books

Night Wars Collection Out Tomorrow!

That’s right! The new book will be out at some point tomorrow. You’ll be able to find it on my Amazon page, or Missouri’s. Want more? Here’s a little snippet from one of my stories, In Defense of Mushrooms. This was originally released as a novella, and it’s something of Izzy’s origin story. Izzy is one of my favorite characters in THE SPIDER’S WEB, and this story was so much fun to write.

Don’t forget to check it out tomorrow, in ebook and paperback!

For more information on the collection, you can find my Q&A here.

Update: The collection is available for purchase here.

November, 1994

Toronto

As soon as I walked through the front door, a vicious, fire-breathing dragon swooped in to attack.

I’m sorry, did I say fire breathing dragon?

I meant my mother.

“Where have you been?” she demanded. More than twenty years since she got off the boat from Florence, and she still refused to speak English. Especially when she was angry.

“School,” I said in English. Just to annoy her.

“Do not lie to me, Isabella Maria Roberta Cappelli! The school called this morning to say that you snuck out, again!

Well, there wasn’t much that I could say to that. “Oops?” I shrugged, ducking past her and into the kitchen. There was a bowl of fruit on the formica table. I grabbed an apple and tried to get back to my room, but Mama was blocking the door.

“You irresponsible child! We have talked about this before. You go to school. Do you understand what your father and I gave up, that you and your siblings could have a good life?”

I rolled my eyes. “I was just having fun.” I’d heard that lecture so many times, I had it memorized. I took a bite of my apple and tried to use it to get the bitter taste of angry parent out of my mouth.

Mama seemed to know that I already had the echo of her lecture running through my head, so she skipped to the second act: “I do not understand you. Your brothers and sisters were never this difficult. You want to get married, like Maria and Anna? That is fine! We will find you a fine husband after you graduate. You want a good job, like Paolo? You need to finish your education! Just look it Michael. Straight A’s, and he is on the hockey team…”

“Sorry, but I don’t play well with others,” I snapped, cutting her lecture short. I pushed past her and took the stairs two at a time to my room, slamming and locking the door.

Apple juice dripped down my arm as I dumped my bag on my bed. At some point, Mama had come in and made it, depositing a basket full of clean laundry at the foot. She had straightened the unread books on my desk and dusted the headboard, even though I had asked her a hundred times not to.

I wiped the juice off on my comforter. Like the rest of my room it was pink and white and frilly, and matched the canopy.

I had done what I could with the place–covering the walls with posters of Van Halen, Queen, Def Leppard and Poison. I’d hung black scarves from the curtain rods to obscure the white lace Mama had hung there, and tried to do the same with swaths of purple and black fabric over the canopy. Mama and Papi had nearly had a cow when I decoupaged magazine cutouts all over the top of my spindly white desk, just so that it would be a little less white.

The few remaining blank spaces on the wall had been filled with playbills and pictures of Broadway musicals and movie posters. Some of the pictures had been taken in my school auditorium, of the costumes I had helped the theater department put together. I was particularly proud of the ball gown I’d made for our production of Cinderella the year before.

Finishing my apple, I retrieved my cigarettes and lighter from my school bag and sat perched on the window sill to read the last few pages Le Trois Musketeers. I was supposed to be reading it for French class, which would normally mean that it would remain in the bottom of my bag until the end of term, but it was actually a really good book despite being a school assignment. Madam Bouchard lamented my accent every day, but I was better at reading French; the rest of the class wouldn’t be done with it until Christmas break, another month away.

At some point, Mama interrupted by knocking on my door and reminding me that we had a family dinner that night.

I shouted something noncommittal back and went back to my book, not looking up until d’Artagnan had reaped his rewards and the kingdom was safe once again. By then the November sun was setting over Toronto, and cars were beginning to accumulate in front of the house. I spotted Paul’s BMW, the slick black sedan that Ann’s husband drove, and Mary–Maria’s–minivan.

Standing in front of my closet, I considered the eternal debate: should I wear something I liked, and piss off everyone at the table, or should I wear something that my mother would approve of and spend the entire meal in extreme discomfort?

Well, I was likely to spend it in extreme discomfort anyway, so I might as well wear what I wanted.

My black dress was a halfway decent compromise, at least, even if it was shorter than Mama liked–she didn’t need to know that I’d raised the hem a good five inches during home ec. I added a black cardigan, making a face when I realized the only one that was clean was the one with the pearl buttons. To compensate, I wore my fishnets and black ankle boots.

The effect in the mirror still wasn’t quite right. I added eyeliner and my favorite dark red lipstick, then teased my black bob just a little. My best friend Rachel said that my hair and that lipstick always made me look older than sixteen.

“Good,” I’d told her just two nights ago. “I’ll be seventeen next month.”

By the time I got downstairs, everyone else was already gathering in the dining room. The smell of mushrooms, tomatoes, and homemade pasta made my stomach clench with hunger.

“Isabella, there you–What are you wearing?” Mama demanded, hands on hips.

“Clothes.” I breezed into the dining room and took a seat as far from her as I could manage. That put me between Margaret, Paul’s wife, and Mike.

Mary waddled in, leading her two oldest to the little card table set up in a corner. Robert and Louis were four and five, able to eat on their own at least, but her husband, Enzo, had to put the baby in the high chair next to her seat. Flora wasn’t even two yet, but Mary was already weeks away from delivering baby number four. Minutes, if the size of her was any indication.

“Nobody let Mary get too close to any lit candles. She might pop,” I whispered to Mike. He snorted and choked on his Coke. I tried not to laugh as I patted his back.

Mike and I had to stick together. He was only two years older than me, rather than fifteen like our oldest brother, Paul. I don’t think I could have sat through our family dinners without someone close to my age.

Anne came in next, helping Mama with the last of the serving dishes. They were rapidly discussing recipes and the best way to roast tomatoes in Italian.

Anne’s husband was already at the table with their daughter, Rose, who was three. Bruno was trying to convince her to eat at the children’s table with her cousins, but she was more interested in mooching some of the appetizers they had been enjoying in the living room off of my dad, who was seated at the head of the table.

“Come on, Rosie. If you sit on your own then you’ll get desert,” Bruno cooed unsuccessfully.

“Oh, let her have her desert anyway,” Papi replied, smiling benevolently on his granddaughter and offering her a slice of bruschetta.

At last, everyone made it to the table. We joined hands and Papi said grace. It was the last moment of civility before chaos broke out as lids were removed from serving dishes and the battle to feed eleven people began.

“Before we all get started, I do have an announcement,” Anne said, getting to her feet and beaming.

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