Snowed by Maria Alexander
Publication date: November 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult
Charity Jones is a 16-year-old engineering genius who’s much-bullied for being biracial and a skeptic at her conservative school in Oak County, California. Everything changes when Charity’s social worker mother brings home a sweet teen runaway named Aidan to foster for the holidays. Matched in every way, Charity and Aidan quickly fall in love. But it seems he’s not the only new arrival: Charity soon finds the brutally slain corpse of her worst bully and she gets hard, haunting evidence that the killer is stalking Oak County. As she and her Skeptics Club investigate this death and others, they find at every turn the mystery only grows darker and more deadly. One thing’s for certain: there’s a bloody battle coming this holiday season that will change their lives – and human history – forever.
Will they be ready?
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SNEAK A PEEK AT CHAPTER 3:
I can hear Mom and Dad chatting in the living room, asking questions. Another softer voice with a strange accent gives staccato answers.
“Charity?” Mom calls out. She sounds annoyed.
I shuffle through the foyer, inhaling the smell of baking lasagna. When I enter the family room, Mom and Dad are sitting on the couch with mugs, tea bag tags draped over the edges. Some guy I don’t know sits with them in the easy chair. I can’t help checking him out. He’s my age, average height, with skin pale as cream and wavy ebony hair. His light blue eyes shimmer under long, inky lashes. His wrinkled, striped dress shirt is much too big for his narrow shoulders, and his scuffed black boots with pointed toes peek out from the cuffs of his baggy jeans. He gives off a weird vibe, like he’s been in prison or working for suicide bombers.
He must be a stray.
My mom’s a social worker. She’s always bringing home people for meals. Damaged people.
Mom wraps an arm around my shoulders, kissing my ear. “Where have you been? Did you get my message?”
I shake my head.
“Hey. How’d it go?” Dad hugs me as well. I kiss his big scruffy face.
They are being very nice. Something’s up.
“Not great. I’ll tell you later.” I stare at our visitor.
“Charity, this is Aidan MacNichol. Aidan, this is my daughter, Charity.”
“How do you do?” He holds out his hand. His eyes barely meet mine. His voice is a notch higher than I expect and kind of sing-song. What century is this guy from? Who says stuff like that?
“Hi,” I say and give him The Boneless Hand. I’m touching you but I’m not happy about it.
Except I am. His skin is incredibly soft, like my mom’s charmeuse dress. He
lets go. At the last second, I almost don’t.
And he almost doesn’t, either.
“Where’s your brother?” Dad asks.
“I don’t know. In jail?”
“Charity, stop it,” Mom sighs.
“What? I never know where he is.”
A car roars into the gravel driveway. It must be Charles’ ride. The music escaping the car windows sounds like someone is grinding the air into steel shavings. As the car retreats, Charles bursts through the front door and makes for the staircase.
“Hey! Charles, come here.” Dad motions to him.
Charles looks as if he’d rather snack on rat poison than join us, but he does.
“Hey.” Charles lifts his chin at Aidan. Aidan nods back.
“We want to talk to you guys.” Mom puts her hand on Aidan’s shoulder.
“Aidan is going to be staying with us for a little while.”
“This is bullshit,” Charles announces and heads for the staircase. He looks
at Aidan. “No offense.”
“Hey, get back here!” Dad yells.
“No family meeting? You just drop this on us?” I ask.
Mom looks mortally offended. “Charity!”
“It’s not fair. We never get a say in anything that happens around here. Not about Aunt Bulimia—”
“Or the dog I wanted?”
“Honey, you know Charles is allergic.”
“The only thing he’s allergic to is school!”
“Shut up, Cherry.” Charles glares at me, his hamster face squinching up.
“We have guests from my work all the time,” Mom says, “and you’ve never cared before.”
“Yeah, for dinner.”
Aidan slinks back, hands in his pants pockets. He watches the sky through the sliding glass door on the far wall of the living room. He’s humming a familiar tune under his breath. I can’t quite place it.
“I should go.”
Aidan’s announcement cuts through the room. Everyone falls silent.
“I can’t stay here,” he says. “I’m sorry, Mr. Jones. You’ve been very kind.”
“You’re not going anywhere, Aidan.” Mom invokes The Voice. It’s from her days as a trial lawyer. “If you leave, I have to call the authorities. You’re underage, your legal residency is in question, and the county has put you in our care. You can stay with us or you can go to juvy.” Mom darkened. “I don’t recommend juvy.”
“Neither does Charles,” I say.
“Shut up, Cherry!”
Aidan sighs. “I don’t know what this ‘juvy’ is but I suppose I don’t want to go.”
“Are you from like England or something?” Charles asks.
Aidan looks confused. “I beg your pardon?”
“Where is he sleeping?” I ask.
“Your room,” Dad says.
My face heats with horror. I bury it in my hands.
“Kidding!” Dad says, throwing an arm around me for a bear squeeze.
“Sewing room. Now let’s have some chow.”
Mom shuttles us to the dining table. She interrogates Charles as to why he stinks like cigarette smoke, but he claims it’s from riding with his friend Noah. I say nothing. As we set the table, she brings out the salad and lasagna, which smells heavenly.
Humiliation and disappointment haven’t affected my appetite at all, apparently. I wish something would.
I notice that Aidan holds the fork like he’s strangling it. He scrapes the plate. Everyone winces. Where is this guy from? And why is he so strange? Who doesn’t know how to use a fork?
I want to flee to my room to cry but I can’t. I want to make up with Keiko. I feel terrible about that fight. But Mom has laid down the law: No running off before the meal is over. Supposedly this encourages Charles to stay put and bond with us. If I ran upstairs and flung myself onto the bed now, I’d be doubly busted because we have a guest. I just want to be alone and this weird stranger is keeping me from my snug room where I can just melt down.
“Are you all right?” Aidan looks at me, concerned. “Don’t worry. It wasn’t
you who misbehaved at school today.”
Wait—what? How could he know? Or does he?
Mom shoots Aidan an anxious look, then me. “Honey, is there something going on?”
“Cherry started a riot at school today,” Charles offers.
“A riot?” Dad eyes me with disbelief.
“Shut up! That’s not what happened!”
“And then she made the Christian girls cry.”
“Charity!” Mom says. “Was this your club?”
“Mom, I didn’t do anything to anyone.”
“Then they sent Cherry like a million text messages so she can’t use her phone anymore.” Charles beams with triumph.
I want to slam his face into the Pyrex dish. “You! Did you give them my cell number?” My face heats with the rage. My hand balls into a fist on the table.
“That’s enough.” Dad points at Charles. “Did you give out your sister’s cell number?”
“Of course not,” Charles says, indignant. Dad eyes him suspiciously, but lets it drop. There is no justice.
Mom wearily passes Dad the wine bottle. “Charity, what happened?”
“Nothing. I put up a flyer about the Skeptic’s Club and the BFJs picketed my meeting, calling me a lot of unspeakable names. They harassed everyone who was there. They were harassing me with texts calling me a Satanist even before the club meeting. I had to turn off my phone. That’s why I didn’t get your call.” Tears scald the corners of my eyes.
“Where were the school officials?” Mom asks. “I can’t believe they let this happen!”
“Don’t worry. Mr. Vittorio told me he’s reporting it. He’s the librarian.”
Aidan sits with his hands folded in his lap, eyes trailing to the window.
Mom narrows her eyes at Dad and polishes off her glass of wine.
And then there’s Keiko… I can’t take it anymore. I manage to stand up and choke out, “Excuse me,” before dashing for my room.
I hear Charles complaining behind me. “So Cherry gets to have a tampon tizzy and get out of dishes?”
I slam the door and the tears spill out. As I fall on the bed, I look to Mr. Spotty and Miss Yoyodyne, who squat beside my desk. These aren’t stuffed animals. They’re robots I built. I feel like kicking one of my plastic component bins but I hurt so much, I just double over on the bed.
Footsteps pound up the stairs and Mom taps on my door. I know her knock.
Mom sits on the bed and hugs me. Between sobs, I tell her what happened with Keiko.
“Honey, these people are serious bullies. Do you want me and Dad to talk to the principal?”
“No. That’ll only make it worse. Besides, the school says they’ll deal with it. Can we wait and see what happens?”
She looks unconvinced, wiping hair out of my eyes. “If they lay a hand on you…”
“…I have a good lawyer.”
After Mom leaves, I text Keiko.
I’m so sorry, K. Please don’t be mad. I won’t put up any more flyers. I promise! Xoxo
As I read One Hundred Years of Solitude for AP English, I can hear thebumps and scrapes of Dad and Charles setting up the cot in the sewing room. Despite his protests, Charles enjoys showing off that he can lift more than Dad, who had back surgery several months ago. Mom digs through the sewing room closet. “We’ll get you more clothes this weekend,” I hear her tell Aidan. They wish each other a good night.
After two long hours of AP Calculus followed by Honors Chemistry and French, I eventually crawl into bed, exhausted and wishing that I believed in something—anything—that I could pray to and make things okay with Keiko.
Everything falls quiet except for Aidan. I hear him humming. The wall is thin between us.
I remember hearing Mom crying in the sewing room after we first moved here. She and Dad weren’t getting along. I hate thinking of my mom being weak. She has to be strong, the badass lawyer who torches anything in her way with her words. I love her for that. To hear her sobbing was haunting.
Aidan keeps humming. It’s that same tune as before but this time I know what it is.
Carol of the Bells.
A Christmas song.
Playlist for Snowed By Maria Alexander
I’m a voracious music addict and a recovering Goth. So, I listen to pretty much anything electronic, dark and powerful, as well as plenty of popular music, like Cage the Elephant and Fall Out Boy. My varied tastes also lead me to really cool, lesser-known musicians like Chase Holfelder and Rico.
Snowed is my debut YA novel. It’s about Charity Jones, a teen skeptic who learns she should not only believe in certain Christmas myths, but she should be afraid of them. As I was writing the book, I listened to all of these songs, plus a couple of movie soundtracks. Each song in the playlist represents a section of the book. Don’t worry — you won’t be able to guess the twists and turns of the plot from them. I’ve included links to the official music videos where possible.
No Maker Made Me — IAMX
Wrong — Depeche Mode
Crazier — Gary Numan and Rico
Came Back Haunted — Nine Inch Nails
Tell No One — Fixer
2 Heads — Coleman Hell
Love Hurt Bleed — Gary Numan
No Rest for the Wicked — Cage the Elephant
Monster — Lady Gaga
Feeling Good — Michael Bublé
Hello Kitty — Avril Lavigne
Centuries — Fall Out Boy
Vodevil — Marilyn Manson
Razors.Out — Chino Moreno
All I Want for Christmas Is You (MINOR KEY VERSION) — Chase Holfelder
My Top 10 Favorite Male Leads in Books, TV and Films By Maria Alexander
When you read Snowed, my supernatural YA Christmas mystery, you might wonder what influenced the creation of Aidan MacNichol, the unique love interest of teen protagonist, Charity Jones. Aidan is a mysterious teen runaway that Charity’s mother brings home to foster for the holidays. An engineering prodigy, Charity doesn’t need AP Calculus to see that Aidan doesn’t add up. But my favorite male romantic leads might help you see all the variables in his equation…
- Colonel Brandon — Sense and Sensibility
While I certainly see Mr. Darcy’s charms, when it comes to Jane Austen, I feel the unfailingly sweet and patient colonel gets overlooked. It doesn’t hurt that Alan Rickman played him in one of my favorite film adaptations. I found Rickman’s depiction of his quiet, steadfast love absolutely picture perfect.
- Legolas — Lord of the Rings
Since I was a teen, I’ve loved Legolas. Maybe it was because I played too many half-elves in Dungeons & Dragons. Or maybe because I read Wendy Pini’s Elfquest during puberty. Who knows? Thanks greatly to Peter Jackson for eventually giving us the hunky Orlando Bloom for the visuals.
- Scott McCall — MTV’s Teen Wolf
He’s a wee bit young for me, but don’t think I haven’t noticed the incredibly hot Scott McCall played by Tyler Posey on MTV’s Teen Wolf. Loyal, smart, romantic…and a werewolf, sure, but, as far as I’m concerned, Scott’s got hair in all the right places.
- Lloyd Dobler — Say Anything
Let’s go old school for a minute. Lloyd Dobler in Cameron Crowe’s classic film is pretty much the gold standard in male romantic leads. Played by the adorable John Cusack, he’s a pure dreamboat. Plus, boom box. Or should I say BOOM! box?
- Wolverine — X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I don’t know a woman who hasn’t fantasized about Hugh Jackman, but I’ve been gaga for Logan since I first picked up an X-men comic book. He’s passionate (to put it mildly) and sensitive yet tough as Adamantium. There’s also something about his tempestuous relationship with Jean Grey that I love. Also? Super hot fan art.
- Westley — The Princess Bride
How could a woman not love a man who says, “As you wish”? Seriously. Those are the magic words! Even more so, a man who then goes off to become the world’s greatest pirate? I read the book long before I saw the movie. It was like a swoon come true to see Cary Elwes in that role.
- Jon Snow — A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones
Oh, Jon Snow. He may know nothing, but him and his “lord’s kiss” for Ygritte steamed up an otherwise relentlessly horrifying book series (which I love). I can’t be the only fan who thought this character’s innocence and devotion were dreamy.
- Sir Thomas Sharpe — Crimson Peak
Sometimes I think Guillermo del Toro made Crimson Peak just for me. He said, “Maria loves Tom Hiddleston. She also loves pale, brooding Englishmen with complicated love lives wearing cravats in Gothic mansions. I’ll give her all of that, plus gorgeous dresses. And ghosts.” Guillermo, te amo!
- DCI John Luther — Luther
Two words: Idris Elba. Who should also be The Doctor, James Bond, and really every hot male lead out there. Elba aside, Luther the character has this intense sexuality paired extraordinary intelligence and moral conscience that make him altogether irresistible.
- Gomez Addams — The Addams Family/Addams Family Values
The ultimate lover, husband, father and tango dancer, Gomez Addams is The Ideal Man. And the way he looks at Morticia? Smokin’! In fact, when I was a kid watching the TV series, I thought they were the perfect couple. I didn’t read the comics until I was an adult, and they didn’t change my mind about him one bit.
Maria Alexander is a produced screenwriter, published games writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, interactive theatre designer, fiction writer, snarkiologist and poet. Her short stories have appeared in numerous publications and acclaimed anthologies alongside living legends such as David Morrell and Heather Graham.
Her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. She’s represented by Alex Slater at Trident Media Group.
When she’s not wielding a katana at her Shinkendo dojo, she’s being outrageously spooky or writing Doctor Who filk. She lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats and a purse called Trog.
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