Thought I'd share this pic with you guys... For those of you who don't know - here in South Florida there is a ton of wildlife. My neighborhood is boing, we have the usual ducks and squirrels, (we do have at the occasional pelican - I'll save that for anther time) but there is a neighborhood not too far from ours that has these...
Although, it'd be very cool to have these beautiful creatures hanging out in your front yard, the neighbors say they're high pitched sounds are so obnoxious - as if a kid is screaming. That part - not so cool! And they LOVE the neighbors with black cars so they can look at their reflections (so vane)!
Erik never had to be anything other than a freak...until now!
Description: Two hundred fifty-three days is a long time to fake being normal when night after night you perform miraculous feats on stage in a freak show. Thousands have paid to witness the miracle, suspecting nothing more than a hoax. But it is very real and it is slowly destroying him. Erik is weakened to the point where he'll stop performing and start going to school for the first time ever—in his senior year. His only goal is to rebuild his strength so he can return to the stage and perform doing what he loves most in this world. What he didn't plan for was the appearances of beautiful Addison and mysterious Naya. Now, unfamiliar feelings and bizarre new friendships threaten to unbalance Erik's future as a miracle-performing freak.
I'm giving away an (5) print copies of After the Curtain Falls through Goodreads! Contest runs from January 31, 2014 through February 28, 2014. Please enter below!
As promised here is a sneak peak of the first chapter.
I roll my sleeves up to my elbows and take one last look in
the small mirror hanging to my right. Beneath dark strands of hair, black-lined
eyes flash with uncontained eagerness. Their engorged pupils mostly hide
gold-flecked blue irises. They always look like this just before the curtain
Just beyond the wall of fabric dividing me from my audience,
fragments of conversations fuse together and flitter to my ears. To any other
person the sounds and syllables of each broken sentence would create a chain of
meaningless nonsense. But to me, they are strung together in such a perfect way
they cause my nerves to whine with excitement. “Magician,” “illusionist,” “a
fake,” “an act,” “how much longer?” Ah, what bliss to savor the anticipation;
they are starving for me, and I drink in every drop of their expectations and
I shake out my arms and roll my neck to loosen and warm my
muscles, preparing for the surge of blood about to storm through my veins, and
the brilliant energy that will race alongside them. In moments, raging heat
will consume me, and with pleasure, I will lose myself in it, inviting it to
ignite every cell in my body. The curtain cannot open soon enough.
The lights dim, and the hum of a long single note resonates
within the walls of the red tent, suspending half spoken words in mid air. I
bring the inside of my wrist to my lips and kiss the inked dragonfly.
The music ripens into a haunting rhythm drowning out the
roar of the roller coaster and the screams that follow as it falls back to the
ground. As the curtain opens one hundred pairs of eyes return my stare. Their
expressions are the usual collection of amusement, suspicion, disbelief, and
even a fair amount of hope as they search my face for the truth.
I reveal nothing.
The black satin cloth slips between my fingers as I grasp
the corner of it. Expecting to possess each one of their morbid curiosities, I
open my arms and pull away the smooth cloth. The spectators’ gazes fall to the
three small tables between us. Murmurs and whispers escape their open mouths. I
steal my attention away from the audience and focus on the dead things
Some of my guests fidget in their seats; others are
motionless, but all appear impatient to see the phenomenon they’ve paid their
five bucks to witness. In the second row, a teenage girl with red hair looks up
from the tables to me. Her eyes are wide. She inhales sharply, puffing up her
already too large chest. I glare at her, feeding on her apprehension as she
reaches for the hand of the blonde girl sitting next to her. Redhead’s eyes
dart from me to the stage. I tilt my head, focus in on her, intent on nurturing
her anxiety, she is after all a witness to a freak show. She cowers, tucking
herself deeper into her seat, and looks down at her lap.
The blonde looks at me and leans into the redhead and I hear
her say, “Don’t be such a wuss. Besides, he’s hot.” And then she winks lasciviously at me.
These are the moments I feel like a rock star, and there’s
no other place than on this stage I’d rather be. It’s that shot of adrenaline
that triggers the unnatural energy inside of me. The feverish excitement rides
along my veins as I pick up the butterfly by one of its delicate blue wings.
A fat woman in the front row eyes me with skepticism. Her
dress has risen and settled on her thighs, presenting me with the mortifying
view of thick calves stuffed into flesh colored socks reminiscent of horrid
sausages straining to burst forth from their restrictive casings. To her left,
a boy about eight or nine sits as still as a cactus in the desert. His eyes are
nearly glazed over and his mouth hangs open as if I’ve already performed my
trick. The woman holds one of his hands in both of hers on her lap. She kneads
her fingers over his, the movements animating the purple and yellow flowers on
“Young man, would you like to assist me?” My tone is deep
His mouth closes, and he points to his chest. Wide-eyed he
“Yes. You, in the red shirt.”
He looks down at his red t-shirt and then up to the fat
woman. His head bounces up and down. A plea spreads over his freckled face, as
if his dream to be a freak’s assistant has finally come true, and she’s the
only one standing in his way.
Hesitantly, she releases his hand. He tears out of her grip
and climbs onto the stage, not bothering to use the stairs, and hurries to my
“What is your name?” I inquire. He smells of rotten fruit
and dirt, the pungent odors of a boy who hasn’t yet found the marvelous
invention of deodorant.
“Riley,” he says. His lips are outlined with a caked-on
white substance. His fingers twist around and through each other like a ball of
knotted, writhing snakes.
“Please welcome Riley.” The audience claps for the pudgy
“May I put this dead butterfly in your hand?”
“Yeah! Yeah!” His smile divides his face in two, and he
opens his hand. White speckles dot his fingertips. No doubt, the same as the
once powdery sugar that’s around his mouth.
I place the insect on his palm. “Do you believe the
butterfly is dead?”
He studies the motionless insect and shakes his hand, as if
the jarring might wake it from a deep sleep. After poking at its bulbous head,
Riley nods in short bursts and says, “It’s dead.”
“Thank you,” I say.
I wait a few more beats and for effect only, circle my hand
over the butterfly’s lifeless body. The boy’s nerves get the better of him and
he shifts from one foot to the other. I place my free hand under his to keep it
steady. “Riley, please stay still,” I whisper.
“Sorry.” He bites his lip nervously.
The music heightens and intensifies. Each blow to the
invisible drum matches my pounding heart. The energy begins to writhe inside
me. Everything under the tent fades as I focus on the unexplained vigorous
force taking over my body. My eyes dance in rapid jerky movements behind my lids,
and the fierce flood of heat courses through me. Scorched streams of energy furiously
wake each cell in my now slightly vibrating body.
I open my eyes and touch the butterfly. A single drop of
sweat rolls down the side of my face as the intensity of the energy leaves my
body. Waves of dizziness immediately take its place. The creature mere moments
ago, void of life, once again comes alive. It flexes its wings as if emerging
from the cocoon for the first time, and then lifts each leg until all six have
exercised the movement.
Gasps echo throughout the tent. Riley’s eyes are huge as he
stares at the butterfly moving on his palm. I raise the boy’s hand so the
audience can see the creature is alive, and the movement sends the butterfly
into flight. As if rehearsed, it flies over a spot light, magnifying it a
thousand times against the backdrop of the tent. The audience “oohs” and “ahs”
as they watch the butterfly flutter over them. Arms reach up, eager to touch it,
but it flies to the tallest part of the tent and disappears into the darkness.
From the corner of my eye I see a streak of pink—CeCe, my
little sister, dressed in a tutu. The curtain veils her from the audience. I
imagine the smile on her face, and her brown ringlets bouncing with excitement.
She is, by far, my number one fan. Her happiness is infectious and it pulls a
smile from me.
Whistles from the audience resonate around me; they clap and
yell for more. Their excitement stirs the simmering warmth inside my bones, and
I’m impatient to continue.
I thank Riley and guide him to the stairs. He turns and
looks up at me, his mouth once again gaped open. “You were the best assistant
I’ve had the pleasure of working with. In fact, you were so good, you yourself
might have a future as a Freak.” His face beams with undeniable happiness. The
audience chuckles, all except the fat woman. She’s glaring at me with pure hatred
as she grasps the boy’s hand and returns it to her lap. I flash her a wicked smile
When I glance up, Zane, my best friend, gives me the corona
gesture and mouths, “You rock.” Half of him is tucked in the shadows behind the
audience. The unhidden half flickers in the light. He lifts the corner of his
mouth and the metal spikes and rings piercing his entire face glint from the
light hanging to his left. I stifle the grin that threatens my lips, and lower
my eyes to the corpse on the second table.
The dead frog feels like a flattened rubber ball in my hand.
Wart-like bumps are scattered over its dark green body. The energy continues to
weave itself through my body like a slinking reptile, begging to be released. And
this time, without an assistant, I repeat the process. When I pull away my
hand, lightheadedness creeps into the crevices of the relinquished energy. Fatigue,
a recently found acquaintance, greets me early this evening. I spread my arms to
the audience, more to steady myself than to imply they are witnessing
After the third resurrected corpse scurries off the stage, I
thank the audience for attending and give a final bow as the black velvet
curtain falls and pools in front of my feet. My head falls to my chest, and my shoulders
slump surrendering to the exhaustion.
“Erik, you were fantastic,” my dad says as he slaps me on
I offer him a tired smile. “Thanks.”
“Hey, you okay?”
I should have tried to hide the weakness I feel, but that
would have taken more energy than I had to give right now. “Yeah, I’m fine.” I
plaster a smile on my face that I hope looks convincing.
His eyes gleam in the spotlights; they portray skepticism tempered
with pride. He nods and forces a smile of his own. “Watching you night after
night makes me want to start performing again.” A proud father that, up until four
years ago, was a great illusionist in his own right. Then one night he put his thirteen-year-old
son on the stage and laid a dead dragonfly at my feet, and I did what only
comes natural to me. The theatrics of it were never planned or practiced, and
without any uncertainty, word of my performance spread and gathered many and
they wanted more.
I pull back the curtain and see the last of the crowd have
“Your mom and CeCe should be back soon. I bet they’ll sell
out tonight.” At the end of my performances, CeCe and my mom sell autographed pictures
of me at the exit. Most of the audience buys them; they’re still on the high
from the show and want whatever memorabilia they can get.
“You look tired. Why don’t you head in and we’ll be over
after we finish here?” He lifts the bottom of the tent and nudges the frog
through the small hole. It hops away.
As I leave through the back of the tent, I sense someone watching
me. About twenty feet away, a man leans against the supporting rope of a tent.
His arms are crossed over his chest, and he’s staring in my direction.
With my attention on the man, I didn’t notice the little
girl standing next to me. Blonde pigtails frame her doll-like face. A pink
purse hangs on her shoulder, and she’s holding a bag of cotton candy. “Yes?”
“I just saw you bring those dead things back to life.” Her
voice is shaky like she’s been crying. The light is sparse in the alley behind
the tents, but there’s just enough of a glow to catch the streaks of wetness forging
trails from her eyes.
I glance up and the man hasn’t moved. His expression is
barely readable, but his guarded stance suggests I proceed with caution.
Unnerved, I rub the back of my neck.
“Was it real?” the little girl asks.
A request. One I’ve been asked a thousand times before. Now
all of this makes sense. She wants me to bring Fluffy or Rover back from the
dead. People come to the carnival to be entertained. The only thing that needs
to be real, and I want to be real, is the illusion I bring back the dead.
Nothing else. But, out of all the people that come to my show, the children are
the most difficult to fool. They believe what their eyes see. Adults are easy
to deceive; they’re immune to magic, enchantment, and fairy-tales alike. Sad
really, but it’s a belief I thrive upon. I’d rather be in a freak show than a
Avoiding her question, I ask, “What’s your name?”
“It’s nice to meet you, Sophie.” I put my hand out for her
to shake, but she ignores the gesture and pushes her small purse farther up
onto her shoulder.
“It looked pretty real to me.”
“I’m glad. It sounds like you enjoyed the show.”
As if I’d never spoken, she asks, “Can you bring back my
Her mother. Why
couldn’t she want me to resurrect her dead goldfish or hamster? Not that I
would have, but that request would have been a hell of a lot easier to dismiss.
I close my eyes and try to shut out the sight of this motherless child. The
lights from the Ferris wheel blaze behind my lids. Nubby balls of fabric rub
against my fingertips as I dig my hands into the pockets of my jeans. I’ve
never wanted to have the talent of Houdini, the man I was named after, but I
would give anything to be able to escape this moment.
When I open my eyes, Sophie is looking at me, waiting for an
answer. She reminds me of CeCe, not in looks, but age, and most of all, her
bravery. My fatigue multiplies as I watch this little girl suffer for want of
her dead mother. Her pain, her plea, her desperate hope is etched on her face and
I have to look away.
The mass of air I suck in tastes sour. I kneel down so we
are eye level, giving her the respect she deserves. “Sophie, I wish I could,
but that’s not something I can do.” As the words leave me, I’ve never felt so helpless.
She says nothing else as the hope slides down her cheeks.
Her arms slack at her sides and her pigtails flop forward with the fall of her
“I’m sorry.” The need to comfort her is overwhelming. But, I
stand and do nothing except fight the urge to fold in on myself.
Without another word, she
turns away from me and walks toward the man propped against the rope. Her purse
falls off her shoulder, and the bag of cotton candy drags on the ground. He
gives me a slight wave. I return a nod that I hope conveys the regret and
remorse I feel. He holds out his hand, the little girl puts her small one into
it and they walk into the blinking lights of the carnival. I collapse to my
knees with unbearable exhaustion and the bitter taste of regret in my mouth.
Hope you enjoyed it. After the Curtain Falls will be available January 31, 2014.