Welcome to the book blitz for SKELETONS, the second book in the young adult contemporary thriller series, Elephant, by Natalie Rodriguez, releasing February 26, 2021. See below for information on the book and series, preorder links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
About the Book
Series: Elephant Series #2
Author: Natalie Rodriguez
Release Date: February 26, 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Thriller
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon DE | Amazon FR
When was the last time you confronted the skeletons in your closest?
Immediately following book one, “Elephant,” Matthew “Matty” Smith awakens from his coma and discovers that his worst nightmare is all true: his grandmother, Jamie, and Derek have gone missing and his mother murdered his father and grandfather years ago.
With the hospital placing him on lockdown, including no visitation rights by his loved ones such as his best friend, Lisa, Matty finds himself deteriorating into a state of the abyss, consumed with the secrets of his family. Convinced that it was the ‘stranger’ who kidnapped his grandmother and friends, no one believes him. The hospital only believes that Matty is slipping into a toxic mental state, repeating the cycle of his family.
Until one day, Lisa helps Matty escape the hospital.
On the run from Dr. Brown, Officer Barry, and the town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Matty and Lisa set off to find their friends and Lucia and for answers on who the ‘stranger’ is. Once they unmask who the ‘stranger’ is, Matty continues to unravel the deepest secrets of what was supposed to be forever hidden in the Smith family as well as the town.
This story is for those who feel their voice is unheard and for children, teenagers, and adults who never had the chance to heal from their pain.
ON THAT BLAZING SUMMER DAY in August, an elderly man of seventy years old sat in a wheelchair. He gazed down upon two gravestones that stood in front of him. It was heartbreaking. A breeze whispered through one ear and then out the other. He crinkled his nose from the chilliness it brought. The elderly man bundled himself up in his burgundy snow raincoat. A beanie hugged his hairless head, and solid-colored gloves covered his fingers, like angels who looked out for him from above.
After months of chemotherapy and radiation, the aftermath of cancer left him restless. Yet, he still yearned for his old reality. The river of tears that skimmed down his face added more blemishes to his crumpled and desiccated skin. He broke down even more and concealed his face with his fuzzy, dark gray gloves.
From afar, an elderly woman, also in her early seventies, listened to his whimpers until she could no longer bear it.
“Sweetheart!” She bundled herself up in her pink woven sweater and ran over to the area. She leaned in and pressed her cheek against the elderly man’s stubble.
“What is it, sweetheart? Tell me.” She caressed his dampened cheeks.
“Mom!” a handsome male in his mid-thirties bellowed, as he dashed into the depths of the cemetery.
Following a few feet behind the handsome man was two women, both in their twenties—one of them was six months pregnant; she took her precautions, holding the hand of a child. Beautiful, like the adult man and two women, the child slipped her fingers through the non-pregnant female’s hand, as though it were a sign of devotion
“’Am about to fall!” her minuscule voice rasped.
The woman who was not pregnant, scooped up the girl into her arms while she and her pregnant sister-in-law scampered over to her brother’s side. They waited with him underneath a tree that stood taller than most of the others. Except, that tree had more greens and cherry toppings. It was the tree of life itself, magnificent and a reminder of what was beautiful…
“What’s going on?” the pregnant woman asked and reached for her husband’s palm—The Handsome Man.
He gave her fingers a squeeze before he released them and stepped aside. He sniffled and pressed his free hand against his round lips. He closed his eyes, as though to be swept away by sweet dreams.
“Whaa’s goin’ on?” the little girl asked, broken-hearted by the sight of her father’s tears. She and the two women (the pregnant one being her mother; and the non-pregnant woman being her auntie) glimpsed back and forth at the elders and the man.
“Talk to me sweetheart.” The elderly woman spoke tenderly and daubed away her husband’s tears with a tissue. “You can only go so long until, a whisper turns into a scream.”
The elderly man met her sight. When her hand contacted his cheek, he flinched from the coldness of her fingertips. He gazed into her eyes; and her eyes only beseeched him to speak. Teary, she pressed his hands together and lowered them to kiss theirs tops. By the time she looked at him, his eyes were closed in agony. A moment later, he shook his head because now was the time to address the elephant in the room.
“Then when is?” she asked.
“What’s wrong with papa?” The sister (non-pregnant woman) turned to her brother, who daubed the wetness off his eyes. “He’s been like this for the past few months.”
“It’s because he’ll never get over it,” he whispered back.
The little girl disengaged her fingers from her mother’s hand—the man’s wife remained in place—and reached for her father.
“Is papa gonna be alright?”
“Yes. Yes, he is.” The man hugged his daughter back. From behind, the pregnant woman swaddled her arms around her husband and rested her cheek against his back. Off her touch, the handsome man relaxed a palm on his wife’s wrist and gave it a peck.
“I’m fine,” they heard the elderly man protest—the man and non-pregnant woman’s father.
The elderly man wiped a sleeve across his lukewarm, moist face.
“I’m fine,” he repeated, as though he convinced himself. “I just had to let it out.”
“Sweetheart.” His wife knelt onto the dirt. “Don’t do this. Don’t you dare pull the ‘everything is okay’ card. It’s okay. It’s okay to be…sad.”
“I am not sad—!”
“You sure about that?”
And then, he cracked. “I, I thought I was. A long time ago, I didn’t want to live.”
“It’s true,” he said. “But I don’t feel that way anymore.” He turned to his wife. “I promise.”
She smiled. She believed him.
“But I’m okay now,” the elderly man informed his group of family members. “I have been for all these years. I swear…I’m okay. We’re okay.”
He looped his fingers through his wife’s shaky ones—the one with the wedding ring on it that he gave her many years ago. It still shimmered in a halo glow as soon as the sunlight hit it.
“You don’t need to feel guilty about anything,” he said to her. “You gave me the best gift that any man could ask for. I have four wonderful and beautiful family members because of you.”
The relatives beamed like one of those families about to be snapshot onto a Christmas card.
“I’m the luckiest man on Earth. So far, eighty is looking great in the next decade.”
It got a chuckle from his wife, their two children, daughter-in-law, and grandbaby. The elderly woman leaned toward him. He met her halfway for another sweet, and still sensational, kiss. Like many years ago, the scent and taste of her chapstick—not lip gloss—thrived on his lips like caramel from an apple.
“I love you, sweetheart,” she vowed. “Always here, since day one.”
The elderly man smiled. He brushed a strand of fallen hair behind her shoulders. It was difficult to not admire her beauty—his heart skipped a few beats, even after forty-years together. Marriage was the best decision he made; well, they promised to each other as teenagers, a long time ago. Together, they listened to the chorus line of birds and the rustle of leaves. The family stood in silence for a few more moments. The adults and grandchild stayed at their short distance, so the grandparents had some time to themselves.
The sunlight tip-toed through the swarm of tree branches and created a glow around the elderly woman’s body. She had aged gracefully and was the definition of a woman who embraced getting older. There was never shame in it, at least not for her.
In a flash, the elderly man saw the younger woman she once was—her gray hair melted back to its dark brunette roots. No matter how many years bypassed, the elderly man was attracted to his wife more than ever. He touched her cheek.
“I always knew I’d marry you,” he said.
She smiled and kissed each of his fingers. They were each other’s everything and world. In unison, they inched closer, until their lips met. Their eyes shut, and the memories floored back for them—from the first time they made eye contact; introduced themselves; spoke; spooned; kissed; made love; and finally, married each other. The elderly man nuzzled against his wife as strands of her hair toppled over his beanie. She was forever the girl of his dreams.
“I love you, Jamie,” he whispered.
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About the Author
Natalie Rodriguez is an award-winning writer, director, and mental health and anti-violence/trauma advocate based in Los Angeles, CA. In 2014, she graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio-Television-Film. Her first experience in entertainment was an internship at the Conan O’Brien show and Peter Guber’s Mandalay Pictures, where she worked at the offices of producers, Matthew Rhodes (“Cherry,” “Men in Black: International”) and Academy Award-winner, Cathy Schulman (“Sharp Objects,” “Crash”). Natalie was also a panelist at events, including Google, Hispanicize, and YouTube, where she has shared her story as a writer, filmmaker, and a female working in the entertainment industry. Some of her previous writing work can be found in publications such as the HuffPost Blog, Thrive Global, Anxiety Resource Center, Opposing Views, NowThis News, Zooey Deschanel’s Hello Giggles, The Mighty, and more.
In 2017, she founded her production company, Extraordinary Pictures, focusing on both films, television, digital series, and social issue projects. The company has a list of projects in its roaster, including development on a TV sitcom, “The D,” which placed in top-ten for best comedy screenplays at Stage 32. At the moment, Natalie’s second directorial feature film, “Howard Original,” is in post-production and set for an August 2020 release date on YouTube Premium. The film is based on the award-winning short film about a washed-up screenwriter named Howard, who encounters more than just selling a story, a studio rejection, and writer’s block when his pet cat comes to life.
Natalie’s directorial feature film, “The Extraordinary Ordinary,” which she also wrote, produced, and was the executive producer on, is making its round through the festival circuit. The film deals with young adults, mental health awareness, and the aftermath of trauma. The film won ‘Best Film About Women’s Empowerment’ at the Glendale International Film Festival and scored nominations in Best Director, Best Female Director, and Best Picture. The film also had a sold-out world premiere screening at the Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival (LADFF), winning ‘Best Performance’ by the leading actress, Maddison Bullock. Further details on the project can be found @theextraordfilm, including recent film festival awards and nominations.
Her other screenplays and films have also been featured and placed in the final rounds at HollyShorts Film Festival, NALIP: Latino Lens Film Festival, ShortsTV, Stage 32: Comedy Screenplay, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival, Indie Night Film Festival, Hollywood Screenplay Contest, Table Read My Screenplay – Austin Film Festival, and others.
Natalie was most recently an ambassador for Jen Zeano Designs (JZD), a clothing company in association with USA Networks. While she continues to build her creative background, Natalie is always open to collaborating with other artists and advocates. Currently, she awaits the publication of her first young adult novel this April 2020, “Elephant,” a story about four childhood best friends who uncover a family secret. The book was also a finalist at Clare Books’ the Binge-Watching Cure II contest for ‘Best Novel.’.
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