Haven Awakening

Some things are better left unseen.
The kids at Haven have been waiting. Legend foretold the veil-seer would lead them to victory over their sworn enemy, Helm. With her arrival comes the shocking realization that she is the one thing they never expected: a mortal.

Verity didn’t want the cornea transplant for her sixteenth birthday. She couldn’t have imagined it would make her the veil-seer, a coveted weapon in an ancient feud. Now she’s stuck trying to master her new powers, make friends, and stay alive. Having been saved by Helm too many times for comfort, Verity wonders which side she should be fighting for. The problem is something evil lurks in Haven, and the only thing it wants is for the new veil-seer to die.

Haven Awakening shows that turning sixteen isn’t always sweet.

Gryffyn Phoenix takes the YA scene by storm with the first book in the Haven Awakening series—a supernatural fantasy filled with life-threatening conflicts, heartbreaking betrayal, peer pressure, and the dangers of finding true love.


Helm Abomination

Some things are better left unseen.

Some hearts are better left unmet.

Living in Helm is a new experience for Verity, she’s the only female in a world of boys. Most of them embrace her as a potential friend, others long for her death, and one … well, one she can’t seem to pin down.

Her new possible boyfriend neglected to tell Verity there’s an ancient prophecy that foretells the end of Helm’s leader at the hands of the mortal veil-seer. A few of the boys fighting beside her feel the best way to keep Haydn alive is to make sure the veil-seer dies.

Verity barely survived her sixteenth birthday. Now she may not live to see her seventeenth.

Helm Abomination shows that finding the love of your life can come at too high a cost.


“This is Jewel. Blessed child of your hills. Her eyes are as the grass that blankets your ground. Hair the shade of a summer sunset. Mirror sibling to Jake. Heal my sister. Return her to me.”

Girls FIGHT back.

We knew about it when I was in college. There were certain dorms you didn’t go near on Friday nights. Houses or guys you made sure you had your girls by your side when you were with them. We were girls, we stuck together. We had a good time, but made sure it was because we wanted it, not because someone slipped a pill in a drink or just plain used physical force.

But I was lucky. I had great friends and a childhood that left me with a unique radar.

Things got so much worse. Campus sexual assaults rose from 4,000 reported cases to 5,000 in one year’s time. And the key word is reported, for I doubt girl’s suddenly found it easy to walk beaten and bloody, into a police station and tell a campus cop some boy did the worst. Took the worst. Of course, even if you have the ability to process repeating the story over and over, can stay sane through the physical exam and then again keep your mind in one-piece as you tell the story to detectives, and lawyers and your friends and your parents …

You have the staggering unfairness of the jail time your offender faces. What’s a girl to do?


I’m not advocating vigilante justice, but with MTV’s Sweet/Vicious, we get the perfect example of how girls are changing. Jules picks the only avenue she can handle to deal with her assault. Her friend joins her, because there is no other way to find justice. I don’t know how the show will take this idea, or even how far out they can legally and responsibly explore it, but the writing consistently blows me away … and the realism …

Jules recently confronted her attacker and delivered a speech every girl who survived the worst will recognize. So I guess I’m saying thank you, MTV and the amazing team at Sweet/Vicious … and boys, watch out. Girls fight back now, and they are damn good at it.



JOJ_final_rev.1400He was so tired. Peter was surprised at how much he hated traveling. It always looked so glamorous and fun when his brothers took off on their quests. He had been forced to stay behind at the school. Mtho went to search for the children. Kwai went for supplies and shipments. Peter had no interest in teaching. The only time he cooked he seemed to excel at making people ill. Other than leading the other brothers in prayer, he had no function at the facility.

It had gotten more interesting since some of the children had joined them. The feats they accomplished without physical effort were thrilling to witness. Mere thought brought their tasks to fruition. Peter was still frustrated by his inability to help.

Help anyone. He felt like a fifth wheel.

This was his chance to change things. He did not want to mess up. The messenger from a small town outside of the city of Harar came at midnight. A center for the Muslim religion, it was a shock to receive a note for the Ethiopian Church. He was the only one up to receive the man, bedraggled from his travels. A terse note, written on crumpled and stained paper, had filled him with dread. The muezzin who wrote to them was sure that soon the child in question would be in danger.

Villagers do not like those that are different.

This poor and depressed hamlet was ready to cut out that difference. The depths of poverty shocked him when he entered its boundaries, considering that it was in walking distance from the gates of Harar.

Harar is a center of learning and prosperity. He found the escarpment overlooking the surrounding plains a romantic sight. The smell of eucalyptus scented the cool air from the higher climate. Peter had taken a break to visit some of the stained glass on display, which caught his breath. He had made good time since he had taken the railroad and then caught a ride with some tourists in their air-conditioned sedan.

It was drumming in his ears that time was wasting. The muezzin had been specific. Speed was of the essence.

His destination was a mirror image to the haven of Harar.

A small village, lost and forgotten by the mapmakers of the world. The place filled Brother Peter with dread. People he could see here were sullen, unclean, and starving; casting him looks of resentment.

He had been praying since he came to this place.

Whatever was at work here was not the same beautiful light he basked in at the school.

This was shadow. Darkness.

After dealing with Meggani for the brief time when they first met, Peter had not been sure of how to face this arrogant boy. He was eleven years old, filled with the swagger and bravado of a twenty year old. His long dark hair was oiled so heavily the monk could smell the odor of the liquid used from across the room. The child’s eyes glittered with rage and a constant fire. He had caught the boy striking out at others several times, uncaring at the impact that his violence and rage might cause.

That was not even what worried him.

Peter was aware of one thing: the boy was not like the other students he had met.

Something had broken in him.

There was no place he saw more evidence of this than the way the other villagers looked at the child. They were afraid.

It was contagious.

The stories of young Abdullah’s feats had curdled Peter’s blood. The boy’s parents had died under mysterious circumstances. Screaming. Others in the village had met similar strange ends, that were brutal and without mercy.

“If you have said your good-byes, we should go.”

Abdullah glowered at the monk who dared to question him. “I am eating.”

Peter looked around with concern. “If that is the last of the food, you should leave it for the others. I will get you more to eat on the road.”

The child proceeded to shove as much of the bread, cheese and fruit onto his plate, glaring at him. “If I wish to eat it they give it to me. I do not need to wait. I do not like to do so. You have no say over me.”

He recoiled from the boy’s belligerence.

Abdullah laughed with an evil slickness that churned the monk’s stomach. “You are weak. Sick.”

He released a deep sigh, striving to find some words that would break past the child’s protective barriers. “Abdullah, I know that you have been alone since your family died. I understand that these people have not given you any support or guidance. This is my vow, the place I am taking you to will be filled with other souls just as powerful as you. You will be able to learn and grow. You will increase your knowledge of the world.”

“There is no one as powerful as me.”

Peter shook his head, his eyes glued to Abdullah’s face. “There are children like you. My friend, Father Josephus, is bringing a girl that is more powerful than all the other kids you are about to meet, combined.”

Abdullah stood and threw his plate against the wall. It shattered into dust. The boy added his earthenware mug to the destruction. He smiled at the cries of distress his action caused. The water mingled with the plate’s remains to become a brown paste. It made Peter think of blood, for some reason. The woman who owned the house gave a choked cry as she fled in tears from the building.

“You must think of how others feel,” he reached out to the boy, who looked at his hand as if it were a snake ready to bite.

The child sneered, “Soon you shall know what my strength feels like, monk.”

Peter managed to get them on the road only with a constant application of prayer and patience. Abdullah continued to stew. The steam seemed to puff from his ears with each step they took. Peter was nervous at their timing. They were crossing an old riverbed. Once standing on this bank, he would have looked down into a deep blue relentless stream of water from the mountains. It had been so long since the waters fled these shores that Peter could see the fossils in the rocks.

“I do not wish to go to this school,” Abdullah tugged on his hand.

“You have no choice,” Peter snapped.

Abdullah folded his arms over his chest. “I have all the choices in the world,” he boasted. A crack of thunder split the air, lightning following, and the smell of electricity burned his nostrils. There was another series of strikes. Peter looked around with surprise as he realized that a cloud had formed around them.

They were standing in the middle of a storm cloud. He turned his head and was not surprised to see a smile splitting the boy’s face.

Abdullah had called this miracle.

Or was it a nightmare?

Peter’s sense of awe left on winged feet. The cloud grew larger. The water accumulation grew denser. The sound of the thunder and the smell of the electricity made it impossible to know which direction to turn. He could not see. He could not think.

“See,” Abdullah called, “there is no one stronger than me.”

The monk fell to his knees. “Abdullah, child, you must stop this insanity.”

“I am the most powerful force in the world.”

“No one is stronger than God,” Peter yelled to him.

“Worship me,” Abdullah called before throwing his hands up to the sky.

Peter began to pray and felt a large beam of sunlight embrace him. The warmth banished the chill of the storm cloud that surrounded him, and eased the ice of the rain that soaked him. The monk’s devotion was rewarded. He looked up into heaven and found a welcoming face. His smile was light as air; the cataclysm raging around him meant nothing any more. His prayers were heard. His prayers were answered.

He was finally able to go home.

Peter sobbed, as he realized he was welcome. He was loved.

The boy was still screaming about his power when the waters he had called down washed their bodies away.

the Mixed difference

I still remember the day we went to get it. A special birthday present for my Mom, we had to travel all the way to New York’s restaurant district to obtain one. My Dad decided it would be a family outing, so we all piled into the car for the long trip into the city. When we got to the store I saw it, gleaming in the window, stark white, the silver band with the KitchenAid brand etched into the shiny surface, Hobart on the side.


A mixer. She was so excited to get it, she had so many plans for it, and we were grateful to our Dad for coming up with the perfect gift. After that, Mom went through a culinary epiphany. Our kitchen became filled with homemade gourmet delights. The problem was she could not stop doing one recipe until she got it perfect. We went an entire month eating nothing but French bread. I would weep with longing every time I saw a Wonder bread wrapper. The sound of the mixer became the song I’d do homework to, and when I was old enough, I was the one singing it as much as my Mom. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, our KitchenAid mixer became the soul of that heart. We moved, and home didn’t become home until the KitchenAid found its place of honor on the counter. Dinners made our family come together and the mixer was the glue. When my Mom died, I got the mixer and the impulse to continue the tradition of family dinners and sharing great food. Each time I’ve moved, it’s been putting the KitchenAid in its place that made the house transfer to a home. Now my niece is twenty-one and she has the same impulse. A desire to explore different kinds of food and sharing them. As I teach her each of the family recipes while we stand at the mixer, still gleaming and going strong after decades of use, I realize that tie that binds us has extended into a third generation, and I am grateful again to the KitchenAId for being that tie.

Mr. V’s secret


Every Friday night while growing up, my family would go to dinner at Mr. V’s. A tiny, Italian restaurant in the city, a table at Mr. V’s was considered an heirloom, passed on from generation-to-generation. Dinner was always an experience there. The tables were so close, you could smell the next booth’s pasta. You’d just as likely to be seated next to a celebrity or mobster, as you were to find yourself facing the neighborhood dry cleaner. Mr. V’s family, three generations, worked the front and back of house; while the jolly little man oversaw it all. He was the type of restaurant owner who remembered not only your name, but details like your birthdays and anniversaries. There was no excuse to miss dinner at Mr. V’s. I went once with the flu, my older brother was dragged there while suffering from wisdom teeth removal, even my father (who was never on-time) still showed promptly at seven. This was as set in stone as the foundation of our house. One Sunday, after being dropped at my Grandmother’s, I mentioned how tired I was of going to Mr. V’s. I wanted to try a hamburger place on Friday. Or even … dare I say it? … eat at home. What is the secret at Mr. V’s?

My Grandmother snatched my hand up, and dragged me to the very spot I was complaining about. Mr. V’s. The restaurant looked different during the day. Lonely. The tables seemed naked without their white cloths and shining silver. The walls seemed dingy without the loving caress of the candles. Onward Grandma dragged me, past the hostess stand where Mr. V usually stood, serpentine through the tables adorned with nothing but upside down chairs, into the sacred domain of Mr. V’s wife and mother, the kitchen and straight to the back.

There I found it.

In the rear of the kitchen, behind an industrial shelving unit filled with plastic containers and aprons, was a window. There Mr. V stood, handing out food to a line of ragged homeless. Each person was treated the same as we were on our weekly Friday night pilgrimages. Mr. V knew their names, their children, even their hopes and dreams. He handed them each two foil wrapped sandwiches. Grandma explained every night, when the restaurant was closed, Mr. V’s window was open. He would give out food to the neighborhood people in need, and Sundays, people came from all over the city for one of Mr. V’s special sandwiches. Scrambled eggs, homemade mozzarella, homemade roasted red peppers on rolls that were baked on premises. She positioned me next to Mr. V to help while she went to the rear to clean up.

After that each Sunday I would go with Grandma to Mr. V’s to help. I learned how to cook in that kitchen. I think, more important, I learned who I wanted to be. Mr. V would never turn anyone away. It didn’t matter if you had a home or not, the color of your skin, how old you were or where you were from. If you needed food, and he had food, he would share. When times were good, everyone ate well. When times were tight, his offerings might only have been a cup of soup and a few rolls. There was always something to give. He made sure of it. One week he gave away an entire wedding feast, when the bride rang and the family already paid. Another he had a steak for everyone, since there was a mistake at the vendor and they got extra. Somehow, each Thanksgiving and Christmas, there was always large amounts of turkey and ham to give to all who came in need.

The community did their best to help. When Mr. V’s daughter decided to start a catering company, the flyers she made to promote it were distributed over night. When he had problems with the cleaning company, the people arranged crews to fill in until he could find someone else. And somehow, though the neighborhood deteriorated, Mr. V’s never experienced a break-in. His customer’s cars were never harmed.

Years later my Mother and I were reminiscing about our time in the city. I mentioned how I knew a secret about Mr. V’s that Grandma made me promise to never tell. She laughed. “You mean about Mr. V’s window?” I nodded. “Oh honey, of course we knew. Why do you think your father, who loved to try new food and lived to try something different, made sure we always went back? Why do you think we paid so much money for our meals there? Tipped so well? We all knew about Mr. V’s.”

“How come we stopped going?”

“Unfortunately, we all knew. I don’t think Mr. V’s family did. When he died, they sold the place. There was no reason to keep going anymore. It wasn’t the same.”

“What a sad legacy.”

“Not really. It lives on in you, and every family he helped.”

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