My Lunatic Life

My Lunatic Life
Sharon Sala

$11.95 August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61194-038-1

*NYT Bestselling Author

 

 
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

 

She plays for Team Spirit.

High school senior Tara Luna's got all the usual teen problems: a new school, her attraction to a hunky guy, feuds with the Mean Girls, being regarded as an oddball outsider—PLUS she has psychic powers, a duo of protective, meddlesome ghosts AND an angry, threatening teen girl ghost who wants Tara to solve her murder—or else.

Now you know why she calls this "my lunatic life.”

Sharon Sala’s books repeatedly make the big lists, including The New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly lists, and she’s been nominated for a RITA seven times, which is the romance writer’s equivalent of having an Oscar or an Emmy nomination. MY LUNATIC LIFE is the first book in her Lunatic Life series for teen readers. Coming soon: THE LUNATIC DETECTIVE.

Visit her at http://sharonsalabooks.com and on Facebook.

Reviews

"…My Lunatic Life is fast-paced and engaging…a delightful book…I look forward to the sequel, The Lunatic Detective." -- Teri Davis, NetGalley Review

"Tara Luna was great...With plenty of paranormal intrigue,My Lunatic Life is a fun, lighthearted read." -- Hannah Bowles, NetGalley

"A wonderful job of showing how hard it is to keep going to new schools and trying to fit in." -- Jo Ann Hakola, The Book Faerie

"It was nonstop action from page one." -- Julie Witt, Good Reads

"It had a fabulous suspense[ful] edge that just made my heart pound." -- Tiffiane, GoodReads

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The alarm that Tara Luna had set with such confidence last night yanked her rudely from Channing Tatum’s arms, just when he was about to kiss her.

OMG... did the universe have a wicked sense of humor or what?

She rolled over to the side of the bed and turned it off.

"What a mood killer,” she muttered, and sat up.

She was rubbing sleep out of her eyes when a blob of gray ectoplasm floated from the corner of her room and across her line of vision.

That would be Henry, one of two ghosts who had been with Tara for as long as she could remember. While his presence might seem startling for most teenagers, it wasn’t for Tara. She’d always been able to see ghosts. As for Henry, the ghost in question, he’d appeared to her at the age of three, after she’d fallen from a swing and broken her arm, and he hadn’t been far from her since. Usually, he appeared to her as a somewhat dim version of what he’d looked like when he’d been alive, like with a head and body—arms—legs—the usual. But when he was irked, which her and Uncle Pat’s move from Denver to Oklahoma had caused, he didn’t bother. Sometimes this was good. Sometimes it wasn’t. Right now, it was disconcerting to strip in front of what had once been a living, breathing male, no matter what gray-blob shape he picked.

"Go away, Henry. I’m about to take a shower.”

To show his displeasure, Henry rolled Tara’s new ink pen off the edge of her desk onto the floor, then vaporized.

Tara was still muttering beneath her breath as she picked up her pen then headed for the bathroom. Every time she and Uncle Pat moved to a new home, Henry caused trouble. He didn’t like disruption anymore than Tara, but at least Henry had an option. Tara didn’t. Uncle Pat was all the family she had, and Uncle Pat had a gypsy heart. He was always looking for greener pastures, leaving Tara to say goodbye to old friends and hope that wherever she and Uncle Pat were going, she would find a way to fit in.

She staggered into the bathroom, dropped the t-shirt that she’d slept in, squirted a dollop of shampoo into the palm of her hand, then stepped into the shower. She lifted her face to the water jets, letting the warm water wash away the sleep from her eyes before she started on her hair.

Today was the first day of school and it was also her senior year. They’d moved from Denver, Colorado to Stillwater, Oklahoma less than a week ago, into an old, bungalow-style, white-frame house on Duck Street. The house had been sitting empty for six months, and it had taken a lot of cleaning to make it liveable. But two nights ago, the last box had been unpacked, and as of yesterday afternoon, the windows had curtains. Tomorrow, the television would get hooked up to cable services, the phone would be on, her laptop would be hooked back up to internet services, and life as they knew it would resume.

As she scrubbed at her hair, she thought about the day ahead of her. There was no way it would be good. A new kid—in senior class. How wrong was that? If anyone found out she claimed to be psychic, it would be three strikes and she’d be out before she started.

The shower curtain jiggled. Tara’s eyes were shut to keep out the shampoo, but she didn’t need to see to know who was causing it. Henry was still acting up.

"If you get water in the floor, I’m not cleaning it up!”

The shower curtain billowed toward her, then plastered the thin plastic sheet to her wet, soapy body.

"Henry! I’m warning you. Back off. Go pester Uncle Pat. It’s his fault we moved again, not mine.”

At that point, the curtain settled and Tara was able to finish her shower in peace. She could imagine what tricks he was playing on Uncle Pat. She’d be helping her uncle look for his reading glasses or keys before the day was out. Hiding things was one of Henry’s best stunts.

She dried and dressed quickly, then took a blow drier to her long dark hair to finish it off. A few minutes later she paused to look at herself in the mirror. On the surface, she didn’t appear all that different from any other seventeen-year-old girl. She had an all-right figure, although if she could have picked, she would have opted for legs that weren’t so long and gangly. Her face was heart-shaped, like her mother’s had been. At least that’s what Uncle Pat always said, although Tara wouldn’t know.

Other than a photo of them taken at their wedding, she had no memory of either one of her parents. They’d died in a car wreck before her first birthday. Uncle Pat, her mother’s brother, was all the family she’d ever known. She realized how amazing it was that a confirmed bachelor with his head in the clouds and his nose always in a book had even bothered with her. But he had. Even when he aggravated her the most, he was still her goofy, loveable Uncle Pat.

She tweezed a wild eyebrow hair, smeared a little mascara on already dark lashes, swiped some lip gloss on her curvy lips, then squinted at the mirror until she could barely see herself. That’s when she looked the most like Angelina Jolie, who was her all-time favorite actress. It wasn’t about how pretty or famous Angelina was that made Tara like her. It was that she kept adopting kids that no one else wanted.

That, Tara could identify with.

A lock of her hair suddenly floated up. That would be Millicent, the other ghost in the house. Millicent never bothered to materialize past the occasional puff of pink smoke, but Tara could hear her voice, loud and clear, unlike Henry, who never bothered to talk.

I like your hair better up.

"I’m leaving it down, thank you,” Tara answered, knowing Millicent was just voicing her opinion of Tara’s look. Millicent was not shy about speaking her mind or correcting Tara. It never occurred to Tara that the only mother figure she’d ever had was Millicent, the spirit of a woman who’d been dead for over one hundred years.

Tara’s life was crazy, but it was all she’d known.

As far as clothes went, her choice and style was straight out of Walmart and Target. Money was always an issue with them, and while she would have loved to wear designer stuff, the truth was, a tee was a tee. Jeans were jeans. Today she was wearing a pink tee and her favorite jeans. They rode low on her hips, while the fabric was soft and old and frayed at the hems—a great grungy look.

It was the best she could do considering half of her clothes were dirty and Uncle Pat had yet to hook up the washer and dryer. She stared at her features, so familiar, yet not what she wished they would be, then made a face at herself and left the bathroom. As she started down the hall, she could already smell the coffee, which meant Uncle Pat had made breakfast. Considering the fact that they’d been unpacking for the better part of three days without taking time to stock the pantry or shop for groceries, she was a little anxious as to what breakfast would be. He had a tendency to cook stuff that was beyond what most people considered a comfort zone.

"Hey, Uncle Pat,” Tara said, as she entered the kitchen.

Patrick Carmichael was tall and lean—pushing fifty and beginning to bald. When he was younger, he’d been told he looked a lot like Sean Connery. Tara hadn’t known who that was until she’d watched some old James Bond movies. Personally, she hadn’t seen the resemblance, but maybe that was because she didn’t want to think about her uncle kissing pretty women and taking them to bed like that actor had done. Now, the resemblance to James Bond was long gone, along with his hair.

The fact that Pat’s clothes still had the fold marks from packing didn’t bother him in the least. When he heard Tara’s voice, he turned and waved a spatula at her, then pointed toward the table.

"Good morning, honey,” he said. "Breakfast is almost ready.”

"Good, I’m hungry,” Tara said, as she picked up her juice glass and took a sip. She raised her eyebrows at the taste and then eyed it curiously, wondering what he’d combined to get such an unusual taste.

"How do you like my latest concoction?” he asked.

"It’s... uh, interesting. What is it?”

"Oh... a combination of several things, including orange Gatorade and some melted vanilla ice cream. No sense in wasting good food, right?”

Tara tried to identify another less distinctive flavor. "Did you put some almond flavoring in it, too?”

Pat frowned as he plated their food. "Almond? No, no... at least I don’t think so.” Then he swung toward the table with a plate in each hand. "Here you go! Eat up! You’ll need all your energy for your big day.”

Tara sighed. He had no idea. She hated always being the new kid in school.

She thrust a fork into what looked like scrambled eggs and took a big bite. It was all she could do not to choke. She managed to swallow without gagging, an eating skill she’d mastered at an early age, and then washed the taste out of her mouth with mystery juice and reached for the plate of toast instead.

Her uncle frowned. "You don’t like your food?”

"I don’t know if I do or not,” Tara said. "What is it?”

Her uncle frowned. "Either you like the taste, or you don’t.”

She grinned and fired back, "Is it food in its purest form, or is it yet another deadly combination?”

He sighed then poked at his own plate of food. "It’s perfectly good squash. I found them growing on some plants in that jungle of a back yard. Thought I’d surprise you.”

Tara leaned over and kissed him soundly on the cheek. "And you did.” She reached for the jelly jar then paused. "That is jelly, right?”

He sighed. Obviously his attempt to create a gourmet breakfast had failed. "Yes.”

She grinned as she smeared a good helping of jelly on a piece of toast, then took a big bite. "Yum. Grape-a-cot, my favorite.”

"There’s nothing wrong with mixing grape and apricot jams. They’re both fruit. They’re both sweet.”

"And so are you,” Tara said, as she kissed her uncle on the cheek before getting up from the table. "Gotta go. Don’t want to be late the first day.”

"Don’t you want me to drop you off?” he asked.

"No, that’s all right, Uncle Pat. Take your time. Eat your breakfast in peace... and while you’re at it, you can have mine, too.”

He grinned wryly. "I’ll shop before dinner tonight.”

"Get some hamburger meat and I’ll cook,” she offered, then grabbed her book bag and headed out the door.

"Hey, Tara! Wait a minute!”

Tara turned. "Yeah?”

"My keys. Have you seen my car keys? I can’t find them anywhere.”

Tara frowned and retraced her steps into the house. "I’ll help you look,” she said, and when he left the room, she slammed her backpack onto the sofa and put her hands on her hips. "Henry! Cough them up now, and I mean it!” Uncle Pat had no idea about Henry and Millicent. Tara had never had the courage to tell him. He was very skeptical about psychics, ghosts, and anything else that couldn’t be explained by logic. She heard a faint jingle coming from down the hall and followed the sound.

"Now, Henry!”

The keys appeared out of nowhere and dropped at her feet.

"Thank you very much,” she muttered, then changed the tone of her voice to light and happy. "Hey! Uncle Pat! I found them.”

Pat came out of his bedroom. "Great! Where were they?”

"Oh... just laying around.” She dropped them into his hands. "Have a good day.”

"You, too, honey,” he said, and kissed the top of her head. She retrieved her backpack and headed out the door. She was halfway down the block, listening to Beyoncé on her iPod, before she realized she was no longer alone. Henry was floating along beside her, obviously in a better mood, and Millicent was absolutely bubbly, chattering in one ear while Tara tried to focus on Beyoncé in the other.

Aren’t you excited about starting a new school? There’ll be some handsome young men there, I expect.

Tara thought nothing of it. She was used to the company. Henry was bossy, and Millicent was man-crazy. Even if no one else could see them, they were part of her family.

The day started better than Tara expected. She got all the way through first period without anyone paying her much attention. Henry had made himself scarce, and Millicent was probably in the gymnasium, haunting the boys’ dressing rooms to sneak a peek. Tara didn’t know what kind of life Millicent had lived in the flesh, but as a ghost, she was wicked bad.

It wasn’t until second period that Tara got a jolt of reality. She was already in her seat and leafing through her textbook when she realized the room had gotten quiet. She looked up to see what was going on and saw a girl standing by the teacher’s desk, glaring at a guy just walking into the room.

The girl gave the boy a drop dead look. The boy didn’t even acknowledge her. Tara smiled. You didn’t have to be a psychic to figure out they had history. She heard the girl behind her hiss across the aisle.

"SueEllen. SueEllen... look! Flynn O’Mara has a tat!”

"Yeah... I wonder if his father has one to match.”

As soon as Tara looked at the skull-and-barbed-wire tattoo showing beneath the sleeve of Flynn O’Mara’s tight t-shirt, she flashed on a jail cell. Bummer. His Dad’s in jail.

Suddenly Uncle Pat’s quirks weren’t so bad after all. She dared one more quick look at the tat, but her attention soon moved to the size of the muscle on which it had been inked. Definitely leer-worthy. When he passed beside her on his way toward the back of the room, she caught a whiff of sexy aftershave and stifled a groan. Millicent was going to be all a-twitter over him. Tara just knew it.

When she heard someone behind her whisper, "He’s sooo hot,” she couldn’t help but silently agree.

But it was another girl’s answer that made her curious. "Yeah... but no one in her right mind would mess with him.”

"Bethany did.”

"But not for long.”

"Yeah. Right.”

Ahah. Bethany must be the girl glaring at him beside the teacher’s desk.

Then the teacher entered the classroom and Tara’s curiosity was left dangling. It was sort of like tuning into the middle of one of Uncle Pat’s reality TV shows. Didn’t know the characters. Didn’t know the plot. Just knew that someone cute was bound to have a bad moment before the hour was up. Something told her that this Flynn guy had already had his bad moment—maybe more than one. But he was definitely cute. And it wasn’t a half-bad start to the second hour of the first day of her senior year.

It wasn’t until lunch that she was faced with her first test of endurance, and it all began when, trying to maintain a low profile, she sat down at a table in the middle of the school cafeteria.

"Hey. New girl. You can’t sit there.”

Tara looked up at the blonde who was balancing her tray while glaring at Tara.

"Were you talking to me?” Tara asked.

"Do you see anyone else who looks new?”

Tara grinned. "From where I’m sitting, pretty much everyone.”

The blonde rolled her eyes. "These seats are taken.”

Tara had spent her life trying to fit in. She thought about just getting up and moving, but it was her senior year, and she was tired of being low-man on the social totem pole.

"Who are you?” Tara asked.

"I’m Prissy.”

"I’ve always admired a girl who can admit to her faults.”

The blank look on Prissy’s face was all the proof Tara needed to know that the joke had gone right over her head. So she started again.

"Okay, Prissy, why can’t I sit here? It’s empty.”

Prissy rolled her eyes. "You’re new, or you wouldn’t be so stupid.”

"Um... actually, I’m not new. I’ve been around for seventeen years now.”

Another zinger that Prissy completely missed.

"Whatever,” she drawled. "You still can’t sit here. This is the cheerleaders’ table.”

Tara groaned.

The sound must have carried, because the room went silent. She knew she should just take her tray and move, but she couldn’t bring herself to fold at the first challenge. Just once, why couldn’t the universe bend to fit her world, instead of her always having to bend to fit its?

She stood and jerked the edge of her tray against her belly.

"Cheerleaders,” she drawled, and began bowing up and down as she slowly backed away, carrying her tray.

Laughter ricocheted from one end of the lunchroom to the other. Tara lifted her chin and swaggered all the way to the back of the room. When she got to an empty table, she set down her tray then turned and yelled, "Hey Prissy! Prissy!”

Prissy turned, then gaped, unable to believe that the new girl was still trying to communicate with her in any way. Two other girls who’d now joined her at the cheerleaders’ table frowned. One of them was Bethany Fanning—the Bethany from second hour who’d had the thing with Mr. Bad Dude Flynn O’ Mara. The other was a girl named Melanie Smith, who went by the name of Mel. The trio were all part of Stillwater High’s cheerleading squad, and all three were blonde.

"Who’s she?” Bethany asked.

"I saw her in the hall earlier,” Mel added.

Prissy turned bright red as Tara waved at her cheerfully. Tara stopped and pointed to the table where she’d set her tray.

"How about here? Anybody got their name on this table?”

Another ripple of giggles rolled across the room.

At the sound of laughter, Prissy’s face flushed an even angrier pink. She wasn’t used to being laughed at. The other two blondes frowned, but said nothing.

Tara sat down and made a big production of setting her silverware in the proper place, opening her milk carton and inserting a straw, then salting and peppering everything on her plate before she began to eat. She was chewing her first bite when she happened to look up and catch Flynn grinning at her.

She smiled back, only afterward realizing that she’d been chewing salad when she smiled. She sighed, hoping nothing green had been sticking out from between her teeth, and finished her meal in silence.

As she’d feared, her transition into the new school was off to an awkward and uncomfortable start. What she hadn’t expected was for Millicent to intervene next.

Tara was on her way out of the lunchroom when she heard a loud shriek. She turned just in time to see Prissy’s plate of food levitate from the table and fly into her lap.

"Way to go, Millicent.” Tara kept on walking.

She heading for her locker when some guy behind her called out, "Hey! Hey! Wait up!”

Surely he’s not talking to me, she thought, and kept on walking. Suddenly the guy grabbed her by the arm. She spun, ready to do battle. OMG, it’s the hottie.

"Hey,” Flynn said, and quickly turned her loose. "I’m Flynn. You’re new, right?”

"Only to this school. Not to the world.”

He grinned. "Got a name to go with that mouth?”

"Tara Luna.”

His smile was hypnotizing. "Luna. That means moon, right?”

Her brain stopped working. She gazed up at him silently.

Talk to him, Tara. Say something witty. Say anything.

Tara sighed. Millicent. She should have known she’d get involved in this.

"So I’m told,” she said, then stifled the urge to roll her eyes. Could my answer have gotten any dumber?

"Moon girl. That’s not half bad.”

The bell rang, breaking up what might have been the defining moment of the day for Tara. Instead of an undying declaration of love, he gave her forearm a soft jab with his fist.

"See ya, moon girl.”

Tara was still trying to come up with a real cute way to say goodbye when he disappeared into the room across the hall.

Way to miss the opportunity of the day.

Can it, Millicent. Don’t you have someplace to be? Some half-naked jock to ogle?

Millicent laughed and went silent.

When the last bell rang, Tara was exhausted, both mentally and physically. She’d gotten lost trying to find her fourth-period classroom, and arrived to find Flynn the Hottie was in that class, as well. The fact that he kept looking at her with more than curiosity made her nervous. She thought she might like him—really like him—but she was cautious. The last thing she needed was to fall for someone again. Before the move from Denver, she’d had her first serious boyfriend. Millicent had gone along on every one of their dates, suddenly determined to play chaperone. Uncle Pat’s decision to move came just as the relationship was heating up

Tara sagged. Why bother falling for another guy? It would hurt too much when Uncle Pat pulled up stakes again.

My life sucks, she thought.

There was nothing to do but go home and hope tomorrow was a better day.

That evening, Tara was taking a meatloaf out of the oven when she heard the front door open. Uncle Pat was home.

"Just in time,” she called out, then set the hot dish on a trivet and gave the green beans a quick stir.

When her uncle didn’t answer, she decided he hadn’t heard her and she wiped her hands on a dish towel then went to the living room to greet him. But there was no one there.

"Uncle Pat?”

She glanced toward the hallway leading to their bedrooms, then went in search of him before their food got cold. She knocked on his bedroom door, then opened it for a peek. He wasn’t there.

"This is so weird,” she muttered. She knocked at the door to the hall bath. No Uncle Pat. "Okay. I heard the door open and close. So maybe he didn’t come in. Maybe he stepped back outside to get something from the car.”

She hurried back into the living room, but when she looked out, the car wasn’t in the driveway.

"Okay. This isn’t funny! Henry! Was that you?”

Henry appeared in the far corner of the room. "Not I,” he said. "Millicent, did you open the door?”

No. Doors are so trite. Any ghost can do doors.

"Well, excuse me.” She looked around one last time then shrugged and started toward the kitchen. Suddenly a dark shadow appeared in the doorway, blocking her path. She froze.

This couldn’t be good.

The shadow came toward her, then through her, leaving her so cold she couldn’t move and so shocked she couldn’t speak. That was beyond rude. A kind of ghostly slap in the face.

"Something smells good! I’m starving!”

Uncle Pat’s voice shattered Tara’s focus. She shivered, then turned. The shadow was gone. It was only Uncle Pat in his flower power t-shirt and old bell-bottom pants coming in the front door. It was hard to say which was freakier—the ghost that had passed through her or Uncle Pat’s crazy clothes.

"It’s meatloaf,” she said, and then swiped her hands across her face and headed back to the kitchen to finish up the meal. It wasn’t the first time she’d been confronted by a dark spirit, and it probably wouldn’t be the last, but she absolutely hated it.

"Let me wash up and I’ll help you,” Uncle Pat said, and hurried down the hall.

Tara was dishing up green beans when he came back into the kitchen.

"How was school?”

She rolled her eyes. "Where do I start? Let’s see... I chose the wrong place to sit in the lunchroom. I got lost on the way to gym class, and there’s a cute guy named Flynn in two of my classes, with what might be some kind of prison tattoo on his arm.”

Pat frowned. "I’m not liking this Flynn guy.”

Tara sighed. "Don’t worry. He barely noticed me.”

"You do remember my lecture about sex, right? I mean... I’m not advocating you have sex , but I do not want you unprepared, either. If you want, I’ll take you to a doctor and—”

"Uncle Pat! Trust me, I’m not going to have sex with a guy I just met today. I am not stupid, okay?”

Her uncle’s frown deepened.

"All right, but be careful.” He poked at the meatloaf. "This looks good. Did you put some hot peppers in it?”

"No.”

"Oh. I was hoping for some jalapenos at least. Why not?”

"Because you didn’t buy any.”

"Oh. Right. I’ll add it to the next grocery list. For now, let’s eat. I’m starved.”

Thankful that their conversation had taken a less embarrassing turn, Tara finished dishing up the food, filled their glasses with iced tea, and then joined her uncle at the table and handed him her plate. He loaded it with a thick slab of meatloaf. Tara added a spoonful of green beans, a helping of mashed potatoes, and then reached for the ketchup. Hamburger in any form was always better with ketchup and anything was better than her Uncle Pat launching into one of his attempts at parental advice.

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