BURNED Exclusive: Chapter One Reveal

With only a few days left until the release of BURNED, A Donovan Circus Novel, I wanted to give you guys a taste of what’s to come. Newsletter subscribers received this a few weeks ago as a special sneak peek (be sure to sign up for more exclusive content, news, and freebies) and now it’s your turn. Without further ado, before even its release on Amazon, I give you Chapter 1 of BURNED.

Burned, A Donovan Circus Novel
Chapter 1

“Welcome back for the second act of the Donovan Circus!” Ringmaster Sheffield Donovan shouted into his microphone. “Look high in the sky and prepare yourselves for our amazing acrobats!”

Children and adults yelled their praises, clapped their hands as they waited for the performers to come out and entertain them. I watched as their faces turned up at Sheffield’s command, towards the heavens where six beautiful acrobats defied gravity as they twisted and flipped in midair. The crowd gasped in delight at each turn, hoping against hope that no one would plummet to the dirt floor so many feet below. Unbeknownst to the crowd, there was no chance of that happening, not when several of those acrobats were Levitators who could float themselves off the ground.

After flawless execution from the acrobats, the next several acts proceeded as usual. I saw my friend Bianca go out to the center ring with her dog Henry. Even though I’d seen their tricks at least thirty times now, the tiny Jack Russell jumping through hoops and dancing for Bianca never failed to make me smile. When it came time for the fiery motorcycle ball, however, my smile faded. Keegan and Nikolas, two other Firestarters, rolled their bikes in; my heart constricted at the sight of dark-haired, green-eyed Keegan, his handsome features focused on his performance.

I raised my hand at him in greeting, but he never looked in my direction. In fact, no one would look at me. I walked around and tried to speak to people but they ignored me. None of my friends would look over, not even my roommate Delia. Everyone stood still, looking straight ahead into the center ring.

Sheffield turned around to look at me. “What’s the matter, kid?”

His voice thundered through the microphone but the audience paid no attention, still enthralled by the performers. Sheffield’s familiar blond coif and handlebar mustache began to change. I opened my mouth to respond but paused as he shimmered, flames creeping up his limbs. He looked down at the orange and red that spread across his body, gave me a puzzled glance. The fire overtook him, so bright I had to look away for a second. When they died out, another person stood in his place, a small man with graying hair and wire-rimmed glasses.

“No.” My voice shook. “I-I killed you.”

“I’m disappointed in you, Lucy,” Dr. Felix J. Hardy hissed at me. “I thought you’d get to the bottom of things, learn the truth about your father and this show. Instead you hide. Don’t you burn to know?”

I cast a desperate look around for help, but no one stepped up. They stood in silence, unaffected by the exchange between me and the mad scientist I’d killed three weeks ago in self-defense.

Felix stepped towards me and a small flame erupted in his palm. The fire looked exactly like the one that had killed him, with a blue base that belonged to only the most powerful Firestarters, ones like me and my father.

“That’s impossible,” I whispered, rooted to my spot. “You weren’t a real Firestarter.”

“Something’s coming for the Donovan Circus, girl. Everything changed when you killed me.”

A shadow moved behind him, caught in the Big Top’s lights. Whatever the shadow belonged to dashed into the bleachers. I moved to warn the crowd, but they continued to watch the show in the center ring, ignorant to the hulking shape at their backs.

I turned to Felix. “What’s coming?”

“You’ll know soon enough.” The corner of his mouth quirked upward.

“Luce,” someone behind me called.

The knot in my stomach tightened at the voice; I turned to see Gabriel, beautiful, blond Gabriel with his deep blue eyes and muscled physique. He and Keegan stood next to one another, both with serious looks.

“You can’t avoid us forever,” they said.

“Try me,” I muttered.

“We’re perfect for each other,” Keegan said.

“I’m in love with you,” Gabriel added.

“Be ready, Firestarter,” Felix crowed behind me. I looked over my shoulder, back to the murderer I’d protected us all from.

Felix threw a fireball and the flames engulfed me. Between the colors, I saw the shadow leave the bleachers and creep near, a giant, four-footed creature that stalked towards me as I burned. I heard it licks its chops when my skin sizzled. Pain spread through me. Felix’s laughter echoed in my ears as everything went black.

My eyes snapped open as I jolted upright in bed, hands moving to put out the imaginary flames. My sweat-soaked clothes clung to my skin, my red hair plastered to my head. A groan escaped me as I flopped back down, trying to will the nightmare away.

I looked over at Delia, asleep in her bed. She hadn’t so much as twitched at my outburst. I envied her; she was the heaviest sleeper I’d ever met. Perhaps her conscience was simply lighter than mine.

Felix’s whisper rang in my ears. Something is coming. I shivered as the beastly shadow came into the forefront of the memory. This wasn’t the first nightmare I’d had since that night I’d killed the scientist. Not a day went by where memories didn’t remind me of the sins I’d committed in order to protect our gifted family. Felix’s burnt body still haunted my dreams and tonight his appearance reminded me of how dangerous this world had become. I was no psychic, but I didn’t doubt my nightmare hinted at a grain of truth.

Despite the small circus grounds, I’d done a hell of a job avoiding people for the last three weeks. Somehow I’d managed to dodge two boys – both on the same mission – and lots of questions from troupe members. Sheffield, however, seemed to be evading me to the same extent. While he’d needed to heal before we sat down to discuss my family history, he should be perfectly healthy now, yet hadn’t tracked me down. The last two times I’d gone to his camper, he hadn’t answered the door and I’d definitely heard a rustle of movement the second time.

The Donovan Circus was halfway into its schedule in a new city. Between packing up from our last location and now settling into the new one, I’d become a professional at avoiding two specific conversations. Keegan, the perfect-on-paper nice guy, and Gabriel, the bad boy turned reluctant hero, had both confessed they wanted to pursue more with me. As I’d never let my emotions become a factor in my life before now, this ridiculous love triangle had me in a snit. Was it possible to be in love with two people at the same time?

I was not the girl that got caught up in these kinds of things. A lot had happened to me since my return to this world almost two months ago. With my current job occupation, recently acquired friends, and a gift I’d had forever, that was putting it mildly.

The cherry on top was the flood of emotions that now constantly buzzed on the surface. Before coming back, I’d never had any problems shoving back my feelings. After Gabriel gave me an emotional jumpstart to defeat Felix, however, I was always on the verge of catching fire. The guilt I had over taking a man’s life threatened to consume me anytime someone so much as mentioned him. The smallest things would set my hands ablaze, things that I used to be able to handle. I couldn’t get my emotions under control and that made me a risk to everyone.

Lying there in bed, my brain screamed at me to get my priorities in order. If something was coming for us, how could we be ready?

BURNED: Official Synopsis and Release Date Reveal

Releasing an official synopsis is always a little nerve-wracking. To me, it makes the release more official and sort of a, “welp, no turning back now” type of feeling. However, we know it’s gotta come out at some point! That being said…the release date for BURNED is December 19th!

Want to know what to expect (or worry about) in the next installment of the Donovan Circus? Keep reading for the official book synopsis of BURNED, book 2 in the Donovan Circus series.

And just in case you want to read the first book in the series to meet Lucy and the rest of the Donovan gang (as well as get introduced to the gifted world and what it entails), GIFTED is currently on sale to help celebrate the upcoming release. Grab your copy now, only 99 cents for a limited time!

giftedsale.jpg

“Tell Sheffield that Medved is hunting him…the Bear is coming.”

Nearly a month after Lucy Sullivan saved the Donovan Circus from certain death, she discovers that Dr. Felix Hardy wasn’t the only bad guy around. When Lucy is attacked on home ground, Sheffield Donovan reveals that there are bigger foes in their world, gifted that use their powers to kill others – including her own family, as she learns from her ringmaster mentor. Medved, a Russian thug and powerful Shapeshifter, is intent on outing the gifted world and will stop at nothing to succeed.

In order to survive, Lucy and her friends must travel to another show, the Grayson Circus, for help. The uneasy alliance with owner Albert Grayson comes with potential new friends and dark secrets about their competition, including a troublemaker named Mel and an old flame of Lucy’s father. Lucy must also contend with her feelings about Keegan and Gabriel, as well as learn how to contain her rampant emotions or risk setting the entire place ablaze.

Will Lucy be able to save the Donovan Circus again? Or will Medved and his men slaughter everyone in their path on the way to gifted domination?

Why Authors Shouldn’t Read Reviews of Their Books

In preparation for the upcoming release of the second Donovan Circus book, I had to make sure I remembered all the bits and pieces from the first book. (We talked a little about continuity and establishing different titles in a series here.) Naturally, I have my spreadsheets and documents to refer back to, but sometimes, it’s easier just to pick up the paperback and flip to a particular page to double check something.

Okay, great. Let me just check out page 22 here…aaaaand I’ve read 14 chapters of my own work and now I want to go back in time, punch myself in the face, and tell younger me to never publish a book. What the hell was I thinking when so-and-so said this? When THAT happened? Was I drunk when I wrote that?! And who talks like that? Long, you’re an idiot. Don’t ever write anything else, ever again, for readers’ sakes.

Uhhhh, yeah. See how we are our own worst critics? I don’t need bad reviews to tell me that. All I have to do is read my own work and cringe with disbelief that I ever put out such a book.

I’m only sort of kidding, of course. I’m proud of the work I’ve achieved and I’d never take it off anyone’s bookshelf (because as I’ve said before, get a grip Long because someone likes your damn work). All the same, I am definitely my worst enemy when it comes to my own work (and that doesn’t just include my writing, either).

If you ask me (and you didn’t, but you’re here, so keep reading), I think I’ve got to stop reading my work once it’s been published. I read a great article this week about how authors should never read their reviews (I’m sorry, because for the life of me, I cannot find it again. Rats.). The reasons were surprisingly simple.

Reviews are for readers. They exist for readers to connect and engage, to discuss what worked and what didn’t, and why other readers might enjoy a title or want to make a different choice. Reviews are not for writers. The book bloggers I know are honest and blunt – and their reviews are meant for their readers, not for me. They don’t want to be called out by writers – half the time, it looks like the author is throwing a temper tantrum or defending their work. Guess what? That’s called being a poor sport and it makes you look bad. (Side advice: Keep quiet and work on writing the next book. You’ll get more respect in the long run for sucking it up and taking the high road, no matter how much you want to shake them and ask why they don’t understand your plot.)

Good ones make you feel good, sure. They make you feel all warm and fuzzy and like you can conquer the world. They also motivate me to get my butt in a chair and work on my next book. But at the same time, those good reviews only feed the ego and that might not necessarily be a good thing, either. Not all readers are writers. It’s great that they loved your book. But they might love every book they read for different reasons. You don’t want to get pumped up with so much expectation that when you see lower stars, it makes you want to leap off a cliff, right?

Bad ones, however, make you want to go back into the story and edit the hell out of it. Once you wipe the tears from your eyes, they make you want to re-read and tear it apart, and maybe do it with a bottle of Grey Goose on your desk. And the ones who say you’re just eh, okay? Sweet Jesus, talk about a kick in the ladyballs. “Mediocre” is NOT a word I like. (Neither is “diet.”)

When we set out to write our books, especially a series (or trilogy or whatever), we have a goal in mind, an overall arc of how things will happen and who the characters will be. What happens when you start hearing the reviews (good or bad) in your head about how they LOVED this character, but couldn’t stand your protagonist’s love interest? Or that this storyline was boring and wouldn’t it have been great if THIS had happened instead? If you ask me, that’s going to affect your book. Let me repeat: YOUR book. (If they want to see a story done a certain way, then they can write, it dammit.) Readers can love or hate your story, but they shouldn’t affect the outcome.

Good reviews, bad reviews, or somewhere in the middle: all the same, I’m starting to realize reading reviews is a waste of time. My product is out there. I worked hard at it, paid for professional editing and cover design, had 17 drafts rewritten, got feedback from beta readers, and god knows what else. Now it’s up to the rest of the world to do with it as they see fit. I can’t sway their minds – and if I could, that’s not exactly an honest review now, is it?

This one is especially for the nice kids who want to be liked: You can’t make someone like you anymore than you can make me eat chicken livers (never gonna happen). As Dita von Teese says, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.” You’re never going to have 100% positive reviews. You don’t love every book you read, do you? Even Harry Potter has some one-stars (I know, I’m as insulted and flabbergasted as you, but it’s true. 124 one-stars on Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s blasphemy, I tell you.)

Are poor reviews disappointing? Sure. But your goal, as a writer, is to produce the best work you can and keep chugging along. The only person who can stop you, is YOU. Not your momma, not your day job, and certainly not a handful of 2-star reviews. Five stars might lift us up, but we all know it’s the 1 stars that slam us to the ground and leave us there, dazed and hurt for weeks. Why should we do that to ourselves?

It’s going to be difficult, I know. But I’m going to try very, very hard with future releases to cool it on the constant review refreshing. After all, I’ve got to get cracking on those other stories in my head. And so do you.