Magnificent Antlers

Grab a coffee, pop your feet up and settle in for a short story…

Magnificent Antlers

I saunter through the forest enjoying the feel of the soft moss underfoot. I can just see my little one out of the corner of my eye chasing a butterfly, frolicking over the greenery of summer. The bluebells are long gone leaving behind a wet spring. The sun, now warming the earth to a more pleasant temperature, indicates summer is finally here. I shouldn’t complain too much about the rain, the damp season has left the land fertile and the stream full and flowing; there will be plenty to graze on these coming summer months.

A subtle-sweet taste brings me to a halt. I lift my nose into the air searching for the direction of the scent. I sniff. I flick out my tongue tasting around my nose. I know that smell, bilberries. The taste makes my mouth water. I call out to the herd letting them know these exquisite berries are nearby.

I trot over the forests carpet and through the green coarse bracken, my nose keeping me on the trail of the scent. It fades a little by the big oak tree, I have to stop and search out the smell again, my long neck reaching up towards the thick canopy of the ancient oak. I walk around the tree focusing through my nose; the sound of a green woodpecker mocks me, its laughing chirp irritating. Where is that scent? At the right moment the breeze blows through the forest carrying the bilberry fragrance on its waves. I follow the current as it dances through the air streams tantalizing my taste buds.

At last I fall upon the berries growing in abundance, the scent now so strong I feel as if I am already chewing them. I dip my head and gorge on the ripe fruit. The berries explode as I pick them with my lips, juice running down my throat and squirting out from the corner of my mouth, sticking to my fur. Sensations take over my present and for a moment I forget where I am.

A loud snap jerks me back into the forest. My head shoots up. I freeze. Adrenaline fires my heart into a race and my legs ready to gallop. Then I hear a laugh I know well and any sense of danger disappears as quickly as it came. Foss, my fawn, trots into sight. A paradox of emotions envelope me, I’m impressed at his stealth but saddened he is growing so quickly. Hor elegantly walks into view; his majesty brings me into a bow.

‘You did well my Son,’ he praises. His magnificent antlers pierce the atmosphere above him. He dips his head into the bilberries to graze for a moment. Not once dripping juice around his mouth, he gracefully eats his share then backs away to give the others room to graze. He trots over to me keeping my eyes locked with his. His strength radiates a magnetic aura around him, a field of seduction, and once again I am momentarily immersed in sensations as he gently nuzzles his strong jaw down my nose; a moment of affection before he is gone ahead of the group to keep watch.

‘Come on little one,’ I nose Foss forward away from the berries, ‘save some for the others.’ Foss springs along by my side as we move away from the bilberry bushes.

‘Mother, when will father teach me to lead?’

‘You have a little way to grow before you become like your father,’ I smile. ‘Don’t be in a rush to grow up too soon; it’s a great responsibility to lead a herd.’ Foss runs up in front. I watch father and son share a moment of affection then Hor retakes his striking position watching over the herd.

‘It’s time to move,’ he calls to the herd, ‘forwards, to the meadow,’ he instructs and we all follow obediently.

The fawns run ahead. Near the meadow, the trees thin out giving them more room to spring about. I watch them stop abruptly near the stream. They haven’t been this far to the edge of the woods yet. We’ve been keeping them deep in the forest for safety. Their trepidation over the stream amuses me; I watch them slowly crawl near the flowing water then jump back instantly. I’m not sure if it is the sound of the stream or the speed of the flow that makes them apprehensive.

The males go ahead. The fawns watch their fathers walk through the stream. They realise it’s not too deep and one decides to jump in. Unfortunately, all too eager to follow the stag, he stumbles and goes under. His mother comes to his aid, grips him by the scruff of his neck and lifts him out onto the opposite side. Foss waits for me before he attempts to jump in.

‘All you need to do is walk in, Foss,’ I gently urge him, ‘follow me.’ Carefully he feels his way through the water. I stop for a drink, the bubbling cold water flows into my mouth refreshing me. Foss watches me and does the same. ‘See it’s not so scary is it?’

‘No mother.’ He bounds up the small bank on the other side and enters into the grassy meadow. Hor approaches.

‘Be careful now, Foss, don’t wonder too far from the group. Keep your eyes and ears alert and run if you sense any danger.’

‘Yes father,’ Foss replies as he runs off to join his friends. I cast my gaze over the meadow to admire its beauty. I watch the long grass sway in the breeze; seeds float across the top of the grass, each on its own destination. Contentment sweeps through me as I enjoy my surroundings. Up ahead I watch rabbits leaping about the entrances to their burrows. The starlings glide, twist and turn dancing in a kaleidoscope of movement. I activate all my senses to check for danger, none present, so I dip my head into the grass and start to graze.

The summer heat, now cooling, feels delightful on my hide. Warmth radiates through my body as I crunch the meadows green offering, the musky smell of the earth swaying through my nostrils as I search for the grass roots. Our young playing and laughing as they spring over one another, my most cherished sound; my favourite time of year is in full swing. A gentle breeze tickles my fur. I lift my head to check the scent brought to me on the currents of the air. I breathe in and taste the air and breathe out a happy sigh; all is well in the meadow.

I trot over to Hor for a nuzzle but something makes me stop before I reach him. My fur is prickling at the back of my neck, tingles of fear pulse down my body connecting my pathways of nerves. I look over my shoulder. I can’t see anything but it feels as though something is watching me. My guard is up, adrenaline pumps through my veins but I don’t move. I still can’t see or hear danger though my inner alarm is ringing. Something is not right; the sense of bliss that had enveloped me is now a buzzing of trepidation. Hor catches my eyes. He feels the alarm rolling off of me and stands to attention. He can sense it too. He calls out to the herd, a low call not audible to many creatures. Fos stops jumping and looks at me with curiosity, too young to be alarmed at the stags alert. I creep over to Fos, the long-wavy grass barely moving; my instinct to protect him over powering my initial sense of fear. My baby. My life.

Like a crack of thunder a deafening sound ricochets through the meadow sending flocks of birds skyward, feverously flapping their wings to escape. Rabbits dart here, there and everywhere disappearing down the nearest burrow into the safety of the underground. I realise I’m running. My legs are galloping over the grass my survival instinct taking over the momentum of my limbs, I see Fos just ahead of me running towards the woods.

‘Run Fos, keep running, into the woods, don’t look back, keep going!’ We get to the stream and jump into the trees and the safety of the forest.

The second bang, taking nothing by surprise, rips through the atmosphere splitting the heavens and earth. I hear him scream. Hor! I stop instantly and look back. Hors’ magnificent antlers wobble and bob just above the grass as he struggles to get to his feet. I hear the thud of the earth as he collapses on his side. He cries out to me, pain screeching from his lungs and I feel it, I feel his pain surge through me like fire burning me from the inside out. Then I see them. Humans with long black weapons heading towards my love and I know he’s doomed. These are his final moments; his last breaths. The herd kneel down, the knowing our leader is about to pass from this world into the next echoes through us as a group, a painful whisper joining us together in grief.

We watch on in horror as they bring his life to an untimely end. They drag him through the meadow by those magnificent antlers. None of us move. We stay hidden amongst the trees, shock keeping us motionless. A deafening silence falls through the forest, the kingdom of trees paying its respect to their fallen king. A high pitched wail breaks the silence. I lose the use of my legs and fall to the floor. Then I realise the wail is coming from me.

****

The colours changing in the canopy indicate the coming rains, the forest ceiling transformed from green to burnt and rust. The summer was hot but Hors death left an icy imprint, never warming, always there. I graze, filling my body with as much as I can before our food source thins. The monotony of daily routine the only thing I can focus on.

****

Snow covers the forest floor; the herd stays together for warmth. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel warm, a common problem of the white season.

Mendip, Hors’ brother, leads the herd through the snow. The silver moonlight shimmers and dances across the white landscape. Tiny sparkles of ice crisp beneath our feet as we journey to the place the red winter berries grow. Mendip strides out ahead, keeping watch, making sure our passage is safe. A deep orange glow ahead illuminates an old church no longer used by humans. They come to look at it during the day though I’ve always wondered why they are fascinated with a building crumbling under the stress of time, no longer loved or cared for.

The building opposite to the church overflows with human life. The warm glow of their light fashions strange shadows on the snow. I want to see their habitat. I look up at Mendip to make sure he is not looking. We are forbidden to go too close to human territory. My curiosity pulls me towards the shadows. I can see fire, a large fire burning at one end of the room. My instinct tells me to go no further but I have to, something other than my instinct is pulling me towards the picture I see of dancing flames and humans laughing.

I’m close to the window now; I can feel warmth coming through the window from the fire. I can’t feel my body but the fear rolling through me reminds me I’m alive. One more step and I’ll be next to the window. I inch my head forward, my nose almost touching the glass. With a skip of my heart I freeze. Hor’s magnificent antlers pierce the atmosphere above them as his dead eyes stare back at me.

The end.

 

Lucid Dreaming

This is the first poem I wrote for my creative writing degree. It came from some scribbles I wrote down upon waking from the dream in the poem. I used to lucid dream all the time and haven’t for a long time.

The feedback from my tutor was great! Although I’m not usually one for writing poetry, I thought I would share on here.

Lucid Dreaming

Arguing,

With an obnoxious and ignorant Mark

A lucid dream

Fantasy dredged from the belly of subconscious

Arguing, really?

I can change this

Mark disappears and I’m running

Running through a corridor

Into a room

Wake up, wake up

Why can’t I wake up?

It’s just a dream

Then I’m awake

Drenched in sweat

But safe.

Happy New Year Writers Block

Happy New year!

New year new me, right? Ha! No! Though, of course, there are many things I need to improve on but I’m not going to sit here and tell myself a load of crap like…

I’m going to do dry January! When some days the only thing that get me through the day is the knowledge that when our kiddies, in the Northern Hemisphere, are pushing out the Z’s, there is a large glass of vino waiting for me to enjoy in peace.

Or…

I’m going to lose weight! Knowing most of my calories comes from wine.

Or…

I’m going to be a better person blah blah blah.

I know what I need to do, I need to stay motivated. Can that be a resolution? This year I am going to be motivated! It doesn’t sound right does it?

A big mistake I made over the Christmas period is not write, anything, not a blinking word unless you count:

‘Dear so and so….. Merry Christmas and Happy New year’ in about a dozen cards that don’t usually get sent, then I find them in a draw in March.  Oh and the Christmas food shopping list. Actually I wrote a couple of those because I kept losing the bloody things. Therefore the word count over Christmas would probably total about 100 and I score 0 for creativity.

I told myself not to worry and enjoy the festive season. I’ll pick the pen back up when January pops along. It’s all good girl, go and let your hair down. Tink will go back to school and I’ll turn the creative tap back on to full flow and pick up where I left off.

In the words of Julia Roberts in pretty women…Big mistake! Huge!

I read all the time that creativity is like a muscle, use it or lose it. Why I didn’t think this applies to me, I have no idea. Clearly the prosecco infused confidence or the mulled wine glow, danced me into a festive waltz through December; a vision of Gene Kelly dripping with tinsel, gliding across snow covered roof tops and singing let it snow comes to mind. (Did he even sing Let It Snow?)

I discovered this morning that the term use it or lose does apply to me. I opened my note books and study books and discovered with horror I am illiterate. I have no creativity. I can’t write my name let alone finish the short story I’d started before the Christmas dream. I dare not open the files of my novel, who knows what destruction I could cause on my written baby. What harm I could do! I glared at a blank word document realising that for the first time ever there is not a thought in my mind, only the faint whistle as a tumble weed rolls through my inner screen. Hello! Is there anyone there?

My full flowing creative river is not even a trickle at the moment, a dry river bed of half words and thoughts. I now begin the painstaking task of bringing down the dam and promising myself to never put it up again. And there is nothing like an assignment deadline to add strength to writers block!

Wish me luck!

Manifesting Dreams

I’m a wannabe, I hate admitting this, but I am. I’m a wannabe author.

I’ve spent the past year dreaming and plotting my first big project (to be honest I spent a lot of time procrastinating and having little belief in myself).BUT I have the dream of walking up to Waterstones and seeing my book in the window, number 1 on the best sellers list and even…wait for it…the rights being bought and it being turned into a movie!

Well, you’ve got to aim high, right? Shoot for the stars. Go for gold. Why play down a dream? The thing between a dream and a realised goal is ACTION. (Finger out, head down, pen in hand and off we go!)

I had this idea that writing a book would be easy. It’s a story that’s been living in my head for a while, so putting it on paper is the easy bit right? Wrong! I’m discovering just how hard it is to write a book. I have even more appreciation for authors than I had before and I’ve always thought they were pretty fab.

The days I have sat staring at a blank screen realising I’m illiterate (did I even go to school?) are countless. Thinking I’d be able to bang out 3000 words in the little time I have after being mother, cleaner, washer, ironer, taxi, food shopper, cleaner, comforter and cook was certainly idealistic. Oh to be Jefferey Archer, escaping abroad for three months to write his novels. (You have no idea how lucky you are Jeff) Stephen King says the first draft should be written within 3 months, love your work Stephen but clearly you do not have young children who demand your full attention. (Thank God school just started)

I dream up an entertaining, action packed chapter in the shower then as soon as I’ve opened the laptop amnesia kicks in (who am I?). I have spent a whole day (it isn’t often I get these) and managed 500 words, in the whole day! (Ridiculous, I know) But then I’ll, weirdly, wake up at 5 a.m. and write more words in half and hour than I did in that whole day. Maybe I need to set my alarm and write early morning, this could be my creative time. Just my luck for 5 bloody a.m. to be my most creative time! I’d rather it be 8 p.m. than 5 a.m. (If Microsoft word had emoji’s I’d stick a shocked emoji right here.)

I’m certainly learning a lot about myself. Who even knew there was a time of day when you’re most creative? It’s a new concept to me; my previously ignorant-self thought writers pick up a pen and just write as well as their talent allows them to all day every day, each paragraph being as fabulous as the others. Wrong again. And then there is the editing bit, which I have happily discovered, I love. It makes me feel like a sculpture chipping away at a block of stone to reveal the hidden gem inside, a painter who has sketched their foundation and applying the colour to create their masterpiece. Getting it out, first draft, this is the hard bit.

Besides these challenges and realisations I’m really enjoying myself. There is nothing better than escaping into a realm of make believe, creating new worlds, navigating your characters around trials and triumphs, crying with them and celebrating with them. On the days I get sucked into the story and the words flow like ice cream from a Mr. Whippy ice cream machine, I’m like Tigger after a double espresso coffee from Costas. Maybe I need to go with the flow, accept the bad writing days for what they are and buzz, vigorously, off of the creative spew days (Tigger was always my favourite). Creativity can’t be forced and I’ve noticed on days where I feel like I’m forcing it I write dribble, it’s like when you have wind – if it has to be forced it’s probably crap!

Watch this space! Manifesting my dream here I come!

Interview with Josephine Angelini

I got to interview one of my favourite YA authors today! How exciting! We talked sandwiches, house elves of Hogwarts and licking your own butt!

What inspired you to write Fire Walker trilogy?

I had a nightmare. And I watch a lot of Science channel. And I always knew I wanted to write something witchy. So it really was just a bunch of thoughts brewing in my head that all swirled together and turned into a story.

Which one of your characters would you like to be for the day, why and what would you spend the day doing?

I would love to be Lily for a day. Mostly for Rowan 😉

What was your favorite book as a child?

When I was very little it was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Then just about anything by Judy Bloom. After that it was the Dragon Riders of Pem series by Anne McCaffery

What characters (of any book by any author) would you like to have a dinner party with and why?

I think I’d have to do something from Jane Austin, because her character really excelled at dinner parties as a rule. Either that or the house elves of Hogwarts. They must be a hoot.

 

You are stranded on a desert island with a character from one of your favorite books, who is it and what is the first thing you do together?

Arthur Dent and I would make sandwiches

Would you rather have a witch or a wizard as a best friend?

Witch

What author would you like to go in a submarine with?

Anna Carey. We’d have a great laugh.

Merlin has come along and changed you into a cat, you have to find the anecdote, what is it and who has it?

It’d be cat spit and I’d have it. All I have to do is give myself a bath, change back into me, and then I can tell people I licked my own butt just to see the look on their faces.

Would you rather have a dogs tail or cats ears?

Cat eats. Dogs tails are creepy.

When writing your books how do you decide the personalities of your characters and do you ever base them on people you know?

The personalities just sort of happen. I know that is so unhelpful, but the characters become who I need them to be to tell the story. And I borrow things from people all the time, but I never really copy them completely, I just use maybe two or three details in order to bring my characters to life.

Fans can find Josephine online here….https://twitter.com/josieangelini

and here http://www.josephineangelini.com/

Interview with Steven Harper – author of ‘Unfair’

Today I interviewed Steven Harper. Steven is the author of Unfair, a middle grade book I read and reviewed not so long ago. We talk escaping from a desert island, witches and Octavia Butler.

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What inspired you to write Unfair?

My son Aran is autistic, and I wanted to write a book for him.  He was eleven–Ryan’s age–when I started the novel, but what with one thing and another, I didn’t actually finish until Aran was 18!

Which one of your characters would you like to be for the day, why and what would you spend the day doing?

Ooooo.  Probably Gavin Ennock from my Clockwork Empire steampunk series.  Gavin invents a set of wings and learns to fly.  He’s also a much better musician than I am.  So I’d spend the day playing fiddle and flying over mountaintops–though not at the same time.

What was your favorite book as a child?

That would depend on when you asked me.  I read HALF MAGIC by Edward Eager many times.  It always seemed like such fun to get as many wishes as you wanted instead of just three!  But there was also GREEK MYTHOLOGY by the D’Aulaires.  They introduced me to all mythology, an addiction from which I’ve never recovered.

What characters (of any book by any author) would you like to have a dinner party with and why?

Terry Pratchett’s Lancre witches–Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick–would be favorite, I think.  We’d have a lot to discuss about solving the problems of the world!

You are stranded on a desert island with a character from one of your favorite books, who is it and what is the first thing you do together?

The glib answer is someone like Superman or Granny Weatherwax, since they can fly and get us off the island.  But if I had to spend a lot of time alone with one fictional character, Nanny Ogg would at least be entertaining and probably not be overly bothered by our situation!

Would you rather have a witch or a wizard as a best friend?

Oh!  Speaking of!  A witch, I think.  Witches tend toward practicality, even if they are stubborn, and the magic is more subtle.

What author would you like to go in a submarine with?

Octavia Butler is my favorite author (as an adult), so she’d be at the top of my list.  I was crushed when she passed away so young.  So many great books unwritten!  Shakespeare would also be a good choice, if he could get past being in a submarine, because I have a number of questions about his personal life.

Merlin has come along and changed you into a cat, you have to find the antidote, what is it and who has it?

We always seem to circle around to the witches, don’t we?  Nanny is experienced with cats who change form–her psyco kitty Greebo knows how to become human already–so her antidote would be to teach me the same trick.

Would you rather have a dogs tail or cats ears?

Cat’s ears.  Then I could eavesdrop on my students better.

When writing your books how do you decide the personalities of your characters and do you ever base them on people you know?

Most of my protagonists arrive in my head fully formed, like Athena springing out of Zeus’s skull.  This tells me that my subconscious is a better writer than I am.  I tweak, though.  I’m fond of contradictions, though.  the protagonist of my first novel IN THE COMPANY OF MIND was fantastically good-looking but cripplingly shy.  Aisa in the Books of Blood and Iron was a slave girl with a sarcastic, snarky tongue.  Gavin and Alice have a May/December relationship, but Gavin, the guy, is the younger one.  I got fan mail after those books came out from several people who said  their grandparents and great-grandparents (from Gavin and Alice’s era) were in a similar situation, with a much younger man and a much older woman!

Who would play you in the movie of your life and why?

Oh heavens.  I have no idea.  I wouldn’t be able to handle going to watch it!

What book do you wish you had written?

WILD SEED, by Octavia Butler.  If you haven’t read it, go get it now!

Who’s your favorite author and why?

The aforementioned Octavia Butler.  She writes what I call “dwarf star books,” which are very dense.  They also pound you flat.  You can’t stop reading them, though. Her stories are absolutely compelling and take no prisoners.

Where can fans find you online?

My web site is http://www.stevenpiziks.com .  I’m on Twitter as @stevenpiziks , and you can find me on Facebook as Steven Piziks or Steven Harper Piziks!

 

Chasing Truth by Julie Cross

Chasing truth is a teenage murder mystery and I didn’t guess who the killer was before it was revealed! Now that, to me, is an ingredient for a great murder mystery. No spoilers here but when the killer is revealed, my inner voice screamed ‘no way! I’d never of guessed it was….’

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book; the first line is brilliant, it’s the kind of line that makes me think ‘wow what type of book am I reading now?’

‘It’s not like I haven’t seen a topless girl before.’  

I knew I was reading YA so I was aware it wasn’t going to get kinky but going straight into partial nudity amused me. A great start.

The story is written in first person, the view point of Ellie, the protagonist. I have to admit that in the first chapter she irritated me; I wanted to grab her by the shoulders, give her a shake and tell her to drop the bloody attitude. But a few chapters in and I’m warming to her more as she develops into a smart-sassy girl maneuvering herself around a new high school, dealing with grief and investigating her peers. By no means did her attitude put me off the story, in fact it added to it for me (I secretly wished I’d had that attitude and savviness at 17) by half way through I loved her!

Ellie has a rather dodgy, con-artist, background. She lives with sister Harper and Harpers boyfriend, Aiden, who is a secret service agent which made me think this is going to have a conspiracy theme to it and I wasn’t disappointed. Ellies friend, Simon, apparently committed suicide. Ellie isn’t convinced it was suicide and struggles to believe the official story, she has questions she wants answers to. A clever, hot, ‘new’ boy is brought in almost instantly creating the setting for some interesting relationships to play out; which I have to say, were well written and portrayed, I felt 17 again in many parts of the story or at least I had a few flash backs of being 17.

Ellie uses her ‘dodgy’ experience to hunt for answers and the truth about Simons death; she has an on and off investigative partnership with the hot new boy, Miles, that is encased with layers of lies and truths that are peeled away throughout the story along with a shirt or two. One minute they’re working together, the next they’re not but as the truths about each other are uncovered, so too are the lies and mysteries surrounding Simons death and the pair find themselves uncovering more than they bargained for.

I was slightly cocky throughout the book thinking I’d figured out who the killer was; the author makes a great ploy to get you believing you are right in your choice of killer, only to shake things up at the end, and who doesn’t love it when things become shaky?

A great murder mystery entwined with teenage angst and first romantic encounters.

4 out of 5 stars from me, looking forward to the next book in the series.

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Tour Date:

September 26-Oct 14, 2016

 

Link to Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28220973-chasing-truth

Purchase Links:

Amazon  | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca | IndieBound | BAM | TBD 

Link to Tour Schedule:

http://www.chapter-by-chapter.com/blog-tour-schedule-chasing-truth-by-julie-cross/

Giveaway Information:

 

  • $50 Amazon Gift Card + a paperback copy of Whatever Life Throws at You (INT) 

 

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Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames #1)

by Julie Cross

Publication Date:  September 27, 2016

Publisher:  Entangled TEEN

At Holden Prep, the rich and powerful rule the school—and they’ll do just about anything to keep their dirty little secrets hidden.

When former con artist Eleanor Ames’s homecoming date commits suicide, she’s positive there’s something more going on. The more questions she asks, though, the more she crosses paths with Miles Beckett. He’s sexy, mysterious, arrogant…and he’s asking all the same questions.

Eleanor might not trust him—she doesn’t even like him—but they can’t keep their hands off of each other. Fighting the infuriating attraction is almost as hard as ignoring the fact that Miles isn’t telling her the truth…and that there’s a good chance he thinks she’s the killer.

 

Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press).

She’s also the author of the Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

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Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA.

She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres.

Outside of her reading and writing cred, Julie Cross is a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

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