New Novel from RJ Conte – The End of the Dream!

The End of the Dream is here!!!The End of the Dream_KINDLE

 

My next full length novel (Been three years since you got one of those from me!), which is Christian, issue-driven, YA romance (with a twist, of course!) is available on Amazon.com!

And please come to the celebration Facebook party, June 7th, at 6 PM PST!  Joining me will be authors Bethany A. Jennings, Kara Swanson, Kimberly Rae, and aspiring mangaka Laura A. Grace.

The End of the Dream blurb:

Ash, the mysterious new guy in town, is everything Vivien is not: friendly, cheerful, and carefree, with a deep Christian faith.

Vivien doesn’t understand why Ash would choose her as a friend, but as a shy, reclusive teen with an absent father and airhead stepmom, she is drawn to him. She even gets to join him in fulfilling his special “Summer Can’t Suck” activities list.

But when she finds herself falling for him, Ash begins to reveal suspicious gaps in his memory. Things are not adding up…

Purchase for Kindle and paperback HERE!

Cassi is in a Coma – FREE Book

51-6kgew0ylMy friend, Krista Wagner, has a new issue-driven book for free!  If you like your YA to have a punch and come from a Christian worldview, this is the book for you.

FREE tonight and tomorrow!

A cross between If I Stay and Remember Me 

A Small Town Secrets Novel Standalone Series – (Book #3)

“You are not wanted” 

Cassi Walker has been Royal High School’s most-liked girl for the past four years, but a lot can happen in two days. Suddenly, she’s the school’s most-hated girl, but before she can figure out why, a ten-story fall off a water tower sends her into a coma. Soon, rumors start to fly that it was attempted suicide. Unfortunately, she has no memory of those final seconds before the harrowing event. Through a strange barrage of dreams, flashbacks, and an out-of-body journey, Cassi will attempt to expose the secrets and uncover the mysteries behind what happened to her. But will she be able to handle the truth? 

Dear Reader,
I dedicated this YA supernatural mystery thriller to those who have been betrayed in the worst kind of way. I wrote the novel when I saw a need to tell a story about someone who is liked by everyone at her school and then is suddenly treated like a pariah without any explanation. Unfortunately, this is an experience that many of us can relate to.

There is a lot of mystery and thrill here. You will find a surprising story that uncovers many secrets through a barrage of flashbacks, dreams, and an out-of-body journey.

Enjoy!

~Krista

PICK UP FOR FREE here on Amazon!

NOTE: I have not read this book myself, but I’ve read a few other books of Krista’s, and, while she doesn’t mince words on serious issues teens face, she’s approaches them with a Christian worldview.  ❤

HELP! Angel-Lover Rising to the Top!

2DHave you picked up your copy of Angel-Lover yet? There are some ads running on my second novel this week,  and it’s up to #15 in all issue-driven, Christian, teen fiction!
I was inspired by Frank Peretti’s “Hangman’s Curse” and wanted to pursue an evangelistic, issue-driven story about a Goth boy like Ian. ❤
Chad2
Please help me beat the book in the #1 place, which is an LGBT story that defames Christians!! :-O 😦 Just one dollar will help pull a book that has the gospel into a better seen position on an important Amazon list. ❤

The First Three Chapters of “The End of the Dream”

FullWrap_Preview

Chapter One

1

He stood at the top of two large rocks by the river. His back was to me, straight and slim, his stance wide, hair flipping freely in the slight breeze. The soft bubbling over the expanse of boulders lay at his feet.

Something made my heartrate speed up, and I first thought it was fear.  Why was he alone staring at the river like that?  Was he contemplating something drastic? But his gaze was up into the sky, his head held high, and his shoulders broad. He could not be suicidal.

I watched him, unmoving, breathing slowed, eyes unable to tear themselves away. How long would he stand there?  At first he appeared ageless to me in the reflection of the piercing sun on the glittering water.

“Vivien!” My stepmother’s voice broke the spell.

As if she had yelled an animal mating call in the middle of a library, I cringed and whirled to find her and quiet her with a death glare.

She was too far back down the rocky river trail, her head lowered, gaze scanning every step she took before she made it.  She didn’t move as deftly as I did around the great outdoors that was our backyard here in Index, Washington.

In the half second it took me to spin back around, the guy was staring at me, and I 90707f01172995a857d3c40ed5cafb12realized he was a teen like myself.  His body had rotated to face me, arms lowered, shoulders square. Self-assurance radiated off his chest like the sunbeams hitting the left side of his face. Brow furrowed, he gave me a look that seemed more curiosity than irritated at my intrusion. He stared openly, giving me pointed eye contact as if he were a fearless, all-knowing being, his eyes deep brown orbs.

I gawked helplessly back at him, fumbling with my shirt hem, feeling a bit like a peeping tom. “Hi. Sorry,” I muttered. “I live around the corner.  Was just hiking the river.” Why was I explaining?

He waited silently, shifting to watch Nevira approach. His eyes and short, wavy, dark hair said part Asian to me.  But he was also tall and fair.  He wore jeans with torn cuffs and a hole in the knee. On me, they would’ve made me look like an impoverished urchin. On him they looked purposefully hip. A camel-colored corduroy jacket covered a white t-shirt with a low v-neck, and black Converse shoes completed his look. He had a stud in one ear and the sun glistened off of it every time he moved.

When he said nothing more, I floundered.  “I’m sorry to bother you –”

He turned his head back to me. “I’m Ash.” His voice was as strong as his posture.

My stepmom was going to be there any minute, and then my part of the conversation would end. Nevira, Lord love her, still subconsciously treated me like a child who would open her mouth and spit out something horrific.  Nevira clearly found it safer to speak for me in company. Or no one had told her she was an airwaves hog.

“I’m Vivien Lark,” I murmured, before Nevira trudged up, sweat soaking her blond hair.

We had hardly walked a half mile.  I couldn’t believe she was already this tired. The bi-weekly treks had been her idea.  Nevira had watched me slip outdoors for long hikes often this year, and had assumed her stepdaughter was retreating from her. She obviously thought it was a way to bond.  I wasn’t sure I liked sharing my me-time. She was probably regretting her decision now.

Nevira swiped the back of a hand against a gaudy sweatband that clung to her forehead. She leaned over, hands on her knees, and took a deep breath.  Reaching into her backpack – the thing must’ve weight twenty pounds, and was seriously overkill – she pulled out a gigantic, brand-name water bottle and guzzled from it.

Embarrassed, I poked her in her sweaty side. “Nevira, this is Ash.  Just met him,” I whispered.

Nevira held up a hand for Ash. “Catching my breath,” she panted.

I was more mortified by the second but could come up with nothing new to say.

“Ash, do you live around here?” Nevira finally choked out, blowing wisps of loose Nevirableached strands from her face.

“This is my stepmother,” I added, still grasping for words. He must never think we were actually related.

“Hey,” he replied simply, ignoring Nevira’s question.

Nevira steadied her aching sides with a hand on her waist. She pointed the other one in the direction we came. “We live like a block down that way.  Our backyard has the white picket fence that opens up right on the river.”

I elbowed her.

She flashed me a puzzled frown.

“You don’t have to tell a strange teenage guy where we live!” I mouthed.

Nevira, ever the friendly one.  Ever the clueless, helpless blonde, as my dad liked to say.  I knew for a fact that opposites attracted, because my new stepmother was as ditzy as my father was smart. He seemed to love her for it, but she kept my blushing muscles working.

Nevira smiled apologetically at Ash.  “You’re probably here for some fresh air and solitude, and we’ve interrupted your time with our asthmatic wheezing!”

“Speak for yourself!” I muttered, this time loud enough that I hoped Ash would hear.

He probably thought we were hillbilly Index hicks, overly-friendly and nosy as all get-out. Feeling my neck get hot, I took a step away, more than ready to put Ash behind me and move on.

Ash’s shoulders suddenly lost some of their tension, deflating under his fashionable corduroy jacket. He shrugged. “I come here often. I’ll probably see you around.”

I allowed a polite nervous smile and a quick bend of my wrist in his direction. Nevira laid a heavy hand on my shoulder for support. Sighing, I trudged forward, leading her over the least slippery path. For some reason, I was angry, thinking of the handsome, serious Ash seeing me with Nevira and thinking she was family.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Mr Lark“You’re not going again, Dad,” I whispered. The stiff, smooth leather of his briefcase handle in my hands felt like as much of an enemy as ever.  I pinched it hard between my fingertips, willing it to crack and break. It was rare when I vocalized my wishes, and Dad had long stopped listening to them. He was buttoning his sleeves, shirt starched and spotless, tie pin gleaming at me like a goading, winking eye.

I used to love the smell of leather and shoe polish – I used to think the aroma belonged to my father alone. I was told I played with the tassels on his shiny black Oxfords before I even took my first steps, my drool clouding the perfect mirror-like surfaces.

I still kept his first red leather briefcase, hidden in the back of my closet, as if I were pretending I didn’t still love it with all my heart. When the handle had cracked, my father donated it to my dress-up collection, and I had played “Daddy Businessman” for weeks, shuffling precariously in those shoes of his. I slung one of his ties around my neck loosely, and the end flapped against my knees.

Mom had taken pictures.

That was before she left us.

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She said he was obsessed with his career, he loved new business ventures more than he did anything or anyone else, and that I, his daughter was such a daddy’s girl that I would end up just like him. That we were all nothing but demanding on her – that she was losing herself.

I had been a bad three-year-old. Little Vivien

That was my only memory of her – telling me I was bad. I didn’t understand what I had done, and I still couldn’t fathom what was muddling the emotions boiling over in her brain that day. I only knew one thing: I wasn’t worth raising. My mom had made that abundantly clear when she left us for good, not giving even an inkling of where she was going. The wind blew through a back window to shut the front door hard after her – I remember that too.

But my father proved I wasn’t worthwhile as well, every year after, when he chose to travel month in and month out for his job.

Every time he prepared to go, I tried to crack the handle on his briefcase. When I was five years old, I was convinced that the world would run out of leather luggage if I could destroy enough, and my father would be forced to stay with me. Most of the time, I resorted to scissors when he wasn’t looking.

By the time I hit high school and my teens, Dad was convinced I needed “a woman’s hand.” For the most part, we had stopped communicating, and I, completely unaware of how to repair that, satisfied myself with longing looks at his back every time the roller suitcase emerged from its too-brief nap in the master closet.

I knew now that defaming his personal belongings would never have stopped him in the slightest.  Our four thousand square foot house, right on Skykomish River, with its wrap-around porch and manicured arboretum-like garden, was proof of that. Dad had enough money to buy a luggage store, if need be. But it didn’t stop me.

Nevira came into our life after my fourteenth year.  For the most part, she was benign. She tried to keep house and cook that first month before caving to Dad’s pleas that she hire a maid and chef. After that, she became the trophy wife she was supposed to be. Only fifteen years my senior, she put on a motherly air that made her seem as silly as a peacock without tail feathers.

She accompanied Dad on some of his business trips, and stayed home pretending to be mom to me the other half of the time. I put up with her whims, mostly because I wasn’t one to vocalize my complaints, and partially because I truly thought that, if I were completely alone any longer, I would go mad. Most of my childhood had been survived hiding in my room reading books and doodling mythical creatures, vainly trying to tune out the sounds of Spanish soap operas below. My previous nanny spoke not a word of English, and the TV had been her soulmate. The best part of gaining a stepmother was that Lolita and her romantic dramas had been dismissed for good.

“This will be the last trip of the quarter, Viv.” Dad attempted to comfort me, checking his tie in the gleaming reflection of the oven. Everything shone in the monstrosity of a house I called home. Sometimes I hiked outdoors just to remember what dirt looked like.

I don’t believe you. You always lie. “Mhmm,” I murmured, squeezing the leather handle in half until my palm started to sweat. It had been a long time since I had cracked a briefcase handle. At least I had stopped using scissors. Yet the physical attempt of it – the destruction – was my passive aggressive tradition, and I vowed to keep it up until I walked out of that home for good.

Maybe my father would miss me when I leave him like mother did. The thought strangled me, and I had to smother a sudden wash of tears.

For the first time that year, Dad was paying attention. “Choking up now that your old man is going? It’s just like any other time, Viv.” Dad’s slick, dyed, honey hair betrayed no gray. Maybe he thought the moniker “old man” sounded cute and homey.

“I’m so not choking up,” I muttered.

“Oh, sixteen-year-old girls are moody like that.” Nevira bustled into the kitchen with all of the awkwardness of an out-of-control spinning top.  Her lipstick in one hand, she kissed my dad goodbye and then rubbed at the smear on his mouth. “Sorry, handsome.”

Looking over her shoulder at me, Nevira adopted what she probably assumed was a careful and concerned, motherly frown. “Vivien is really sullen these days, I think… and dreamy!  Too dreamy for her age.  I’m worried about her.”

Dad gave me all of a millisecond glance. “Watch some TV or order a pizza, Viv.  Take some time to have fun.  Finals aren’t for a while yet.  Relax.”

Relax. It was Dad’s favorite word. Nevira and I were to be like his paintings on a wall in his home, relaxing.  Doing nothing.  Why didn’t he ever take his own advice?

“I’ve got to get to school.”

“No hug?” Dad smoothed out the crease in his briefcase handle after he picked it up off the barstool where I had been abusing it. Neither of us had ever acknowledged the ongoing feud between his briefcase and me.

Even though my whole body wanted to ignore his hug and trudge out of the house, a sudden tightening of my throat reminded me of my deepest fear: that one day Dad wouldn’t come back either.  This might be my last hug, and I should treasure it and never refuse it. I couldn’t remember what it was like to hug my mom. Hugging Nevira felt like pressing a sack of rocks against yourself. Her fake bosom was anything but comfortable. Still, that was another good thing about gaining a stepmother – there was less chance Dad would leave both of us. Not with the googly-eyed gazes he still gave his second bride. There was a vicarious security in those gag-worthy looks.

As I hugged him, the fabric of the lapel smothered my cheek, the scent of the downtown drycleaner assaulting my nose. Then there it was, shy at first, and finally in my head at full volume: Dad’s musky cologne. I inhaled and held my breath. Please don’t let this be the last time I see you. Please be safe.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

One week remained clenched in my junior year’s tight-knuckled fist.  All that barred me from summer vacation were the gaping mouths of finals ready to swallow me whole. I can make it! Inwardly cheering myself on, I walked out the school gates with the regular flow of high schoolers heading home for the day. Lagging behind the group going in the opposite direction of my house, I dragged my feet against the cement of the sidewalk. Maybe stopping and getting an ice cream to-go would make studying more appealing. At this point, it felt like feeding myself piece by piece to a group of hungry crocodiles.

A bike approached the group quickly, whizzing down the paved street. I looked up, absently curious, and recognized the rider.  Ash from the river.

Noticing me an instant before he passed, he locked eyes with me and winked.

My heart rose up in my throat. There was no denying that he was gorgeous and a little exotic. He was also a brand new face. I was positive he didn’t attend my school.

I was the least popular girl in school. My label was “the rich bitch” – how poetic – after Dad had given me commemorative coins to pass out to my friends on my birthday back in ninth grade. Not wanting to hurt Dad’s feelings, but embarrassed by the idea, I had simply arrived early and left them on everyone’s desks –like solitary alien eyes twinkling up at them.

The comments had been insulting, as I expected, and very soon someone traced the bizarre gifts back to me. It hadn’t taken them too long – Dad’s company name was on the back. It was obvious I was handing out expensive leftovers from a work party. It didn’t win me any friends, and, unfortunately, helped brand me for my next couple of high school years.

Forcing myself not to look backwards at Ash riding away, I focused on putting one step in front of the other as I trudged forward, fiddling with my backpack straps.

My town boasted one old-fashioned ice cream parlor kitty-corner to the school. Many high school sweethearts congregated after school and ate at Cheryl’s. It was quaint with pin-striped green walls, white and chrome barstools, and photographs of Paris. The owner also liked kids, and gave out free scoops once in a while.

price-board

I lived in the tiny city of Index, population 199, out in the middle of nowhere. The surrounding area was smothered in ancient trees, craggy mountain peaks that were always a delicious shade of purple, and muddy roads. In town everything was quaint and small. At the end of my street, a “general store” the size of my livingroom sat like a friendly nod to Bonanza.

No one was a stranger here. Dad had moved out here to “raise his child away from the busy city with fresh air and nature.”  Except for his daily run, he still chose to spend his time in the mercury streetlights of Seattle over our country air and nature.  I wished he had heeded his own advice.

Ash felt like a foreign object in a microscope slide of boring normal cells. There was no possibility that he had moved to the area. I knew every house that was for sale in town – a grand total of one. And no one had bought the Aspens’ rundown, unkempt antique yet.

Cheryl’s was full, but not packed tight. The saccharine smell of cold delight caressing my nose, I stood in line, swaying back and forth on my tiptoes to see the ice cream choices. I knew I’d probably just choose butter pecan again, but there was always the possibility bravery would actually visit me and I’d venture out of my norm and do something new.  Yeah, so it was a relatively slim chance, but it existed.

After ordering a double scoop of butter pecan in a cup, and promising myself I’d be adventurous another day, I reached into my backpack for my wallet. A hand shot out behind me with a wad of cash and laid it on the counter in front of me.

“That was nice.” The owner, manning the register, smiled.

I spun to see Ash, standing so close I couldn’t move my arm without touching him. So I didn’t move.

He was tall. His chin could have rested on my short head. He grinned with one corner of his mouth, standing his ground in front of me and not politely retreating a step. He didn’t touch me but was close enough that I knew he must hear my rapid pulse.

I gaped at him, unsure of what to say.  “Thanks.” I ducked my head, furious at my embarrassment.

Waiting a second or two too long, Ash finally stepped aside, and pointed back at the counter.  My ice cream was waiting for me to begin breathing again and receive it.

It was so rare that a guy wanted anything to do with me besides get my phone number – something I was deathly afraid to give out. I didn’t drive yet and I didn’t have a cell phone. Nevira had deemed both “unsafe for minors.” I assumed she just wanted to keep me close to home so she could play mother longer. Either that, or Dad had confided in her about the suitcase, and they had both deemed me emotionally unstable.  But the idea of Dad telling his wife about my suitcase mauling tradition made my insides quake in anger, so I avoided that thought like a disease.

I was also terrified of giving out my home phone and Nevira picking up and blabbering everything that came across her mind to whatever male sat captive on the other end of the line. So I said no to the guys who inquired. After that had happened a couple of times, I must have been labeled in the back alleys as a prig. No one asked again.

My knees were a little weak at the strange kindness, and I was in no hurry to leave. Wanting to see what Ash did next, I took a seat by the window, leaning my burning forehead on the cool incandescent tile counter. Summer was almost upon us, and the weather betrayed its upcoming presence. My skin was damp from the short walk down from the school. And my head hummed with excitement.

Ash sat down in an empty booth, holding a cone with something chocolate perched on top of it. He pulled out his smart phone and kept his head down, zoning in on the screen.  I noticed he wore the same outfit that I had first seen him in – white t-shirt, camel jacket, and ripped jeans. Strands of his dark hair flopped down over his forehead, his head bent. He licked the ice cream every few seconds, cleaning his perfect lips after every bite.

I didn’t realize I was gawking at him until someone clattered down onto the stool next to me, obscuring my view.  My cup of butter pecan sat forlorn and forgotten on the counter. I turned back to it and stirred it lazily, shoulders slumping.  I tucked my black hair behind my ears and forced a spoonful of cold sugar into my mouth, my taste buds numb. Familiar cold weight filled my chest. Even when someone reached out to me in kindness, I was paralyzed with lonely dread, unable to respond. I was sick of myself.

As if my feet had grown tired of my pathetic brain, I found myself standing, pushing back from the stool. The metal seat squeaked as it spun, and I recoiled. But my legs weren’t finished with me. As my hand absently reached out for my bowl of ice cream, my feet started moving towards Ash’s booth. While my chest clenched in panic, my legs didn’t stop until I was sliding into the bench across from Ash, and sitting right in front of him. The hard, sparkly plastic of the seat burned into the backs of my shorts, screaming at me to retreat.

Horrified, I sat still, silently placing the cup in front of me and waiting, my eyes wide.  The noise of the busy parlor masked my quickened breathing.

Ash glanced up at me, his eyebrows cocked. He put the phone down on the table and licked his ice cream. “There you are.  I thought you’d just sit across the room and stare at me until you burned a hole into me with your eyes, but I’m glad you came to join me instead.”

Heat flipped my stomach. I stared down at my cup. “Sorry.  I’ve just never had anyone pay for me before like that.  I wanted to thank you and not be so rude.”

Ash thrust his ice cream forward at me.  “Want a taste?”

It was my turn to raise my eyebrows. “Of your ice cream?” I squeaked.

He smiled with both sides of his mouth this time. “Yeah, I’ll trade you. I want to try your butter pecan too.”

Was this a date now?  Sharing germs with a strange guy?  What if he was a psychopath?

“I’m not a weirdo stalker, I promise.” He held up a palm, as if reading my thoughts.

I could feel my nose turning pink by this point, so I threw my face forward, closed my eyes, and clamped my mouth over the tip of his ice cream. I hated chocolate-flavored anything, but that was the furthest thing from my mind. I couldn’t taste it anyway. My whole head burned.

Ash was still smiling when I opened my eyes.  He reached for my spoon and filled it with a generous scoop of my butter pecan. Slowly, and almost reverently, he brought it to his lips.  Closing his eyes as if in great pleasure, he swallowed it, and then opened one eye to peek at me. “Is this how I’m supposed to do it? You have to close your eyes to eat ice cream?”

He was teasing me. I tittered and then cleared my throat. “No…” I murmured.

“I’m sorry.  I’m teasing you.”

Are you reading my mind too?

He put more ice cream on my spoon and held it out to me, handle facing me.  Cocking one eyebrow, he nodded at me to take it.

Hands jittering nervously, I took the spoon from him, careful to make sure our fingers didn’t touch.  I then proceeded to shovel more ice cream into my mouth.

Ash picked up his phone, sliding it into his inside jacket pocket. After another few licks, he dropped his chocolate ice cream onto a napkin lying on top of the table, and grabbed another one out of the metal dispenser to use on his hands. “I visit your Skykomish River often but this is my first time in Cheryl’s.”

I swallowed the ice cream that had been melting, forgotten, on my tongue. “Where are you from?”

“Gold Bar.”

The closest town up the road from me. I couldn’t imagine him being able to bike back home. It was nonstop uphill. “Did you bike here?”

“Yeah.” Ash put his clasped hands on the table in front of him and gave me eye contact once more.

I stared back down at my cup of melting butter pecan.

“You live here in town, Vivien?”

At first hearing my name surprised me, but then I remembered I had introduced myself at the river. “Yeah.  We’re over the bridge near the white water rapids shop. At the end of that street.”

Recognition crossed over Ash’s face and he nodded. “Ah.  The great big place?”

“Yep.”

“I’ve biked all through here after hiking and swimming the river,” he explained.

We sat in silence for a minute.  I stole a peek up at Ash, but he was still watching me, seemingly lost in thought. He seemed confident in his own skin, not shy and covertly wringing his hands like I was doing under the table.

I forced myself to keep the conversation going. “I’m a junior.  Finals are this week.”

“Same.  We finished last week.”

I realized that Ash’s smooth voice was rapidly putting me at ease. “Do you have friends you meet while you’re here?  I’m not in their spot, am I?” I glanced around the parlor, hoping I wouldn’t have to get up – or worse, share a booth with more strangers.

Ash smirked and bit his lip, for the first time looking like a normal teenage guy. “Nah. I just moved to Gold Bar. But if I did, I’d tell them to get lost. I’d rather be with the pretty, raven-haired girl I bought ice cream for, of course.”

The compliment came off his tongue so easily that I marveled. “Raven?” I giggled.

Ash squinted one eye at me.  “You have cool hair.”

The nerves in my toes tingled and I couldn’t speak.

Ash closed his eyes for a long minute. “It reminds me of my mom’s. Hers is jet-black too. She’s originally from Thailand.  She’s beautiful – at least when her eyes aren’t bloodshot and swollen from sleepless nights drinking.”

My brow furrowed. I was quiet, wishing he would stop speaking, but afraid to try to silence him. Why was he telling me this? MothersThere wasn’t a fouler subject in the world according to me.

“DUI.” Ash picked at his ice cream cone, tearing pastry under his fingers.  His strong, lean chest took a weary breath, and his shoulders drooped. “One too many DUIs actually. It’s a wonder she didn’t kill anyone in any of her accidents.  They locked her up for three years.”

My eyes were as dry as sandpaper and my chest closed in on my heart like protective steel.

“Sorry!” Ash straightened up and laughed. “Don’t know how I got onto that. I don’t do small talk well.” He ran a hand through his burnt chestnut hair.

I was supposed to comfort him, to say something polite and charitable. But I was silent and my body had gone cold.

All mothers fail their children. It was something I had steeled myself against ever caring about again.

 

Story in progress!  Subscribe to this blog to stay tuned for details!
To check out more of my stories, click here.

Do You Like Mad Libs? Here’s a Game For You…

GIVEAWAY!!

 
Anyone ever get the feeling that Dr. Who episodes are created by the directors playing Mad Libs and then the writers just going with whatever comes up? 😛
 
While I’m waiting to get my voice and lungs back (had a rough bout of walking pneumonia) to continue my video series, I thought it might be fun to do an original sort of giveaway.
 
You guys are ALL writers, and you just don’t know it. 😉
 

I’m going to give you a series of 5 crazy words, and you need to write a 2-4 paragraph micro-story.

Results need to be in before November 1st! Winner will receive a paperback copy of my last novel published (and biggest novel!, Heartsick!
 
Send me your micro-stories over pm or email (dashwoodavenue@gmail.com)
 
Now HERE are your words:

meatloaf, crinkle, Advil, globe, and nincompoop!

All 5 words MUST be used.
 
May the best Mad Libbers win!! 😀
 
2D
 

30+10 – Remembering Nana

‪#‎30and10‬ Day 3

I visited my grandmother often in North Carolina, and loved the scenery, the nautical feel, and the Atlantic ocean. We drove all up and down the east coast, and setting Dashwood Avenue in South Carolina was simply nostalgic for me.
A pic of my grandmother, two of my siblings, and me – I’m the blonde! (she passed away almost four years ago, and I miss her tremendously. She was the epitome of a perfect grandmother in so many ways. Fun, great sense of humor, gracious, affectionate, loved us all equally, perfect presents, and fantastic sense of style. I love and miss you, Nana!)

Dashwood Avenue, Christian fiction for fourth grade and up, is available HERE.

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Paperbacks and Sales

Heartsick is now available in paperback!  I received my proof copy today, and it looks SWEET.

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You can order the paperback here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/rj-conte/heartsick/paperback/product-22604440.html  Use the code GETIT15 to get 15% off!

OR if you like your books in electronic form, the Amazon Kindle version of Heartsick is on sale this week for $1.99: http://www.amazon.com/Heartsick-RJ-Conte-ebook/dp/B01ASC83L2/ref=la_B00MDY4T0S_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457826890&sr=1-2

Also, just for fun, Angel-Lover is also on sale for $0.99  🙂
http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Lover-RJ-Conte-ebook/dp/B00MD5VH0W/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Happy reading!

Everything You Need to Know About My New Release: Heartsick!

I did rather a bad job of keeping up with the #JanuaryWIPJoy on Twitter that Bethany Jennings so cleverly came up with.  (Smart bestie, that girl!) It’s probably because it required me to post daily, and my family and I have been so sick this month.  All four of us had colds.  One child’s turned into pink eye in both eyes, the second got an ear infection, and then I was just diagnosed with strep throat.  Blech.  A lot of staying at home, which is probably good because we’re about to move 25 minutes north to the first house my husband and I have bought!  Moving time next month will be busy, so let’s get all the illness out of the way now!

Heartsick comes out next month.  🙂  Two of my editors got back to me.  Thank you, Bethany and Catrin Lewis!

Therefore, I think I’ll just do all of February’s next list right here on my blog.  I hope this 2D(1)gives you a lot of fun details about Heartsick, and sparks your interest.  The book releases February 26th, and is already available for pre-order here.  🙂

My Books:

Can be found here on Amazon.com.  Lucent Sylph is always free.  The Hotline Girl and The 12th Girl in Heaven will be re-released through Clean Reads press in the spring.  🙂

My Author Photo:

It’s a watercolor anime self-portrait.  I like to protect my privacy here on the web.  🙂

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My Last 5-Star Read:

I think that would have to be Linda K. Rodante’s Amber Alert.  She has a heart for realistic, life issues like I do.  I appreciate her as a new friend!

Fun Heartsick Art:

In the beginning, I really liked this model for Blessing Spivey, my main character.

I also really thought that Jesse McCartney looked like Shale Westin from my book.  I played arounGreeneyed.jpgHeartsickd with images when I was first writing the book and made my own for-fun cover.  😛

Writing Music:

Oh yes.  I have a Youtube playlist for Heartsick.  The first song is a long guitar piece that I imagine Shale playing.  😀  The first songs on the list are bubbly and fun, as describes the beginning of my book. I warn you, though, later on, the songs get really serious. I have some Melanie Martinez on there.  She sings about really disturbing things.  However, to get into the mood of some of the stuff one of my characters went through, it really seemed to fit.  I cried more writing this book than anything else I’ve ever written.  To really take people at their darkest and bring them to the Lord is one of my passions.  I have a character – or two – that have truly gone through hell and then some.  ❤

Awesome Moment:Heartsick Quote

THIS.

Challenge Overcome:

I actually put this book down for two years.  Went and wrote The Hotline Girl, The 12th Girl in Heaven, and Lucent Sylph in the meantime.  Shale just wasn’t fitting as a character.  I first had him as an STP, and people were either repulsed or defending him  Those were not the reactions I wanted.  I wanted a mysterious attraction.  In the time I took off, I rethought him entirely as a character, and brought him back as a real, true handsome-jesse-jesse-mccartney-mccartney-perfect-favim-com-197014INFP.  He makes a lot more sense now, and his character really came to life, helping me to finish the book.  *mwah*  I love you, Shale!

A Fave Review:

From three beta readers:

“You are a GENIUS” – B.J. when she got to the last couple chapters and realized what was going on. 😀

“I just finished reading Heartsick by RJ Conte and will definitely read it again!  I loved reading about the main character, Blessing Spivey.  So many of the struggles and thought processes were similar to ones of my own.  When beginning the book, I admit that I was afraid the main character would be perfect and make me wonder at my many struggles.  Instead, the honesty and realness in the book showed me I was not alone and encouraged me to continue onward in the fight for purity.  This book is open about many struggles of growing into adulthood and fighting to save oneself for marriage.  It is encouraging, and is completely focused on God’s grace and redemption.  I couldn’t stop reading it and enjoyed every second of it.  Every book I have read by RJ is incredible and this one is no different.  I highly recommend it!” – R.H.

“It was inspiring, romantic, funny, and it left me in awe several times. I couldn’t stop reading it! It captured my all my focus and attention from the very first chapter. I stayed up reading it was past midnight a lot, and then I continued thinking about what I had read while I was trying to sleep. It was so well done. I love romance books, but so many of them I never get to finish because they’re very inappropriate and have a curse word every sentence and I don’t want to read that stuff. But this one was PERFECT. It had just the right amount of romance but it was not inappropriate in any way. And it was very realistic. I felt like a part of the story throughout the whole book. I didn’t want it to end! I really loved it. It also made me yearn for the Lord a lot, and that’s a feeling I always love. I love feeling the need to just call out to Him. And having a book make me feel that is amazing. I think it was very well written and thought out and I will definitely be telling others about it. Thank you for letting me read it!” – S.T.

Killed Darlings:

Tessa.jpgNo killed darlings in this book.  Are you shocked?  This is RJ Conte!  😉  Tessa Lyme starts out dead.  Does that count?

She’s Blessing’s doppelganger, and Shale’s ex-girlfriend.  She was Hot on Campus before she took her life.  Blessing’s on a mission to figure out how to help the grieving Shale, but she gets a little in over her head…

A Favorite Book in my Genre:

Definitely Shredded by Kimberly Rae.  A tough read, but an excellent one for any Christian adult.  I adored it.  It was powerful.

Favorite of my Covers:

Hmmmm… I’ve had some fantastic covers, but I think Lucent Sylph is my favorite.  Maybe2D - Copy because I designed this one myself.  I even put the little veins in myself.  My cover artist just did font.  🙂

Swag:

Wow.  I haven’t done any swag yet.  I need to get on that.  I guess I have an angel wings shirt for Angel-Lover, as well as a Lucent Sylph shirt.  🙂

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Where I Write:

Here!  Although this is a pic from when it was first assembled, right after we moved in. it’s much messier than this now with stuff filling all of the cubby holes.  😀

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Where I Relax:

See above.  😛

Fave Chapter Ending:

My favorite one would be a spoiler, so I’ll go with choice #2

Blessing closed her eyes, taking a deep, shaky breath. She swallowed, trying to shake off the happiness that choked out her anger. Muscling some negative emotion back in, she forced out a challenge. “Then what if I sit somewhere else? Is there a give and take in this friendship? If I’m worth more, will you follow me once in a while?” She looked up at him.

            “You have a small foot, did you know that?” he replied, completely ignoring her question. He scooted his chair back a little and craned his neck to look down under the table where he had captured her.

            Her blood was pounding in her ears. “Well?” she asked, not wanting to be deterred.

            Shale finally looked up again, voice low and firm. “No. I’ll sit where I want to because I’m not being controlled by a girl again. Never again.”

My Muse:

One of my inspirations would be a spoiler, so I’m keeping that to myself.  But I can’t say I really have “a muse.”  I just love writing when I know I’ll have people who will read it instantly and give me excited feedback.  So thankful for Melanie Snitker and Bethany Jennings who did just that.

A Dedication Page:

I’m dedicating this to all of the homeschooled young woman that will read this book.  All the college-aged young people who grew up like I did, blessedly safe and protected, and who now have to navigate the world.  May God show you the remaining sin in your hearts in quick, painless, and safe ways, so that you can have your happily ever after where He will be glorified.  ❤

 

God bless, and enjoy Heartsick!

 

 

First Chapter of Heartsick

Just because I like to share!  Will you read it when I publish it?  😀

2D(1)

“It’s all about You, Lord … “ Blessing Spivey sang out cheerfully, closing her eyes and lifting her hands, along with about half of the other students in the chapel. She looked over and noticed her new friend Sadie had her eyes closed contentedly as well. The girl chose to sit with her even though it seemed that she knew almost half of the two thousand students who went to John Adams Bible College. Blessing smiled and felt her heart soar a little more. She wasn’t at college to have a social life, but a friend or two definitely wouldn’t hurt. Hitching up her long skirt, she stepped out from her end seat, and slightly into the aisle, to have a bit more room to sway to the music.

The chapel band, “Lovers of God” weren’t disappointing. They weren’t anything spectacular, and their homemade cds weren’t going to sell out at the local Christian bookstore, but they were just what Blessing needed that first evening at college. Their loud guitars and crooning lead tenor seemed to pick up the joy in her heart that had been stifled under a blanket of uncertainty and apprehension.

Back home, in Ensenada, Mexico, they had really worshipped, truly felt the music in their heart of hearts – sometimes the only thing that one could cheer and smile about in a week of eating only cheap beans and rice, and drinking warm, flat Cokes. Blessing missed crying out to the Lord in Spanish, but she found the English words came to her lips quite easily.

Blessing wasn’t paying attention to anyone else in the room, asking God to take her focus off of herself and the other students so that she could settle her heart in His for the day to come. She had just achieved this, her soul feeling satisfied and content, when she looked back at the front of the room.

A tall young man, standing two rows up, turned to the girl at his left and nudged her with his shoulder. The girl, who looked thrilled to be next to the guy, was out of place among most of the students around her. This young lady was definitely pushing the dress code. Her shirt was spaghetti-strapped, and there was very little back to her tank top. Her skirt, which seemed to be at least five inches above her knee – Blessing could see the backs of her thighs above the chairs — was black, torn, and strung with chains. When she turned to mouth something to her neighbor on the other side, Blessing could see a large skull pendant dangling from a chain around her neck. She had painfully big studs in both ears, and her dyed, neon red hair was in pigtails. The two girls sitting next to her also wore clothing that pushed the rules, but they were toned down from Pigtails. Did they have this sort of people at small, strict Christian schools too?

Blessing shifted her gaze to the back of the guy’s head. He certainly seemed comfortable sitting with them, even though he looked nothing like them.

And then he looked back, right as Pigtails whispered something in his ear. He caught Blessing’s eyes. His mouth gaped open and shut like his jaw was broken. His neck muscles worked hard as he swallowed a bunch of times. The light hit his eyes and there was a glint like they could even be tearing up. In an instant, he was up out of his seat without even a word to the girl next to him. Stepping out of his seat and making a beeline for a side exit door, he was gone before the song was through half of the chorus.

What on earth had the scary-looking girl said to him?

Blessing’s happy mood dissolved. She sat down with Sadie at the end of the chorus, her mind abuzz with classes that were to begin the next day, and the students occupying those classes. Nervousness trickled back into her consciousness like a leak that slowly but surely saturates a carpet. She bit her lip and turned to Sadie, desperate to return to her joyful and excited state of mind. “Who’s the punk?” she asked, trying to crack a joke.

Sadie didn’t even need to ask. She barely lifted her head from where she had it stuffed inside her giant purse, finally coming up with a stick of gum. “Randall.”

“Her name’s Randall?” Blessing muttered, surprised. No wonder the poor thing dressed like she did.

Sophie Randall,” Sadie explained. “But only her friends get to call her Sophie. Pretty much she’s known as just Randall around here. The teachers cringe when they see her coming. She’s always trouble. And trouble finds anyone else with a smidgen of rebellion in them. The other two play at rebels sometimes. Everyone wants to strangle them… in the most godly way possible.”

“Why doesn’t she get kicked out?” Blessing asked, chuckling at Sadie’s irony. “If she’s trouble and all,” she quickly added.

Sadie looked at Blessing with a kind, but bemused look. “You’ll have to tell me where you transferred from, you alien. This is college. You have to be put on academic probation or really do something wrong. It takes a lot to be ‘kicked out.’ And Randall’s a decent student. She just thinks differently and likes to show it. She enjoys pushing buttons. She’s still a Christian.” Sadie shrugged, “I think.”

“Oh, I didn’t doubt that she was or anything,” Blessing reassured, confused, and a little embarrassed about needing basic college mandates explained to her. “I’m an MK. Transferred from an online college. Grew up in Mexico.”

Sadie looked puzzled.

“Missionary kid.”

“Ahhh! MK! Of course! I have too many high-falutin’ things I’m storing up in this baby!” Sadie pointed to her head, with an apologetic smile. “That’s wonderful! I envy you!”

“So this is all a bit confusing!” Blessing explained, tapping herself with a fist to the forehead as well.

“Oh, don’t worry! You’ll get the hang of it! You’re smart. I can tell! And don’t mind me. I’m so corny I’m full of corn.” Sadie beamed.

“No way.” Blessing laughed, patting her friend on the shoulder.

The girls smiled and then Blessing realized that chapel was over as the music suddenly ended. She led the way out of the pew and almost ran into a girl coming out of the row across the aisle from her.

The girl came to a dead halt and leaned over her shoulder to her friend behind her. She meant for her voice to be soft, but failed miserably. “Whoa, doesn’t she look like Tessa?”

The friend’s eyes bugged out a little as she stared unbecomingly at Blessing. “Yeah!” she agreed. Giving Blessing one last look over, they continued on, whispering to each other with serious expressions.

Blessing smiled at them politely and continued in the single file line of young people shuffling along towards the door. She was about to jump ahead to ask Sadie another question, when a guy forcefully stepped in front of her and clapped a hand on her shoulder.

“Holy c…” he muttered, his words disappearing before they left his mouth. His pupils were huge.

Blessing rapidly and automatically moved out from under his hand, which went limp and dropped to his side.

The guy gulped and shook his head, shutting his eyes for a split second before opening them even wider than before. He lifted both eyebrows. He wasn’t bad looking. Blessing sized him up in an instant without realizing it. Did she look that funny? She had a feeling she shouldn’t have worn the multi-colored skirt her first day.

No, there had to be a different explanation than her skirt. Was this the new way guys hit on girls – acted shocked and then played a corny line? Like, “I’m sorry, but did you just fall from heaven?” How stupid.

Blessing rolled her eyes. “Excuse me?” she tried, hoping to prod the good-looking guy out of his stupor, as well as edge her way around him so she could leave.

Two other guys stopped behind him and stared at her as well. “What’s your name?” one of the new guys asked, his mouth hanging open a little askew.

“Blessing Spivey,” she answered immediately, kicking herself. One just didn’t give their name to the opposite sex in a first conversation back in Mexico.  Was this the way Americans did things? And why tell these overly friendly guys her full name? This was going to be an embarrassing pick-up scene, wasn’t it?

The sounds that formed her name seemed to leap through the air and slap them out of their stupor. They instantly relaxed, although the confused look never fully left their faces.

The guy who had asked the question gave a friendly grin. “Blessing? That’s really your name?”

Blessing nodded quickly, used to the patronizing smile she often got when introducing herself to Americans. She tried to move away.

“Cute,” the third guy said.

The two most recent additions grabbed the first guy’s shoulder and half pulled him away from her, opening up a path for her to escape. “Sorry, Blessing,” the most talkative guy said as they turned and walked off. “You look like someone we used to know.”

Caramba! Blessing thought in Spanish. Wbat on earth? That was what this was about?

She realized Sadie was long gone. She could just see her head bobbing out the door. She pushed forward to reach her and fell in step with her by the time they hit the pavement. “Sadie!” she cried, breathless. “Who’s Tessa?”

Sadie spun to look at Blessing, her nose wrinkling, eyes squinting. She put a hand on her arm. “You might want to come with me.”

There was an ominous feeling that bounced off of Sadie and into Blessing’s brain – intrigue and dread. Something dark. Blessing couldn’t put her finger on it. Gaping-Mouth-Guy’s face came back to her. The look that had transformed his face seemed to be trauma and shock dipped in pain. The girls, as well, sported hard expressions when they looked at her. Then there was the handsome blond guy. Maybe he left because his eyes had met hers. Maybe it had nothing to do with Punk Girl. Were all of these things connected? Could she really be the doppelganger to this “Tessa” the girls had mentioned? Could that be who the guys were referring to when they had lamely excused their borderline rudeness with a backward glance and one sentence of explanation? Or did Blessing just have one of those familiar faces?

Yeah, didn’t think so. Strange guys, who weren’t flirting, didn’t stop in the middle of the aisle and look as if their guts were panicking inside of them if she only had an everybody’s-cousin sort of face.

Sadie found an out of the way table outside of the campus café. No one was within fifteen feet of them as they lowered themselves into the wrought iron chairs. Sadie dropped the duffel-bag-like purse she carried into an empty chair and then turned to Blessing. She was about to open her mouth, when she closed it again, cocking her head and biting her lip as she examined Blessing’s face with her eyes. “Oh tartar sauce! You kinda look like her.” She gasped and put her hand over her mouth. Clearing her throat, Sadie then composed herself and interlaced her hands. “Yeah, wow. Did you hear her name because someone told you that you looked like her?”

Claro,” Blessing murmured in Spanish before catching herself and translating. “Bingo.” She leaned back in her uncomfortable, cold seat.

“Yeah… Man. Wow. Sorry about that. That’s no fun. Too bad you can’t do something drastic to change that, like cornhusk your hair or something,” was Sadie’s apologetic reply.

Rather than try to figure out what “cornhusk” was even supposed to mean, Blessing thought about what Sadie was implying. It’s a bad thing to look like Tessa? Her stomach got queasy. Ay de mi!

“Yeah, see…” Sadie seemed to struggle with her words. She lowered her voice to a hushed murmur. Rubbing her eyes with her hands wearily before looking up with a sad expression, her words came out like a funeral home director speaking to a bereaved child. “…See, Tessa… Tessa Lyme was her name. She was a junior last year. She died just this last spring.” Sadie bit her lip. “It was suicide. See… It was so sad… She… she filled her stomach with sleeping pills and drove her car off Highway 1.”