news, a cover reveal, a rewrite, and chapter 10 of the voice in the forest

There is a new kid on the block in the story world.

Not just my story world, but the vendors by which you all find new books and stories to read. If you haven’t heard the news, Amazon is rolling out a new story platform called Vella. It won’t be out for a couple months for readers, but this is for serialized fiction. I have already written a few episodes and had one go through the editor. I will be writing at least one episode of this story per week until Vella comes out and then continue to do that going forward. Right now, my story for Vella is planned to be three seasons long with at least twenty episodes per season.

And I’m writing a story just for this!

Keep your eyes peeled for Vella and when it begins, look up Crossroad Inn by J. Darlene Everly.

It’s a fantasy story about an Inn at the Crossroad between the Three Realms. The realm of the dead, the living, and the soul.

All creatures are welcome at the Inn and there are only two rules.
1: No doing business on the grounds.

2: No antagonism.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the guests just followed those rules? But sometimes, it’s more fun when they don’t, even if it is dangerous.

More news!

I’ve mentioned it before, but I wanted to make sure the fans of Darlene Everly and the Comfort Food Romances I write under that moniker are reminded that in August a new book in the series is coming out, it’s called Cupcake Queens!

And now, BIG news. The Shattered Aurora comes out this month, the third and final book in The Grimm Star Saga: First Light.

And I have a cover to show you!

It’s so pretty and I can’t wait for you all to read the book.

The Shattered Aurora


In celebration of the complete trilogy coming out, the first two books will be on sale!


Now everyone can get caught up before the Saga continues in The Grimm Star Saga with Song of the Piper, and before we start adding on new series. Thanks to all of you who have already read the books. Seriously. I hope the end of the series lives up to your expectations. 

making the sausage: A rewrite

Before we get to Chapter 10 of The Voice In The Forest, I thought you might like to see what a first pass rewrite looks like. You see what my super rough drafts look like every week, and you’ve read some of my books, but what do the stories look like in between? 

Well, how about Chapter 9 of The Voice in the Forest after a rewrite pass?

I will do another whole rewrite of the book when we finish writing it together here, but until then, I can still adjust things.

So, voila!

Chapter 9

“Are you okay, Ara?” Petra asked, one corner of her mouth going up instead of down, her chin dropping, she looked between Ara and Jameson through her lashes.

“Yeah – yes,” Ara croaked, her throat dried out and full of a scream she couldn’t afford to let loose.

The young man crossed his arms over his chest and looked down his nose at Petra before he snorted and said, “Oh, you two deserve each other. Horrible people, the both of you.”

She coughed, and grabbed her glass, making an ungainly dive for the sink to fill it with water. It took too damn long to fill the glass. Keeping her hand from shaking while it did, took all her harnessed will.

Petra moved behind her and perched on the seat she was just in, while Jameson stood still and rubbed a hand over the back of his neck.

“I… uh, sorry,” he said, his voice undulating in volume as if nothing about it was sure, not the tone, words, or even the basic level of sound he said it in.

Ara shook her head and chugged down the entire glass of water. She had to get out of there. They couldn’t see her lose it, Petra and Jameson would tell her mother. Choking on the last swallow of water from the glass, she doubled over the sink and set the glass down.

“Maybe you shouldn’t eat half an egg at once, that would dry out my throat too.” Petra’s voice had an almost imperceptible edge to it, but Ara heard it. Petra was probably smirking out right, enjoying the reaction she had to think Ara was having to Jameson’s presence.

Good. It was better she think like a petty bitch instead of realize what was actually going on. 

Please don’t realize.

Ara gulped down deep breaths and steeled herself to turn around, to allow herself to be seen as the wounded ex so she wasn’t seen as the ‘crazy’ one again. But how was she going to get away from this house? She couldn’t stay here. Any minute she was likely to react in a way that would tell on her.

No money, no job, no friends, no place to go.

It didn’t matter that she thought she couldn’t do it, couldn’t fool them into thinking what she wanted them to instead of realizing what was actually going on, she had to figure out a way. Her grip on the edge of the countertop was the only thing stopping her hands from shaking. It might have been the only thing holding her up. Her knees felt like sponges, not prepared to support her weight.

“Petra, maybe we should just go wait in the dining room,” Jameson said, his voice back to modulated and even low, but it was laced with a pity that made Ara want to punch him in the face.

She took a breath and used her anger, trying to find in it a reprieve from the panic coursing through her.

“No, you’re fine,” Ara said, turning around and managing a small smile, the weakness in her knees hidden by her locking them straight, and the need for her hands to shake held at bay only by focusing the need to curl them into fists and start beating on Jameson and Petra’s pretty faces.

“You don’t have to worry about us, we’ll head out later today if you want us to,” Petra said, her voice saccharine sweet.

The game she played at, being the worst version of herself in front of Jameson to make him hot for her after being there for Ara for so long, was sick on so many levels. Ara allowed only a touch of her fury to show on her face.

Petra’s eyebrows shot up and she sat up straighter on the chair.

“Guys, truly, don’t worry about me.” Ara looked back and forth between them, making no secret of the fact she was assessing them and wasn’t impressed with what she saw.

Jameson’s eyes lit up and he grinned at her in a lascivious smile while Petra almost foamed at the mouth.

The young man smiled and shook his head at Jameson.

“Not a chance the lady will go back to you. She’s way beyond your station,” he said, and turned to curl his lip at Petra but at least he didn’t speak.

“Well,” Ara said, trying for sounding bright and cheery and managing to land somewhere closer to indifferent, “If you guys are still looking for your breakfast, I’ll leave you to it. I have lots of work to do.”

She made her way past Jameson who didn’t step aside, forcing her to squeeze between him and the door jamb.

Thanks for that, asshole.

Before the door to the kitchen shut behind her, she heard Petra snarl, “What the fuck was that, Jameson?”

For some reason, the few steps to the end of the wall, to the turn she needed and the way out through the door to the garden seemed much further away than it should have.

Oh, who was she kidding? It was so far away her legs itched to run. Petra and Jameson could come out of the kitchen at any moment. They could trap her in the same kind of impossible conversation.

And so could the young man only she could see.

Outside. She needed to get outside.

Maybe he wouldn’t go after her. 

“Please don’t follow me,” she whispered to no one, the tremor moving up her hand no matter how much she tried to push it down and focus back on her anger. But Petra and Jameson didn’t matter in the long run and now that they weren’t directly in front of her, she couldn’t hang onto her rage. Instead, she cupped both of her shaking hands under her chin and finally made it to the turn in the hall. 

Looking both ways, she checked for someone else near enough to see her, and when she was sure there was no one, she sprinted down the hall. Her footsteps thudded along, but it was her heart, battering the inside of her chest, that sounded like another person running after her.

The scream lodged in her throat wanted to be let loose.

She had to keep it contained until she got away from the house.

She had to.

Racing against the scream inside her, she didn’t slow to round the next turn, and almost careened into the wall on the other side of the hall. Nor did she bother to check her speed as she barreled into the door to the garden and right through. Barely missing a step, she kept going, kept running beyond the patio and into the dew damp grass and low light of a sun not quite risen.

Don’t turn around.

Keep going. 

Don’t look and see if someone is behind you.

No one is behind you.

The young man isn’t real.

He isn’t real!

She ran the words through her head on a loop, trying to replace the thinly caged scream with something intelligible. It didn’t work. She wasn’t quite in the tree line before the scream ripped from her throat and caused a flock of birds to take flight from their perches nearby.

Her scream faded out to nothing by the time she was deep enough in the trees that she wouldn’t be seen from the house. 

Ara bent over at the waist and planted her hands on her knees. Her head spun, her breaths ragged, and her heart hammering in her chest.

Below her, the forest floor swam in her limited vision, telescoping back and forth, making it even more difficult to not throw up.

Spending a year in that place was far too long for her muscles, they quaked and felt like they didn’t want to hold her up anymore. Her legs wanted to collapse under her in the kitchen, now they wanted to fall off.

Looking up from the ground, she spotted the path from the house to the water hidden back in the woods. That would help. She could sit next to the water all day and maybe be left alone.

By the living, and the dead.
The end of the rewritten chapter! Well, at least for a bit.

So, now that you have an idea of how much better it is after only one preliminary rewrite, we will return to our regularly scheduled program of hot mess first drafts!

I hope that it helped to see how much better it gets and how fast it happens. There is still a lot of work to do once we get through the whole story, but that’s the way writing works.

Writing is rewriting.

The voice in the forest

Chapter 10

Blackwell watched from the shadow of a large evergreen. If he had a heartbeat, it would have been running faster than his legs had ever carried him.

She saw him.

The girl, Arabella, was taking tentative steps, careful and as unsure as a new fawn, through the undergrowth of the forest toward the path.

How could she see him?

No one ever saw him.

The first time he thought she had, in the dining room, he wrote it off as nothing, but now… Now he thought for sure he was right. 

A moment of anger, at that sorry excuse for a partner, that man who was so horrible about her when she was in her room the night before, was that what had broken through after all these years?

But that didn’t make sense, not really. 

It had to be her. There had to be something special about her.

He followed her through the woods, his footsteps not making a sound and the chill in the air not making it through whatever disconnected him from this reality. He couldn’t feel the breeze on his face anymore, but he could feel her presence. It was like a clarion call to his soul.

What if he was wrong? What if she hadn’t seen him? What if her reaction was really about the terrible people surrounding her?

Trenton said she was in some sort of hospital for the mentally ill. 

Did his connection to someone again, his fate, rely on a girl who needed help? Was she in a place where she could help him?

She froze on the path, her hands shaking at her sides and he stopped moving.

“Please,” she said, her voice shaking and small, almost lost to the thrum of the branches overhead. “Please don’t follow me. You’re not real. They said none of it was real.”

He sucked in a breath, the air didn’t actually enter his body, but it felt like it did. It felt like he was about to fall over and couldn’t get enough oxygen.

Whatever she had gone through, they were wrong. He was real. And she could see him.

Arabella started moving through the trees again, her arms wrapped around her body like she was hugging herself as her feet picked up speed.

There was no need for him to hurry, he knew where the path ended, but he kept her in his sight. 

She was a miracle, he never wanted to stop looking at her, the one person in all these years who could see him. He didn’t want to frighten her, but he had to talk to her. He had to try.

Had she heard him? How much could she hear and how much could she see?

Questions flooded his mind, after so long, and so much he didn’t know and couldn’t begin to understand, she was his only chance to begin down the road to all of those things. And maybe, just maybe, to being released from his half life.

By the time she reached the space where the trees cleared around the perimeter of the lake, pond as most people called it, she was sprinting, her steps uneven. She almost fell and instead stopped, her whole body still other than a tremor running through her from her head to her toes.

He reached out a hand, shaking as hers were, not sure if he could touch her or not.

Sometimes, if he focused hard enough, he could move physical objects in the house. 

But never, not one time, had he tried to make a person feel his touch. 

And now, this amazing young woman could see and maybe hear him, she was his best chance to be felt, to make human connection. And he couldn’t focus. 

No amount of waiting, with his hand in the air extended toward her, was going to help him make it more likely. The focus was impossible after having his own personal miracle.

He swallowed and bit his bottom lip, crossing the distance between them to finally brush his hand along her elbow.

Arabella whimpered, her breathing reduced to gasps and hiccuping, jumping inhalations and exhalations.

She felt it too. 

If he was able to fly, he would have. 

Part of him wanted to just keep his hand on her elbow, to just keep touching her, feeling her solid beneath his hand and knowing she felt it too. But he dropped his hand back to his side, flexing the fingers out as a tingle went up his arm.

There was only one way to be sure she could hear him.

But the words were stuck in Blackwell’s mouth. 

Years of being silenced by his circumstances, and now he couldn’t get his mouth to work to ask any of the million questions in his mind.

He wanted to see her face, to look into her eyes and know she was looking back. He wanted to know if she could hear him, yes, but maybe even if she couldn’t, she could read his lips.

Taking careful steps, not wanting to spook her into running into the water or into the trees, he moved around her side.

She had dark, curly hair that gave her a wild look, while the dark circles under her eyes and the way her mouth pinched into a tight line while she squeezed her eyes closed and shook her head made her look like she was not the wild rabbit, but a trapped and terrified hutch rabbit.

“Arabella,” he said, just her name, it was all he could think to say, but there was a reverence in it, a profound shock at her very existence.

Her eyes popped open, wide and round. Her high, arched eyebrows lifted and and the line of her normally bow shaped mouth taut like she was about to snap.

“You can hear me.” His words were little more than a whisper, but she shook with every syllable.

“Not real. Not real. It’s not real,” she muttered, her eyes never leaving his, her mouth returning to that line.

“I can’t explain it myself, but I do know that I am real.” How was he going to explain his reality to her? He didn’t know so much of it, he didn’t understand even more of it. 

She swallowed. Her neck was so thin, like the rest of her body, that he wanted to bring her back in the house and make her eat more than she had at her meagre breakfast.

“Arabella. Please, no one else can see me.” His voice was plaintive, but he wasn’t going to try and change it. He meant that plea. With every part of himself, he meant it.

“You…” She licked her lips and pulled in a shaky breath, standing up straighter although it looked like she was reed standing against hurricane force winds. “You know my name.”

He exhaled and smiled.

“Of course, you’re Arabella Elizabeth Blackwell, and you are a gift.” He wanted to reach out and touch her elbow again, lead her by the arm to sit on one of the benches around the lake, but he didn’t think she was ready for that.

“Do…” She broke eye contact with him, her gaze jerking around the clearing and then over her shoulder before she dropped her voice and whispered, “Do you have a name?”

“I don’t remember anything other than I had a sister, I have spent every moment I can remember, and those span decades although I have remained exactly the same, on the grounds, and my last name is Blackwell. Somehow, we are related.”


So. Much. Going. On.

But, really, I hope these sneak peeks at the process are interesting to you and I hope you’re as excited as I am about the release of The Shattered Aurora. 

Remember, if you missed a chapter of The Voice in the Forest you can find all the past ones here on the blog.

Don’t forget to tell me what you think about the names, or anything else about the story thus far. I want to hear from you, this is the best part of writing the story this way, you all can give me feedback. You have a chance to maybe get your way in a story. And I really do think we need to change Blackwell’s name.

So here it is. For you. A chance to tell me I’ve lost the plot and tell me what your brilliant idea is.

As always, Thanks for reading everybody!

— Everly

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