Tag: giveaway

If you like FREE books, this is for YOU

Happy Halloween Multi-Author Giveaway!

I promised you FREE books, and this is your chance to WIN them. Actual books that you can hold in your hands. Not one or even two. But EIGHT books, each signed by its author.

Still not sure it’s for you?

Do you like these genres?

  • Contemporary
  • Paranormal
  • Comedy
  • Fairy tale
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Holiday romance

If you said “yes” to even one, check out the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this post.

Here are the titles of the books you could win:

Go ahead and click on the author names. Check out their Facebook pages and see what other sorts of deals and offers they have going on with this giveaway. Follow them if they write books you’d like to read.

And now, for the GIVEAWAY LINK:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And here’s the fine print:

  • NO PURCHASE is necessary to enter this giveaway
  • Giveaway is International
  • Prize is as stated: 8 signed books for ONE winner
  • No cash alternative will be offered
  • Giveaway is open from 00:01am October 29th until 11:59pm October 31st 2017
  • How to enter is specified on the Rafflecopter entry form
  • Winner will be chosen randomly using Rafflecopter within ONE week of the end of the giveaway
  • The winner will be contacted via the email address provided on the Rafflecopter entry form (so please make sure the one you provide is current and correct).
  • The winner will be asked to provide a mailing address in order for them to receive their prize
  • No addresses, emails, or other contact information will be shared with third parties, other than those responsible for delivery of your prize(s)–all information will be treated with the strictest confidence
  • Each of the stated prizes are donated by each corresponding, participating author, and each author is responsible for delivery of their donated prize. The giveaway organizer does not take responsibility for any prizes undelivered by anyone other than herself, nor does she take responsible for any prizes lost in transit
  • This giveaway is VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW

If you’d like to hear like giveaways like this BEFORE the general public, click here and get Hero Delivery. Joining gets you a FREE story!

Meet the Authors who are BRAVING THE ELEMENTS

I love authors. I love supporting authors. And I LOVE introducing readers to their new “favorite author.”

That’s why I invite authors onto my blog. Today, I’m thrilled to have not one, or even two, but FIVE guest authors. All of these writers are published with Roane Publishing, the small house that gave me my fiction debut. (I ADORE them!)

No one wants to read a long, wordy interview. Especially not from FIVE different wordsmith-type individuals. So, today, I’m asking all the authors of the newest fantasy anthology from Roane only ONE question.

Isn’t this cover amazing?

 

No, that wasn’t the one question. But so you know, they all shouted YES! It was really harmonic too.

So, authors, you’ve written stories with elemental magic of some sort. Which element are you? Why? What will you do with your elemental power?

Terri Rochenski (author of Mist Weaver) says:

I think I would want to be Air. Being able to manipulate mass with blasts. Water, Earth, and Fire can all be somewhat controlled by Air.

Now we know Terri is all about CONTROL. A perfect character trait for a fiction writer.

Kelly Said (author of The Myth of Mt. Agony) takes a deep breath and admits:

I wrote about earth, but feel like AIR is a pretty potent element. It’s a gentle breeze that can bring relief on a sweltering summer day. It’s a powerful force that can lift up or knock down anything in its path. And it’s contradictory in its nature, because it’s usually there when you need it (ahh, breathing is life), but will let you fall if you trust it too much (gravity can be a bummer — Wile E Coyote). If I had the ability to control air I think my prankster side would totally pop up. I’d walk by breezing papers off people’s desks, or go strolling down the sidewalk giving everyone bad hair days, LOL! But then I could see how something might set my temper off and I’d probably pull a Darth Vader move and yank the air out of someone’s lungs until they turned blue. Sigh. I’m too human to possess such power, which is why I write about characters who do. 😉 

Another air aficionado. At least Kelly is wise enough to limit her elemental magic to the pages of the stories she writes. And who knew she was such a prankster?

Claire Davon (Author of The Dragon, The Witch, and the Swordswoman) had to think a moment before replying:

Oh such a complicated question! I like something about each one of them but if I have to pick one I would say water. If I had the elemental power to control and manipulate water I would want to use it to go down to the depths of the ocean that we cannot reach and see what it’s like down there for myself. What an adventure that would be! The ocean floor is such an unknown and it’s on our own planet!

Oh my. Claire is much braver than I am. The thought of all that water pressing down, suffocating me. *shivers* But authors have to be brave, so I applaud Claire’s adventurous spirit.

Rebecca Hart (author of Alice and the Egg) tilted her pirate’s hat at me and said:

I think I am a water element, personally, even though my story revolves around fire. I am addicted to all things ocean, and being a Virgo (the water bearer), I think it is just “who I am”. What would I do with my elemental power? Bring the ocean to me, of course. ?

Now Rebecca has the right idea. I’m a little bit of an ocean lover, too, as long as I’m on the beach.

Michael Siciliano (author of Forging Mettle) jumps right in with:

Um … is sarcasm an element, because I’ve honing my skill with that one since I was a teenager. All right, I admit, it’s not. It should be, but it’s not.

I’m kind of liking carbon, but if you put too much of it into the air, you get 90°F in January and beach front in Tennessee. Fine, fine, I’ll stop making jokes.

Medieval elements. I think my Talent would be to manipulate light. Making an area anywhere form pitch black to blindingly bright. Hey, that’s a pretty damned good idea. That might appear somewhere in a follow-up story to Forging Mettle. I call dibs.

Sarcasm is in fact an element. Wielded with skill by the bravest writers everywhere (consider Mark Twain).

And there you have it. Two air benders, a pair of water wielders and the man who would be a light bringer.

If you want to learn more about these authors, they’re also doing an interview over at Liz’s Reading Life.

Of course, the best way to know an author is to read their stories. So, support an author today. Pick up your copy of BRAVING THE ELEMENTS.

Last of all, enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

GIVEAWAY!!

A $50 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use a RoanePublishing.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

SWEET INSPIRATION Release Day

Are you excited to see what’s new from Roane Publishing this week? Here’s the newest Novella Niblets release…

 Sweet Inspiration

Contemporary Romance

By Linda Carroll-Bradd

Publisher: Roane Publishing

Release Date: February 22, 2017

 

Dependable Cadence Wills yearns for excitement. The owner of a yarn business, she is pulled in every direction by her demanding family. Haunting dulcimer notes draw her to a practice for the musical festival, and she spies an intriguing stranger.

Musician Rafe Frasco is a rover, bouncing from one competition to the next. Interest ignites at his first glance at the woman who is enthralled by his music. He is drawn to Cadence whose heart seems big enough to encompass everyone within her reach.

A fantastic opportunity for Rafe presents Cadence with a major problem—is she strong enough to negotiate the business deal that will take him away…maybe forever?

 

~~~oOo~~~

 

 

~~~oOo~~~

 

EXCERPT:

Unmarried and approaching thirty in a small town branded her as ready and willing to meet every unattached man who set foot inside the city limits. A sigh escaped. Like last week when Espe called Trent Sullivan over to their table at El Tres Amigos and then suddenly remembered an important errand, leaving them together. What Espe hadn’t known was Cadence and Trent already had been set up on blind dates—twice—by other well-meaning friends.

Nothing had clicked on those occasions either. Cadence craved someone with a mysterious past like in her beloved romantic suspense novels. A dark, shadowy figure who knew how to excite a woman with a molten look or a lingering touch. A man who fought to hide his pain and almost succeeded. Not someone like Trent—a guy whose high-school accomplishments she could probably recite.

Sweet plaintive notes of a stringed instrument floated on the breeze. Cadence stopped, straining to recognize the tune. A person didn’t grow up surrounded by folk music without knowing just about every ballad that could be plucked.

But this one eluded her. The twanging strings cried with a soulful sadness that grabbed her by the throat. Her thoughts were washed in loneliness, and she turned toward the sound, past the Heritage Herb Garden. A part of Cadence that couldn’t resist helping others had to see who was expressing such need.

She lifted the hem of her long skirt and hurried toward the haunting sound, as if the notes pulled her feet along the path. The compulsion to know who played added speed to her steps. Abreast of the groundhog pottery kiln, she slowed and peered toward the outdoor stage.

On the platform, several musicians were gathered—some unpacking instruments, others adjusting microphones. Off to one side, a dark-haired man sat in a straight-backed chair, one foot braced on a scratched case. He leaned forward and strummed a dulcimer, the light wood instrument cradled on denim-covered thighs.

Cadence stood a dozen feet away and studied the talented player. His too-long hair was tied back, his shoulders were broad inside his western-cut shirt, and his legs were long and lean. Scuffed boots, faded jeans and a worn Harley-Davidson tee-shirt composed his attire. Definitely more attractive than her own outfit. Even from this distance, she spotted a posture that meant the man had an attitude…or was mysterious. A thrill ran over her skin.

Who was this guy? He’d definitely swagger when he walked. Yummy. At the thought, she stepped closer, wanting nothing between her and the performance.

Long fingers picked the strings in a heated crescendo—note on teasing note, twang on shivery twang, strum on driving strum. He ended the song with a flourish, right hand arcing upward as the last note hung on the early morning air.

How did he know exactly how she felt on nights when everyone in Mountain View either had a date or was home curled next to a spouse? The isolation of being solo at the drive-in or enduring the knowing smile of a sympathetic waitress. His song wrapped all those feelings tight around her heart and squeezed. She inhaled, and the backs of her eyes stung.

Hadn’t she learned her lesson about musicians from the way Dale deserted her when his band got the chance to go on the road? Three years running, and he hadn’t yet steered the tour bus through his hometown.

The stranger laid a hand over the strings, rolled his shoulders, and lifted his head. Piercing brown eyes scanned the area, surveying the other musicians, and his gaze locked with hers. For a suspended moment, his gaze roved along her length, widened, and then returned to her face.

Under his scrutiny, she shifted her feet and tugged at the sides of her skirt. Her period costume didn’t exactly show off her figure to its best. Not that the fact should matter, but she couldn’t look away and chose to ignore the warning bells ringing in her head.

~~~oOo~~~

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

As a child, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about characters having exciting adventures in places far away. As an adult, she discovered romance books and read them at every spare moment. Upon reaching a landmark birthday, she decided to write one of those romances she loved so much. Easier said than done. Perseverance paid out and twelve years later, she received her first call from a publisher and a confession story was published. Now, Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass, and many have a tie to her previous home of Texas.

With interests as widespread as baking, crocheting, watching dog agility matches, and reading thrillers by Swedish authors, Linda is the mother to 4 adult children and grandmother to 2 granddaughters. She currently lives in the southern California mountains with her husband of 35 years.

 

 

~~~oOo~~~

This the the last week to enter the GIVEAWAY!

$25 Roane Publishing Gift Card, Bracelet with charm from Sweet Inspiration, Hot cocoa mixes and mug from The Crimson Curse

 

 

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use a RoanePublishing.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

Birthday Bash means FREE Books!

This isn’t your average Friday cover reveal. This is a PARTY. And there are books to win. Did someone say free books? I’m in!

Welcome to Month9Books Turns 4 Birthday Bash!
We’re thrilled to share this celebration with you!

Here’s a quick note from Georgia McBride, owner of Month9Books!
“Month9Books is turning four this year, and I could not be
happier. We are living proof that if you have a dream to write, create and
inspire, you should follow that dream and let nothing keep you from realizing
it. Thank you to all the readers, writers, agents, partners and friends who
have made this possible. We write for you.”
–Georgia McBride, Publisher and Owner of Month9Books
Thanks so much for 4 awesome years! We look forward to celebrating #5 with you in 2017! We have something for everyone from every
genre from Sci-Fi to Fantasy to Paranormal and Horror! As a thank you, we’re giving away some well-loved books from 2015 and 2016. All paperback and hardcover winners must reside in the United States. International readers may receive only eBooks if they win.
Here’s a look at all of the books we have published through the years!
Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes
Very Superstitious: Myths, Legends and Tales of Superstition
Praefatio (Praefatio, #1) by Georgia McBride
THE Undertakers: Secret of The Corpse Eater by Ty Drago
Fledgling (Dragonrider Chronicles #1) by Nicole Conway
Avian (Dragonrider Chronicles #2) by Nicole Conway
Fire in the Woods by Jennifer M. Eaton
The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham
Summer of The Oak Moon by Laura Templeton
The Undertakers: Last Siege of Haven by Ty Drago
The Artisans by Julie Reece
Into The Dark by Caroline Patti
Serpentine by Cindy Pon
Minotaur by Phillip Simpson
Nameless by Jennifer Jenkins
Ashes In The Sky (Fire in the Woods #2) By Jennifer M. Eaton
The Undertakers 5: End of the World by Ty Drago
The Requiem Red by Brynn Chapman
Emerge by Tobie Easton
There Once were Stars by Melanie McFarlane
The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece
Argos by Phillip W. Simpson
Traitor (Dragonrider Chronicles #3) by Nicole Conway
Rise by Jennifer Anne Davis
In The Shadow Of The Dragon King by J. Keller Ford
Hair In All The Wrong Places by Andrew Buckley
Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley
Into The Light (Into The Dark #2) by Caroline Patti
un/Fair by Steven Harper
Operation Tenley by Jennifer Gooch Hummer
The Perilous Journey Of The Much Too Spontaneous Girl (The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl #2) by Leigh Statham
Sacrifice (Serpentine #2) by Cindy Pon
Clanless (Nameless #2 ) by Jennifer Jenkins
The Legend of The Pumpkin Thief by Charles Day
Immortal (Dragonrider Chronicles #4)  by Nicole Conway

Giveaway Details

A total of 13 winners will receive….
(1) Hardcover of SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon, US Only.
(1) Paperback of EMERGE by Tobie Easton, US ONLY.
(1) Hardcover of POPPY MAYBERRY: THE MONDAY by Jennie K. Brown, US Only.
(1) Paperback set of THE DRAGONRIDERS CHRONICLES by Nicole Conway, US Only.
(1) Paperback set of HAIR IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES by Andrew Buckley, POLARIS by Beth Bowland, and ARTIFACTS by Pete Catalano, US Only.
(1) Paperback set of THE UNDERTAKERS SECRET OF THE CORPSE EATER & THE UNDERTAKERS LAST SIEGE OF HAVEN, US Only.
(1) Paperback set of TWO AND TWENTY DARK TALES, THE REQUIEM RED by Brynn Chapman, FIRE IN THE WOODS by Jennifer M. Eaton, & RISE by Jennifer Anne Davis, US Only.
(3) Paperbacks of MINOTAUR by Phillip W. Simpson, US Only.
(3) International winners will receive 5 eBooks of their choice from books listed above.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Free Books for a 3rd Anniversary Celebration!

Free books?! Oh yes. There are free books galore available to you this week. Romances. Fantasy. Stuff I’ve written. Books by writers more gifted and skilled than me.

And scroll all the way down to the bottom to get the clue for the Scavenger Hunt. And you want to win that goodie box. It includes a copy of Masked Hearts signed by all the authors. Five yummy fantasy romances in a collectable package. What’s not to want?

Also, I’ll give details about how you can enter to win not ONE but TWO eBook copies (International) of any of the titles I have with Roane Publishing. Also, I’ll send a secret link to participants that earns you 25% off my titles that aren’t available from Roane. So…whoopee!


Welcome to Roane Publishing’s 3rd anniversary celebration Scavenger Hunt!

Some of our authors and blogger team are taking part in the Scavenger Hunt, with goodies up for grabs at EVERY stop along the way! 
 
Enter in the Scavenger Hunt and you 
could win…
Each hunt participant has a single letter in their post – in order to enter for Roane Publishing’s GRAND PRIZE, you will need to gather all of the letters along the way, then unscramble them to find the secret message. 

Don’t worry if you get lost or mixed up with the linky list. Simply hop back to the ROANE PUBLISHING BLOG POST by clicking on the link or either of the Hunt buttons where you can find the complete list of participants and links.

Already gathered the letters and know the message? Then check out the Rafflecopter below & enter for your chance to win!
~~~oOo~~~
Also in celebration, Roane Publishing is offering a 25% SITE-WIDE sale! Simply use the Promo Code: 3YEARS at checkout time to get those savings!
 

My Giveaway

Just for stopping by my site today, I’m going to give you a chance to win TWO e-books. Here are your choices:

Masked_hearts              HeartsofValor_eBook_CVR              AccidentalValentine_Cvr (1)

Click here and scroll through the list to read descriptions.

Of course you want to win. So how are you entered?

Simply complete the form below. This subscribes you to my mailing list BUT don’t panic. The only time I send you anything is when there is a SALE or a new release from me. NO JUNK. You have my solemn promise.

Get a Hero Delivered to your Inbox

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Email Format


AND anyone who signs up this week will get another bonus from me. You get to read a piece of my fiction FREE just for joining, but at the end of the week, I will email you a special offer link that will allow you to purchase (yes, I’m sorry) any of my other titles (not published through RP) at a 25% discount.

And now to reveal the secret letter that will help you will an amazing prize Compliments of Roane Publishing:

Yes C is for Contest and Congratulations
Yes C is for Contest and Congratulations

Open to US citizens only.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

The Paladins Release Tour: Reviewed Here

I’m thrilled to announce that one of my Pen Sisters is releasing a new book tomorrow, May 3. If you’re a fan of young adult romance, you want to pick up your copy of The Paladins by Julie Reece. Go ahead and click the cover photo. You can pre-order it today. As in now.

This book is a sequel to The Artisans. You can read my review of that book here.

When I first learned Ms. Reece was writing a sequel, I thought, “Huh?”

My depth of thought amazes even me sometimes.

The reason I was stymied is because The Artisans is completely self-contained. It doesn’t leave any nagging questions remaining. The problem is resolved and the characters are in their “happy for now” existence.

But that doesn’t mean the characters had nothing left to say. Maybe you wondered what happened with Cole. How did he adjust to life after being trapped in The Void for five years? Did things with Raven and Gideon last?

Well, you can find the answers to these questions and so much more if you read The Paladins.

The Blurb

The Paladins CoverThe Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives…or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.

The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

My Review

I was involved from the first page. And I was enthralled with Cole by the third chapter. He’s a much more engaging character than Gideon.

Reece takes us into the story from the perspective of all three of the main characters. Her narration is exceptional. Each chapter sounds like the chosen narrator. Cole’s voice is fun, engaging and sprinkled with British euphemisms. Raven is snarky, although a little more melodramatic than before. Gideon is dark, but wait! That’s what’s going on inside his handsome head?

Elemental magic makes its appearance here, which surprised me since it didn’t have the same “feel” as the Artisan magic they “destroyed” in the first book. While they were slow to realize the source of the magic, they were quick to determine the keeper of The Void and the entrance into it. That seemed a little too convenient to me.

The romantic angle in this story isn’t as compelling as in the first book. Gideon decides to dump Raven and encourage her and Cole to get together. (I know. He doesn’t even LIKE that guy.)

Raven isn’t impressed to be dumped and pawned off on someone else. She thought Gideon was going to let her start making her own decisions. Why is he trying to manipulate things again?

And Cole is starting to have feelings for the ghost girl he’s desperate to rescue.

I didn’t guess the exact twist to that whole thing (kudos to the author), but I knew that our lovely Desiree (witch extraordinaire from the first book) would have to be involved somehow. If she got the connection to the water element, there was no way she could have been drowned as they assumed.

I was a tad disappointed in The Void’s populace. Zombies? I’m not a fan of them at all. Three witches sharing one eye? Been done before. The minotaur in the labyrinth was a nice touch and well-played by the author. (Although I’m not sure how the earth magic would have created a link to animals. That seemed a little too convenient, too.)

Will Cole get a girl in the end? Can Gideon swallow his pride? Will Raven be able to escape her own dark fears?

Read it and you’ll see.

My Recommendation

You should read The Artisans before you read this book (the eBook is only 99 cents) . It will give you the proper context for the characters and especially the villain. You won’t be sorry. It was a ghost story I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you like fantasy, you’ll enjoy this book. Paranormal? You’ll get that here for sure. Maybe you’re more of a mythology buff. Reece has you covered. If you want it, The Paladins has got it.

There is romance, but it’s more like the third story line in this novel. The quest to resolve magical issues is primary and character growth secondary.

Even though I gave it only 4.3 out of five stars, I highly recommend this book.

About the Author

Julie ReeceBorn in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.

I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.

Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.

Then I thought I’d write one down…

Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!

Connect with Julie here:    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest |Tumbr | Instagram | Goodreads

The Giveaway

Contest runs until May 20, 2016. The prize(s) :

  • Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece (INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find the Book Everywhere

Add it to Goodreads

Or buy it here:

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Join the rest of the Tour

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Cover Reveal: The Paladins by Julie Reece

I’m thrilled to host this reveal on my blog. I’ve read the first book in this series and found it ensnaring, to say the least. Check out my review. Then read on to learn about the second book and how to win a free copy.

Today Julie Reece and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE PALADINS, book 2 in THE ARTISANS Series which releases May 3, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley and a eBook of THE ARTISANS!!

Here’s a message from the author:

Book covers are tricky things. My respect for cover artists has grown exponentially after entering the world of publishing. I learned the challenge of a good cover artist is to hint at the story beneath using a single image. They must create a picture that suggests to perspective readers what lies within those hundreds of pages—using nothing more than specific font and a few square inches of graphic design. It seems impossible, yet most of us agree that art evokes emotion. And when I saw my cover, I was overwhelmed.

 The Paladins is dark. And this cover is dark. The story is a Gothic tale, mysterious and eerie. And while parts of this world are beautiful, beauty is often deceptive. You’re never quite sure if something lurks in the shadows, where the path you tread is leading, or even if what you see is real … until it’s too late. For me, the cover encompasses all those story elements. I hope you like it as much as I do.

On to the reveal! 

 

Title: THE PALADINS (The Artisans #2) 

Author: Julie Reece

Pub. Date: May 3, 2016

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Paperback & eBook

Find it: Amazon | B&N| TBD | BAM| Kobo | Google Play Books | iBooksGoodreads

The Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives…or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.
The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

In case you missed it here’s the redesigned cover for THE ARTISANS!

 

Title: THE ARTISANS

Author: Julie Reece

Pub. Date: May 12, 2015

Publisher: Month9Books

Pages: 300

Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad’s drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can’t imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
(You can read Sharon’s review of this book here)

Excerpt

 

 

Prologue

The Before

Cole

It’s been four years since I planted the fireworks in Gideon Maddox’s locker that burned a third of his face.

Four years since his father took revenge, trapping me with a spell that kept me prisoner in The Void.

Three months since the magic found me again.

Two months since my parents put me in therapy.

One day since my parents left for Paris on a month long business tour.

This morning, a mysterious girl no one else can see beckoned again from The Void.

Tonight, I’m standing on the balcony of my parent’s palatial home, buying an airline ticket back to the states—back to Maddox mansion—the heart of my nightmares.

People say the more things change the more they stay the same. I hate them for being right. I lived with the monsters in my prison until I thought I might go mad. Repentant of my past, I made peace with my fate, my eternity. Until the day I was freed, because a stranger had the courage to help.

This time someone needs me.

How can I doom a girl to a fate I barely escaped?

There’s only one answer.

I can’t.

Chapter One

Cole

A bottle-green fly hums, rubbing his tiny legs together as though he’s plotting something. The insect seems a dirty ornament on the shiny desk nameplate he sits upon. Gold on gold, the engraved letters read Navin Cahvan M.D. This is the third psychiatrist I’ve met in as many weeks. Part of my mother’s plan to fix me. Jumpy nerves, insomnia, nightmares about demons when I finally do fall sleep—these are her justifications. Everyone tries to shrink me like a cheap T-shirt in the dryer.

The tawny-skinned man across the desk folds his knotted fingers over his belly and stares. Dark eyes track my movements beneath two bushy white eyebrows. “Mr. Wynter?”

Right. He asked a question. The fly hums again, wings fluttering against his hairy back. My head pounds, my clothes scratch, eyes burn, and my ears are raw with the smallest sounds echoing deep inside.

When Dr. Cahvan shifts, the leather seat groans in protest. “I can help you. But you must tell me the truth.”

All I hear is Jack Nicholson screaming the line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”

“Trust me, Cole. Tell me your secret thoughts.”

Trust you? Sure. I tell you what happened and you lock me away forever on meds that keep me drooling, while I play dominoes with people who see giant, pink rabbits. No thanks.

He leans forward. His fingers thread together as his hands rest on the desktop. He taps his thumbs together. “I assure you this is a safe place. I call it … the circle of trust.”

Give me a break. You want me to tell you how I was a mean, dangerous kid. Confess that because I tormented a crippled boy, his father used a magic camera to trap me in an alternate universe as punishment. Explain how I lived a half-life in the Maddox mansion for four years until Raven Weathersby rescued me. About how much I miss her and think about going back someday … Maybe I am insane.

“Let’s discuss something else.”

I find his suggestion amusing since I’ve barely said ten words in the past hour, and our time is almost up.

The good doctor shifts again. “Instead of talking about the past, why not speak of the present. How are you adjusting to life at home? I understand your parents had a welcome home party when you first arrived. How did that go?”

How do you think? “Swell.” I would have preferred stuffing my hand in a high-speed blender. A hundred people that I hadn’t seen since I was fifteen—and couldn’t care less to see again—showed up to shake my hand and recite all they’d ever read about amnesia, the lie Gideon made up to cover my absence. “I really just need some space.”

“And you got your wish, did you not? I understand your parents left town yesterday. How does being alone again so soon make you feel?”

Incredibly pissed. “They’ve always been busy people. I’m used to them traveling.” But I wasn’t. I thought with all the time apart, my parents might want to stick around a while. Be a family. Nope. Since appearances mean everything, they threw a party right away to show their friends and colleagues how fine I was. The powerful and highly regarded Mr. and Mrs. Wynter pulled out all the stops to prove their love for their long lost son: fine wine, catered dinner, china, crystal, even a string quartet. Yet, my father couldn’t keep the disappointment from his face any more than my mother could drown her misery in vodka.

Perhaps to appease their consciences, my folks hooked me up with doctors and provided for my physical needs before bailing. But a new car and an obscenely padded bank account wasn’t what I needed. So easily brushed aside again, I couldn’t help but wonder if parts of them were relieved when I’d disappeared four years ago.

Dr. Cahvan’s eyes narrow. “So, you remember your life up until your trip to the States?”

“Yes.” I’m lying about my amnesia. I know it. He knows it. So do my parents, but it’s too late to come up with a better story … like being the victim of a cult brainwashing or joining a psychedelic commune. I drank a different brand of Kool-Aid in Sales Hollow, South Carolina, and I can never tell a soul.

The fly zings to the window. I flinch as the buzzing is magnified ten times in my head. It takes all my will not to jump up and smash the bug against the glass. The doctor watches me with sharp eyes trained to interpret body language. I hold his gaze, though my skin breaks out in a sweat. A sudden wind rattles the panes, and I startle.

Cahvan’s mouth crimps at the corners. “Rather breezy today,” he says, glancing out the window at the quiet, blue sky.

Who cares about the weather? I have to give the old guy something before I start whining about magic spells, heightened senses, or worse: how my daddy never loved me.

I blow out a breath. “Look, some things seem familiar, others are confusing. I don’t need a doctor. I need time.” I only meant to throw him a bone so he’d have something to report when my parents call, but my body heats as I talk. Anger, resentment, and fear all claw their way up my throat and charge out of my mouth before I can stop them. “Time I can’t get back where I finish school, date hot girls, and grow up like normal kids do. I’m trying. Doing the best I can, but what I don’t need is to sit in rooms with smug strangers who are paid to dissect my brain over things I can’t explain, and neither of us will ever understand!” I drag my fingers through my shaggy hair. “That time is gone. I’m pissed off, and I guess I’ll be pissed off until I’m not anymore.”

Dr. Cahvan rubs his jaw. “That’s very interesting, Cole.”

My laugh is harsh. Not that any of this is funny. “Is it?”

“Yes. Thank you for your honesty today.” His bushy eyebrows push together. “Thank you for entering the circle of trust and allowing me to help you. Please see my secretary on your way out and make another appointment for next week.”

Seriously? I stand and head for the door. Oh, I’ll see your secretary, all right. I’ll nod as I walk right past her. He didn’t help me. No one can. There are a lot of things I need. But touchy-feely therapy with Doctor Eyebrows isn’t one of them.

***

After the awkward “circle of trust” episode, I can’t decide what to do with myself. I don’t want to be around people, but I don’t want to go home to an empty house either, so I wind up in the rambling cemetery a couple miles from our house.

I like it here and come pretty often just to think. Crumbling grave markers bear witness to France’s rich history, even with the chiseled dates worn and fading with time. Moss, ivy, and ancient trees lend beauty and peace to a place that soothes my soul. I’m not trying to be morbid. I never kept company with the dead. We were the undead, in a non-sparkly kind of way.

I’m not stupid enough to think I’ll discover the meaning of life. I’m just trying to find meaning in mine.

After surviving a half-death, I’ve been given a second chance. Trouble is, I don’t know what to do with it.

The sun is too hot on my back. No sooner does the thought cross my mind, when a friendly breeze tousles my hair like an old friend. I pull my cell from my pocket and stare at Raven’s number. She said to call her anytime, and I do. Gideon said to call her if I wanted my arse kicked. Typical. He’s still that insecure kid deep down. Still trying to prove himself, as he tries to control everyone and everything within his reach, just like his old man taught him.

Should have known something was wrong when I first got the invitation to visit Gideon in America all those years ago. My parents were so happy Maddox Senior wasn’t pressing charges; they actually thought the gesture was an attempt at friendship. Of course, Mum and Dad sent me packing complete with an olive branch in my mouth. That gesture of goodwill got my picture taken and a trip to The Void with a bunch of vengeful old guys from the early nineteen hundreds and a hot blond with twisted taste in men. We spent our days trying to escape that hell. The labyrinth’s ghouls, the surreal existence of consciousness without a physical body, and the constant pain of regret all earmarked a life that wasn’t.

Until her.

My fingers comb the grass at my sides. I close my eyes and feel the day’s warmth on my face, the wind threading through my thin tee. I may look like a freak, but I can’t stop touching everything around me. While I was gone, I missed the sensation of air in my lungs, the taste of coffee, the sweet sensation of a kiss …

My thumb starts dialing Rae’s number.

Cole …

Shite. Here we go again.

Come to me, Cole …

I wonder if I sounded this creepy to Raven when I begged for her help.

Veins at my temples pulse. Leaves shake and laugh in the breeze, the echo reverberating in my head. “Who are you? What do you want with me?” I want to stand, but my limbs weigh a hundred pounds each. My lungs deflate under the crushing pressure, and I struggle to breathe.

The scenery of oaks and elms surrounding the cemetery blur into a muddy gray-green wall, and I know what’s happening. Gravestones push up from the ground like gnashing teeth and recede again until the ground transforms into a smooth, stone floor. The world of pedestrians, car horns, and singing birds around the graveyard fade to a quiet worse than death. My body rejects the idea of gravity. The weightlessness of being sucked back into The Void again invades my person like a virus, spreading into my muscles and bones, my very essence.

I will the door of my mind closed to shut out the transformation. I place a mental shield before the magic so it won’t consume me, but magic has a will of its own. It snakes under the imaginary door I’ve erected in my head, enveloping me. I thrash, but it’s useless. My soundless screaming and mind-withering despair only seems to feed The Void’s strength.

When I open my eyes, the cemetery is gone. I shift on a cold, damp floor, taking in my new surroundings. I’ve seen this place before, several times. The space is a circular stone room with two tall, skinny windows allowing diffused light inside. A bed sits across from me. Downy quilts worn and faded with use cover the straw mattress. On the wall, a huge, gilt-framed mirror reflects the room where a pretty blond sits in a hardback chair. Watching me.

I’m familiar with strange, but not with sad, soul-eating eyes like hers.

When she rises, I feel like I should thank her, because light from the window shows her curves through an ultra-thin nightdress. The sight chokes my airflow for a whole different reason.

ThinkofRaventhinkofRaventhinkofRaven.

I’m so not thinking of Raven. For all my faults, I’m not the cheating type, but I am a guy, and this girl is seriously fit! I want to touch her in the worst way, but I swallow instead. Attempting to be a gentleman, I lift my gaze and focus on the far wall, yet somehow—because I’m still a guy—I end up watching the way her hair hangs in white blond waves to her thighs. Her rosebud mouth opens slightly. Pleading eyes, more silver than blue, threaten to pull me under and drown me. None of this helps curb my impulse to reach for her.

Then I think about how she brought me here against my will, and that helps tamp down the hormones.

Cole.

What do you want?

Can’t you guess?

I can. I pleaded with Raven for the same help not too long ago. Inside The Void, I thought I’d met everyone. The ones that Maddox had imprisoned, and the indigenous inhabitants of the labyrinth. I hadn’t known there were any others.

The drip-drop of a leaky faucet is the only sound as I gather my thoughts. “Who are you? Where are you? I don’t understand what’s happening. Where is this place? Did Gideon put you here?” I rattle off my questions not pausing for a response.

She doesn’t answer. Maybe she can’t.

Wind picks up, whooshing through the hollow room, though the windows are shut. The sound grows, as though someone dropped a microphone in a washing machine. I grit my teeth against the noise. My mind squeezes in the pressurized vacuum.

Cole … She extends a thin, white hand.

I remember Raven. How she fell to her knees on the floor of the mill house when we first met. Pain rips into my psyche, claws at my sanity. The same way I’m sure it did hers.

“I’m sorry. Forgive me, Raven. I didn’t know.”

… My name is Rosamond …

Stone walls smear and fade, the beautiful girl along with them. I can’t breathe. Then, the faint outline of tree tops bleed back into view.

… Rosamond Bryer …

My panting rivals an overheated Saint Bernard. Grass pokes my palms. Rough bark scrapes my spine through my T-shirt. Any trace of the castle turret is erased as the same decrepit cemetery I know solidifies, and the garden is as it was before.

Almost …

I’m leaning against an old tree, yet my cell and sunglasses still lie next to the rose bushes where I was sitting, almost twenty feet away. I have no memory of moving. How did I get way over here?

Both hands plow through my hair with my exhale. What the bloody hell just happened? Am I imagining this? A nightmare left over from the reality of my imprisonment. Or is the girl real? Trapped like I was and waiting for someone with the courage to free her.

Is that someone me? I’ve been a lot of things, but brave isn’t one of them. To help her means going back to the mansion.

No. I definitely do not need this shite. I’m starting over, leaving that life behind. Yet, the haunted expression on the girl’s face tugs at me. Something about her seems familiar. I’m gutted over how she reached for me. Raven doubted, too, but not for long. If the blond is real, then she’s really in trouble. And if she’s really in trouble, what, if anything, are you prepared to do about it, Cole Wynter?

 

 As a child, Julie’s summers were about horseback riding and fishing, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all. She struggled with multiple learning disabilities, and spent much of her time gazing out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) she fought dyslexia for her right to read and won.

Afterward, she invented stories where powerful heroines kicked bad-guy butt to win the hearts charismatic heroes. And then she wrote one down…

Writing ever since, Julie weaves southern gothic, contemporary, fantasy, and young adult romances. She enjoys sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. Her writing is proof a dream and some hard work can overcome any obstacle.
Where you can find Julie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eBook of THE ARTISANS and an eGalley of THE PALADINS. International.

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Special Fan Editions of BRANDED and HUNTED

I know it’s not actually FRIDAY, but this week there are TWO Friday reveals (only the first one happens on Thursday). I’ve read the first book in this series, and if you like young adult dystopian with an underdog female lead, you should check it out.

Today Abi Ketner, Missy Kalicicki and Month9Books are revealing the covers for the special hardcover fan editions of BRANDED & HUNTED, book 2 in the Sinners Series releasing in April 19, 2016!
Check out the smoking hot covers and enter the giveaway to win special notebooks with the covers on them!
On to the reveal!

Title: BRANDED
Author: Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
Publisher: Month9Books
Pub. Date: July 19, 2016
Find it: Amazon |  Goodreads

Fifty years ago The Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society.
To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line.
Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home.
Constant darkness.
Brutal and savage violence.
Excruciating pain.
Every day is a fight for survival.
But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the Hole.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.
What readers are saying about BRANDED…
“Branded was a riveting and exciting dystopian read that will have you at the edge of your
seat. I could not put it down and was entranced by this dark and unique world!” -Ben Alderson, Booktuber at BenjaminofTomes 
“Fast paced and fun, BRANDED has something everyone will love. Abi Ketner and Missy
Kalicicki have created a unique dystopian romance that’s sure to stand out in today’s market!” -Lindsay Cummings, Author of The Murder Complex
“Branded is a fast paced, heart pounding and swoon worthy read that will make you fall in
love with this dark and twisted world.” -Sasha Alsberg, Booktuber at ABookUtopia
Connect with BRANDED fans on Instagram at:
#abiandmissy
#Sinnersfandom
#Sinnersseries
#Colexi
#Sinnersseriesbranded
#Brandedofficialfanpage
#Brandedfandom
#Lexihamilton

Title: HUNTED
Author: Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
Publisher: Month9Books
Pub. Date: April 19, 2016
Find it: Amazon | Goodreads

 It’s been three months since the revolt against the Commander’s fifty-year-old regime
failed. 
Under a new ruler, things were supposed to change. Get better. 
 Now, Wilson is in charge. But, can he really be trusted? Can anyone?
 Lexi and Cole soon find out, as life takes an unexpected turn for the worse.
In this ever-changing world, you must hunt or be hunted.
Many more lives will be lost. Many more dreams will be crushed. Many more fears will be realized.
 When Cole is once again faced with losing Lexi at the hands of a monster, one capture will
change everything.
Forever. 
 HUNTED is the electrifying sequel to the bestselling debut BRANDED, A Sinners Series, by
Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki.

 

About Abi and Missy 

Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now
become an incredible adventure.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a special edition BRANDED notebook from the Month9Books Café Press store and a BRANDED Bracelet, USOnly.

1 winner will receive a special edition HUNTED notebook from the Month9Books Café Press store and a HUNTED Bracelet, US Only.

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Cover Reveal for THERE ONCE WERE STARS

 Here it is! Another cover reveal and sample chapter for your enjoyment. Because I want your To Be Read pile of books to teeter and totter like mine does. What are friends for?

Today Melanie McFarlane and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THERE ONCE WERE STARS, which releases April 26, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:

I have anticipated this moment for months—the moment I would be able to share my cover with all of you! When I first laid eyes on the cover for THERE ONCE WERE STARS I was immediately drawn to the stars and how they are escaping their glass prison. In my novel, the main character, Natalia Greyes, is also locked in a glass prison: her home, Dome 1618. During Nat’s childhood the stars became more visible in the sky, after being blocked by darkness for decades after the Cleansing Wars. Like the stars, Nat is a symbol of change as she transforms from a naïve youth into a strong teen, who searches for her place in her tiny world of Dome 1618, and dreams of escaping to the outside one day. But my favorite detail of all is the grass and how cool and inviting it is in contrast to the hard sheen of the glass jar. It can be seen as a symbol of how mankind can never capture or truly duplicate the beauty of nature, or the wonder of life itself.
 
Don’t forget to check out my trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuTOuBPX11k
On to the reveal! 
 
 
Title: THERE ONCE WERE STARS
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Pub. Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it:  Goodreads

 Blurb:

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly
radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?

Exclusive Excerpt:

Chapter One

I stretch my arms across my bed, running my fingers along the same sheets I’ve had since I was a child. The stiffness was beaten out of them long ago, but they still carry the memory of my mother carefully stitching the first tear back together when I was seven. The tiny x’s remind me of her long fingers, moving the needle back and forth with the same care as when she worked with samples in her laboratory.

I trace the row stitches, squeezing my eyes shut as I make a wish; it is my eighteenth birthday, after all. But when I open them, the same scene shows from my bedroom window that always does—the grid of our dome. Nothing changes. It doesn’t matter how many birthday wishes are made; I always wake up trapped inside the dome. The grid of thick glass and steel arcs far above our apartment, stretching to where the great Axis, a tower of government offices, meets the peak of our home—Dome 1618.

I crawl out of bed and let my gaze trail down the Axis to the rooftops of the other apartment buildings, row upon row of housing for blue-collar workers. Closer to the Axis are townhouses of the business owners, hidden from the rest of us, but that’s not where I long to be. My eyes drift to the base of the dome, far away from my window where the Outer Forest lies, my only saving grace. It’s forbidden to hike among the trees, but sometimes rules need to be broken.

“Natalia!” Grandmother’s piercing voice comes from the other side of my bedroom door. “Get up. You’re wasting the day away.”

The clock on my dresser reads eight o’clock in the morning. Seriously? It’s been nine years since I moved in with my grandparents, and saying Grandmother and I have differing opinions barely touches the surface. Her rules are sometimes worse than those of the Order, who police the dome. With any luck, I’ll be assigned my own apartment soon and can finally restart my life, again.

I run my brush through my long brown hair, although by the time I go outside it will look unruly once again. It’s my curse; I have thick hair like my mother, with waves that look more like oddly-placed kinks, unlike the smooth-flowing locks worn by some of the other girls at my school. But I won’t have to go back to the Learning Institute again. Today I’m an adult.

My jeans are on the floor where I left them last night, and I manage to find a clean T-shirt in my drawer. Both have the same tiny stitches as my sheets, covering up the wear and tear over the years, but I sewed these back together myself. Grandmother is firm on the fact that if I don’t take care of what I have, I don’t get a replacement. There’s no point in arguing when her opinions are as deep as the wrinkles on her face, and honestly, it’s hard to tell which she has more of. Before I leave my room, I grab my mother’s notebook. It’s filled with her sketches and work notes on different projects she was involved in. But my favorites are the tiny notes, squeezed in the margins, excerpt of her personal thoughts, hopes, and dreams. The biggest of these was to move her family outside the dome.

“I know you were out last night,” Grandmother says, eyeing me suspiciously between the milk and dry toast as I slip into my seat at the table.

“Must we have this conversation every morning?” Grandfather speaks up.

“You know the ramifications!” Grandmother shrills, and he shrinks in his chair. “Do you want to let her stroll around at night past curfew? One day she won’t come home, and then we will be questioned.” Grandmother redirects her attention to me. “What are you doing out there that’s important enough to risk everything? Haven’t I warned you? If the Order catches you, you will wish you had listened to me.”

“That’s my problem.” I fold my arms across my chest. She always makes me back down with her words. If I’m going to be an adult, I need to learn how to take a stand.

“If your parents could only see you now,” she says unsympathetically. “They would wonder how they got a daughter so determined to get herself detained. You know what they do with little girls who don’t follow the rules.”

“Yes,” I say through gritted teeth. She’s given these lectures many times. Girls who don’t follow the rules are sent back to the Learning Institute for retraining, where they come out all prim and proper, ready to take their place as functional citizens of the dome. I’m not going back there; I know how to stay under the radar.

“Come on, now.” Grandfather finally steps in. “It’s Nat’s birthday.”

“Yes.” Her tone softens. “You’re eighteen now. Hurry and eat; we got you a little something.”

I gobble down the toast, stale as it is, but fresh food is not something that our dome has had in a long time. Since the accident that caused my parents’ death, the Order stopped all excursions for scientific research, completely cutting off the outside world. Prior to this, there were plenty of rations from the farms due to uncontaminated seeds the expedition teams found, along with new plant life for supplementing the crops. But those stockpiles have slowly depleted.

When I finish breakfast, I look at my grandparents in anticipation. Grandfather’s face is beaming, and though Grandmother looks like she is trying to be serious, I can see a small sparkle in her eyes as she hands me a tiny green box with a little purple bow. The bow is smooth, made from fabric nicer than anything I own. I gently untie it, and put the silky strand safely in my pocket, before opening the box to see what is inside.

A silver, heart-shaped locket sits on top of fine tissue paper, so delicate I don’t dare touch it in case it rips. An image of two hands holding a smaller heart is engraved into the center of the locket. This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen—I’ve never owned jewelry of my own. My hands are shaking so bad I almost drop the box.

“Careful!” Grandmother’s voice snaps me from my awe. She grabs the box from me, and it takes all my inner strength to let it go.

She removes the necklace from the box and opens the locket, holding it out to me. Inside, is a photo of my parents on their wedding day. Photos are luxuries. I only own one other— a photo of me with my parents when I turned three—and it stays safe on my nightstand. But this locket—I can take it with me anywhere. I hold up my hair, allowing Grandmother to secure it around my neck, then grasp the tiny keepsake in my hand. I will cherish it forever.

“I’m going to show this to Jak and Xara,” I say, leaving the table.

“Don’t forget, you have to report to work today.” Grandmother reminds me.

“But it’s Saturday.” I groan.

“You’re eighteen now,” she says, her eyes vacant of the compassion they held only seconds ago. “Your time to contribute to the dome begins today. Plus, any experience is good to have if you want to be a scientist one day, like your parents.”

“I don’t see how cleaning toilets at the Axis will do me any good in the future,” I complain. “And I never said I want to be a scientist.”

“You’ll find where you’re meant to be.” Grandfather smiles. “Understanding everything from the bottom-up will help you make a better decision about what you want to do to make your contribution.”

I sigh as I lace up my sneakers, now feeling the pressure of the future. I have no idea what I want to do today, let alone the rest of my life. But it definitely does not involve cleaning up after those in the Axis. I wave good-bye as I leave the apartment, but only Grandfather waves back. My number one fan; he always tries to keep the peace between Grandmother and I. But no matter how close we are, I still have to lie about where I’m really going. No one can know about my secret place.

Outside, I stretch my arms up toward the top of the dome. The sun shines through the dust covered glass of the dome, with sections of blue sky showing here and there. I sneak around the back of our apartment building, and begin my stealthy weave through alleyways. I have hours before my first shift starts at the Axis. Hours to spend somewhere the Order can’t find me.

When I reach the Outer Forest, I sneak in a break in the fence and move between the trunks of trees, inhaling the last of the old world. The rich combination of musk and earth fills my lungs as I run as fast as I can from the fence. Running is one of the few things that make me feel free. When I reach my destination, I’m out of breath, but exactly where I belong—a hidden clearing at the edge of the dome.

I crawl inside a hollowed-out tree I’ve claimed as my own. How did the Order miss this lone tree, dying amidst the perfection of the Outer Forest? It should have been torn down long ago, to make room for larger, healthier, oxygen bearing trees. Decay doesn’t coincide with the Order’s pursuit for perfection and efficiency, but it’s ideal for me: hidden, empty, and alone. I accept this tree’s imperfections and it offers me solace.

I clutch my locket again, this time removing it from my neck so I can look inside. A twinge of pain prickles my throat as my parents’ faces stare back at me. They look so happy and in love. I remember that about them. The in love part. I haven’t thought about people in love for so long.

I lean back, holding the locket against my chest, intent on enjoying the morning sun. Unfortunately, the heat of the sun doesn’t penetrate the cold glass of the dome, but something about that glowing orb in those blue skies makes me feel better. Mom wrote in her notebook about the first time she felt the sun on her skin: warm and, bright, as if it gave her a new life with its rays, just like it did to the world, after the Cleansing Wars. I close my eyes, imagining myself bathed in sunlight, and finally give in to the peace of the forest.

I wake up, feeling something sharp poking my side. I can’t believe I drifted off. My hand shoots behind me, to find the source of the pain. My mother’s notebook is jutting awkwardly from my back pocket. I stand up to tuck it back in, and my gaze slips above a line of bushes growing wildly along the base of the dome. At the same time, something flashes above them, and my breath catches in my throat. My reflection stares back at me from the glass, revealing my locket shining in the sunlight. Relax, Dacie, it’s only you. A nervous laugh escapes my throat, as I finish putting the notebook away.

Another light flashes, but this time it’s in the distance, on the other side of the glass. I lean forward, focusing on the light, and see a shadow move on the other side. My entire body goes rigid, and my heart beat thunders in my ears. No one could be out there—unless—could it be an Infected? No, that’s impossible. They were all killed by the Cleansing War—everything was. If the nukes didn’t kill them, the nuclear fallout afterward would have.

Something moves again—closer this time. A gasp escapes my lips, as a shudder rips through my body. That’s when I see it—the faint outline of a person standing in the open. He’s camouflaged by a layer of dust, blending him into the barren landscape that surrounds the dome. The figure’s shadow stretches across the ground, reaching toward me.

I rub my eyes, as if something in them could be making me see the figure, but when I open them I’m startled to see the figure again, only now there are two. One stays farther back, toward the rockier land, silhouetted against the foothills in the distance. The other stands a short distance from the dome. My heart skips a beat—they’re both human, and they’re both staring in my direction.

 

About Melanie: 
Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, Melanie McFarlane jumps in with both hands on her  keyboard. Thought she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie has focused her powers on her two upcoming YA novels: THERE ONCE WERE STARS and SUMMONER RISING.

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive the FIRST eGalley of THERE ONCE WERE STARS. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also Melanie is giving away swag enter that giveaway too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win! Win a copy of my next story!

Yes, this anthology contains another short romance by yours truly. I hope you’ll take a minute to enter into the giveaway. Maybe even consider signing up to support my release during the blog tour.
The entry form is at the bottom of the post. Details about the stories can be found by clicking here.
Roane Publishing is giving away THREE ecopy ARCs of 
Hearts of Valor!

Hearts of Valor
Genre: Romance Anthology (Sweet)
Release Date: January 13, 2016

Description: It takes a heart of valor to survive love’s battlefield.

Five veteran themed romantic tales brimming with love and sacrifice are sure to show us all what it truly means to have a Heart of Valor.


Stories:

Hero of Her Heart – S.L. Hughson
Feathers – T.E.Hodden
A Manly Man – Jean Young
Goin’ Home – Philip Lisagor
The Promise – London Saint James

~~~oOo~~~
Roane Publishing is giving away THREE ARC copies to three lucky winners!
You don’t even have to be a blogger.
If you are willing to leave an honest review before January 27th, you are eligible to enter.
How? Simply fill out the form!

You have until Midnight of November 28th when three winners will be chosen by random drawing.