Pages of Paige

“Write the best story that you can, and write it as straight as you can.” Ernest Hemingway

I kind of like Ernest Hemingway, so I take his advice as often as possible. That’s what I tried to do when I created Paige and the rest of her story in Dear Stephanie. I tried to write it as straight as I could. And I think I did.

If you’re in the mood for a read that will take you on a shockwave ride of emotions, get your copy today. It’s live, and I’m very proud, but don’t take my word for it.

Here’s what people are saying about my newly released debut novel:

LizziDear Stephanie is a tale of a woman’s battle against mental illness and her own efforts to self-sabotage her entire existence. In spite of her privileges and mind-games, Paige’s story is one of connection and relationship and self. It’s a tale of maybe true love and definitely true love, and loss, and hope, and wonder, and deep, indescribable pain.

It made me laugh.

It made me cry.

It made me angry.

BethDear Stephanie breaks molds.

The realities of the main character – Paige Preston- and her struggles with mental illness and drug abuse are not prettied up, and no bush is beat around. You start out not really liking her, until you do, mostly because she starts to resemble you, with vulnerabilities and fragility. She is human. She is broken.

Castle handles this subject matter with realism and care, never glorifying or exaggerating, which I find admirable. I was genuinely swept away in the story. I laughed out loud, I teared up, I worried, and I felt. You really can’t ask for more than that.

HelenaI was moved to both laughter and tears by this book, which I read all at one sitting, never tiring of the wonderful prose — Castle’s character, Paige Preston, was a delightful narrator, speaking to her audience in a voice that was real and believable.
I’d recommend it to anyone who likes character driven stories and appreciates good writing.

DanaFrom the first chapter, I was hit by the hot mess that is Paige. I often decide immediately whether I like a character, but Paige reveals herself over the course of the novel, and my investment in her grew as I read. She is real, flawed, and heartbreakingly human, and her story stayed with me for days after finishing the book. Even now, over a week after I read it, I am still thinking about it. For me, that is the sign of a good book. It seeps into your pores and settles in.

Chrissy: In my head, I was Stephanie. Paige was writing to me.

She’s confident. Demanding. Beautiful. Flawless. But NOT without flaw. Because no one is. Depression is real, and this character exudes everything and nothing all at once. 

So much happens in so few pages, that I can’t even begin to spoil this for you. I didn’t devour this novel, so much as I was consumed by this novel. I couldn’t put it down (even at work, I kept sneaking a page here and there – sorry boss!).

ReneePaige Preston is ALL THAT – just ask her.

She is every man’s wet dream.

She is also completely hollow and bitterly cold inside, or so it seems.

But sometimes you have to give people a chance to show you who they are.

LisaCastle creates a character who is so substantive, so engaging, that you can’t help but be drawn to her, despite her many flaws and violent demons. You will find yourself breathless several times throughout the tale, right up to the very last unbelievable word.

AndraDear Stephanie is a departure from my usual reading routine, an example of trying something new to shake up a reading rut. At first, I disliked Paige Preston so much I wanted to stop reading. I’m weary of books constructed around unlikeable, unreliable narrators. But Paige wove her spell. She is a well-crafted, deep and disturbed character, manipulative enough to charm even me. 🙂 You won’t be sorry you gave Paige a try.

Dear Stephanie Final eBook cover Laura

Paige Preston wants to end her life. After an unsuccessful attempt, she lands herself in mandatory therapy with a sexy psychiatrist. When he and an even more alluring friend begin to help her break down the walls she’s spent a lifetime building, Paige begins to see something bigger than herself. Is it enough to pull her out of her dark world and help her finally feel like a human? Or will letting someone in be the final step toward her demise?

Dear Stephanie is a sinfully addictive walk through a world of beauty, affluence, and incidental love that effortlessly moves the reader between laughter, tears, heartache, and hope with the turn of every “Paige.”

So, what are you waiting for? Read the book (click here for kindle or paper back), and then let’s have a book club discussion. I can’t wait to hear what you think. Oh, and if you want to win a signed paperback, comment here. If you want a double chance, share something on Social Media with the hashtag #DearStephanie. Thanks for playing!

Thank you to all of the people who have read my book and left reviews. I am forever in your debt, and I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am for all of you.

Aside

Queen Grimhilde

The snow falls outside my window, a constant reminder of winter, quilting the ground below in a pillow of frost.  As the wind picks up, the flurries rise and fall and whirl in a frenzied tornado leaving the land white from ground to sky.

White.  The absence of color, so majestic.

The forest outside my window tells a story, the howling of the wind, the creaking of the trees in the breeze.  It tells my story.

“I won’t bore you again with it.”

“No, Madame Grimhilde, please do tell your story.  I’d love to hear it…ahem… again.”

“You’re too kind, my dear.  If you would be a darling and fetch me a blanket, and make me a cup of tea, first.  I can feel the chill in my bones today.”

“Yes, Madam, of course.”

“I once was a beautiful young woman, you know,  full of hope and promise, with skin so fair, my mother would say she could see my blood coursing through my veins.  We had little money, my mother and I, and she often would have to beg for food to make it through the week until our next pension.  My father died young in a brutal accident, or so my mother said.  I remember very little of him, but Mother persevered and made me promises of a grander life. She always said that my beauty would win me a prize of a young man, maybe even a prince.  She forced me to stay inside the house, never to meet the sun and suffer its damage.  I spent my days trapped in our cottage. Alone.

“As a young girl, I spent most of my time reading.  I started with the fairy tales wrapping myself in make believe stories of happily ever afters, but as I grew older, the darkness in our little cabin sunk into my soul.  Fables no longer entertained me.  I began to crave more mystic stories, and found them hidden in my mother’s chest, the one I was strictly forbidden to touch, stories of black magic and spells.  Eventually, I learned the craft, but I’m getting ahead of myself, dear.

“One afternoon, I was in the kitchen attempting to brew a love potion  when my mother came bursting through the door.

“‘We have a visitor, Hilde.  Do go and put on your best gown, and please, wash that muck off of your hands.’

“I scurried to my room and retrieved the only gown I owned, the one my mother wore when she married my father.  I brushed off the dust from the capped shoulders and slipped it over my head.  My mother came in and helped me fasten it from behind.  We stared at my reflection in the mirror as she smoothed the silk folds.  Her warped fingers bent like gnarled tree branches around my waist, a testament of the hard work she endured to keep us alive.  I held her hand there, and together we admired my reflection.  She pulled my long black hair into a low plait and fastened it with a red ribbon.  My alabaster skin stood translucent beneath the obsidian silk.

“‘I think I’m ready, mother.’ We heard the hooves and neighing of horses outside.

‘”My dear raven girl,’ she said, ‘Your prince awaits you.’

“My mother greeted our visitor as any peasant greets a lord and bowed as he entered our tiny cottage.  Introductions were made, and we sat at our table.  Before I knew it, my mother poured the young man a cup of the brew I had created.  I pushed my chair out and lunged toward him when I realized what he was about to do, but it was too late.  He took a sip.  And then another.

“He knelt down in front of me and took my slender fingers into his.  ‘You will be my queen,’ he said and kissed the top of the hand he still held.

“I never had a choice in the matter.  A few days later, we were married. My dearest mother died the next day.   I moved into his castle where he lived with his daughter, a little petulant child, plump with being fed too many cakes and given anything her little heart desired, beautiful though with skin as white as snow and lips the color of a ripe red apple.  My husband adored her, even more than he adored me, which was quite a lot.

“The fucking fat bastard wouldn’t keep his hands off of me, always wanting to prod me with his tiny fucking cock, breathing his rank nasty breath into my face as he thrust himself into me night after night after night.  On nights when I refused, my face ached where the tender purple marks littered my skin. Eventually, I stopped struggling.  I thought that maybe one day the gods would bless me with a child, but unfortunately, every month I received a reminder of a body that could not produce life.  Broken.  Barren.  And stuck with that little bitch, Snow White, and her fat disgusting father.

“I could only take it for a few years.   One quiet evening, I fed my husband a beautiful feast.  We were alone in the castle, and I watched his cock swell in appreciation at another excuse for gluttony  just before he fell face down in his plate.  We buried him the next day.

“Snow White was beside herself with grief and a healthy fear of me.  I kept her around as long as I could.  She grew into a beautiful teenager, with a slim waist, full plump breasts and a big round ass that brought all of the princes to our castle to adore her.

“I spent most of my time in my bed chamber with my little pet bird I called ‘Raven’ because he reminded me of Mother. But I could not ignore Snow White and the attention she received from the princes that came from all across the land to get a glimpse of the girl with the fair skin and the red lips.  I noticed more and more that the princes never even looked in my direction.  One day, one had the guile to ask me if I was Snow White’s grandmother.  He fell from his horse to his death on his journey home.  Stupid little man.

“I often stared at my reflection in the only mirror we kept in the castle and eventually moved it into my secret room where I made my potions.  One day, as I looked at myself, the mirror revealed the lines beginning to form round corners of my lips and at the creases of my eyes, the silver wiry hair peeking out around my temples.  The mirror saw the truth and told me I was no longer the fairest in the land.  Filled with rage, I ordered a huntsmen to take that damned child into the forest and kill her, but the noble prick couldn’t do it and came back to the castle begging my forgiveness, which, of course, I could not oblige.

“I learned of where she stayed and followed her about the forest one day, cloaked to keep my skin from the sun, and watched her as she talked to the birds and the rabbits as if she’d gone mad.  That was nearly enough until I saw she she was pleased, happy even.  Her skin reflected the sun’s light, and there was a twinkle in her eye.  The little corners of her crimson mouth turned up on the sides in an obvious smile.  Unacceptable, I thought to myself.  She does not deserve happiness if I cannot have it, too.

“I watched her enter her little cottage and knocked three times on the door after she was inside.  I brought a bundle of candied apples with me, one of her favorite little treats, and when she opened the door, her mouth fell open at the sight of the sweets.  She looked at me, close, as if I resembled someone she once knew but then cocked her head to the side and raised a brow at me.

“‘May I help you with something, old woman,’ she said to me.

“I recoiled at the term ‘old woman,’ but before I could turn and go, she reached down and retrieved an apple from my basket.

“‘Do take a bite, young lady,’ I said to her disguising my voice.

poison apple

“She ate the entire thing in three bites, then licked the gooey sugar from the delicate tips of her fingers.  I watched her fall to the ground, convulsing, white bubbles foaming from her heart shaped lips.  I turned to run back to the castle.  I ran and ran, my breath catching in my chest, muscles aching, until I could no longer make my legs move.

“And then I woke up here, my dear.  I don’t know what happened next.  I’m not sure why Snow White fell.  I only wanted to give her a sweet treat, you see.”

She looks at me now with a smirk.  She doesn’t believe me.  None of them do.  I scoff at her and pull the blanket over my legs and wheel myself back to the window where the white envelopes the landscape.

“Hilde, er, uh, Madame Grimhilde,” she says attempting to garner my attention again.

“Please just go.”  I say, refusing to take my eyes from the snow.

“Madame Grimhilde, I need you to take your pill.”

“No!  Get out of my room.”  Those fucking pills.  They want me to rest, to put me in my bed to sleep until I die, to forget my past, to lay in my own piss and wither away…forgotten.

“Mrs. Grimm, you must take your medicine before dinner.”

“My name is  Madame Grimhilde, and in case I did not make myself clear the first time, I said GET OUT!”

They think I’ve lost my mind. It’s only a matter of time before they come in and tie me to the bed again.  If only my body worked, and I could run and free myself from this prison, feel the snow crunch against my slippered feet and the chill of that unforgiving wind on my cheeks.  Instead I’m trapped here in this room, this place, this hell that is my mind.

“Poor old bag thinks she’s the Evil Queen again,” I hear her whisper to the men who strap me to my bed right before I feel the pierce of the needle.

“Her dementia’s acting up again,” I hear a male voice say, “It’s always worse for the ones who get no visitors.”

And then my head swims into blackness again.

Where is the white?

The white…

White…

This story is a part of the creative fiction blog hop.  Grab the badge and join in if your inner villain wants to play.

creativefiction

The Wasted Minstrel

When I very humbly requested Lizzi of Considerings to guest post for me, and she immediately said, “Yes,” I jumped up and down, clapping my hands.  I may have even performed a cartwheel.  Excitement?  No.  Elation.

Lizzi has a way with words, to completely understate her talent.  As my eyes travel through her stories, her fingers reach out from my screen and wrap themselves around my heart, yanking it, tugging it, and turning it to putty in her palm.  She makes me laugh.  She makes me think.  She more often than not makes me cry, and I never cry.  She is brilliant.  A Writer.  A wordsmith, and she’s here today with  Part Deux to Shadows and Stardust.  Make sure and click the link to read Part One, a beautiful story inspired by yours truly.  To be called a muse by one of the most beautiful writers I’ve ever laid my eyes on,  both humbled me and made my heart grow at least three sizes.  So, please welcome my dear friend, Lizzi,  whose words will sink into your soul.  Then get ready to want more.  She’s good like that.

********************************

The town’s main street was thronged with people, huddled like penguins inside their winter coats; braced against the cold but determined in their quest to purchase. They were bedecked in bags, like peculiar woolly bumblebees, each surrounded by an ethereal cloud of their own steam – breath puffing words into visible clouds as they hurried past.

I was honeybagged myself, straining against the weight of New Things. The once-straight handles twisted and turned, cutting the circulation off in my fingers and combining with the chill air to freeze them into reddened claws – travesties of the hands that once were.

I navigated my way out of the main streams of people, cutting across others, ducking behind groups of chattering teenagers, taking big steps and little ones, my feet mindfully stepping the complex dance of Saturday At The Shops – avoiding dreamy couples, Stormtrooper mothers and cantankerous old women wielding their roll-along shopping trollies like tartan-coated weapons.

Seeking shelter in an eddy by a side-route off the main street, I found space to pause, down bags and rub some life back into my twisted hands. Leaning back against the building, I watched the crowds as they flowed past, marveling at their individuality and simultaneous mass-anonymity, wondering what their stories might be.

Hands warmer, I turned to gather up my bags once more when an alcove doorway caught my eye – fifty yards back from the river of humanity, it wasn’t so much the door which caught my attention as it was the small movement of a fabric-coated lump stuffed into the bottom of it – someone was there.

Like I’d been run through with a trident of guilt, compassion and the urge to DO something, a great pain welled up in me and I stood, transfixed, before moving towards the bundled person. I could see a pair of battered, tough boots poking out from under one end of what turned out to be a filthy camping blanket. A fluffy hat at the top end gave no clue as to what sort of person lay beneath.

Drawing by Lizzi Rogers

Drawing by Lizzi Rogers

I crouched down and hoped that none of the expensive-shop shopping bags were on display as I reached out and gently patted the crusted edge of the blanket “Hey – are you alright? Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Yeah”, came back an obstinate, female voice “You can fuck the hell off.”

The blanket shook and the hat bobbled upwards as the owner’s face came into view in a fury of movement “Who even asked you to…”

Her voice trailed off, and the retort I had been about to utter froze on my lips and disappeared as though dropped off a cliff.

Our eyes locked, and the thrall of horror at seeing a homeless person trying to survive the inclement weather turned to raging, devastating pain as I realised that this homeless person was known to me. I recoiled, my hand flying to my mouth in dismay and her name bursting out with the same lack of control as the time I’d first spoken to her:

“Bravo!”- it had exploded, unbidden from my lips as the echoes of her last crescendo faded and the bar seemed to shimmer in delighted silence in recognition that a masterpiece had just been played within its walls. She had sworn at me then, too, and our eyes had met, sparkling with delight at the soul-thrilling music she’d been able to coax from the old piano. We’d talked and worked together, and later she had played again.

I had returned to that bar many times to hear her play – turning up near closing time as she volunteered to stay behind again and wipe the place down once the drunks and revelers had all been kicked out. We spent several glorious months in this way – her playing and me clearing the glasses and sweeping the floors, our souls dancing with the notes as she gave them life with her magical, talented hands.

Suddenly, one day, she was gone. No explanation. Just gone. It had been five years, and I still missed our evenings of splendour; never since had I experienced such exquisite playing as that which she had wrought for me…

“Anitra?!”

Her blonde hair, now freed from its cover in her thrashing, was lank and dull. Her skin was grey and marked with sores and scars, as though the moon had been stretched over her sharp cheekbones. Her eyes were still a gorgeous, clear hazel, though they looked like deep wells of pain, waiting to pour out in anger and shame at the slightest provocation.

The moment lengthened, eyes still holding, hundreds of unspoken, frantic conversations passing between us as my throat choked-up, and the weight of emotion made it hard to breathe.

Finally, sotto voce, I whispered, her name imbued with the hurt of every lost evening and all the unheard notes, mantled with grief at finding her this way: “Oh, Anitra…”

We crumbled together, oblivious to the slowly-gathering audience in the shadows. I pulled her stinking, bird-light frame into my arms and held tight, even as she clung to me, mumbling into my shoulder that it was so, SO good to see a friendly face.

We clambered to our feet and hugged properly then, smiles and tears mingling, when suddenly I felt her stiffen, and heard her intake of breath as she pulled back, her face a mask of revulsion.

A gravelly male voice from across the road struck at us through the air “Ohhhh Annie – look what you’ve pulled in. Good girl! She looks like a rich one. Make sure you give that posh bitch your best licking – she’s gotta be worth a few quid. Don’t take less than £50, will you? I’ll be back for mine later.”

Transformed once more into a hard-faced street-walker, Anitra’s chin jutted and her eyes blazed as she snaked an arm around my waist and pulled me around to face the man, whose oiled hair and dark, greedy eyes raked over us both. The two louts who stood behind him were nudging one another and grinning, one making lewd gestures at us, poking his lapping tongue between the V of his fingers, and rubbing together the fingertips of the other hand in the universal sign for money.

“Oh Dominic”, she trilled, her voice light and dripping with false honey “sweetheart, I’m going up in the world, and with that, my prices. If you want this” – she grabbed her crotch and tilted her hips towards him aggressively – “you gotta pay me more. As of now.”

The oily man’s face registered a sneer of disgust as he turned, motioning for his cat-calling henchmen to follow him. By my side, the bravado gone, Anitra sagged against me and then pulled away roughly, her face burning red, unwilling to meet my gaze.

Hair curtained again around her, reminding me of our first meeting, her voice was equal parts ashamed and horrified as she blundered through an incoherent string of apologies, ending with a declaration to make herself scarce and never bother me again, and that she was sorry for everything, and for running away without telling me, and that life had been so harsh to her, and that she couldn’t, she just couldn’t…

I cut across her, mid-sentence “Can we just go for coffee or something? Somewhere warm? I’m freezing. And confused. So my treat, okay, but please let’s not stay here any more.”

She glanced at me then, and the wells of her eyes had been covered over – shuttered with a closed look she wore like armour.

“No. I don’t think so.”

Her voice shimmered down from frantic to automaton. Her joints tightened and the corners of her eyes looked pinched. She stared into the mid-distance for a moment before stooping to gather up her blankets from the floor, rolling them into a grimy ball, which she stuffed into a giant, tattered backpack.

“It’s been good to see you again, babe. Sorry I turned out like this. I wish things were different. In another world, we’d go for coffee and everything would be made better and the music might come back into my life. But seeing you was like a symphony, and it’s just reminded me how much I miss it. So no, we can’t go.”

She twisted away from me, striding towards the end of the street, pausing as I cried her name out, anguished this time, and ran to her, emptying my purse of all its paper money and stuffing it into her hand, arguing that she didn’t need to leave; promising her things could be better, if only she’d let me help her – please, please let me help her…

She stuffed the notes into her pocket, but didn’t turn. And without further word or look, strode off, rapidly disappearing into the still-teeming currents of the main street.

As fresh tears fell, tracking warm runnels down my freezing face, I vowed to myself on that desolate street that I would find a way to somehow bring the music back to her.

 

warning fiction

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I’m a deep thinker, truth-teller and seeker of Good Things. I’m also silly, irreverent and try to write as beautifully as possible. My thoughts are prolific and can be found at my blog, Considerings
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ConsideringsTwitter: https://twitter.com/LRConsidererGoogle+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LizziR/postsPintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/LizziConsiderer/

Our Great Big World

She woke early that day to make sure she packed everything.  A weekend away with the husband was just what she needed after an exasperating week alone with the kids having to taxi them to school, sports, practices, and lessons.  She couldn’t wait for her mother-in-law to arrive so that she could start her peaceful journey.  She loaded up her eReader with several of the top Indie books of the week and sat on the couch patiently waiting.

As soon as she heard the doorbell, she gathered her bags and sunglasses.  She kissed her son and her daughter, gave her mother-in-law an aggressive thankful hug and was on her way.    She drove to the airport with the sunroof open enjoying the warm spring air and the sunshine spraying in from the cloudless sky singing along with Bruno Mars about Young Wild Girls.

She made it through security seamlessly, heading straight for the bar near her departing gate.  She ordered a Bombay Sapphire and tonic and sipped it quietly anticipating seeing her husband after a week of his absence.  He was in California for a meeting at his corporate office and suggested she meet up with him for the weekend so that they could have a little much needed together time.  His work travelling had picked up speed the first quarter of the year, which resulted in their spending a lot of time apart.

She finished her drink, paid her tab, and headed to the gate just before the plane began boarding.  She boarded the plane along with the other people in the First Class group.  Having a traveling husband had its benefits, one being automatic upgrades.  She settled into her seat and sipped champagne, hoping that the seat next to hers would remain empty and buried her nose in her book, ignoring the crowds as each passenger made his way to his assigned seat.   Out of the corner of her eye, a passenger stopped on her row and started struggling with the overhead bin.  Her eyes traveled up, taking stock of her potential flight mate, clearly a man, youngish in Levi’s and a hooded sweatshirt.  She couldn’t see his face but noticed that he  had his ear buds in and would probably be unlikely to try to make the obligatory small talk fellow passengers always tend to make with one another.  She took a deep breath and turned her attention back to her book when she felt rather than saw him sit down in the seat next to hers.

“First class is the only way to travel.”   He said as he typed something on his phone.  Her ears perked at the familiar voice.

“Hey,” she said and turned her attention to him.

He studied her face for a minute as a wide smile took over his.  “What are you doing here?”  He asked.

“What are you doing here?” She matched his tone.

They both jumped from their seats and gave each other a quick hello hug and laughed at the coincidence that brought them not only to the same flight but to neighboring seats.  The flight attendant asked them to sit back down as the plane began preparing for takeoff.

They spent the entire flight talking, laughing, drinking the complimentary drinks, and getting to know each other in person after a year of being online buddies.  She asked him what he was listening to, which prompted a very lengthy game of “guess this tune.”  When one guessed an incorrect answer, they both had to drink.  They kept the flight attendants busy for the three hour flight, which seemed to go by in just 20 minutes.

When the plane finally landed, they departed at the gate, exchanged hugs and promised to actually get together again some time.  Just as he was walking away, she called out, “See.  It’s not such a big world after all.”

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Warning:  This story is FICTION