Speaking For the Special Needs Kids


Hey there readers! Sorry about my long absence. Life has been so nuts, I’ve barely had time to breathe lately.

Right now, I’m writing about a subject that is very dear to my heart. In the second book of my Diary of a Rocker’s Kid (DORK) series, Madison and her bandmates accept a bass player who is a little different from the norm. His name is Evan Granger, and not only can he play a kickass bass solo, he also happens to have Down Syndrome. Instead of relying on others to take care of him or make his dreams come true, Evan is tough, tenacious, and stubborn, insisting on blazing his own trail and proving he can do anything he sets his mind to. His motto is, “I got this.” I gotta hand it to the guy, he’s got it for sure. I am so happy to be speaking out for just how able kids with disabilities can be.

The reason this subject is so important to me is because I have a brother with autism. When most people look at him, they see a guy who’s lost in his own little world and has some really weird things to say. When I look at him, I see my amazing brother who’s been through more than most people will ever have to suffer in a lifetime and still has dreams, goals, and aspirations he wants to achieve. His dream is to be a screenwriter and bring his wild, wacky ideas to life on the big screen. Some people think we shouldn’t let him dream because it’s unlikely his dreams will ever become a reality, but I think if I can have big dreams, why can’t he?

Special needs kids are capable of a lot more than people give them credit for. One massive inspiration to me is the model with Down Syndrome, Madeline Stuart. She has proven that people with “disabilities” have dreams and goals just like everyone else and that they can indeed achieve them. (Disclaimer: Evan is not based on Madeline Stuart. She inspires me, but I do not know her personally, and I did not base my character on her life at all.)

I know one book series isn’t enough to change the way the world thinks about certain things, but if I can get even one person thinking differently, that’s good enough for me.

Here’s an excerpt from book 2 to introduce you to Evan and his dream.

***

Three hours into bass auditions, Dalton, Logan and I start to give up hope. Our ears are bleeding and we’re starting to lose faith in humanity. Not one of the people who responded to Dalton’s ad can even keep a steady beat, let alone keep up with us. Just one more person to listen to today, and then we’re finally free from this torture chamber. I can’t wait to get out of here, get some dinner, and play WoW for the rest of the night. The walls of this rehearsal studio are starting to feel super confining.

The final auditioner is announced, and all three of us fall silent when a boy with Down Syndrome walks into the room with his mother. His blond hair has an obvious cowlick in the back and his sweet, innocent smile could melt a heart of stone. He introduces himself as Evan Granger and his mother tells us all about how it’s his dream to play bass in a band and he will be forever grateful for this opportunity. Evan plugs his bass guitar into the amp and takes his place beside me. The guys and I exchange an indulgent smile behind his back. We’re going to be nice to this dude even if he has no chance of making it with us.

“What song do you want to play with us?” Dalton asks him.

Evan smiles wide and speaks with a slight halt in his voice. “My favorite song…is…Around the World by Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

“Oh damn, that’s a good one,” I comment. Dalton and Logan agree with me.

“You need to warm up before they start?” Dad asks him.

“Hi, Grim.” Evan beams with excitement over being addressed by my dad. Everyone in the room chuckles. “I don’t need to warm up. I got this.”

“Okay, well, here we go.” Logan pounds out four beats with his drum sticks. As soon as Evan starts the song, all our jaws swing wide open. Much to our amazement, Evan is able to rip out every note of this admittedly difficult bass solo on point. Dalton and I glance at each other over and over throughout that song and three others, feeling sheepish over our own prejudice. Clearly none of us had any idea what a kid with Down Syndrome was capable of.

All of us have a blast playing with him. There’s no questioning the fact that Evan can keep up with us. However, we weren’t really planning on taking on a bandmate with such a marked disability. After the fourth song, Dalton, Logan, and I request a private audience with Dad and Cass. Evan and his mom go to wait in the lobby.

The five of us arrange our chairs in a circle to discuss it.

“The kid can play, you have to give him that,” Dad says.

“He can play for sure, but is he going to be able to handle the rock star lifestyle?” Dalton ponders.

“I think that’s something he and his mom will need to decide,” Cass says. The rest of us agree.

“We can’t discriminate against him based on his disability,” Logan reminds us. “If he’s the best one for the job, he’s the best one for the job. We can make accommodations for him.”

“Maybe we could give it a trial run,” I suggest. “We could tell him he can rehearse with us for a month to see if it’s what he really wants to do. That also gives us time to get to know him and see if it would work.”

“I think having concerns is fair. We should sit down and talk to them about it openly. Communication is going to be the key to making this work,” Cass says.

We invite them back in and bring up two more chairs to add to our circle. Dalton tells Evan’s mom we’re considering taking him on a trial basis. We’re all shocked when Ms. Granger breaks down in tears. The sweet middle aged woman explains her tears when I ask her what’s wrong.

“I just never thought you’d even give him a second glance,” she sobs. “So many people would send him away at first sight. You’re all wonderful people. You have no idea how grateful I am. Evan is my only child, and I would do anything to see his dreams come true. We’ll do this however you want. I’ll even accompany him to rehearsals if you want me to.”

“It might be good for you to at least sit in on the first one,” Cass suggests. “First rehearsals can get intense. Mike and I might even come to make sure Mads doesn’t spend the whole time showing off.”

“Hey!” I scowl with mock offense. Everyone else in the room laughs at me, including Evan. “I don’t need to be babysat,” I insist without thinking about what just came out of my mouth.

“I don’t need to be…babysat either,” Evan pipes up, looking at his mother. “I got this.”

Her light blonde eyebrows draw together with concern. “But, Evan—”

“I said, ‘I got this,’” Evan insists forcefully. “You can come…and watch if you want, but…this is my thing. I want to do this…on my own.”

I smile, admiring this guy’s spunk and determination. He reminds me of myself and Dalton and Logan. We all have people we could fall back on for help or fame, but we’d rather strike out on our own and prove ourselves. His spirit is exactly what we need.

“Evan, I think you’ll do just fine with us,” I tell him.

***

Hope you’re all having an amazing weekend :)

-HD

I’m Published (FOR REALS this time!)


Today has been a crazy roller coaster ride. Not only did my first book release for the second time, but I also had a wild, off-the-walls toddler and a sick husband to tend to. I’m frickin’ exhausted! But I couldn’t be happier to be a published author once again…this time with a publisher on my side!

The publishing journey so far has been a learning process, to say the least. I hope I come out of this a better writer and, more importantly, a better person. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this: specifically, who I am. I’m tough, driven, and determined, but I’ve got plenty of flaws and weaknesses that come out in full force when I’m sleep deprived and stressed. You learn who you really are when you’re put through the wringer, and that’s definitely what happened over the past year as I tried desperately to finish and publish my first book before hitting twenty-five years of age.

I came across this quote from my intro post in this blog, which was published four years ago. It brought tears to my eyes:

“I am a young, budding writer (20 years old) who has big plans for the future. I’m hoping to publish my first book before I’m 25 (a longshot? Yes. But it’s doable).”

It happened. I’m published at twenty-four.

Being published feels incredible, but it’s also a lot of hard work with no promise of reward. There are literally millions of other books out there to be found amidst. Even with the wonderful support of Team Limitless, I still feel a little lost at sea sometimes. How do I keep this needle from disappearing in the haystack? How do I make sure people don’t miss out on this story?

Here’s what I’ve learned. The only thing you can do as an author is take a deep breath, let go of criticism, and keep moving forward with your nose in a book. Whether it’s your book or another person’s, keep your nose in a book. It’s good for your writing and your brain. Also, don’t compete with people or monitor your ranks by the hour. Trust me, I know how hard that is, but it’s toxic, and it really doesn’t change a damn thing.

Focusing on improving my writing is what I plan to do from here on out. DORK is only one of my ideas, and I’ve got two more that are just begging to be written (more info on those later). First, I need to focus on DORK Two, which I’m guessing will be released sometime in March 2016. That’s another thing I’ve learned: being an author, a true one, doesn’t end with one book. The first is only the beginning.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Hopefully I’ll be blogging more soon and have lots more exciting news to share.

This is my book if you’re curious:

DORK FRONT COVER

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Diary-Rockers-Kid-D-O-R-K-Book-ebook/dp/B01882ARMM

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diary-Rockers-Kid-D-O-R-K-Book-ebook/dp/B01882ARMM

Be sure to enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance at one in three signed paperbacks!

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27848302-diary-of-a-rocker-s-kid

Ciao for now!

HD

Cover Reveal: Diary of a Rocker’s Kid by Haley Despard @HaleyDespard @LimitlessBooks #TeamLimitless #CoverLove


Author Jennifer Allis Provost

Title: Diary of a Rocker’s Kid
Author: Haley Despard
Series: D.O.R.K Book #1
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Release Date: December 1, 2015

★★★ SYNOPSIS ★★★
Madison Daley’s father has concealed the truth from her for seventeen years… 
Raised on a Kentucky farm, Madison is stunned when a conversational slip reveals her father Michael is a famous ’90s rock star known as the Grim Weeper. Michael left the spotlight and his mansion behind when Madison was dropped off on his doorstep by a woman in a black mask. A dark past is revealed, and the only thing Madison isn’t allowed to know is her mother’s name.
The answers Madison needs can only be found in Beverly Hills… 
Though she does hope to persuade her dad to return to the stage, Madison’s real mission is to discover the identity of her mother.
But she is slightly distracted—literally—by the boy next door. Giovanni Abate’s…

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Diary of a Rocker’s Kid Cover Reveal!!


This is the moment! Finally, I get to share the incredible cover that was commissioned by Limitless Publishing from Redbird Designs!

Diary of a Rocker’s Kid (DORK Series #1) is coming December 1, 2015.

SYNOPSIS:

Madison Daley’s father has concealed the truth from her for seventeen years…

Raised on a Kentucky farm, Madison is stunned when a conversational slip reveals her father Michael is a famous ’90s rock star known as the Grim Weeper. Michael left the spotlight and his mansion behind when Madison was dropped off on his doorstep by a woman in a black mask. A dark past is revealed, and the only thing Madison isn’t allowed to know is her mother’s name.

The answers Madison needs can only be found in Beverly Hills…

Though she does hope to persuade her dad to return to the stage, Madison’s real mission is to discover the identity of her mother.

But she is slightly distracted—literally—by the boy next door. Giovanni Abate’s father is an action film star, his stepdad is a major designer, and Gio has his own claim to fame. Madison catches the handsome, young Italian actor’s eye, and their mutual attraction makes for a hotter summer than she ever could have imagined.

Madison hasn’t set foot in California since infancy, but a lot of people are certain she has…

After Madison has a makeover, people are sure they’ve seen her somewhere before, and she is extremely curious about the identity of her supposed doppelganger. As she looks into this strange situation, she’s unaware that Gio is hiding a potentially devastating secret.

Could finding the answers she seeks change Madison’s life forever?

Or will it just lead to more questions to fill the…

Diary of a Rocker’s Kid.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Haley Despard was born and raised in small, yet ever-expanding Simpsonville, South Carolina. She discovered a love of writing at age fourteen and hasn’t been able to turn off the motor fingers since then. Today she lives just a stone’s throw over in the country side of Greer, SC with her husband, son, and Boston Terrier. Her loves include cats (even though she’s allergic because the universe hates her), reading, composing music, blogging, amateur photography, fro-yo, mall shopping trips, and anything that begins with, ends with, or includes the words “milk chocolate.” She also enjoys gaming with her husband on occasion and driving through the countryside with music on full blast.

Haley’s books will include a combination of feminism, romance, diversity, family values, complicated storylines, and maybe even a scheming heroine or two. She loves to defy conventions and standards and continually thinks outside the box. If you want to read something fresh and original, pick up a Haley Despard novel. A book should be able to make you gasp, sob, laugh hysterically, and want to hug the main character all at the same time.

Haley is very interactive on Facebook and Twitter so don’t hesitate to contact her at one of the links below, or you can email her at hdespardauthor@outlook.com.

LIMITLESS PUBLISHING: http://www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/haley-despard/ FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/haleydespard

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/HaleyDespard

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14171202.Haley_Despard WEBSITE: https://diaryofarockerskid.wordpress.com/

DORK FRONT COVER

Cover created by Redbird Designs

Cover created by Redbird Designs

5 Common Misconceptions about Introverts


I’ve been classified as an introvert for most of my life now, and I can tell you for a fact that classification is true. I’m a textbook introvert. Group activities put a knot in my stomach. I’d much rather converse with people I’m very familiar with one on one or in a group no larger than five. My favorite activity is curling up on the couch with a throw, hot cookies or brownies, a good book, and maybe a fire in the fireplace if we can manage it. I don’t reach out to people much, and if I do, my heart is pounding, even if it’s a stranger who is literally paid to be nice to me.

via Giphy

via Giphy

Yes, I’m an introvert, and a lot of those stereotypes you’ve likely heard apply to me. However, I’ve also run into several misconceptions about introverts lately that disturb me. If you don’t mind too much (and I really hope you don’t, because I don’t want to be a bother) I’d like to explain.

Misconception #1: Introverts are selfish/self-centered.

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via Giphy

Because introverts have a harder time reaching out to others and don’t ask many questions about other people’s lives, we are often pushed off for being self-absorbed. It’s true that many introverts spend a lot of time in our heads. We are often introspective, which is why we make such great artists, writers, and thinkers. However, just because we don’t ask about your life doesn’t mean we don’t care. In fact, it’s actually our way of being considerate.

Let me explain. In my mind, being asked a butt load of questions about my personal life is invasive and annoying. I hate small talk and prefer to offer information about myself that I want others to know instead of being asked for it. Because of that perception, I may come across as disinterested in your life when I’m actually just trying to give you personal space. For example, I probably won’t ask what kind of men or women (or both) you prefer to date, even if we’re close friends. I figure if you want me to know that information, you’ll tell me. I don’t want to ask a personal question and get shot down because that makes me feel horrible, since I know how bad I feel when someone invades my space.

So please, tell me about your life. The important stuff. The real stuff. I’m one of the best listeners/amateur psychologists you’re ever going to meet. If you need to bore me with small talk, feel free, but don’t try to quiz me on it later, because my mind probably wandered into Neverland during that part of the conversation. Just a PSA. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just literally painful to talk about anything that doesn’t feel authentic or important. On that line of thought, I’ll also say this: Please, please don’t try to BS an introvert. You’ll get shot down in a heartbeat, trust me.

Misconception #2: Introverts don’t like parties.

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One word can answer this one: WRONG.

I love a good party. I won’t be the life of the party by any means, but I will smile, laugh, and dance with the rest…as long as I know someone. If I’m in a room with a sea of people I don’t know, I’m going to feel alone and terrified. After all, what are you going to think of the weird quiet girl who randomly comes up to you, shaking in her boots, and says “hi” with eyes that say, “Tell me your deepest secrets?”

via Giphy

via Giphy

Yeah. Exactly. That would be creepy, so you’re not likely to find me approaching strangers. Like, ever. At least not without someone I know beside me to prove I’m not a psychopath.

Misconception #3: Introverts always want to be in their own little bubble.

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via Giphy

One word in this sentence needs to be changed: ALWAYS.

Introverts often want to be in our own little bubble. It’s a safe place away from the meanies who don’t understand us and call us names. We’ll let other introverts into our bubble at times, and maybe even the understanding extrovert. But we spend a lot of time outside that bubble, mostly because it has to be done (work, shopping, social events, etc.). Sometimes, on a magical unicorn of a day, we’ll even step so far outside that bubble that we can embrace the outside world with open arms without a care in the world…like a little girl in a white linen dress spinning in a field of wildflowers on a seventy degrees and sunny kind of day. It’s glorious. It’s wonderful.

Usually it involves copious amounts of liquor, chocolate, and/or happy news, but it’s possible.

Take advantage of those mystical, wonderful, occasional days of living entirely on the outside and ask us whatever you want to know. Just don’t push us to the breaking point, because the bubble is always nearby, and we are always prepared to run to it in case of an emergency.

Misconception #4: Introverts are hard to get to know.

via Giphy

via Giphy

Ha…that’s a laugh. The truth is, introverts can talk about ourselves wayyyyy too much at times. All you have to do is prove yourself trustworthy and show genuine interest, and we’ll talk your ear off in a one-to-one setting (maybe even in a small group of friends if we trust each and every one of them). You may even have to make us shut up. We keep so much locked up inside that it will burst forth at any safe opportunity.

Misconception #5: Introverts don’t care if you disregard the fact that they’re an introvert.

via Giphy

via Giphy

This is one I never thought I would have to include here, but sadly, I do. So often I meet people that either push me way past my limits or rail against me for being different. That is the quickest way to get yourself cut from my life. One thing people need to know about introverts: We have no qualms about pushing people away if they don’t “get it” (especially if they don’t even try to). It’s not that we think they’re horrible people or anything, it’s just not in the cards for us to be friends with someone like that. You can’t explain introversion to someone who doesn’t and won’t understand.

I realize a lot of these have already been said, but since people still don’t understand, I guess we’re going to have to keep harping on this topic. Here’s hoping a new age is coming for introverts where we can act like a cat in human form (curling up in front of the fire with our “yarns” nearby) in peace, without the more canine-like humans constantly barking at us to come outside.

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via Giphy

Thanks for reading! And please, feel free to hug an introvert today…but only if you know you have permission.

-HD

The Beginning of the End – A Short Zombie Apocalypse Story


I wrote this for my Creative Writing class and forgot to share it on Halloween. Whoops! Better late than never, I guess. Here’s a free short story for my loyal followers!

***

The Beginning of the End – A Zombie Apocalypse Story

by Haley Despard (all rights reserved)

“Fifteen minutes to close,” Krista said as she counted twenties in her hand. “Friday night, baby. I’m partyin’ hard.”

Jennifer laughed. Krista had been her best “work friend” since her first day at the bank, and they always went out for drinks together on Friday nights. “Guess we’ll have to get James to be our designated driver, ‘cause I don’t plan on holding back, either. You okay with that, James?”

James, the assistant branch manager, didn’t say a word from his place at his desk inside his glass-encased office. Jennifer had noticed him looking a little pale that day, but there was a stomach flu going around the office, so she didn’t think anything of it. He leaned forward limply, like his abdominal muscles weren’t holding him up very well, and his mouth dropped open slightly. He stared blankly at his computer screen, as if in a trance.

After thirty seconds with no response, Jennifer repeated her question. “You coming tonight, James?” Still no response. His jaw dropped even further, and drool started coming out—no, not drool. This was darker in color, like a sickening charcoal sludge. His skin had lightened beyond the word “pale,” and it was becoming bluish-grey in hue. Jennifer’s heart jumped in alarm. “Hey, Krista, I think James might not be feeling so great. You mind if I—”

“Go on, I got this,” Krista said, flashing her a slightly-irritated smile and turning back to the customer at the desk. There was always that one customer near the end of the day that held up the entire line and made them stay an extra five minutes.

Jennifer entered James’s office, closed the door behind her, and approached James slowly, only noticing when she came up behind his desk that a section of his crisp white sleeve had been torn off. “Oh, my God, what happened to your shirt?”

A guttural groan escaped his mouth, and his head swung in her direction. His eyes seemed to bulge from their sockets, and then Jennifer watched in horror as the skin around his mouth that had been touched by the liquid rapidly decayed and gave way to raw, rotten flesh.

“Must…feed…” James growled at her, and Jennifer took two steps backward in horror, meeting with the cold glass behind her.

“James…James, what’s going on? What’s happening to you?” Jennifer asked pointlessly as he staggered up from the chair and shuffled in her direction. “James, it’s Jennifer. I’m your friend. Why are you looking at me like that?” His blue-grey eyes were intent on her with a hunger that could only be satisfied with one thing.

Jennifer’s head snapped in the direction of the counter, and her breath caught in her throat. That customer who was taking too long had grabbed hold of Krista’s arm as she reached it over the counter, and the monster was poised to bite.

“Krista! Pull away!” Jennifer yelled, but her voice was muffled by the glass cubicle and Krista didn’t hear her in time. Jennifer heard a heart-wrenching shriek from her friend as her head whirled around to find James mere inches from her. He lurched forward for her neck, but Jennifer bolted away from him. She ducked under his arms to grab the briefcase that was sitting by his desk. She swung it up and hit him right in the jaw, screaming when his jaw severed from his face with a sickening rip and thudded against the glass behind him.

Jennifer gave Zombie James one last mighty whack with the briefcase, and then she opened the door of the cubicle and darted out into the lobby of the bank. The straggler zombie made its slow approach, but she dodged him and grabbed her purse from behind the counter. She turned to head for the glass double doors, but then her breath caught in her throat. There was a mob of zombies clustered right in front of the doors, preventing her from escaping.

Jennifer’s gaze darted to and fro as she searched desperately for a way out. Zombie James and Straggler were headed right for her. At that moment, another coworker, Mark, called to her from behind the counter.

“This way, Jen! Hop the counter!”

Jennifer grabbed the counter and hoisted herself over it, landing right in front of Mark. She looked into his handsome face, trying to judge whether or not he’d been bitten. He had already locked Zombie Krista in the safe. Jennifer knew because she could hear her banging on the inside of the door.

“What now?” Jennifer asked, her breath coming in gasps.

“Wait a second,” Mark said. He took the fire extinguisher from the wall and started banging on the teller window, smashing against it until it began to splinter and crack into a spider web-like shape. Finally, the glass shattered and fell to the ground, and Mark reached for Jennifer’s hand. “Come on!”

The two of them climbed out the broken window, and Jennifer winced when a shard of glass caught her leg and made a shallow cut. Mark led Jennifer past the horde of zombies to his car, and they sped away from the bank at breakneck speed.

As they passed through the little town of Walterboro, Jennifer was horrified at the sheer number of zombies who were trudging down the sidewalks and wreaking mass havoc and panic. She unlocked her phone and searched “zombie outbreak,” and nothing came up. The epidemic must have just erupted. Mark and Jennifer exchanged worried looks, and then Mark turned the radio on. They finally got their answer while listening to a newscast.

“Multiple reports confirm that an outbreak of the zombie virus has surfaced in the little town of Walterboro, South Carolina. The town’s close proximity to a military base is said to be the cause of the outbreak. Allegedly, one of the soldiers was infected, and he brought the virus home to his family, where it spread at an alarming rate. There is no known cure, and no way to escape the virus except to…oh, God. Run! Allister, run!”

The transmission clipped off, resulting in the cold buzz of static.

Jennifer began to hyperventilate in her seat with tears burning her eyes. “What are we going to do now?”

Mark’s eyes were just as stricken with fear, but he took Jennifer’s hand and squeezed it. “We’ll stick together and do our best to survive.”

***

Two Years Later…

Mark and Jennifer gazed out at the empty expanse before them. Their new farmland beckoned them with the promise of a brand new life. He laid his hand over Jennifer’s swollen belly and pressed his fingertips in. Their baby rewarded him with a kick, and Mark smiled. They might not have much, but this baby was a new start for them.

Two years of battling zombies had passed—two years of groans and sludge and the sickening stench of rotting flesh. Mark and Jennifer had stuck through it all and found love in the midst of an apocalypse. Only a small colony of humans remained, but it was just enough to start life over anew. Happiness seemed within reach again, and people were even beginning to smile.

Their neighbor, Mrs. Gibb, approached them on the driveway. Her frizzled white head seemed too bright against the green grass. Jennifer waved happily, thankful for the baskets full of goodies Mrs. Gibb always brought. Mark kissed Jennifer and went inside to sign the deed so they could take it to the town council.

Jennifer tried to talk to the sweet old lady, but she wouldn’t respond with even a word. After only a few seconds, Jennifer noticed something was off. Mrs. Gibb’s eyes were glazed over, and her mouth hung open even more than usual. Her posture was gaunt and hunched, unlike her usual straight-backed self. Her dentures fell out, and Jennifer gasped in horror at the black sludge that laced her false teeth. She started to run, but she wasn’t fast enough. Mrs. Gibb lunged at her, and with one swift bite to the neck, she undid two years of agonizing torment and hard work.

Jennifer wept and fell to the ground as Mrs. Gibb gnawed on her neck, unable to find the will to fight back. As the darkness crept in, she realized James’s sickness back at the bank that day was the beginning of the end all along.

***

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for big DORK news! Cover reveal on Nov. 9th!

-HD