Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NA Contemporary Releases

You guys!!! There are so many new adult contemporary titles coming out this week. In fact, five of us shared a release day and I've got the lovely ladies here to tell us a bit about their books!!!


From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Emma Hart, comes the second book in The Game series, and the story everyone wanted after The Love Game…

She's in love with him. 
He's trying not to love her. 
One night changes everything.

Aston Banks never meant to get close to Megan Harper – not even for that one night. Haunted by a childhood he refuses to face, he knew she could break through every wall he’d ever built and tear them down without even realizing she was doing it. 

Betraying Braden by starting a relationship with Aston wasn’t on Megan’s to-do list, but the second she sees a glimpse of someone other than the arrogant ass she’s come to know, she can’t walk away. 

Aston’s childhood is worse than Megan ever guessed, but as he tries and fails to push her away, it’s clear her love is stronger than the demons that cling to him every day. And now, because of it, he finally has to deal with what he’s buried deep down. 

What he doesn’t want to face. What he’s fought against for so long. 

And they have to do it all without Braden finding out.

Keeping a relationship secret has never been harder.

From the author:
What was your favorite part of writing this book? 
The part in which I found out fishing can be sexy. Who knew?
What's your favorite line in the book? 
"Sometimes you need to get lost in the dark to truly appreciate the light
You can pick up Playing For Keeps from Amazon and Barnes and Noble!!!
ADDICTED TO YOU by Colina Brennan
Blurb: When twenty-one-year-old Leah Carter's latest one night stand burglarizes her apartment, her roommate forces her to attend therapy for sex addicts. Leah insists she isn't a sex addict; she just doesn't do relationships. After all, sooner or later, everyone lets you down.

At first, the group sessions are little more than an education on how to be promiscuous. Until she meets the newest addict—blue eyes, killer body, and a smile that tempts relapse.

Psychology student Will McLean is posing as a fellow addict while researching a case study on unusual addictions. But the more he learns about Leah, the more certain he is that his desire to break through her walls and unearth her secrets has nothing to do with his assignment.

As the uncertainties spike alongside the sexual tension, the only thing Leah knows for sure is that falling in love would be disastrous. Too bad love might be one addiction she can't kick.
From the author:
What was your favorite part of writing this book?
Fleshing the characters out with each new draft. My first drafts are always bare bones, and it’s the best feeling to watch the story intensify and the characters grow into real people.
What's your favorite line in the book?
I don’t know that I have a favorite line. I’m pretty objective about my writing. But here’s a line that might make you smile?
“The guy probably couldn’t walk a block without having panties thrown at his head.”
Addicted to You is available now from Barnes and Noble and Amazon!
THIS LOVE by Nazarea Andrews
She wants a summer job and a ride to a wedding.

He wants an assistant and a distraction from the mess his life had become.

They didn't know they needed each other.

Avery Emili needs two grand. Two grand and a plane ticket--her sister is counting on her to get to Jamaica for her wedding. But the semester is over, and tutoring college freshman and high school students has dried up until the fall.

Atticus Grimes needs help--the messy split with his wife left the twenty-eight year old professor scrambling to keep things together as the semester winds down. Now he's got a research grant he has to actually do research for and all he wants to do is drown himself in a tall bottle of bourbon.

When Avery sees his ad for an assistant, all she's thinking is a summer job. But as they spend time together, in the office and out, both of them begin to realize something is there. Something that can't happen--he's a professor and she's a student. And both of them have histories, pasts that won’t let go. Can two broken people pulled apart by expectations find a way to be whole?
From the author:
What was your favorite part of writing this book?
The sexy times! I love writing romance, and kissing scenes, so it was a lot of fun to take it a bit further. :)
What's your favorite line in the book?
"Why do you keep running?"
"Why do you keep chasing?"
You can pick up This Love now from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
SUBJECT TO CHANGE by Alessendra Thomas
 Joey made her dad a deathbed promise that she would become a doctor, and dedicate herself to fighting the very cancer that took his life. There’s just one problem -three years into her pre-med classes, she's struggling to stay on top of the curve, let alone prove she's dazzling enough to earn a spot in an Ivy League medical school. In a Hail Mary move, she throws a basic Business 101 class into her semester schedule, banking on a perfect score to boost her GPA.

That is, until she’s paired for a final project with Hawk, the bartending, motorbike-riding, gorgeously bedheaded loser who falls asleep in class and communicates in one-word sentences.

Hawk does whatever he wants, whenever he wants, which sets Joey on edge – in every possible way. As they get to know each other, her urge to scream at him is curbed only by her fantasies of tearing his clothes off. Soon those fantasies become reality, and Joey realizes Hawk makes her feel more fully herself than any of the rich boys her mother and sorority sisters approve of.

But the promise to her father hangs over her head, and the harder Joey tries to succeed in her chosen career, the faster everything falls into a hopeless tailspin of bad grades, broken promises and guilt. It doesn't help to have Hawk sitting like a devil on her shoulder, insisting she should be free to live however she wants to live - like he does.

The only thing Joey knows is that her neatly organized life is crushing her - and Hawk's bad attitude might be the only thing that can save her.

From the author:
What was your favorite part of writing this book?
I loved finally getting to write a tattooed bad boy! I didn't get to in my debut. And I loved bringing Cat and Nate from Picture Perfect back in!
What's your favorite line in the book?
"Every once in awhile, something really amazing happens in the rain."
Grab Subject to Change from Amazon or Barnes and Noble!!
FIXED ON YOU by Laurelin Paige
Stalking and restraining orders are a thing of Alayna Pierce’s past. With her MBA newly in hand, she has her future figured out—move up at the nightclub she works at and stay away from any guy who might trigger her obsessive love disorder. A perfect plan.
But what Alayna didn’t figure on is Hudson Pierce, the new owner of the nightclub. He’s smart, rich, and gorgeous—the kind of guy Alayna knows to stay away from if she wants to keep her past tendencies in check. Except, Hudson’s fixed his sights on her. He wants her in his bed and makes no secret of it. Avoiding him isn’t an option after he offers a business proposition she can’t turn down and she’s drawn further into his universe, unable to resist his gravitational pull. When she learns Hudson has a dark history of his own, she realizes too late that she’s fallen for the worst man she could possibly get involved with.
Or maybe their less than ideal pasts give them an opportunity to heal each other and finally find the love their lives have been missing.
From the author:
What was your favorite part of writing this book?
Finding awesome clothes for Alayna to wear. I'm not usually a fashionista, but it was so fun to find outfits online so that I could describe them. I also enjoyed reliving my time in NYC. I lived there briefly. Those were the days...

What's your favorite line in the book?
THERE'S SO MANY! But I'll choose this: 
"It was so hot how he used my name freely. As if it was his to use. And in many ways it was. Almost no one called me anything but Laynie. He’d claimed my name when he claimed me."
You can find Fixed on You on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Light 'em up... Igniting this summer's writing inspiration

Hi Igniteers! It’s ST and Jessica here. We wanted to share some of the songs we’re writing to this summer, and ask you to share yours right back with us. Here are a few we're loving (along with the links to listen). Let's ignite that writing inspiration!


Cruise by Florida Georgia Line (link)
Play it when you’re writing: The chill scenes

This song just makes me feel good. Between the southern twang and the relaxed summer vibe, it totally puts me in a kick-back place. I mean, really -- “Baby you a song, you make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise.” If that’s not a great song to write your chill scenes to, I don’t know what is.


Safe and Sound by Capital Cities (link)
Play it when you’re writing: The upbeat, memorable scenes

The moment this song starts, I’m moving in my chair. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a scene where something’s just been resolved and things are going great. “I could lift you up... Even if the sky is falling down I know that we’ll be safe and sound... I could fill your cup... You know my river won’t evaporate, this world we still appreciate...” After a pretty intense scene, this song is the perfect background for a writing montage of Rowan and Dahlia (from the forthcoming, If I Speak True) doing things together in Ambrosia. They’re riding Ebon on Bluffs Beach, holding hands in the gardenia grove, hiding from each other in the garden at Lennox castle. It’s a “we’ve just conquered the world” kind of song, where the music lifts you up and the words just flow away!


Gone Gone Gone by Phillip Phillips (link)
Play it when you’re writing: The romantic scenes

This song is so sweetly romantic, it makes me want to those throes-of-new-love scenes. It’s got a driving beat, which keeps it from getting too sappy, but there’s something angsty about it too. Maybe it’s that last verse -- “You’re my backbone, you’re my cornerstone, you’re my crutch when my legs stop moving. You’re my head start, you’re my rugged heart, you’re the pulse that I’ve always needed.” It screams complete and total commitment to the point of obsession -- perfect for that intense first-major-love feeling we love to write about in our YA and NA books, no?


I Know the Truth by Pretty Lights (link)
Play it when you’re writing: Angsty, emotional and/or fight scenes

This. Song. Whew! First of all, you must play this song in a mode in which you can fully appreciate the bass, because it is amazing. Second, be prepared to drive everyone you know insane, because you will play this over and over again. But that’s a good thing. Because the music itself paints pictures in your brain. It’ll yank ideas from out of nowhere, plant them in your head so out of the blue, you’ll be like, Wow! I have a scene I never would have thought of for the companion novel of Pity Isn’t An Option, where Jonas and a new character, Logan, stand up to some... people. And it all came straight from this song. 


My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up) by Fallout Boy (link)
Play it when you’re writing: The action scenes

Remember when Stephenie Meyer said she wrote Twilight to the music of Muse? And every writer ever nodded their head and said, “yep”? Because Muse is the absolute, hands down, perfect music to listen to when you’re writing your fights? (Or anything really, I just heart Muse so hard.) Well I think the new Fallout Boy song is Muse-worthy. It’s intense, fast paced, and kind of addictive. Last week I listened to it on loop re-writing an action sequence for Endre, and after an hour I still loved it. It’s that good.


Girl Is On My Mind by The Black Keys (link)
Play it when you’re writing: Anything.

The guitar, vocals and percussion for Girl Is On My Mind (technically an oldie, as it’s from a 2004 album), make this song perfect for writing anything. I personally use it any time Dahlia’s best friend, Ben, is with her, as the words basically state what his subconscious is saying all the time: “Try to ignore it, I try to unwind, but girl is on my mind.” Le sigh. But the rocker-ish, bluesy-ness of it is perfect for any kind of writing. Check it out. You'll see.


Demons by Imagine Dragons (link)
Play it when you’re writing: The action scenes

This is my total favorite song in the whole wide world right now. It’s my go-to song when I’m writing my tortured Asgardian Assassin, Ull, and I think it’s just perfect for any character that feels conflicted. “Your eyes they shine so bright, I want to save their light. I can’t escape this now unless you show me how.” It’s all about struggling against the darkness within, and fighting to protect the person you love. Plus it’s just a really, really awesome song -- another one can I loop for hours on end.


King and Lionheart by Of Monsters and Men (link)
Play it when you’re writing: Steadfast characters in difficult situations

“Howling ghosts, they reappear in mountains that are stacked with fear; but you’re a king and I’m a lionheart.” I love this song. The lyrics are the perfect reminder when problems arise that characters can stick together; stand up for each other. As the lyrics say, they “won’t run”; they’re “here to stay”. It’s about having that strength inside, seeing it in each other, and using it. For me, this song works for a few different WIPs. It’s empowering. Stand up together and face those ghosts because you’re a king and I’m a lionheart. Rawr!

And there you have it: eight songs we're enjoying at the moment! What about you? What are some of your favorite songs to write to this summer? 

About ST:

My Photo

Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, ST Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of the musical Cats.  Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired the ELSKER series.  She hopes her characters make you smile and that one day pastries will be considered a health food.

You can follow ST Bende on Twitter @stbende, on her blog
or send an e-mail to stbende(at)gmail(dot)com.  

About Jessica:

 photo c6fa9acf-fb0e-4f08-b73c-94d2eb929d15_zps3536fddb.jpg

Jessica is the author of PITY ISN'T AN OPTION. She writes YA and adult fiction and resides with her husband of sixteen years, three awesome daughters, and a plethora of pets in Central California, where fog, frost, triple-digit heat and various items of produce arrive bountifully, depending on the season. (We won't even go there about all of the cows.) She has an affinity for both coffee and owls, and loves to connect with other readers and writers whenever possible.

You can follow Jessica on Twitter @coffeelvnmom, on her blog, or send an email to jessicabrooks_coffeelvnmom(at)comcast(dot)net.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Business Planning: Let's Talk About Money

Hello, Lovelies! I am finally back to finish up the Business Planning for Authors series. Sorry for the delay, y'all. All the things. All. The. Things.

Anyway, I'm back and ready to talk about the thing nobody ever wants to talk about, especially when it comes to publishing: Money. All over the interwebs you will see the advice, Never Pay to Be Published. With traditional publishing, this is absolutely true; publishers pay you, not the other way. But we indies live in a different world.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know that you can publish your book without spending a dime. I get it. But I also know that most people don't have all the skillsets needed to write, edit, design, format, and publish a book. I'm assuming you are one of us normal people, in which case some money will likely be spent.)

So where do you start with this whole budgeting your book thing? I'm sure there are plenty of ways you can go about this, but here is how I do it:

  1. Write down your anticipated expenses. What will you be spending on this book? Possible money-eaters include editing (possibly several rounds - developmental editing, copy editing, proofreading), cover design (don't forget that you'll need an extended design for a paperback if you are releasing one), formatting (epub, mobi, and print book layout), and marketing/PR monies. Also: ISBNs and set-up fees for your printer, if they have any. Do your research and find out what these things will cost you. You will find huge variety in the costs for covers and editors, so don't just base your numbers on what your friend spent, unless you will be using the same vendors. (Check out the Vendors We Trust.)
  2. Decide what your price point is going to be. Will you be selling your book for $2.99? $3.99? Now's the time  for some market analysis. What price seems to be the most effective for your genre? Readers have preconceived notions when it comes to prices. Too high and they will think it's not worth it. Too low and, no matter how great the book is, there will be some readers who think it is not good enough for a higher price and will skip it. 
  3. Create a sales projection. This part is the hardest, as there is no way to know exactly how a book will do. Amazing books often have very few sales, and many books that skyrocket to success were ones for which the author had low expectations. If we knew exactly what makes a book successful, we would all be bestsellers (and then by default nobody would be a bestseller). Not a lot of authors share their sales figures online, but with some digging, you will likely be able to find someone to base your projection on. Look for an author who writes in your genre and who has a similar release history. (It won't work to compare your first-book projection to the sales on Author's ninth title.) I do my sales projections month-by-month.
Now that you have your numbers, add them all up. This will give you an idea of what you can expect to pay to make your book the best it can be. Once you know what your expenses are, go ahead and add some onto that number. Even the best budgeter can find herself overspending. :)

There. Really, it's quite simple. Even so, this will be the hardest part of the business plan for most people, as it is the part with the least concrete evidence on which to base the numbers. But I promise you, you will never regret planning it out in advance.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Generation New Adult! by Dawn Pendleton

If you haven’t heard of it, there’s a new magazine circling around Facebook & Twitter. Generation New Adult is a magazine focused on bringing authors and readers the most up-to-date information about the new adult genre in books. New Adult is a fairly new term, but with indies pushing the genre and even some publishers picking it up, Amazon has created a New Adult & College category! With that behind us, indies are even more proud of the genre and there are new releases almost every day that are considered new adult.
Publication preview
So what does that have to do with Generation New Adult? As one of the founders (along with Andrea Heltsley and Ashley Poston), our goal is to give readers new insight into the genre, especially since there’s a lot of confusion about what makes a novel new adult. Basically, if the characters are between the ages of 18 – 26, the book can be classified as new adult. There are exceptions, as well. The new adult category encompasses that time in a characters life when he/she is going out on their own, separate from their parents and thrust into the real world. Many times this includes the college life, but it’s also about starting a first real job, going into the military, and so much more.
At GNA, we strive to give sound advice to authors, too, so as to help indies as much as we can. We’re all in it together and that means sharing vital information is key. We also list any and all new releases in the genre over the quarter, a promotion that we hope will shed even more light on new adult books.
We do author interviews in every issue, and reviews, as well, which can bring more attention to a particular author. We will be opening ad space for authors for our September 2013 which will be priced very cheap (we’re indie’s ourselves – we know how tight finances can be). Ad space is also available for bloggers and traditional publishers.
We at GNA would like to extend an invitation for all readers and new adult authors to get more involved – Questions or comments about the magazine or the genre can be forwarded to
We are currently working on integrating our magazine to Amazon and Barnes & Noble formats, but for now, you can buy your copy of our magazine here:

Thank you for having me! 

Dawn Pendleton, President of GNA

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Where the Magic Happens

People don’t usually think of writers and superheroes as having a lot in common, but one thing we do share is The Lair.  Bruce Wayne becomes the high-tech defender of Gotham by transforming in his Batcave, and when things get to be too much for Clark Kent/Superman, he heads to his Fortress of Solitude.

It’s probably not the best place to write – I don’t think you could plug in a laptop there, and forget about WiFi – but it’s pretty awesome nonetheless.

And since I am always interested in seeing where the magic happens for creative people, I asked my Indie Ignites cohort to share where they produce their masterworks.  I was relieved to find out that I’m not the only one who still hasn’t quite made it to a desk for work.  I have a perfectly fine desk – actually it’s our old dining room table – 

But in reality I work here, on my bed, usually with a cat or two for inspiration

Today's muse is Peanut, posing by Fleetwood the Mac (I am a child of the seventies with a crap sense of humor).  Peanut does not appear in Snark and Circumstance, but another cat does. Maybe she’s trying to get into the sequel.

Nazarea Andrews, author of Edge of the Falls, was the first to admit that she doesn’t use a desk.  She creates her fantasy realms here 

and not in an office because her kids prefer it that way. As you can see, she has a muse as well, although of the canine variety.

Rachel Bateman uses an office to write books like 99 Days of Laney MacGuire when she can but sometimes her own “clingy” child prefers that she write on this couch:

But she also has a writing space nestled away in llama-covered mountains somewhere:

Others make use of actual desks.
JC Emery creates novels like Marital Bitch here at this desk that “looks like a Barbie threw up all over it”:

Note the stuffed bear, a gift from Bear books on her first publication, and the “Novelist at Work” warning notice.

Adrianne James wrote her most recent release, Overexposed, at her local library—specifically at her spot at the local library.  Woe to he who takes this space!

And she does her best to discourage anyone from this by taking away the other chairs. Now that’s securing your writing space and time! Virginia Woolf would be proud. A room of one's own doesn't have to belong to you, after all.

She also writes at the Starbucks at her local Barnes and Noble

I would not recommend trying to take away the iced caramel macchiato, either.  (Don’t you love that Adrianne gives writers such a high public profile?)

Next on our “desk” tour, Jonas and Hattie from Pity Isn’t an Option were born right here, at Jessica Brooks’ desk.

 It’s a small office, she says, but built just for her and features the birds she loves.  (I want the owl clock myself).

Finally, Lisa M. Basso, author of A Shimmer of Angels, describes her space as “Not quite tidy, not quite messy.  Kind of like myself.”

If this is her idea of messy, much as I would like to have her over, she must never, ever, ever come to my house. At least not without a few weeks’ warning to give me a head start on the dusting and tidying.
So there you have it. Whole worlds have been created in these humble spaces.  Why don’t you leave us a comment and tell us where YOU like to write?  Or read?  Maybe we’ll make my next post about favorite reading spaces.  Which means I need to scrub my bathtub . . .

Monday, June 3, 2013

USA Today HEA Book Blog Wants Indies!

Hei hei, y'all.  It's me, ST.  A few weeks ago I got to write a guest post for the amazing Happy Ever After Book Blog on USA Today.  After I stopped turning cartwheels in my backyard, a highly unattractive sight seeing as how I've got all the grace of a wildebeast on ice skates, I got to writing and sent my offering off to USA Today.  You can read it HERE!

And then I found out I'd get to help compile new releases for their book blog!  Specifically, I get to help HEA's fabulous curator compile self published/indie paranormal romance new releases.  Right up Indie Ignites' alley!

But as y'all know, it's not always so easy to track down new indie releases.  So help me find you.  If you're an indie author with an upcoming paranormal romance release, please send me an e-mail to stbende(at)yahoo(dot)com.  Include the title of your book, the release date, your name, the name of the publisher (you or your publishing imprint), and a 100 word summary of your story.  I'll include it in your release week's new release roundup, and it will be posted in the USA Today HEA Book Blog!

And if you have indie friends with new paranormal romance releases, send 'em my way.  Let's get some great exposure for indie authors!

Find me on twitter (@stbende), Facebook, or my blog.  For USA Today HEA updates send me an e-mail at stbende(at)yahoo(dot)com . I can't wait to hear from you!

Cover Reveal for Dead Run by Vanessa Booke!

Dead Run (Dead Run Series)

By Vanessa Booke

Genre: New Adult Post-Apocalyptic Romance
Release Date: TBA

Book Description:
Carly Rios was supposed to go to college, forget about her first love, and live a normal life. That was the plan until the whole world went to hell and the dead started becoming…not so dead. 

Forced to live in the same quarantine as her abusive stepfather, Carly is hanging on to life by a thread, as she dreams of a normal world outside of the community. But when tragedy strikes home, Carly has no choice but to try and escape with her brother Michael. On the night that Carly plans to leave the community, chaos erupts, causing her plans to backfire, unleashing the undead inside.

Now, Carly must reach out to Joshua Tremell, a man from her past, and the one who left her heart in pieces. Trusting Joshua is one of the hardest things she’ll ever have to do, but without his help it’s only a matter of time until Carly loses her brother Michael to the undead.


Two months after returning from fighting over seas and coming home to face a world overtaken by the undead, Joshua Tremell is accustomed to death and losing the ones he loves. But when fate brings him back to his childhood sweetheart Carly Rios, Joshua realizes there are some things still worth fighting for.

Carly is the last person Joshua thought he'd ever see again, let alone in the same quarantine. Facing off shufflers isn’t easy, but the thought of losing the only girl he’s ever loved again, is even worse. 

With a second chance at redemption, Joshua would give anything to save Carly and help her get her little brother back, but Joshua has more secrets than he can tell, and his past mistakes are bound to collide with the future he's dying to earn.

For Carly and Joshua, crossing the wasteland is just the beginning… 

*Mature Content Warning: 17+ for language, intense violence against the undead and adult situations.


About the author:

My name is Vanessa Booke and I live with my husband Ryan and our three dachshunds Zer0, Zoey, and Zelda just outside of Los Angeles, California. I love poetry and all things Jane Austen. I've been writing since Jr. High, it started with poetry and eventually in high school I began writing Fiction. My favorite genre to write in would have to be young adult, or new adult. I currently work as a communications coordinator for a charity, but I've also worked as a journalist. I have my Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Cal State University San Bernardino. In my free time, I like blogging about books, thrift shopping and taking grand adventures with my partner in crime.

 Additional links:
Facebook fanpage:
Twitter: @V_bogie

 Chapter 1 - Teaser:

“The only good human being is a dead one.”

-George Orwell



 I knew his gun was in the top drawer. I’ve watched him place it there. Tonight is the last night I’ll ever let him touch me. I watch his breath rise and fall rhythmically as he sleeps. From where I stand he doesn’t look so threatening, anymore at least, not how he looked earlier that night. My cheek still burns when I touch it. A bruise is starting to form underneath my swollen skin. I step into the darkened bedroom cautious, as the wooden floors squeak beneath me. He can wake at any moment. My hands tremble as I make my way toward his nightstand. It has to be here unless…as I pull the top drawer open, I’m relieved to see the gun is still there. It sits shining in the moonlight that cascades down through the cracks of the boarded-up bedroom window.

I pull the gun from the drawer but pause midway. My stepfather’s snoring has stopped. Fear paralyzes me, and I freeze, still. Is he awake? Is he watching me? I hold my breath, my eyes squeezed closed, waiting. Several seconds pass, and then like clockwork, I can hear the sound of his snoring again. I look down at the handgun and then back at my sleeping stepfather. I shiver in disgust at the memory of his hands on me; no amount of soap could ever wash away how dirty he makes me feel. My stomach rolls at the memory of the way he whispered how I would always be his.

Not anymore. I step into the hallway shutting the bedroom door quietly behind me. A small sense of relief washes over me. I did itBefore I know it I’m all the way down the hallway of our one story home. Tonight, is our last night behind the safety of the community fences. It frightens me to think about what’s waiting for us outside, but staying isn’t an option anymore. I stare down at the gun in my hands. I’ve never held one until tonight. The sound of a soft voice catches my attention.

It echoes down the hall. Michael must be awake. I slip the gun behind me. There’s no reason for him to see it; it will only scare and confuse him. He’s been pretty quiet these past few hours. He keeps asking for our mother. I don’t have the heart to tell him that she’s gone. The only thing left is a shell of the woman she used to be. It’s been seven days since she became infected.

I made her a promise when it happened. I promised her that no matter what, I wouldn’t let her become one. I know what I have to do, and despite what my stepfather Tom tells me, I know my mother is sick and she isn’t getting better.

Our home is made up of three rooms. Tom sleeps in the master bedroom. I share a bedroom with Michael, and my mother is in the guest room. We live in a town sectioned off from the outside world. It’s better than what most survivors have, but it’s temporary. Our emergency supplies were never meant to last past six months. We’re going on our seventh month and our food and water is nearly gone.

Tom keeps my mother isolated from everyone here. A cold draft hits me as I enter her bedroom. I can hear her heavy breathing, her lungs crackling as she inhales. Small white clouds of air escape her mouth. It’s freezing in here. I switch on the emergency lantern near her nightstand. The fluorescent light reminds me of a hospital room, as it chases away the darkness. I gasp at the sight of her; she’s gotten worse. Her eyes are blood shot and her pupils are dilated. I touch her skin to check for a fever, but she feels ice cold. I grab her hand and place it in mine. Her skin is pale yellow and she’s starting to bloat like the others. She has a day at most, maybe less. The bloated skin on her finger engulfs her wedding band. It’s the one my father gave her before he died.

It wasn’t the infection that took him away from us. He was in a motorcycle accident when I was fifteen. He suffered an injury to the head and went into a coma. 

I twist the ring off her finger.

My mother sold our old house to pay for his medical bills. She didn’t have the heart to pull the plug. Not too long after his accident, they flew him to a fancy medical hospital in Colorado. I thought he died. She told Michael and me that he did, but a few days ago I found some old hospital bills stashed in a shoebox. She lied. For the past three years she’s been paying to keep him alive. At least, she was until the outbreak happened.


She stares at me blankly, making it clear she no longer recognizes her own daughter’s face. I’m sure in her eyes I’m only a stranger, someone she’s never seen before. I reach down for the wash pan at the foot of her bed, and I cringe at the sight of the brown, murky water inside it. Tom refuses to clean her with any of our clean water and instead subjects her to the dirty-brown, rusted water from the faucets. As far I know it isn’t hurting her but she deserves more than that. Tom wants to keep her around because of the food rations. Each person in the community is given a certain portion of food, no more, no less. He takes hers for himself. I hate seeing her like this.

A moan escapes her lips. I pull the gun out from behind me fearful that she’s turning. I have to do what she couldn’t for my dad. I have to let her go. I have to.

I raise the gun toward the front of her face. My hands tremble, the gun is heavier than I expected. Through her confused and sickened state, she looks up at me as if she has a moment of clarity. I close my eyes and turn my face. I picture her as she was before the outbreak. In my mind she stands radiant and beautiful as she smiles down at me. I can almost hear her saying everything will be all right. They say goodbye is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to say. So I don’t say it. I breathe in and pull the trigger.