Descending Into Madness by Stacey Marie Brown

February 13, 2020

Descending Into Madness by Stacey Marie Brown

“If you don’t know where you are, what does it matter where here is? Here is merely relative to knowing where you are.”

-- What madness is this? --
You know the writing is exceptional when you don't really care for the narrator but you can't let go of the story. I'm not a fan of single perspectives and I've never really liked the tale of Alice in Wonderland, at least not until I saw the 2010 Disney live-action remake. This story was a modern retelling that had me wondering if I was the one truly going mad!

Alice was a 25 year old woman whose life was in shambles. After being cheated on, dumped, and fired by her boss/lover, her independent life fell apart and she was forced to move back home where, as the older sister, she's seen as the dim one. She's impulsive, a bit deluded, and curious to a fault. One night she sees what she considers an insanely hot half-human/half-reindeer carrying a red light. She follows him and ends up tumbling into Winterland. There she meets Scrooge, Hare, Dee Puck, Dum Puck, Pen, Rudy, Nick, Frosty, the Queen, and so many others. It takes her a while to understand her place in things, not that I think she got there in the end, but she wasn't a worthless contribution to the team. Whenever she was in true danger, things would pop up saying 'eat me' or 'drink me', saving her in the nick of time. She was also indecisive because while I was supposed to believe she was completely into Scrooge, she had the tendency to become attached to any attractive man it seemed. Hopefully this changes in the next book.

This man didn’t just look at you, he shredded everything you had built around yourself, even the few layers of clothes left. His gaze slipped over your skin, dousing you in fire.

I would have a hard time classifying this as a romantic tale. It was more about the action and adventure and the mystery than anything else. It grabs a hold of you with its nonsense, having you question what's real or not, and you can't help but scream for more of Scrooge. I would give my left tit to get his voice!!

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-- About the Book --
Descending Into Madness by Stacey Marie Brown
Your holiday season is about to get deliciously naughty...

What if Alice Liddell’s story didn’t happen the way you think? What if it wasn’t Wonderland she fell into, but Winterland.
This mad tale is dark, twisted, sexy, and nothing like the legend you know.

After losing her job and finding her boyfriend/boss cheating on her with her replacement, twenty-five-year-old Alice Liddell has moved back home to save money and regroup.

She doesn’t think things can get worse until her younger, more responsible sister, Dinah, gets her a job—as a Christmas elf.
Dressed in a slutty costume with fathers peeking down her top and kids vomiting on her, she wants nothing more than to escape the reality of her life.

When she sees a sexy, shirtless man, carrying a glowing red light, and bearing antlers, her curiosity gets the better of her. But following him might be the biggest mistake she ever made.

Falling into another realm, Alice finds herself in the world of holiday legends and fairytales. But she is not prepared her for the dark madness of this place. Nothing is what is seems and no one is what they are in the fairytales.

Even the mysterious, sexy Scrooge.

Welcome to Winterland, where the good guys from the North Pole have gone bad, and the only way to survive is to descend into its madness.

-- Excerpt --

Chapter One

A heavy sigh puffed from my lips as I leaned back in my chair, crossing my red-and-white-striped legs on the fireplace. The bells attached to my curved green booties tinkled. The humiliation of my current situation turned my cheeks as bright as the red trim on the very inappropriate elf costume I wore. I helped put kids on Santa’s lap, while fathers stared down my low-cut top and ogled at the shortness of the skirt. My boss was a sleaze, and I had no doubt he picked these outfits on purpose. Funny how many fathers brought their children here to take a picture with Santa… multiple times.
At twenty-five, I thought my life would have been way past this. Life had laughed loudly at my lofty dreams: to be a hat designer with my own store, have a sexy boyfriend and at least enough money to afford a studio apartment in the city.
My last job was as an assistant to a thirty-five-year-old executive, who I had stupidly slept with. Then he decided the twenty-one-year-old new employee was more to his liking. He determined the best way to end things was to fire me. Oh, sorry, his secretary fired me. He didn’t even have the balls to tell me face to face.
Unemployed and not able to afford rent or even groceries, I came home with my tail between my legs. I returned to my parents’ house for the holiday season, which gave me time to decide the best way to get back on my feet. Dinah, my younger sister by more than eight years, had gotten me the job here, adding to my mortification. She was the one who always had a good head on her shoulders. Logical and wise beyond her years, while I was a dreamer. Dinah had a steady, caring boyfriend and worked here to save money for college and to pay for her used car, which I was borrowing.
I had none of those things. I never thought about the steps it took to get what I wanted. I just jumped. Hence, the reason I was dressed up like a tarty elf assisting a high-as-shit Santa and had already been thrown up on twice today.
“Alice,” a gruff voice barked at me, turning my head. Gabe’s fake white beard was pulled down under his chin. The ill-fitting Santa suit sagged on his frame, and an unlit joint stuck out of his mouth. “Going on my break.” He tilted his head at the back door.
I nodded, wiggling my fingers at him. I twisted my long, straight, dark brown hair around my finger and returned to the book open on my lap. It had been extremely slow tonight, but we couldn’t even think about leaving for at least another two hours. We were not located conveniently in a warm mall. No, we were attached to a large Christmas tree farm on the outskirts of town—New Britain, Connecticut. The snow fell heavy tonight. People who came all the way out here expected Santa’s Workshop to be open with warm cider, hot chocolate, and a happy elf to greet their kids.
Groaning, I rubbed my head, wishing I had the means to stand up and walk out the door. The pay was barely passable, but it was steady, and I had no room to turn my nose up at it.
I lifted my arms, stretching, trying to keep myself awake. The city college catalogs my mom stuffed into my bag slipped off my lap, sticky notes protruding from the business section. Also falling to the ground was the fantasy novel I found myself far more drawn to than finding classes for the spring semester.
Anyone who saw my designs said I had a gift, a natural talent in creating and fabricating hats. I couldn’t even say what drew me to my love of hats. I had always adored them, the look and how they could change an outfit or your outlook. From crazy whimsical hats women loved to wear, to derbies, to something simple as a newsboy cap, I spent hours sketching the different looks, tweaking an old design into something new.
The problem? I had no business background and no education past high school, which everyone told me would hinder me. I understood this, yet I still had no desire to go to college. I wanted to create. To dream. Every time “business class” was even uttered, I felt a piece of me die inside. Most people told me my dream was impossible, but it never stopped me from believing in the unachievable.
Slumping back in the chair, I grabbed my book off the floor, opening it to the page where I left off. The cold wind howled through the cracks of the door and windows, making me feel even more isolated in the small cabin. It looked like Christmas threw up all over and then pooped out tinsel. It was adorable and cozy, but I had hit my limit of Christmas songs and cheer.
“Why don’t they have any hot toddies or mulled wine here? Not even spiked hot chocolate,” I grumbled, putting my legs up near the hearth to keep warm. “No one should have to deal with this sober.” I rubbed my eyes. I had been working doubles for the last week, trying to get as much money as possible. I could feel the hours adding up and pressing down on my shoulders and eyelids. Propping the novel on my knees, I stepped back into the dark, twisted world of fae and sexy beasts, where everything felt like paradise to me. Not shocking, fantasy was my favorite type of book where bad equaled sexy-as-hell men who I wanted more than the nice guy. I let myself get lost in the story, pretending I was living in the realm of fantasy and other worlds.
A muffled noise outside the window caused me to lift my head. Out of the corner of my eye, a small red light flickered by the window, along with the silhouette of a man walking by. My lids narrowed, a strange shiver running up my spine as I watched the figure slip by the next window. His strong shoulders and tall physique assured me it was not Gabe. Gabe was barely two inches taller than my 5’8” stature and not at all fit.
Santa’s workshop was situated far enough to the side of the Christmas tree lot that very little traffic, outside of families and people seeking hot drinks, ventured over here, especially tonight in this chilly, snowy weather. But still, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Intrigued, I stood up. Like a magnet, I moved to the window, a buzz I couldn’t explain humming in my chest as my gaze searched the night. The man had moved quickly, in a great hurry, heading for the tree farm. The red light he held cut through the haze of the snow. He looked to be wearing only brown cargo pants and nothing on top. What the hell? It’s less than thirty degrees out there.
Curiosity soared through me, and the pull to follow him itched at my muscles. What was he doing? Where was he going? I had always been a curious person, sometimes to my detriment. Tonight seemed to be one of those times. He was a few yards away from the trees, and once he stepped in, I knew I’d never know.
Without a thought, I darted for the door, afraid I’d lose him. The icy wind blasted me full on, prickling my skin with large goosebumps. I shivered and regretted not taking a moment to grab my jacket. Plodding through the icy snow, my elf boots crushed the powder as I ran around the building, my breath billowing in front of me. I came around the side seeking the red light. The clouds covering the sky allowed no moonlight, and it took me a moment to realize no lights shined from the tree lot as they usually did. A tinge of alarm coiled around my neck, puffing my chest in and out faster.
The man was gone. Dammit. But another uneasiness gripped me.
“Gabe?” I called out. Usually he stepped out to smoke a few puffs before he leaped back in, grumbling about his balls freezing off. He was nowhere out back. “Gabe?”
Silence echoed around me, the Christmas music that usually blared from the loud speakers dotted around the lot were off. Along with the lights.
What was going on? Did the electricity go out? I stared inside the workshop to see the lights were on in there.
A light from the corner of my eye jerked my head back around. A red beam danced through the tree farm, making my breath hitch.
Hurry. Run. Follow him! The voice in my head jolted my body into action, propelling me toward the light. I slowed once I hit the trees, the heavy fog clinging to the trees and ground. Seclusion coated me like a jacket, and the feeling of desolation prickled my skin.
Where is everyone? The owner of the farm had five grown sons who were always walking around, making sure everyone was okay. No lights. No people. What the hell is going on?
Standing in place, my teeth chattering, fear laced around my stomach and twisted it into a knot. Something felt very off. The dark night pressed down on my shoulders, creating distinctive shadows from the trees, looming and dripping off the limbs. Branches creaked against the wind, swirling up the white powder, making me feel even more isolated.
In front of me, red glowed through the dark, and I bolted forward with eagerness. Numb and shivering, I couldn’t stop myself from continuing deeper in the forest instead of turning around and going back to the toasty cottage. My inquisitiveness was greater than my sanity or logic.
Moving forward, I wove through the trees, darting and snaking closer to the red light like it was a beacon.
The man’s outline became clearer as I moved closer. He was definitely bare-chested. And holy jingle bells, he was fit. His back rippled with muscle. He was over six foot, with short, wavy brown hair, which reminded me of fur. My gaze kept catching on something on either side of his head—pointed and twitching as if they were listening for sound.
Are those ears? This night was getting stranger and stranger. Was he in costume or something? Who wore deer ears but no shirt? In the snow?
He progressed rapidly, rounding a tree, losing me for a moment.
“Hey!” I yelled out to him. “Wait!” I went around the corner, seeing him stop and turn his face back to me. A small gasp came from my mouth, and I stumbled back. What the hell? Did I somehow get a contact high from Gabe’s joint?
The man was beautiful, but his nose protruded farther than a human’s, the tip black, his eyebrows, eye color, and thin lips the same color as his nose. Antlers grew out from behind his long ears.
“Late,” he rumbled low. “I’m very late.”
“Holy shit.” I blinked, my mouth gaping.
Fear widened his eyes, and he took off, disappearing into the forest the tree farm butted up against.
“No, wait. Stop.” I fumbled after him, my limbs so cold I could barely move. Grunting, I pushed myself forward, trailing after the red light that was my only guide through the darkness. He moved with quiet precision. Like a ghost.
“Hey, Mr. Deer Man, wait up,” I yelled, my lungs aching from the cold air, snow churning around my ankles, the bells on my shoes jingling as I bolted after him. The red glow popped through the twisted branches and snowcapped leaves. “Stop!”
He turned and looked at me again before darting deeper into the woods, leaping over a log as if he were on springs. I didn’t think but ran faster, desperate not to lose him. I twisted and zigzagged, my eyes thinking they would see the red light, but with each tree I curved around, the deer man was nowhere in sight.
“Dammit.” My fists hit my legs in frustration. I circled around, searching the darkness for the flicker of light. The forest loomed, shadows making it feel alive, bending and curling toward me. The feel of dozens of eyes watching me chilled my backbone and clenched my lungs.
Alice, go back. What are you doing? Get out of here. A voice in the back of my head warned. Forget you saw anything.
I rubbed my exposed arms, shifting in place trying to decide what to do when the red light peeked through the woodland. I should have pretended not to see it. I should have turned around and forgotten all I thought I imagined. But as usual, my curiosity won out.
Running toward the light, I saw the man walk up to the base of a large tree and in a blink, disappeared. What the hell?
Heart pounding, fear icing my spine, I jogged up to the same tree. Where did he go? What the crap was going on? I touched the tree, needing to feel the bark under my palm.
Everything shifted.
The world dropped away from my feet. A scream caught in my throat as I felt myself plummet, descending down a dark, dark hole.

-- About Stacey Marie Brown --
Stacey Marie Brown is a lover of hot fictional bad boys and sarcastic heroines who kick butt. She also enjoys books, travel, TV shows, hiking, writing, design, and archery. Stacey swears she is part gypsy, being lucky enough to live and travel all over the world.

She grew up in Northern California, where she ran around on her family’s farm, raising animals, riding horses, playing flashlight tag, and turning hay bales into cool forts. She volunteers helping animals and is Eco-friendly. She feels all animals, people, and environment should be treated kindly.

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