Excerpt: Transcendent: Tales of the Paranormal Anthology and How You Can Help St Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Rita J Webb sent an email to me, and I wanted to share it with all of you:

I’m emailing you to let you know that 50% of February’s net sales for Transcendent will go to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital to support the care and treatment of children with cancer. For more information, check out my blog post:

http://afantasyfiction.blogspot.com/2012/02/50-february-sales-will-be-donated-to-st.html

Book Blurb

Discover the secrets of a siren, fly with a hawk girl over the mountains of Montana, and flee supernatural party-crashers as the décor comes to life in this magical journey through paranormal stories.

Along the way, watch for ghosts in a haunted house, or ride through the moonlight with a stranger. Save a comatose boy who has lost his soul, and don’t forget to bring your garlic and wolfsbane—you never know when the shadows will snag you.

Transcendent includes eight stories of magic, love, death, and choice by some of the newest names in young adult fiction.

Purchase Information

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615572324
Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006JV1NM8
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/transcendent-lani-woodland/1108015082

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Excerpt

Kiss of Death by Lani Woodland & Melonie Piper

Death and I shared a complicated history. During most of my seventeen years of life, it had followed me like a shadow I couldn’t outrun. Its icy fingers had closed around me more than once, but each time, I narrowly escaped. Even thinking about those encounters chilled my soul, but something always intervened. I survived. Not without more than my fair share of scares, though, and the knowledge that every second is precious.

Some sense of foreboding accompanied my dark thoughts, and apprehension haunted me as I stepped from the limo into the balmy Florida heat. The humidity caused my robin-blue gown to cling to my skeletal frame like shrink-wrap. My bald, scarred head was covered by a wig, perfectly styled and immune to the hot, sticky air.

Tall, slender palm trees swayed in the breeze as Nikki and I wove our way from the parking lot and into the hotel’s crowded lobby. Tonight would be perfect. It had to be—because tonight would be the highlight of my short life.

As the doctors had told me, the recent bout of sickness meant the experimental drug had failed. If the tumor returned, they would try another surgery, but there was little hope for a complete recovery. Within the next few months, I would most likely die. The news devastated my family, but as time passed, a sense of acceptance filled me. I decided not to waste one moment of the time I had left.

Tonight was no exception.

I settled into the party, ignoring the ever-present tug of death. Tonight, it seemed harder than usual to push away. I could almost feel its caress on my skin. I shivered. No matter where I moved around the room, it seemed as though something watched me. When I glanced over my shoulder, I half-expected to see the Angel of Death moving in to claim my soul. I rolled my eyes at my own imagination when all I found were the usual happenings at proms: people eating, dancing, and talking.

Enough of that. I’m here to have some fun.

I absorbed the heavy beat of the music while I danced, losing myself in the energy of prom night. It took an hour, but I finally managed to forget my unseen reaper, though the strain of activity after weeks of being bedridden took its toll.

“You’re looking kind of pale, Scarlet. Why don’t we go sit down?” Nikki asked.

“No, it’s okay. I’m fine.” But even as I said it, a wave of dizziness swept over me, and I grabbed a chair to steady myself.

“Sit down, stubborn girl. Your mom made me promise I wouldn’t let you overdo it tonight.”

“Too late, I think,” I muttered, low enough that Nikki didn’t hear, and pressed my hand against my overheated face. I tried not to lean on her arm too much as she walked me towards our table, but dizziness morphed into pain, and for a few moments, I saw double. I flopped into a chair with a thud and winced as the impact set off jackhammers inside my head.

“One of your headaches again?” Nikki frowned when I nodded. “I’m going to get you something to drink.” She turned toward the refreshment table, but not before I saw the worry in her eyes.

My head ached more than it had in a long time, since well before we’d begun the drug trial, and the pounding felt like something cracking its way out of my skull. I had a doctor’s appointment on Monday, a surgeon’s consult. I would have to get a pain prescription.

“Here, have some punch and rest,” Nikki said, pushing a white plastic cup into my hand. “I can sit with you,” she offered, but her eyes strayed to the dance floor where her boyfriend Joe danced.

I smiled at her. “Nikki, go.”

She shook her head. “No, I’m your date.”

“We both know I’m only your date because I missed too much school to buy my own ticket. Joe’s your date. Go dance with him. He looks lost without you.” Joe stood on the fringe of the dance floor with his hands clasped behind his back, swaying off beat to the music.

Nikki bit her lip. “Are you sure? I could stay.”

“I’m okay. Just go.”

She flashed me a quick grin and ran to Joe, and I smiled as I lifted my cup to my mouth. I looked casually around the room as I sipped and my eyes skimmed past a guy who walked through the ballroom doors and stepped off to the side. I gasped as I swallowed a mouthful of punch, which left me sputtering and coughing.

I blinked and looked again, expecting him to have vanished.

But he didn’t.

My heart pounded like the surf on the sand watching him move through the crowd. My cheeks flushed, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if my tongue unrolled from my mouth and thudded to the floor like a cartoon character. But who would have blamed me? It’s not every day the guy who visits you in your dreams strolls out of your REM cycle and into your senior prom. Yet there he was, the guy my mind had created in times of duress, standing casually among us. For a moment, I thought I imagined him, but then Garret O’Neil asked him a question and he nodded in reply.

“He’s real.” I’d spent most of my life living in fantasy novels, wishing magic into the reality of my life, complete with a benevolent knight who would ride into my life and whisk me away from all the pain. I looked at him again, still standing on the side of the room. The sight of him brought me hope. Maybe magic really existed in the world, and maybe I could be a part of it.

I stared at him harder, memorizing every characteristic and mannerism. His hair had the same messy waves I knew so well. My gaze traveled to his lips, remembering what it felt like to stare at them as they offered words of comfort. His sculpted cheeks, his long-lashed eyes, and his quirky smile—exactly the same as my dream guy. He even flicked his bangs back with a toss of his head, in the same absent-minded way. By the time I heard his deep rumbling laugh, my stomach clenched with certainty.

I frowned. Moments like this didn’t happen outside of the movies. Maybe the Make-A-Wish people had really upped their game; how else could Dream-Guy have materialized on the most important night of my life? Maybe it could be explained by the meds my doctor had given me. No, that explanation didn’t make sense. My medicine had side effects, but not the kind that caused hallucinations.

The pressure in my head increased, making my stomach lurch and black stars burst behind my eyes. I took a deep breath, combating the pain, and when it lessened, I immediately checked to see if he had vanished. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that he hadn’t disappeared.

Dream-Guy leaned against the wall, his dark eyes scanning the crowd as if looking for someone. My heart fluttered again, and a seed of hope sprouted in my heart that maybe he was searching for me. But the seed withered under the brutal sun of reality.

Me, dateless at prom. That was reality.

A brain tumor the doctor believed would grow back, and painful headaches suggesting it already had. That was reality.

In reality, the odds of surviving another surgery were zero.

I really hated reality.