what’s important to me. And what I want to do with my life. And I plan to tell everyone, soon starting with Clark.

But not tonight.


About Janet Gurtler

A Rita Award Finalist and Crystal Kite Award Finalist, Janet Gurtler’s young adult books have been chosen for the JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION and as BEST BOOKS FOR TEENS from the Canadian Children’s Book Center. Janet lives in Okotoks Alberta, Canada with her husband, son, and a chubby black Chihuahua named Bruce.

 


And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books from the participating authors! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 17. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the Pink team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!


 

And Don’t forget

This year I have a special BONUS giveaway of my own!

Enter to win your choice of book from BookDepository.com ($10 value or less) CLICK HERE! Woohoo!

Are you all entered to win your choice of novel from BookDepository.com ($10 or less)?
Awesome! Carry on to the next author in the YA Scavenger hunt!


 
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! [Gretchen McNeil]

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Ashes and Fire2You can find Fire in the Woods and Ashes in the Sky at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound | Google Play


Catch up with me on social media!

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What’s you’re sign? I hope it’s not Cancer. A Review of Zodiac by Romina Russell

Zodiac by Romina Russell (Audiobook) This is a space opera with a complicated, interesting world (or WORLDS to be more accurate) People are living inside different constellations, called the Zodiac. There is a planet Virgo, planet Gemini… you get the picture. They all live in peace, until a horrible accident explodes one of planet Cancer’s moons, propelling it into the two other moons. Parts of the moons tumble into the atmosphere, wreaking planet-wide havoc. In the aftermath, we find out it was not an accident, and the person responsible plans on destroying one world at a time, unless a 16-year-old-girl (made leader because everyone else qualified died) can convince all the other planets that the cosmic fairytale Boogey-Man exists.

I found this book wildly entertaining. It is the first in the series, and you do not get complete closure at the end, but you do get a feeling that you finished a book.

This is an awesome high-paced thrill ride that will keep you guessing with a few gasps and surprises along the way. I would give this book 4 stars, subtracting one star because the beginning seemed to drone on before anything interesting happened. I almost considered moving on to something else, and all of the sudden chaos ensued. I’d definitely recommend, just be aware that when you start reading, it will get much more exciting and engaging.

Add this one to your TBR!


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Ashes and Fire2You can find Fire in the Woods and Ashes in the Sky at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound | Google Play


Catch up with me on social media!

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Don’t Fear the Reaper. Well, maybe you should @eholloway300 @chapterxchapter

Is there such thing as a “Reaper” genre out there?

Call-Me-Grim-CoverI’m wondering, because last year I read MY SISTER’S REAPER by Dorothy Dreyer, and I also read CALL ME GRIM by Elizabeth Holloway. Both of these books were YA, and they each featured the Grim Reaper, but both in a very different way.

This year I got my greedy little hands on the sequel to CALL ME GRIM. Now, I have to admit, that this is the book that I was reading when I had that impromptu shove from a ghost while staying at Weisel Hostile in Nockamixon State Park.

DeathBecomesMeCoverDEATH BECOMES ME has the creepiest scene in it with a Reaper wearing a little girl’s body chasing people around. CREEPY!

Anyway… Both CALL ME  GRIM and DEATH BECOMES ME have a really unique twist on the whole idea of the Reaper, in that there are more than one, with the Big Bad Main Grim Reaper in charge of them all.

DEATH BECOMES ME picks up where CALL ME GRIM leaves off, and really digs deeper into the lore, and leaves you with a lot of questions, and a really odd feeling… I mean, did she really just send a soul off to … [[*/<>?:+**]]

Call-Me-Grim-CoverGAH! I can’t tell you because it will be a HUGE spoiler, but Wow! Does Elizabeth Holloway have a great (and maybe disturbingly twisted) imagination.

In a way, I felt like this book sewed a lot up for the characters. In some ways, it felt like “The End”, but there is another book coming out that I belive is the last in the series.

DeathBecomesMeCoverThere is still a huge question hanging out there that I, for one, want the answer to.

But maybe I don’t. I have a really bad feeling that a third book might leave me terribly disturbed.

This is a romance, by the way… but it is a romance twisted around the really well thought out, kinds creepy plot with grim reapers and people dying and stuff like that.  Wonderfully imaginative.

Just don’t read in it a 200 year old house in the middle of the woods. I won’t be making that mistake again.

Chapter by Chapter was nice enough to send me a copy of this book to review. So it is all their fault that I am seeing ghosts.

Click here to pick up a copy of CALL ME GRIM or DEATH BECOMES ME

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Flames longFlames longFlames longFire in the Woods Cover

You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |

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Alien Lineup

Catch up with me on social media!

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Book Review: The Artisans by Julie Reece

I’ve been looking forward to this book release for a long time. Julie Reece is the author of CRUX, which is one of my favorite paranormal/mythical novels.

Now she’s out with a brand new YA novel. Woohoo!

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The Artisans is a “Southern Gothic”. I had no idea what that meant, so I was surprised when it started to get a little scary. (At one point, I even had to shut my eyes, which made me remember that I was reading a book, which is a little hard to do with your eyes shut.) It is a creepy read at times, but only one spot got “gory” (Which was probably mild by horror standards, but it made me cringe a little.)

This is a loose Beauty and the Beast retelling, with a touch of the cobbler fairy tale thrown in for good measure.

A teenage girl is blackmailed into designing clothes in this “mean but cute” rich dude’s mansion in order to save her father. But there’s a catch – the mansion is haunted. And Mr. Hotness might have a few family secrets.

Ooooooo, yes,

They are the scary kind.

I enjoyed this book a lot, especially the last 30% or so when things started to heat up between the main characters, and the ghosties started to get a little… ummm, “impatient”. The last ten percent or so flew by. This is great for romance fans who don’t mind a little “boo” mixed in with their love story.

What is interesting though, is that this book is a duology, which means there is another book coming out. I am very interested to see where the author takes us in the next book, because The Artisans definitely had the feel of a stand alone. There is really nothing “left hanging”. So, if you are the type that likes a stand alone, don’t worry about picking up The Artisans. It definitely ends, and ends satisfactorily.

I would recommend this book for a nice quiet weekend read, or a fun book to hide under the covers with.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | kobo | TBD | Goodreads

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Rafflecopter!

Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of The Artisans by Julie Reece (INT)

Click here to enter the rafflecopter!

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About Julie Reece

Born in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.

I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.

Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.

Then I thought I’d write one down…

Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!

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Lesson Twenty-Seven from a Manuscript Red Line: Fluidity in Action – How to write a good action scene

Disclaimer – I have a “rewritten” fight scene below.  It is FAR from well written. There are a few show verses tell issues in it that I hadn’t noticed a few years ago when this originally posted. But I think it still gets its point across. (And I don’t have time to re-write it since this post is already late. Ha!)

An example of a poorly written action scene:

Jason punched Eric in the face.  Eric fell to the floor.  Eric groaned and rolled over.   Jason wiped his chin and laughed.  Eric popped up, and Eric swung at Jason, but missed.  Jason ducked and swung at the same time.  Eric crumpled to the floor.

(Yes, I totally made this paragraph up.)

The publisher’s comment on a similar (but not as poorly written) sceneThis is a very stilted fight scene. It reads action, next action, next action, next action without the fluidity that’s needed for a fight scene.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

I have to admit, when I read the action passages in the Gold Mine Manuscript, I had the same comment.  The author was satisfied with the speed of the scenes though, and only made moderate changes.  Not being an expert, I backed off and figured it was just a “style choice”.  Guess not.

This fits in very well with my recent post on “Art of the Conflict”.  This scene is not about dialog, but this is definitely a conflict.  This one needs something inserted to break up the action, rather than action inserted to break up the dialog.

Now, I am not going to put a lot of time into this, since the scene is totally fake.  But let me add a little “art” to make it “flow”.  Fluidity is what they asked for.  Okay, here it goes…

Jason grunted as his fist swung toward Eric’s face.  Eric tried to dodge, but instead felt the sting of the older boy’s ring cutting into his jaw.  He fell to the floor with a muffled thump, and groaned as he rolled over.

Jason wiped his chin and laughed.  “I told you to stay down.”

Eric pushed up onto his knees.  “Why, so you can just pummel me?”  He popped up and swung at Jason, but missed.

Jason ducked and swung at the same time.  There was no time for Eric to react.  His head creaked back, and his jaw rattled as he crumpled to the floor.

Better, huh?  Not perfect by a long shot, but not bad for three minute flash fiction.  Can you feel the difference?  The staccato choppy “This happened-That happened” feel is gone, and the scene “flows”.

Of course, this is a first draft.  In editing, I would have to remove the “ing” word and the telly “felt”.  I would also insert a little emotion when Eric realized he missed, but this is definitely better by far than the first.  The art draws you into the scene.  You experience it, rather than just watching it.

The art of the conflict… If you don’t have it, go get it.

If you want to see a great published example, pick up a copy of  THRONE by Phillip Tucker and open up anywhere in the last hundred pages or so.

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15 second trailers. Don’t laugh. They are worse than a query.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram. It’s been great talking books with readers.  Tons of fun.

But of course, I’m also there to mention my book once in a while. Mostly this is with pictures of my book, or with snappy memes.

But I’ve also started enjoying 15 second or less mini-trailers.

Hey, you thought querying was bad!

This has been a huge challenge, and I have to admit… a little bit of fun.

Think it over… how can you entice a reader to check out your book in 15 seconds or less. It’s flash fiction, with videos!

For the next few weeks I’ll be showing these videos here on Fridays. I hope you enjoy them!

Here’s number one. This was really an experiment to see how it was received. I took for granted most people have at least heard of my book (Because they followed me)

FIRE IN THE WOODS 15 second teaser trailer. What do you think? Do you like stuff like this, or are still pictures better?

A post shared by Jennifer M. Eaton (@jennifermeaton) on

What do you think?

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Read Chapter Five of @JenniferMEaton ‘s FIRE IN THE WOODS for free! Question and answer session after. @Month9Books

Last one!

Welcome to day five of five chapters of FIRE IN THE WOODS.

In case you’re coming in late, here’s the link to page one, and each page will link to the next chapter.

Enjoy the last preview chapter!

Fire in the Woods Cover

Chapter 5

Beneath the overhang, I fussed with my keys and pushed the door open. With some finagling I dragged his trembling form inside and into the family room, where he collapsed on the couch.

“Stay here.” Like he was getting up anytime soon. “I’ll get some blankets.”

I sprinted up the stairs, leaving muddy footprints on the carpet. Yeah, that wasn’t going to get me in trouble or anything. I threw open the linen closet.

“Okay Dad, it’s like this,” I whispered to myself. “I know I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, but he was really cute so I figured it was okay … then he got sick. I couldn’t just leave him out there.”

Yeah, that’ll work. You are in deep dog-poop, Jess.

I threw two towels over my shoulders and grabbed a stack of spare blankets before padding down the stairs. Drying David’s clothing proved fruitless, but at least his hair wasn’t dripping anymore. Dad had left his gray sweatshirt hanging on the back of a chair. I peeled David’s wet tee-shirt from his back, trying to be careful of his injured shoulder, and pulled the warm fleece over his head.

Still stricken with the chill, David rolled himself into a ball. I unfolded the blankets with a flourish and swaddled him in pink and yellow fuzz.

“Okay. If that doesn’t warm you up, nothing will.”

I admired my domestic-ness until the covers began to quake again. He had to have a fever. I cranked the thermostat up from seventy degrees to seventy-five.

“David, I’m going to get a thermometer.”

Chattering teeth answered me.

Just call an ambulance, Jess.

No. No ambulance. He’d been clear on that. No hospitals. Until I found out what was going on, I needed to keep that promise.

I walked right by the telephone to the bathroom and grabbed the thermometer from underneath the toothpaste in the medicine cabinet.

Closing the door, I cringed at my reflection. Yesterday’s eyeliner oozed down to my cheek. My bangs hung wet, lifeless, and clinging to my forehead. Lovely. I ran a fingertip under each eye, alleviating most of the raccoon syndrome. Who was I kidding? I’d never win a beauty pageant anyway.

I uncapped the thermometer as I returned to David. He groaned. His chill rattled the coils in the couch.

“David, I’m going to stick a thermometer under your tongue.” I had no idea if he could hear me over his shivering.

After pressing the button to clear the digital readout, I pried his mouth open to slide the prong between his lips. His hand clutched the edge of the blanket. His fist shook against his chest.

“Come on David. Snap out of it.”

His eyes squeezed shut. His mouth formed a pained, straight line.

“It’ll be okay.” A puff of air blew out of my lips. Saying the words didn’t help me to believe them. What if I was wrong? What if he really needed a doctor? What if he died?

I touched the chain on my neck, twirling the links around my fingers. The phone sat on the end table. One call to 911 would bring an ambulance, which was what he really needed. I reached for the phone and sighed. He seemed petrified of the hospital. But was it right to let him die just because he was afraid?

The clock on the wall ticked, filling the room with its cadence. David’s teeth rattled against the plastic tube in his mouth. What was taking that thermometer so darn long to beep?

I grasped my pendant, willing myself to do the right thing—if I could just figure out what the right thing was.

My mother’s words seeped into my mind. “I had this necklace blessed. You’ll never have to worry about anything while you wear it.” Her image soothed me like a hug. I closed my eyes and fed on her strength.

“All right, Mom,” I whispered, “here goes nothing.”

Another tremor rocked David’s body as I unhooked the chain and refastened the clasp behind his neck. I touched my fingers to the golden oval.

“Please God,” I whispered. “Please help him.” The shiver subsided, but his breathing seemed labored.

Darnit. What was I supposed to do?

I frantically searched the room for something to help. Pillows, magazines, remote controls, everything a good Jersey home should have other than something to stop a person from freezing to death.

Three logs lay unburned beside the fireplace, leftover from the spring thaw. Perfect. I placed one of the logs on the steel grate and shoved some newspaper beneath it. Luckily, the dry wood caught quickly. I checked David’s blankets and glanced at the thermometer’s digital readout. 112. 113. 114. “What the …”

David convulsed and bit down, snapping the thermometer in two.

“Holy crap!” I picked up the half that fell on the blanket and tossed it on the table. My finger shot between his lips, and I pried his mouth open, praying he didn’t bite me by accident. I dug the rest of the thermometer from under his tongue and threw it over my shoulder.

His head fell to the side, his body as limp as a rag doll. I did my best to hoist him to a sitting position as his eyes rolled back, exposing ghostly white orbs.

“Omigosh, this is not happening. David! David!” No answer. I slapped his face.

His eyes sprang open, centered on me, and froze. His lips clamped together. His body shook as if it were preparing to explode. His muscles hardened like bricks beneath my fingertips. The skin around his eyes crinkled. The set of his eyes screamed for help.

“Come on, David. Snap out of it. Come on!”

His eyes remained fixed on me until the convulsion subsided. A blink told me he was still in there. I eased him back until he rested on the couch without my support. His gaze locked with mine. Color returned to his face.

I reached out and touched his arm. My fingers trembled. “Please tell me it’s over.”

David closed his eyes and rubbed his chest, taking in several long, full breaths. He blinked and squinted as if the light hurt his eyes, before scanning the room.

His movement seemed hesitant and sleepy, as if he’d just woken up. The licking flames in the fireplace caught his attention. His lips turned up in a grin.

“Warm. Thanks,” he whispered.

I ran the back of my hand across my forehead, dabbing away the sweat. “Thanks, nothing. You have, like, a hundred and fifteen-degree fever. We need to get you to a hospital.”

His eyes darkened. “No. I told you—”

“David, this is serious.”

He reached out and touched his fingers to my chest, just below the collarbone. “I am serious.” His irises seemed to brighten beneath his dark lashes.

A soothing sensation rolled over me, relaxing my muscles one at a time. My apprehension slipped away, while something deep in the recesses of my mind begged me to run. I blinked and allowed the calm to overcome. “All right, but I’m not a doctor, you know. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“I don’t need a doctor.”

Yeah, so he’d told me. I kneaded my hands together, doing my best to remember what they taught in my first aid class. “So, okay, fever. A tub of ice, right? Ice water will break a fever?”

He raised his palms and leaned away. “No! No more ice. Please …”

“But David you’re really sick.”

“No, I’m not.” He rubbed his temples. “I, I … have a disorder.”

“A what?” The fire crackled behind me as the room continued to heat.

“It’s … thermo-nucleic disorder. Have you heard of it?”

“No.” I crossed my arms.

He straightened. The pink blanket fell to his waist. “I have an extremely high body temperature. I don’t do too well in the cold.”

“You’re trying to tell me you’re always that hot?”

He placed his hands on his lap. “Pretty much. I’m feeling better, though. Thanks for the fire.”

I kept my arms folded. Seriously? He must have thought I was a …

His smile warmed me more than the fire, and I relaxed.

A disorder, of course. It made total sense—unless he was pulling my leg.

His smile faded as he tugged the chain of my mother’s pendant out of the sweatshirt. He fingered the golden oval. “What’s this?”

I scooted aside the blankets and sat beside him. “It was my Mom’s. She gave it to me when I was twelve. She told me that whenever I wear it, I could hold it tightly and know that she was with me … that everything would be all right.”

David ran his thumb over the etching and turned the charm over. The starburst cross on the front glistened in the firelight. “That’s beautiful. Why did you give it to me?”

I shrugged. “At the moment you kind of needed it more than I did.”

“The fire warmed me, not the necklace.” He reached for the clasp behind his neck.

“No. Keep it for now … until I’m sure you’re okay.”

The fire cast a light glow on the right side of his face. “If you can help me stay warm, I’ll be giving this back to you pretty quickly.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Wow, I can’t believe this. You really can’t take the cold? At all? What do you do in the winter?”

He laughed. “I try to dress more warmly.”

I fiddled with my thumbs, recapping and sorting through everything that’d happened. Despite being completely relaxed, I knew something was very wrong. I fought back the feeling of ease as it tried to overtake me again. Why was I being so complacent when something was obviously up? What was wrong with me? Focus. I needed to focus.

“David, why are they looking for you?”

“You mean my father?”

I stood. “No. I mean the Army. Is it because you have some kind of funky disease? Am I in any danger? Did you break the law? What—”

“I’m going to have to take notes if you keep asking questions without letting me answer.”

I folded my arms. “Then start answering.”

He pursed his lips. “I’m not contagious, and I would never hurt you.”

“So you do have some sort of freaky disease. Is that why they’re looking for you?”

He chewed his upper lip, his face pensive. “I promise I’ll tell you everything, but right now I don’t think it would do either of us any good. Can you please just trust me for now?”

“I don’t know you. I’m not even sure why I brought you here.”

David stood and curled his fingers around my hands. “Trust me. We’re alone. If I wanted to hurt you, I’d have done it already.”

“But David …”

He stepped away from me and grabbed his temple.

“Please don’t tell me you’re getting another chill.”

“No.” He sat on the couch, jostling the pink blanket. “Just dizzy.”

He closed his eyes and stretched his neck as I sat beside him. “David, I don’t know what to do.”

“I think I’m just tired.” He cuddled into the corner of the couch.

Shifting the blankets out from under me, I stood and threw one over him. David blinked and smiled, sending a rush of tickling energy through me, heating my cheeks. What was it about that smile? Why did I turn into a heaping sack of melted jelly when he barely even looked at me?

My hands shook. Distraction. I needed a distraction.

“Tell you what. You get some rest. I’ll see if I can scurry up something to eat for dinner.” Yep. Food. That would work. Nothing helps a girl keep her calm and focus like a good old-fashioned dose of carbs and calories. I walked toward the kitchen. “I can always make peanut butter and jelly again if I need to.”

David drew the blanket up under his chin. “I’d rather have more PB&J if you have it. That was great.”

I turned, leaning on the doorframe. “That’s what I said.”

His lashes flickered closed, and his face softened. A placid rhythm developed in his breathing.

Maybe he was more tired than I thought. I walked back and sat beside him on the couch. Trailing my fingers across his forehead, I brushed back his long, dark bangs.

Who was he? Why was he here, and what the heck was going on? I rubbed my chin. He asked me to be patient, but all these questions were killing me. Was I sitting on the story of my life, or was I setting myself up for disappointment, and perpetual, eternal grounding?

The firelight cast a stunning shadow behind him. Eerie, ethereal. I pulled out my camera and rattled off shots from several angles, but the photos in the preview screen did little to convey what my eyes saw in real life. Maybe they’d look better when I downloaded them later.

Making my way into the kitchen, I opened the cabinet and reached for the peanut butter and a loaf of bread. I slathered as much jelly as I could without it sloshing out the sides of the sandwich. Admiring my finished masterpieces, I licked the jelly that still clung to the knife. Waste not, want not, Mom always said.

I smashed a quarter wedge into my mouth and placed the rest on a napkin, leaving it on the coffee table beside David. His lips rose in a half-smile as he slept.

Boiling hot skin met my fingertips as I touched my hand to his forehead. I winced, fright overtaking me for a moment, before I settled myself.

Duh. Of course he was going to feel warm. Temperature disorder, remember?

The sun broke through the clouds outside. Cheerful sparkles glimmered on the water droplets still clinging to the window screens. At least the rain was over.

I eased into the armchair and watched David sleep. So many questions muddled inside my mind. What was he running from? What’s really wrong with him?

Although the storm outside had abated, the storm inside still slumbered on my couch. I should have been terrified of him, but I wasn’t … and it drove me crazy.

And what about Dad? He could burst through the door at any moment. What would I say? How would I deal with the unavoidable life-long punishment? I covered my face. Crap. I was in way over my head.

The rhythm of David’s breathing transfixed me, lulling me to sleepiness. I blinked twice, and grabbed my phone. I Googled ‘rare temperature diseases’ and scrolled through listings of pointless topics. Raynaud’s syndrome. Nope didn’t make your temperature high. Lyme’s disease … nah, didn’t seem likely. Cold urticaria … allergic to cold temperatures, causes hives in the cold. I glanced in his direction. No, there was never a mark on him, and they didn’t say anything about constant high temperatures.

I clicked off my phone and rubbed my eyes. The sun had gone down, and the last embers in the fire had died out. I spied a carton of synthetic logs under the kindling newspapers. I added one to the grate to keep the fire burning.

David rolled over in his sleep, his bangs falling toward his right eye. I brushed them aside and sat on the floor staring at him. Was he telling the truth? Could he really have some sort of freaky temperature problem?

The clock on the wall clicked to nine-thirty. I tousled my hair and found it damp from the heat. Sweat beaded on my chest and dripped down into my bra. Gross.

David’s cheek was warm, but not sweaty. His breathing remained deep and regular.

He may have felt fine, but I felt like I was going to yack. I headed up the stairs to my bedroom and hoisted the window open, letting in the cooler outside air. A light breeze blew the curtains beside my shoulders, refreshing me from the heat in the house. I rested against the sill and turned my face to the sky. A thousand lights in the heavens glinted and sparkled, settling my uneasiness. I breathed deeply, enjoying the sweet scents of Mrs. Miller’s garden until a star overhead winked out. Then another.

I grasped the windowsill and pushed against the screen—holding my breath as the stars wiped away before my eyes. A deep, dark blanket stretched out over the house, consuming the sky quickly and more completely than any cloud cover.

I reached for my necklace. Startled by its absence, I froze until I remembered it lay safely around David’s neck. My gaze drew back to the sky. A black mass hovered over the houses, continuing to blank out the stars. One by one the little pinpricks of light returned as the form passed overhead and moved toward the airstrips.

No lights. No landing gear. Just black—And really, really slow. A blimp? In the middle of the night? And no noise at all?

I shivered and backed away from the window. Keeping an eye on the mass, I fumbled for my phone and dialed Maggie. I recounted my entire day, right up to the apparition that’d just flown over my house.

“Did you see it?” I asked.

“So they flew a plane over your house. It’s not the first time.”

“Have you been listening to a thing I’ve said?”

“Come on, girl. I don’t care about the plane,” Maggie said. “I want to hear about the hottie. He’s actually there in your house? Right now? And your Dad’s not home?” Her giggle always sounded maniacal. “Are you going to do it?”

“No! Maggie, come on.”

“But seriously. What are you going to tell your Dad?”

I shook my head. “I was thinking of the truth. I can’t send David back into the cold, and I can’t really hide him either. Right now he’s passed out on the sofa.”

“Holy cow. The major’s going to have a brain aneurysm.”

“Believe me, I know.” I tucked back the curtain and peeked up at the stars. Everything seemed perfectly normal—now. “Maggs, that plane, or whatever—it was weird. I mean, really weird. I couldn’t even hear it, but it must have been huge.”

“Hon, maybe you were dreaming.”

“I wasn’t.”

She held a long pause on the line. “Are you going to deal with the real problem, here? What do you think is wrong with Prince Charming?”

I checked the window again and slumped onto the bed. “I have no stinking clue. He says he has this funny disorder.”

“Okay, so what is it?”

I rolled onto my back. “He said it was something like thermo-dynamic disorder. Or maybe it was thermo-nuclear disorder. I don’t know … something that makes him really hot and he freezes when it gets cold out. I tried to Google it but I couldn’t find anything.”

“You already knew he was really hot.”

I ignored her. “It was so bizarre. I couldn’t get him warmed up, no matter what I tried.”

“You know, if it happens again, you can always smother his body with yours.”

“What?”

“Seriously. I see it in the movies all the time, and they told us that in first aid class too, remember? Sharing body heat and all.” She snickered. “And I hear friction …”

“Maggie!” I sat up and tossed my pillow back to the head of my bed. Not that the idea of snuggling up with David was all that gross, but I didn’t need her to know that.

“Okay, okay, but I’m going to research it to make sure he doesn’t have the plague or something.”

“Whatever. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

I smushed my forehead against the window screen again and counted stars. Not that I knew how many were supposed to be up there, but tallying them made me feel better. Scattered light clouds left from the earlier storm dotted the sky, but otherwise the stars shone as brightly as any other night. I closed the window, pulled the blind down, and leaned against the edge of my dresser. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to sleep.

I grabbed my comforter and pillow and padded down the stairs. Throwing the bedding on the chair beside David, I placed my fingers on his forehead. Still hot. Duh – Temperature disorder, Jess.

First things first: I needed to make sure Dad didn’t have a conniption when he walked through the front door so he didn’t shoot David or something. I grabbed the note pad from the counter and scribbled: Don’t be mad. I’ll explain in the morning on the yellow-lined sheet. I taped the note on the couch behind David.

Lame, but it was all I could come up with. Tomorrow was not going to be fun.

 I eased back into the chair beside David and yanked the lever to raise my feet. Using the blanket to prop up my side, I cuddled into my soft down pillow and watched David sleep. So many questions … but tomorrow I’d get some answers.

Hopefully David would comply. If not, Dad might beat the answers out of him.
[End of chapter five preview]

Gads! He’s in her house!  And Major Dad is coming home!

This is the last preview chapter of FIRE IN THE WOODS. I really hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear any questions/comments about the chapter, or the preview overall. 

Do you think Jess did the right thing? Do you think she had a choice? Do you think she’s safe? And what about David? Is there any warm and fizzy there, or are you screaming for her to run for her life? I’d really love to know your thoughts.

If you’d like to continue, here are the links to pick up your own copy of FIRE IN THE WOODS. Enjoy!

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Read Chapter Four of @JenniferMEaton ‘s FIRE IN THE WOODS for free! Question and answer session after. @Month9Books

Woohoo we’re 4 days in!

Welcome to day four of five chapters of FIRE IN THE WOODS. Enjoy!

Fire in the Woods Cover

Chapter 4

I yanked my jeans free of a thorny bush. I swear I had to be crazy. Just that morning something screeched in the woods so loud it almost burst my eardrums. But here I was, wandering around in those same woods, probably lost, bent on finding and helping a boy I didn’t even know. My chest ached with pressure from my short, choppy breaths. Why did the forest seem so much more sinister than it normally did?

Auoi calinart, est.”

The gruff, masculine voice echoed through the trees. The language was odd, musical. Kind of like singing, or maybe Norwegian—or maybe a Norwegian guy singing. I couldn’t decide.

An elderly man wearing a long, dirty winter jacket slapped a tree branch as he sped-walked around a bush. He nearly plowed into me.

“Sorry,” I said, backing off the path.

The man gazed up at me. His nose crinkled as if a foul odor suddenly hit him. He blinked and continued on his way, but his icy cold countenance hung with me for a minute. And his eyes … No one had eyes so blue. Except maybe David.

I shivered. Not sure why, but the old dude creeped me out. His head bobbed as he moved through the bushes. He had to be delirious, wearing that warm coat in the middle of August.

“Pardon me.” A woman with gorgeous long blond curls ran up the same path. Her jacket brushed against me as she passed. When she caught up to the old guy, she grabbed him by the arm. They muttered, heads close, before he shoved her away and continued down the trail. The woman turned her face toward the sky, fisted her hands, and continued on after him.

The dude had to be her father or something. Why else would she take that kind of crap from him? I sniffed out a laugh. I hoped that wouldn’t be me and my Dad in twenty years.

I pushed through the brush and plodded on. The trees were probably laughing at me, because I was pretty sure I’d seen the one with the big black knot in the bark at least three times, now. Stinking, stupid, big, black, knotty tree.

A rustling of leaves deep within the trees startled me. I froze, and stared down another gorgeous, enormous buck. Or was it the same one as that morning?

“Hey, beautiful,” I whispered.

Swirling antlers blended with the landscape. He barely seemed to notice me.

“Good boy.” I clawed for my camera, slipping it out of my pack. “Just stay right there.” I pressed the picture button and zoomed in. Click. Gotcha. But a closer shot would be even better.

I inched forward. Majestic black eyes emitted a sense of serenity, calming me from within their gaze. Crack. The twigs broke beneath my feet. Dernit. The deer’s ears twitched.

“It’s okay buddy. It’s me, remember?”

Two little baby steps brought me closer. I held my breath, trying to keep quiet, but my phone vibrated, the ringtone reverberating through the trees. The buck bolted.

“You’re not going to chase him again,” I told myself. A grin broke across my lips. “Oh, yes you are.”

Jumping over fallen trees and stomping in muddy patches, I followed him deeper into the woods. My phone finally stopped ringing, but the buck was long gone … again. I laughed and leaned over, resting my hands on my knees. I was starting to make a habit out of this.

“Jess?”

I screamed and whirled toward the voice.

David raised his hands. “Sorry. I thought you saw me.”

“Saw you? I was looking at the stinking deer.” I held my hand to my heart, willing it to stay within my chest. “You scared the crap out of me.”

His lips contorted into the cutest pout as he settled onto the ground. “Sorry.”

“Well, wear a bell or something next time. Geeze!”

Okay, heart. You can slow down now.

I caught my breath. “Are you feeling any better?”

“Maybe.” He rotated his shoulder. “Either that or I’m numb.”

Dirt and pine needles scattered in a puff as I dropped my backpack beside him. “Okay, let’s get to it, then.” I grabbed the Ziploc bag.

“What’s that?”

“Ice. What did you think?” The cubes scraped together inside the plastic.

“Umm …” His eyes widened.

“If your shoulder is swollen, and you won’t go to the hospital. You need a cold compress.”

He swallowed hard. “Okay.”

David bent forward. I brushed traces of bark and dirt clinging to his back as I knelt beside him. The muscles in his neck and arms tensed.

“Loosen up. It’s just ice.” I carefully placed the bag on his injury.

David trembled. He steadied himself against a sapling, gripping the slim trunk in a shaky fist. “It burns! Owe, it burns!”

I pulled the bag away from his skin. “How can it burn? It’s cold.” I set the Ziploc on my leg and let the ice chill my skin. “Look. No burn. You can’t be such a big baby. This is supposed to help. Can we try again?”

David nodded, but flinched as I lifted the bag.

“Okay, tell you what …” I picked up his tee-shirt from the ground. “Let’s get this back on you.”

His head popped through the opening, and a gentle tug brought his right hand through the armhole. I elevated his left arm as slowly as I could, but he still stifled a groan as the rest of the shirt slid on.

“This is like torture,” he whispered.

“Sorry.” I gently replaced the bag. “Your shirt should protect a little against the ice but still leave it cold enough to stop the swelling.” I smiled, proud of myself for remembering something from first aid.

David grimaced. “It’s still pretty cold.”

“It’s supposed to be. That’s the point.”

David’s eyes closed. He took in a deep breath through his nose, and his lips parted slightly to release it. I watched the tight, white cotton expand and retract across his back with each breath. Holy shmoley. Okay, Florence Nightingale, get a grip.

David’s body quaked, and he grunted through clenched teeth. He grabbed the sapling, snapping it in two.

“Hey, what’d that tree ever do to you?”

His hands formed into trembling fists. He shook like a rocket trying to take off until he bolted upright. The ice fell to the ground.

“I c-can’t,” he stammered. “It’s just too cold.”

“All right.” I picked up the bag. “But I don’t think it was on there long enough to help you.”

“Then I’ll have to deal with the pain. I’ll get over it.” He grimaced, settling back down on the ground. “Eventually.”

He rubbed his shoulders. His gaze seemed distant.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I can’t seem to get warm.”

“Warm? It’s like eighty degrees. It’s gorgeous out here.”

“I know, but I keep getting a chill.” He scuffed the dirt, making an imprint with the front of his sneaker. A spider shimmied from the divot and crawled up a tree to his right.

The sun funneled through the canopy, flickering splotches of light into his hair. What was it about this boy? I just wanted to sit there and stare at him. Well okay, he was gorgeous, but it was something more than that. I felt compelled, like a gentle tug inside, drawing me to him. I bit back a grin. It’s called hormones, Jess. Let’s just keep it together and don’t make a fool out of yourself.

The wind blew lightly through the treetops, rustling the branches over our heads as I slid down beside my bag. “Are you hungry?”

“Yes, famished.” His eyes lit up, the color actually brightening. It must have been the sun.

“Great. I made a few PB&J’s. I hope that’s okay.”

“I guess.”

I handed him a sandwich. He flipped it over, squinting at the jelly running down the crust. Okay, so, I wasn’t Betty Crocker. Get over it. I removed mine out of the plastic wrap, and David followed suit. He watched me take a bite before tearing into his own.

What did he think, it was poisoned or something?

“This is good.” He swallowed and nodded. “Really good.”

A snicker escaped my lips. “I guess anything would taste good if you hadn’t eaten since yesterday.”

“Mm-huh. Thank you.” He finished the last bite and ran his tongue slowly along his pointer finger, licking off a glob of jelly.

I shifted my weight, watching his tongue glide across his skin.

Wow.

I bit my lip and cleared my throat.

Get. A. Grip. Jess.

Looking away—definitely a good option. “Listen, you can’t stay out here. There is some kind of dangerous fugitive or something on the loose.”

“Or something?”

The spider beside him dangled from a branch before swinging back up, a stream of silk glistening behind it.

“That’s about all I know. I just thought you should know. You know?”

Ugh. How much dumber could I sound? Why did I act so goofy around this guy? Pfft. It had nothing to do with the perfect tan, the washboard abs, those unbelievable arms …

“So, what does this fugitive look like? It’s not a young girl with long brown hair and blue eyes, is it? Because that would kind of suck.”

I laughed. “If I were a fugitive I wouldn’t be making PB&J for some sappy guy in the woods.”

“Well, I guess today’s my lucky day, then.”

He licked another finger. I forced my eyes back up to the spider web. The sunlight caught the square outline of the miniature piece of art before it disappeared, fading in and out like a mirage.

My stomach churned anxiously. “So, do you want to tell me why you’re out here?” Please, please, please don’t tell me you’re a dangerous fugitive.

He looked down. “I told you …”

“I know. You don’t want to be found. I get that, but the Army is out there looking for someone suspicious. If they find you …”

David’s eyes sprang open. He leapt to one knee, just missing the spider web. “Where are they looking?”

“I don’t know. Around, I guess.”

A refreshing breeze blew through the woods, invigorating me, but a shiver rattled David’s shoulders. “It’s getting colder.”

Dark clouds wafted over the treetops, shrouding the forest in a dim gray before the sun broke through once more.

“It might rain, but it’s still, like, eighty degrees.”

He wrapped his arms around himself and sat hunched over. A pang deep within my gut warned something wasn’t right, that I should run, but the sensation quickly ebbed away. As if erased.

I knelt beside him. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m just cold.”

“Maybe you have a fever? You should really see a doctor.”

“No. No way.” He raised his hands in a defensive position.

“All right—if you tell me what’s going on, maybe I can get help, but we’re not really getting anywhere here with me doing all the talking.”

“Okay, let’s talk.” He looked to the right and moved closer to the web. He seemed to focus on each strand the spider spun.

The sunlight sparkled in his dark hair and gleamed within the web. I couldn’t help myself. I grabbed my camera and adjusted the focus so both David and the web popped crisply from the outlining scenery.

Whoa. The preview looked like a magazine ad. The lines in his face, his nearly pore-less skin—just perfect.

David smiled as I raised the lens again. I set off the shutter on high speed repetition, hoping to get some of the sparkle from the spider’s web.

“You like to take pictures, huh?”

“Yeah. It’s an obsession of mine. You don’t mind, do you?”

He shook his head, and I snapped some more. The last one had a beam of sunlight in the background. Damn if I couldn’t sell those as pictures of Jared Linden and gotten away with it.

I closed the lens. “I’m still waiting for your story. I love photography, but I’m not that easily distracted.” Well, not right now, at least.

“I’m not sure where to begin. Do you get along with your dad?”

I leaned back, surprised. “I guess. I mean, most of the time. He’s a little judgmental, though.”

“Mine too. In a big way.”

“Is he the reason why you’re out here?” A fly buzzed my ear. I swatted it away.

David shrugged. “Indirectly. If he’d just listen, just try to understand …”

“I know what you mean. My dad’s got this crazy idea I can’t make good decisions.”

“Yeah, mine too. He said I was worthless, and I’ve never done a selfless thing in my life. What does that mean, anyway?”

“My dad thinks I don’t listen.”

David propped his elbow on his knee and rested his chin on his fist. “Well, you’re listening now.”

I smiled. A little girly tingle jittered through my chest. He was cute, and said the right things. Score another notch in that lottery ticket.

My cheeks burned up in a flush under his sparkling gaze. Those eyes—so darn blue. I broke our stare, clearing my throat. “So, you had a fight with your dad, huh?”

“Something like that. I tried to prove I was worth something.”

“Did it work?”

He took a deep breath and let it out in a puff. “If it did I wouldn’t be here.”

The fly buzzed around David’s head and darted toward his right, snagging itself in the spider web. The more it thrashed, the more the webbing ripped and covered its wings … until the struggle abruptly ended. The web seemed to wink in and out of existence as the spider inched toward its prey.

Despair settled into my gut. The thought of being totally overpowered—and to die like that—it just didn’t seem fair. The clouds drifted, and the web faded once more. So beautiful, but nothing more than an elaborate trap.

David’s gaze moved from the spider back to me. He seemed to search through me, and his brow furrowed. Did I surprise him somehow, or was that confusion in his eyes?

His expression faded into a smile. “Jess, you …”

Another cooling breeze encircled us. David clamped his arms around his shoulders. His hands shook as they rubbed his skin.

The hair on my arms stood on end as the sky darkened ominously overhead. “David, are you all right?”

He wheezed, his body trembling as he bent over into a ball.

“Okay, that’s it,” I said. “I’m getting you out of here.” I lifted him to his feet. He barely struggled, but drew away once we were standing.

“I can’t leave the woods,” he said.

“Oh, yes you can.”

I nestled my camera into my backpack and flung the bag over my shoulder.   David’s body seemed rigid as I pulled him to his feet.

“Jess, please don’t …” His words were lost between chattering teeth.

“Don’t nothing. You need help.”

I yanked on his arm. Luckily for me, he was too busy trembling to fight me. We slunk through the trees, stopping each time David’s chill shook him too hard to walk.

This is insane, Jess. You don’t know anything about this guy. Lord knows what’s wrong with him, and … A moist tap hit my head, then another. I glanced up. The clouds thickened. Another raindrop grazed my nose as a few birds flew for cover.

Great. A rainstorm was all I needed at the moment.

David studied a drip run down his arm, and turned his eyes up to the trees. “What …”

“Come on,” I said, giving him a tug. “The trail is this way.” At least I hoped it was.

Ferns scraped against my jeans as I pushed branches away from my face. I stopped once to untangle David’s shirt from a sticker bush before the woods opened up to the dirt path beside the road. It wasn’t where I’d come in, but it was close enough to get home.

David tensed as we stepped away from the trees. Small circles appeared on the ground, darkening the sand from tan to brown as scattered droplets fell from the sky.

David retreated toward the woods. “I can’t … I can’t.”

“You don’t have much of a choice now, do you?” I led him forward.

His muscles relaxed, but his eyes told me it was in defeat rather than agreement. David hunched his shoulders, ducked his head, and stumbled as I nudged him forward. I slowed my pace, hoping it would help him keep up.

This is crazy, Jess. Just bring him to the … I stopped, alarmed by the movement at the gates to the base housing. Two men in uniform tossed their packs beside the door to the guard house. One fumbled with keys.

In the entire four years we’d lived on that base, I’d never seen guards stationed at the entrance. A wave of adrenalin swept through my body. Sweat formed at my temples.

David gripped my arm. Turquoise eyes, wide with fear, met mine.

A twinge in my gut forced my whole body to tremble. I was right all along. It was him. He was the guy they were looking for. We were in deep shi … well, we were in a lot of trouble. Or was it just me? Was I in trouble? Was David dangerous?

I forced a smile. Every part of me screamed to run, to flee to the guards and tell them, but when I looked into David’s eyes, the mistrust melted away, disappeared.

Wait. Why did it disappear? I was scared to death a minute ago, wasn’t I?

His eyes softened me. I was safe with him. I always had been.

“I’m not going to turn you in. I promise.”

His shoulders relaxed. “Can we please go back to the woods?”

“There’s no way to warm you up out there. Now come on, and act natural.”

I kept watch on the guard house as we walked toward the gate. One of the guys talked on a cell phone while the other unpacked his bag. Just keep walking. A large raindrop pelted my shirt, then another.

David brushed away a rain droplet dribbling down his cheek and looked toward the sky. He gaped, his eyes questioning. Why did rain freak him out? Everybody’s seen rain, right?

His nose and lips distorted before he ducked his head down again. Not really as inconspicuous as I’d hoped for, but at least he was keeping up.

Relief washed over me as we passed through the gate. I couldn’t believe it. We’d actually …

“Excuse me.”

Oh. Crap.

Every muscle in my body tensed. I could feel David’s bicep contract as I turned toward the MP. “Yes?”

“Can I see some ID please?”

“Oh, umm, yeah.”

I reached into my pocket and grabbed my wallet. He made note of my driver’s license on a clipboard.

The MP motioned to David. “And yours?”

“He doesn’t have his license yet,” I stammered. “He’s only sixteen.”

My tense muscles got even tenser. There was no way David would pass for sixteen. He looked eighteen, nineteen. My brow furrowed. Just how old was he?

A crack of thunder boomed overhead. David nearly jumped into my arms. The wind whipped up. I glanced to the MP. Please let us go, dude.

David turned from my shoulder and stared at the MP. The officer moaned and blinked his eyes. He looked up at the sky and handed my license back.

“Okay. You’re cleared. Thank you.” He walked back to the booth, massaging his forehead.

No way.

I shoved my license back in my pocket. “I don’t believe it.”

David didn’t comment beyond a tremor as I maneuvered him across the street.

We’d been incredibly lucky. The guy hadn’t even made a note of David. Maybe MP training wasn’t as hard-core as I’d heard.

We moved past a bush near the edge of the sidewalk, and a sparrow hopped out. The bird fluttered its spotty brown wings as it snatched a squiggling worm on the concrete.

David reared back, nearly knocking me over. “What the …”

I tightened my grip on his arms. “Dude, it’s only a bird. Chill out!”

“I’m sorry. It frightened me.”

His eyes remained on the little brown-spotted minion-of-doom as it hopped onto the road. What kind of idiot got spooked by a bird? I didn’t push it. David obviously had serious issues. Hopefully they weren’t the homicidal kind.

I cringed.

No. He was just a guy who needed help. No homicidal anything.

David’s gaze shifted from left to right. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“Don’t be so scared. It’s not like the whole world is looking for you. What are the chances of your father just happening to be on Maguire, and driving down this road at this very minute?” I tried to gauge his reaction, but his expression didn’t change. He was worried about more than his father, I could tell. Was it really the MPs? The regular police? Worse? Maybe eventually he’d open up to me.

As we turned onto my street, an open-top jeep sped toward us. David cried out and jumped away from the road. One of the soldiers inside waved as they drove by.

“I really think I need to go back to the woods,” David said.

The jeep turned the corner, not even hesitating at the stop sign. “It’s nothing. They’re only going to work. You need to lighten up.”

You should bring him back to the gate. Turn him in. This is bigger than you, and you know it. If the Army is looking for him something is seriously up.

I scoffed at my own idiocy. Paranoia was so un-cool. He’d be fine. He was just out of sorts with a fever or something. Besides, if he was a fugitive, and I helped him, I may just be setting myself up for the story of a lifetime.

Or a lifetime behind bars.

I decided to go with the first scenario. Much better karma.

Head tucked down low, David allowed me to guide him while I kept a careful watch on the neighbors’ windows and front porches. The last thing I needed was a nosy housewife calling my dad.

David dug in his heels as we turned up my walkway. He wrenched against my grip. “What’s that?”

“My house.”

“Your house?”

“Yeah, this is where I live. David, are you delirious or something? Where did you think I was taking you?”

I placed my hand on his arm. Perspiration beaded on his brow and his tee-shirt seemed far damper than it should have been in the light rain.

Sweat?

David scrunched his eyes closed and stumbled foot over foot. A torrent of unintelligible words streamed from his lips as his body went limp.

My knee slammed on the pavement as I reached down to catch him—but he was nowhere near as heavy as I expected. Weird.

His eyes opened and rolled back into this head. He coughed once before his gaze re-focused on me.

“You’re done. I’m calling an ambulance.”

He grabbed my arm. “No! I just need to get warmed up.”

I shook my head and helped him back to a standing position. “I think it’s more than that, and something really strange is—”

“I promise you, I’m just cold. Please just …” His words lost themselves inside a moan, and another shaking chill brought us both to our knees. David’s shoulders stiffened between my hands, becoming board-rigid before shaking fitfully.

“Shoot,” I whispered, rubbing his arms in a fruitless effort to warm him.

The sky opened up. Rain pummeled us. The sound roared through the compound.

David’s pupils fixed on a point behind me. His jaw vibrated in time with the tremor. Dark wet tresses matted to his forehead. Water trailed from his bangs and down his cheeks.

I gripped his face and pointed it toward mine. “David. David, listen to me. I need to get you into the house.”

His eyes didn’t focus. His teeth chattered.

“Okay. Let’s hope you heard me.” He grimaced as I hauled him to his feet. His shiver tightened his joints. The stiffness in his body fought against me as we made our way to the door.

[end of chapter four preview]

Things are getting interesting! There’s the fourth chapter of FIRE IN THE WOODS. There is almost too much going on here to come up with questions. How about the imagery? Can you feel Jess’s inner struggle? What are you feeling about David at this point?

To read the fifth and final chapter of this preview chapter of FIRE IN THE WOODS click here. (Available after December 5)

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Read Chapter Three of @JenniferMEaton ‘s FIRE IN THE WOODS for free! Question and answer session after. @Month9Books

Hi there!

Welcome to day three of five chapters of FIRE IN THE WOODS. Enjoy!

Fire in the Woods Cover

Chapter 3

I sprinted down my street and stopped at the edge of the sidewalk. Busted. Dad’s car sat in his favorite parking space, still creaking as the engine cooled. How in God’s name was I supposed to sneak a bag of ice out of the house with Dad home? The back door!

The handle of the rear screen door clicked as I tiptoed into the kitchen.

Dad’s voice came from the living room. “I did tell her to stay home. Mom, I just don’t know what to do with her anymore. She doesn’t follow orders at all.”

Why was he talking to Grandma about me? Didn’t matter. I had to get that ice. I inched toward the freezer.

“I know she’s not one of my soldiers. Believe me.  If she was, she’d think about the big picture and not focus on herself all the time. And she wouldn’t do such stupid things. I swear she does this to piss me off.”

I gritted my teeth and slid the ice tray out of the freezer. What dad considered stupid things were all the things that were important to me that he didn’t understand. If he’d look up and beyond that stupid uniform he wore all the time, he’d realize there was more to life than—

“And this dumb photography thing—dammit Mom, I wish you never bought her that camera.”

I froze. My heart wiggled its way into my throat.

“Give her space? Let her make her mistakes? What kind of advice is that?”

Photography wasn’t a mistake. It was my life, my passion, my—

“Mom, I need help with her. I thought I could manage it alone, but I can’t. All I’m asking is for you to come for a week or so, just until school starts. There’s too much going on and I just can’t trust her anymore.”

Can’t trust me?

Grandma?

My stomach did a somersault and missed the landing. The ice container slipped out of my hands and crashed on the floor.

“Mom, she’s back. I gotta go.”

I dropped to my knees, taking deep breaths as I scooped the slippery cubes off the linoleum. My hands shook. Why couldn’t he understand how much that camera meant to me? Why couldn’t he understand that his dreams weren’t the same as mine? I shoved the container back into the freezer and sat down at the kitchen table. I doodled the deer’s antlers on the edge of a pad, trying to calm myself down as I prepared for the impending fight.

Dad barreled around the corner. “Jess, where have you been?”

“I told you, I went to the store.”

“You were supposed to stay home.”

“You said last night. I went out this morning.”

His face reddened. “When I tell you to stay home, I need you to stay home.”

“I left a note and everything, didn’t I? And I called, like a good little soldier, but as usual, you didn’t pick up the phone. You never pick up the phone.”

“Don’t you try to turn this around on me.”

“Don’t worry. I didn’t do any more stupid things.” I pushed past him and stormed up the stairs.

“Jessica!”

I slammed my bedroom door. The covers poofed up around me as I flopped onto my bed. Only think about myself? Dumb photography? What did he know? I rolled over and hugged my pillow. It was the same argument, different day. Nothing would change. Ever.

By now, Dad was probably half way to counting to a hundred to calm down. He’d need to get to two-hundred before he’d come up here and give his stylized lame apology. God, I hated that part.

I rubbed my face, remembering why I’d come home in the first place. I needed to find a way to smuggle some ice past Dad. But how? There was no chance of getting out of the house again until he stopped focusing on me.

A prisoner until the game played out, I decided to kill time with Maggie. I slipped my phone out of my pocket, and dialed her up. “Hey girl.”

“Hey, you. What’s up?”

“My dad as usual, but guess what just happened in the woods? I was chasing after a deer—”

“Again?”

“Yeah. Anyway, there was this noise, and it felt like my head would explode, and then there was this guy, and he heard it too.”

“A guy?” She giggled. “Okay, now I’m interested. I thought you were going to tell me another stupid Jess chases an animal story. So, fess up. Was he cute?”

A sigh slipped from my lips. “Didn’t you hear about the noise? I mean, it was really loud. Did you hear anything?”

“Nope, no noise. Now spill it about the guy.”

I rolled over onto my stomach. “His name is David.”

“Isn’t David the name you made up for your dream prince?”

I giggled. “Omigosh, how’d you remember that? We were, like, thirteen.”

“I remember those juicy stories you made up about him—all tall, dark and Greek-God delicious.”

The more I thought about it, David actually did look a lot like—

“So was he running through the woods taking pictures of animals, too?”

“No. Can you keep a secret?” I rolled onto my back. “He’s hiding out there from someone.”

“Hiding? Girl, you’re not hooking up with a serial killer or anything, right?”

“He’s not a serial killer. He’s like, seventeen, eighteen tops.”

“Didn’t you see that movie Scream? Those two were—”

“Can we come back to reality please?”

“Okay. Okay. Okay. So, what’s he running from?”

“Dunno.” I rubbed my fingertips, remembering the heat radiating from his skin. “He said it wasn’t the cops. I’m hoping he talks to me when I go back.”

Maggie snickered. “You’re going to meet him again in the woods? Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, are you finally going to do something naughty? And without me?”

I sat up, knocking the pillow off my bed. “No. I just want to help him. He’s hurt.”

“I bet you want to help him.” She giggled.

“Stop. You are so bad.”

“But seriously, Jess. You don’t know anything about this guy.”

I chewed the top of my lip, thinking about Dad’s conversation with Grandma. Was I being stupid? I needed to make a good decision here. “You know what? You’re right. Can you come out there with me?”

“You know I’d love to meet your prince charming but I need to go school shopping while my mom’s credit card is still squeaking, and tonight is family movie night. No getting out of that in the Baker household.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot.” Oh well. So much for reinforcements.

“You know what? Just don’t go. Tip off the MP’s that someone’s out there, and they’ll find him.”

“You want me to turn him in?”

“No, not turn him in, but if he’s in trouble … You know … They have shelters for kids like that. Confidential and all. They won’t call his parents.”

I fingered the chain on my neck. “No. It doesn’t feel right. He needs my help.”

Someone knocked on my door three times.

“Maggs, I gotta go. My Dad’s revving up for another pep talk.”

“Okay, but be careful if you go out there, okay?”

“Yeah, whatever.” I clicked off the phone and opened my door.

Dad’s hand was poised at eye level, about to knock again. His chest expanded for the obligatory breath before an apology speech. “Jess, I don’t want to fight with you. I just wish you’d listen once in a while.”

I folded my arms. “I only went to the store.” With a little side-trip into the woods.

“It’s not just that and you know it.” He ran his palm across the top of his cropped hair. “You know it’s been hard without your mom here, but I’m trying.”

“I know.” Dang he was good with the guilt trips. An uncomfortable silence lingered, stifling me like an invisible curtain.

“Listen. I’ve never been able to keep you cooped up, and I realize you’re into all that photography stuff, but until things die down and I can confirm everything is secure, I need you to stay in the house.”

Crap.

You see dad, I can’t stay in the house. There’s this drop-dead gorgeous guy in the woods, and I promised to bring him ice. Nah. That wouldn’t go over well. Certain things a girl should just keep to herself.

“Dad, what’s going on? And what was all that buttercup stuff about last night?”

He rubbed his face with his palms. “You weren’t really old enough when your mom and I came up with the word buttercup. I was hoping you’d understand what I was trying to say.”

“Mom told me once to listen if you ever said buttercup during an emergency. That’s all I remember.”

“Well, we were in an emergency. You did good.”

“There was someone on the phone, wasn’t there? They were making sure you didn’t tell me anything.”

Dad leaned against my doorframe. “You know I’m not allowed to talk about work.”

“Work smirk. I don’t care about security clearance.”

“There was a possibility of danger. I just needed to know you were safe” He kissed my forehead. “I gotta get back.”

“You’re leaving again?”

“Yes. I’m sorry, but the whole base is on alert status.”

“For how long?”

“It depends on how long it takes us to find …”

I waited for a word that didn’t come. “Find what?”

His head tilted to the side. “Nice try.”

“Can’t blame a girl for trying.”

So, the army was looking for something. Interesting.

“I’ll be back in the morning for a bit. We’ll have breakfast, okay?”

“Uh-huh.”

Dad headed down the stairs, and I counted to a hundred before following.

So, the army was all jacked up in another one of Dad’s top-secret operations. I still had no idea what Dad did in the army, but what I could gather from Maggie’s eavesdropping habit, Dad’s division dealt with dangers of the “who” kind, not the “what” kind. They called my dad to track people down. If Dad was involved, whoever they were looking for had to be pretty big potatoes.

David was hiding from someone, and he was hurt. Could he be running from the military? A vision of David’s bright eyes and the perfect cut to his jaw flashed through my mind. I shook my head. Why would Dad be hunting a kid? He certainly had better things to do. Terrorists and the like were out there. Real criminals. There was no way Dad could be looking for David. My gaze settled on my camera case.  I grabbed it … just in case.

Shooting over to the kitchen, I opened up the cupboard, pulled out a gallon-sized Ziploc and filled it with ice. The bag fit neatly into the bottom of my backpack. I threw together a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and tossed them in with a couple bottles of water and my camera. The ice chilled my back as I threw the pack over my shoulder.

I hesitated, my hand on the front door. Dad wanted me to stay home. Until everything was secure. That meant that there was a safety risk, and if Dad was involved, it had to be a pretty big one. He expected me to be a good little soldier and stay inside. But how could I?

David was out there, alone. Hurt. I couldn’t just leave him there, especially if there was some kind of dangerous fugitive on the loose. I’d made him a promise, and I had to keep it.

[end of chapter one preview]

So there we are! The third chapter of FIRE IN THE WOODS. How do you feel about Dad’s attitude toward Jess? Did Dad push Jess to go back out there by insinuating she thinks of no one but herself? What would you do if you were in Jess’s shoes?

To read the fourth chapter of FIRE IN THE WOODS click here. (Available after December 4)

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