More Dragons By Nicole Conway

Dragons are awesome. Dragons inspire me to create a world (or twelve) where they aren’t evil. And Nicole Conway is the author of a fantastic series featuring Dragons.

The Dragonrider Chronicles.

Now, she’s beginning a new series. Lovers of dragon tales and fantasy quests will surely rejoice over this new addition to their book shelf.

Savage begins the Dragonrider Legacy series, a thrilling companion to the international bestselling Dragonrider Chronicles.

Never send a hero to do a monster’s job.

Forty years have passed since Jaevid Broadfeather brought peace to Maldobar and Luntharda. But that fragile truce will be tested as darkness gathers on the horizon. The vicious armies of the Tibran Empire have crossed the far seas and are threatening to destroy Maldobar completely. Not even the dragonriders can match the Tibran war machines. And after an attempt to awaken Jaevid from his divine sleep fails, the fate of Maldobar is looking grim.

Reigh has never known what it means to be a normal human. Raised amongst the gray elves in the wild jungle of Luntharda, he’s tried everything to fit in. But the dark power within him is bursting at the seams—refusing to be silenced. And while his adoptive father, Kiran, insists this power must be kept secret, Reigh knows he’s running out of time.

As Maldobar burns, the world is desperate for a new hero. Destiny has called, and one boy will rise to answer

Check out this Amazing Cover for THE SKY THRONE

Today Chris Ledbetter and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE SKY THRONE which releases April 18, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:
Since my father put the first book of mythology in my hand, I’ve loved myths and legends. I always favored Greek mythology. I actually think I was Greek in a past life. Beginning in 2011, I conceived a story to sit down and have Zeus tell me what his childhood was like, especially his teenage years. All I did was listen to what he told me and put it down on paper.

On to the reveal! 

 
Title: THE SKY THRONE
Author: Chris Ledbetter
Pub. Date: April 18, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 292
Find it: Goodreads| Amazon | B&N | TBD
Duality dwells at every turn, and an adolescent Zeus will learn that all too well when Hyperion attacks his family
on Crete.
When the dust settles, his mother is unconscious and his best friend left for dead.
Stacking epic insult upon fatal injury, Zeus discovers the woman who raised him is not his biological mother. But to
ensure her safety while she recovers, a heavy-hearted Zeus leaves her behind to seek answers at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia.
Zeus embarks on a quest to discover who ordered the attack on his home, avenge the death of his friend, and find his
birth mother. When some of his new schoolmates vanish, Zeus’s quest is turned upside down, and the only way to make things right is to access the power of The Sky Throne, confront a most dangerous enemy, and take his life back.
On his way to becoming king of the Greek gods, Zeus will learn to seize power, neutralize his enemies, and fall in love.

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONESince the moment I started at Eastern Crete Lower Academy two years ago, I’d felt like such an outcast. The guys, mostly Potamoi and sons of Headmasters Okeanos and Tethys, never regarded me as an equal. I didn’t even warrant bullying. It’s like I never even existed. If only I’d known how visible I’d become in the coming days. I always got picked last for swim team and crew in physical fitness class. I actually was the third best wrestler overall in school and peerless in javelin throwing due to superior training from my guardians, the Kouretes. When Eastern Crete competed in the Mediterranean Invitational Games against academies from Phoenicia, Egypt, and Libya, I placed first in the javelin event, beating Gurzil from Libya who was the reigning champion from years past. I even won my weight class, the lightest class there was, in wrestling by beating Melqart from Phoenicia. But none of that mattered.

I was still invisible.

I loved science class. The lessons where we studied energy and matter were like fresh spring water to a parched throat. But the rest of my classes bored me to tears. We had language arts, music, and math in the mornings. Physical fitness, agriculture, and science took up our afternoons. I wouldn’t say I was intellectually ahead of them, because, hey, that’d be conceited. But my mother prepared me well, with all the goat tending and such. And she always said when I came home from classes each night that they just didn’t know how to teach me on my level.

So, I was forced to make my own fun. No one would probably notice anyway.

After the big Invitational Games win, I was posted up at the school’s entry columns with my best friend, Anytos, watching the Oceanids as they arrived for classes one morning. Sisters to the Potamoi, the Oceanids were the sea nymph daughters of our headmasters. Okeanos and Tethys, aside from being our school administrators, were also Elder Deities of the vast ocean, which is why we at Eastern Crete dominated all water sports. Swimming. Cliff diving. Crew. We bested all comers. But not me. I dove and swam exactly the same … like an anvil.

The Oceanids descended upon the campus from their barracks like a wave crashing against the shore. Telesto, the most beautiful sea nymph by several stadia, smiled at me for the first time since I’d been going to the school. Okay, it wasn’t a full smile. The corner of her lip twitched upward as she flipped her wavy, aquamarine hair over her shoulder and glanced past me. But that counts, right?

I backhanded Anytos in the chest. “You saw that. That’s my opening. If I don’t make my move, she’ll be gone to the upper school next year.”

“Pssht, she is beyond the Mediterranean beautiful. Completely unattainable.”

“Did you see that come hither stare she flashed me?”

“Looked more like indigestion.”

“You are as wrong as you are false. Cover my back. I’m moving in.”

I crossed the courtyard in a flash and caught Telesto’s arm as she reached the weather-beaten front door to the main school hall.

“Telesto, you look as if the sun radiates from you.”

She paused and leaned back against the doorframe. “You’re just saying that because I wore my yellow tunic today.”

“You shine with such brilliance; you should wear yellow every day.”

She folded a strand or two of stunning teal hair behind her ear and twirled the ends. “But what happens when I wear my purple tunic?”

“A tunic hasn’t been invented that could dampen your beauty.”

She giggled and turned away from me for a moment. “Zeus, is it?”

I nodded, surprised she even knew my name.

“You’re the one who pulled that massive prank on my mother, Headmaster Tethys, aren’t you?”

Oh, that’s how she knew me. Not invisible after all. I bowed. “I am him. He is me. One and the same.”

“Crazy. She was so mad.” She shook her head, stifling a smile.

“As far as I can tell, language arts must be your favorite subject. Your tongue is spectacularly sharp-witted.”

“Not really. But I am feeling a little inspired right now.”

Several strands of her hair fell to cover half her face. “Are you going to the bonfire at the beach tomorrow night?”

“I wasn’t invite—”

Several of Telesto’s broad-shouldered, dark-haired brothers bumped into me from behind. “Those are uncharted waters, boy. Careful now,” One of them called over his shoulder. Those were the first words they’d ever spoken to me. Telesto rolled her eyes. “Pay them no mind. They’re harmless. You were saying?”

“Those bonfires are an Oceanids and Potamoi thing? It’s kind of a secret club that you have to be born into, right? Being brothers and sisters, children of Headmasters Okeanos and Tethys… young water deities in training… masters of rivers and streams…”

“I guess. But you should come out any way. It’s all night, under the stars. Eating, drinking, stargazing… What’s better than that?”

Gazing into her mesmerizing, iridescent eyes, my mouth fired before I could stop it. “Kissing you under the stars. That’s better.”

“Sprint much? You’re a fast mover.”

“I just go after what I want.”

“Well … ” A pink tint rose on her high cheek bones. “We shall see. But first you have to show up.” Her lips twitched gain. “I have to go to class. See you tomorrow?” She disappeared inside the school hall.

I turned to Tos with a pterodactyl-eating grin on my face. He shook his head and smiled.

The boring part of my daily routine was set to commence. School. Classes. Ugh. I wished the school day was already over so I could just go to games practice. As Tos and I walked to first period, I was struck by the overwhelming urge to liven my day up just a bit.

“Tos, I have a good one. You with me?”

“Oh heavens. Is it what I think it is?”

“I feel the need … the need to prank!”

Tos shook his head. “My pranking days are over.”

“Come on. Just one more. Promise it’s the last one.”

He glared at me.

I explained the entire idea to him. “It’ll be after language arts, all right? It’s going to be good.”

After class, Tos and I waited until all other students had left. He took his position at the door to make sure no one came in. I approached Professor Ceto at the front of the room. Tablets and scrolls decorated the top of her desk.

“Professor, do you have strong hands?”

Her intelligent eyes narrowed. “Sure, I do. Why?”

“I bet you a homework pass that you can’t balance a goblet on the back of your hand.”

Her forehead wrinkled.

“Place your hand on the desk, palm down,” I said.

She complied.

I filled her water goblet and placed it on the back of her hand.

She smiled. “See. No problem at all.”

I picked up the goblet. “Now place your other hand on top of this one.”

She sighed. “Why? Is that supposed to be harder? So, if I fail, you get a homework pass, yes? If I complete the task, what do I get?”

“It’s a surprise.”

“Go ahead, then,” she said, placing her left hand atop her right.

“Get on with it.”

Barely able to contain my giddiness, I balanced the full water goblet on the top of her two hands.

“See,” she said with triumph in her voice. “I did it. Where’s my surprise?”

“All right then, I’ll see you next week. Have a good weekend.” I walked quickly to the door.

“What? Wait, I can’t move my hands without spilling water all over my scrolls.”

Tos opened the door and we both rounded the corner in a flash. We were halfway to period two music when I heard an unholy roar across campus.

“ZEUS!”

Tos and I laughed our behinds off and slapped hands as we passed a solitary blueish post in the center of the courtyard. No one knew much about it or who designed it. But its presence was striking.

Upon reaching music class, Tos and I took our positions near the kithara and lyre. Our teacher, Professor Leucosia and several more students entered and we prepared for instruction. Leucosia had the most beautiful singing voice. Simply spellbinding. Sometimes, I felt light-headed when she’d sing along with our accompaniment. Shortly after arriving in class, Headmasters Okeanos and Tethys shadowed the doorway to our room. The expression on Tethys’ face could have killed a wild boar at forty paces.

“Zeus, Anytos, we need you to step outside right now.” Tethys said. Her eyes mirrored the Aegean during a storm.

I looked at Tos. My heart rate quickened to a pace I’d only felt after running sprints. Slowly, I rose to my feet. This couldn’t have been good.

We walked over to Okeanos. I had to crane my neck just to see the Headmaster’s eyes. His biceps were bigger than my head, despite silvery blue hair atop his head and an aged, wrinkly face.

His somber and deliberate voice rumbled. “You are hereby expelled from Eastern Crete Lower Academy. This infraction and expulsion will go on your master record. You may apply again next term.”

“Why? What did I do to deserve this?”

Professor Tethys stepped forward to grab my arm. “Your little pranks have gotten you in deeper water than you can swim in, young man. You obviously need some time to think about how you can be a better contributor to the educational system.”

“No. You can’t expel me. Please!” I clasped my hands in front of my face. “My mother will kill me!”

“Not our concern.” Okeanos folded his gigantic arms. His voice rumbled again. “You must learn to be a better student. A better citizen.”

“But they were just pranks,” I pleaded.

“Yes. And this is the seventh such prank we’ve endured at your hands. And since Anytos helped you, he shall accompany you home.”

Tethys pointed east toward Mount Ida, the highest peak on Crete.

“You have until the sun chariot reaches its zenith to leave campus.”

She gazed upward. “By the looks of things, your time’s nearly at an end.”

 

 
Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly “walked-on” to the best drum line in the conference without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.
After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He’s worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. He taught high school for six years in Culpeper, VA, and also coached football.
He has walked the streets of Los Angeles and New York City, waded in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and climbed Diamond Head crater on Hawaii and rang in the New Year in Tokyo, Japan. But he dreams of one day visiting Greece and Italy.

3 winners will receive and eGalley of THE SKY THRONE, International.

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My YA Fantasy Debut is Coming Soon

In April 2015, I subbed several short stories. In my mind, I “put out the fleece” for my future writing direction. But I had my toes and fingers crossed that the answer would be “Write YA fantasy.”
The short story in this anthology was one of those submissions. I have read all these stories, and they blew my mind. This collection is a perfect example of what happens when you tell a bunch of creatives to rewrite someone else’s tale. Even if the original story is from the Bible.
 
Today Month9Books is revealing the cover and some excerpts for their Charity Anthology IN THE BEGINNING! Which releases October 25, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

On to the reveal!

 

 
Title: IN THE BEGINNING: Dark Retellings of Biblical Tales
Editors: Laureen P. Cantwell and Georgia McBride
Author: Stephen Clements, Nicole Crucial, Mike Hays, Sharon Hughson, Marti Johnson, Elle O’Neill, Laura Palmer, & Christina Raus
Pub. Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon| B&N |Goodreads
 
In the Beginning (Oct. 25, 2016) –Eight authors come together to build a powerful collection of dark young adult short stories inspired by the mysteries, faith, and darkness found within the Bible. Old Testament and New Testament, iconic and obscure figures alike are illuminated, explored, and re-envisioned throughout this charity anthology from Month9Books.
 
IN THE BEGINNING, edited by Laureen Cantwell and Georgia McBride
 
Daniel and the Dragon by Stephen Clements
A troubled orphan named Habakkuk dutifully follows his master, the prophet Daniel, into temples of blood-thirsty demon-gods, battles with unspeakable horrors, and bears witnesses to mind-breaking evil until his master’s zealous defiance of the king’s law seals their fate.
 
Babylon by Nicole Crucial
Far above the earth, in Second Eden, where moments and eternities all blur together, young Babylon befriends Sefer, the Book of Life. As Babylon awaits the moment she’ll fulfill her destiny, she and Sefer try to understand the world in which they live.
 
Last Will and Testament by Mike Hays
A homeless young boy, Baz, bears the weight of humanity on his shoulders and upon his body. When dark forces test a new-found friendship, Baz’s willingness to bear the ugliness of their world will be shaken. 
 
The Demon Was Me by Sharon Hughson
Based on the story of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, this tale provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where a teenage boy seeks to journey to a better land and yearns to discover the kind of man he’s meant to be, only to be hijacked by an evil spirit intent upon chipping away at the hope, faith, and resilience of its host.
 
The Deluge by Marti Johnson
A non-believer shares the story of Noah’s ark-building and the deadly downpour that follows. Fear, faithlessness, and the fallibility of mankind collide in a community where second chances aren’t unlimited and a better-late-than-never attitude just might be your doom.
 
Condemned by Elle O’Neill
Just sixteen-years-old, Barabbas finds himself pulled out of Routlege Academy and into a reality show competition—against Jesus himself—where the reward for the winner is life.
 
First Wife by Lora Palmer
In a first-person retelling of the saga of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, themes of family, deception, guilt, and heartache emerge amidst the first days of Leah’s marriage to Jacob—a marriage mired in trickery a mere week before Jacob was to marry Leah’s sister Rachel.
 
Emmaculate by Christina Raus
Based on the story of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we enter the troubled mind of Emma, who finds herself torn between her religious upbringing and the purity ring that binds her to her boyfriend and the pregnancy that results from her relationship with another boy.
 
Anthology Excerpts:
 
From THE DEMON WAS ME, by Sharon Hughson:
 
The ghastly black fog overtook me. Icicles pierced my back. Every muscle in my body spasmed. I plunged face-first against the ground. Something sharp gouged my cheek. Shivery tingles pervaded my insides. A vile presence pressed against my mind.            
“Get out!” I rolled to my back, arms outstretched. I wanted to fight, throw the intruder off me. But how can you resist something as ethereal as air?
            
Laughter rang in my ears. Sinister. It shuddered against my soul. Terror and hopelessness collided in my chest. A foreign power clutched at my mind.
            
I screamed. I rolled to my side and squeezed my eyes shut. If only I could disappear.
            
Another dark wave of laughter echoed through my skull. Convulsions gripped me. Against my will, my limbs flailed in every direction. A spike pressed into my mind. I cradled my throbbing head. My body, a tumbleweed in the wind, spun on the ground.
 
 
From BABYLON, by Nicole Crucial:
 
Only those will enter Heaven whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
 
These were the first words I heard, in the beginning of time.
 
But Sefer, the protest comes, Revelation wasn’t written until the first century.
 
My answer is that time is a funny little plaything to God, or so I imagine. That first sentence was the wind that breathed life into my chest, the binding of my pages, the ink in my soul. It knitted together my stardust-atoms from across centuries and millennia and planes of existence.
 
And when the first dregs of consciousness swirled at the pit-bottom of my spine, I yawned and opened my eyes to paradise.
 
 
From CONDEMNED, by Elle O’Neill:
 
To his surprise, as he heard the metal door grind to a stop, there was a popping sound, like the flash-lamp did when they experimented in Classic Photography at Routlege. Except no camera appeared—not that he could see anyway—but rather a digital time clock, bold red numbers, already beginning their descent, in striking relief against the black paint covering the walls.
 
29:48:12.
 
29:48:11.
 
Of course they would include the fractions of a second, he thought. He was now fighting a tiger against a racing clock. For all that they were merely numbers, he saw their dwindling trickle as if he were watching grains of sand pour through the hourglass of his fingers, helpless.
 
29:47:03.
 
The tiger looked at him. It didn’t glance his way. It directed its massive head at him, its eyes trained on Barabbas … and they didn’t turn away.
 
Another man, in another arena, stood calmly while the tiger advanced. His breathing was even, he did not watch the clock, and he looked with love upon the prowling beast. When it snarled, he slowly exhaled; when its whiskers glanced his weaponless fingers, he blinked gently as the hot breath of the tiger dampened his skin.
 
 
From LAST WILL & TESTAMENT, by Mike Hays:
 
I’ve found money, I’ve found food, and I’ve found myself in plenty of trouble on plenty of occasions, but I’ve never found another human being just lying around. That’s what happened when I found a person-shaped ball of olive drab and camouflage clothing—which would have been more at home in the reject pile down at the army surplus store—under our decrepit, worn sign for the, “Extraordinary 
 
League of Witch Assass_ _ _.”
 
It’s true. I found a boy about my age sleeping at the end of the Extraordinary League of Witch Assassins driveway.
 
 
From UNWANTED, by Lora Palmer:
 
“Let me see you,” he whispers. “Let me truly see you.”
 
I swallow down the fear this moment brings, the anxiety that once he does see me, he will no longer accept me. No, I must stop thinking this way. My husband is not like Jacob, dazzled by the superficial beauty of my sister. My husband, my love, will see me.
 
Taking courage from this, I let out a shaky laugh as he helps me stand. I long to see him, too.
 
“All right,” I say.
 
He lifts my veil, his deft fingers moving slow, relishing the anticipation of this moment. At last, he lifts the linen over my face and lets it slip to the floor behind me. We stare at each other, stock still, in stunned silence.
 
It was Jacob.
 
From EMMACULATE, by Christina Raus:
 
The Ten Commandments are pretty straightforward. Killing? Bad. Lying? Nope. Adultery? Don’t even think about it. But is real life really that straightforward? If you tell your boyfriend that you’re going golfing, when really you’re going out to cheat on him, is the lying or the adultery worse? What if you stab the guy you’re having an affair with? Isn’t being a murderer worse than being a cheater? I think the stabbing is worse than the lying and the cheating combined. So, it was kind of unfair for God to group killing, lying, and cheating all together under one umbrella.
They all seemed really different.
 
I was an adulterer. I couldn’t deny that. I was also a liar. A very, very good liar. But I wasn’t a murderer.
 
 
From THE DELUGE, by Marti Johnson:
 
The stench of mildew and mold is heavy in our nostrils, and my lungs feel as though they are on fire. My breathing is audible in the lulls between the thunderclaps. My mother huddles, shivering, propped between two rocks. She is coughing painfully, and I can hear her teeth chattering.
 
It is hard to breathe because the air itself is full of water.
 
A deeper shadow has fallen across the side of the mountain on which we are sheltering. I pull aside the brambles, and gasp in amazement when I realize what it is. “Look!” I call to the others, and point at the sight. The ark has risen with the water, and now bobs up and down. It sits high in the water. We hear nothing from it but the creaking of the wood timbers and the sound of the branches and rocks on the hillside scraping against its hull.
 
 
From DANIEL AND THE DRAGON, by Stephen Clements:
 
Your god is a liar!” roared the wizened man in thin black robes, as he pounded his breast with his fist. 
Habakkuk stood by the gates of the temple as his master picked a fight with a sanctuary full of the slavish followers of Bel, a bloodthirsty demon god. A fire raged in the fanged maw of a giant, stone head sunken into the back of the temple, there to receive the offerings rendered unto Bel. He had seen this before in other temple raids with his master, though not on such a massive scale, and not at the heart of the demon cult in Babylon itself. The fire raged as the greatest offering that the Babylonians—who adored Bel above all other gods—could sacrifice to their deity was their own newborn children, rolled their screaming, helpless bodies down a stone, handshaped altar into the fire. They offered the fruit of their wombs to
their dark god, who devoured the innocent souls sacrificed to him in eldritch rituals.

 

Giveaway Details:

 

3 winners will receive an eGalley of IN THE BEGINNING, International.
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CLANLESS Cover Reveal

 Today Jennifer Jenkins and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for CLANLESS, book 2 in the NAMELESS Series which releases October 4, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a paperback of NAMELESS or an eGalley of CLANLESS!!
Here’s a message from the author:
 
Clanless is Gryphon’s story in the way Nameless was Zo’s. It encompasses the struggle of self discovery and taking the hard road to find happiness. At its heart though, this book is a love story, with two people determined to fight overwhelming odds, even death, to be together. Clanless provides readers a view of the world outside Ram’s Gate, exploring both the Raven and Kodiak Clans in more depth.
I LOVE THIS COVER. I love the way Gryphon is depicted and the symbolism of the white background in contrast to the black of the Nameless cover. I personally think the series only gets better with every book, and I hope readers agree. On to the reveal! 

 

Title: CLANLESS (Nameless #2)
Author: Jennifer Jenkins
Pub. Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD | Goodreads
Striker Gryphon has lost his position of honor among the Ram, and is now a hunted man. A traitor.
Zo, the object of his affection, was murdered by members of his former clan. To honor her memory, he journeys to the highly secretive Raven “Nest” to warn strangers of their impending demise—though it could cost him more than just his pride.
He doesn’t know that Zo is very much alive and in another part of the region assisting Nameless refugees over a mountain swarming with wild men known as “Clanless.”
As each struggle to make sense of what their lives have become, they fight and claw to reach the Allied Camp, their last hope in bringing peace to the region.
But the road back to one another is treacherous and uncertain. And freedom will come with a price.

 

Excerpt

Gryphon never thought he’d die at the hands of the Ram. Of course, he never thought he’d become a traitor to his clan, either.He awaited a likely public execution, sitting in a patch of mud outside the walls of Ram’s Gate, his clan’s stronghold, as rain filtered through the trees overhead. Bristled ropes rubbed raw his bound ankles. Iron manacles secured his wrists behind his back. Gryphon clutched the hidden key to his restraints inside a bloody fist and glared at a man he never thought he’d call an enemy.

Zander, Gryphon’s captain, stood at attention as the rain rolled off his brown hair and banked along the harsh angles of his cheekbones and jaw. He held a seven-foot spear like a walking stick, the blunt end buried in the mud at his feet. His short sword was sheathed at his hip, his round shield slung across his back. The perfect Ram warrior, and one of the best swordsmen Gryphon had ever known.

The fifteen members of his mess sat like stones in a field, unmoving but hard and very present. Most of Gryphon’s former mess, including his best friend, Ajax, kept their backs to him, as if his treason were contagious. Some slept under thick wool blankets that repelled the rain while others stewed with the restlessness that plagued so many warriors.

No one bothered to light a fire. Whether they were too impatient to find something dry enough to burn or felt they deserved the cold, Gryphon didn’t know. Ram were experts at self-discipline—not to be confused with self-control.

Inside Ram’s Gate, Gryphon grew up training every day until his body ached. On days he struggled to do everything his leaders asked of him, he would sentence himself to mountain sprints until he literally passed out from exhaustion. Like every other Ram boy, he willingly walked into scheduled yearly beatings that were meant to train his body to block pain, making him nearly invincible on the battlefield.

A little rain was nothing.

Sitting cross-legged in the mud with his hands chained behind his back, Gryphon let the rain muffle the sound of his struggle to insert the small key into the unseen lock of his manacles. Each metallic scrap wound his nerves that much tighter. His wrists burned from bending at an awkward angle and his shoulders strained as he struggled to keep his face a mask of indifference.

Zander watched him, barely blinking. Gryphon needed to distract him—to break his intent focus.

“Why do you think they haven’t let down the rope ladder?” Gryphon asked, speaking as though his impending execution meant little to him.

Zander’s lip raised in a snarl. “Barnabas has the Raven invasion to prepare for, the gate to repair. He will deal with you in his own time.”

Gryphon adjusted his grip on the key to approach the lock from a different angle.

“It seems Barnabas is content to let you sit out in the cold for the night. Do you think you’ll lose your command over this?” Gryphon raised his chin and smiled.

Zander drew a knife so fast Gryphon fumbled with the key.

“Barnabas ordered you brought back alive, but I don’t think he’d mind if I took out your tongue.”

Gryphon had been trained to use the emotions of his enemies against them. People made mistakes when they weren’t stable. Plus the conversation muffled the sound of the key scraping futilely against the metal lock behind his back.

A few of the heads in the wet camp turned to watch the exchange.

Zander leaned back, battling with his composure. “I might lose my command, but I’ll return to my bunk with our brothers of the mess and rest well after seeing your body hang from a noose.” He shook his head. “I knew you had a strange fascination with that slave—that Wolf. I just didn’t realize your treason extended to all the Nameless inside the Gate.”

Just yesterday, Gryphon had inadvertently helped hundreds of Nameless slaves flee the massive walls of Ram’s Gate. To slow the Ram pursuit, he disabled the only exit—a gate so large it required forty Nameless to open it. Even though only a fraction of the Nameless slaves escaped, it would be days before the chain connecting the gate to the counterweight could be repaired.

The key finally slipped into the lock. Gryphon let his head fall back, just a fraction, and closed his eyes in relief. Zander’s hate-filled gaze greeted him as he opened his eyes, but that didn’t stop him from turning the key. The lock clicked open, the sound lost in the rain.

With one hand free, Gryphon still kept both hands behind his back, though he relaxed his shoulders some to alleviate the ache from being bound. The metal key in Gryphon’s hand was warm. The grooves pressed uncomfortably into his palm, but Gryphon didn’t loosen his hold, refusing to let go of the hope Ajax had given him.

Not only was the key his only chance of escaping the certain death that awaited him inside the giant walls of his clan, but it also represented a dim hope that Zo was still alive. That Ajax—Gryphon’s best friend—hadn’t followed through with Zander’s order to find and kill her and the others after Gryphon’s capture.

The vivid scenes of the morning replayed in Gryphon’s mind again and again. Everyone asleep under the tree, except Zo and Gryphon. Ram circling the perimeter of the giant fir like bloodhounds sniffing out prey. Zo taking his hand, pretending to be brave even though her eyes—they were always so easy to read—proved it a lie. Her warm lips. The feel of her body pressed against his . . .

A shudder that had nothing to do with the cold ran up Gryphon’s back. He’d been captured not far from the tree, trying to lead the Ram away from the people he cared for most.

If only he could ask Ajax if they were alive, though the chances were as likely as staying dry in this storm. Ajax had a family to protect, and the penalty for deceiving his captain was as deadly as deceiving Chief Barnabas himself. Dangerous.

Lightning struck not far away, brightening half of Zander’s face in the fast-approaching darkness.

“Come back to me,” Zo had said, just before she’d leaned into him, touching her soft lips to his.

Gryphon slid the key into the second lock.

He chewed on the inside of his lip until he tasted blood. He fought the urge to spit in Zander’s face, to unlock the chains binding his wrist and strangle him with his bare hands. He was sure he could finish the job before he took a spear to the gut. It felt like the only way to quench the hungry blackness that consumed his insides.

Gryphon hung his head, remembering the promise he made to Zo before they separated. Whether Zo was alive or not, he needed to survive to warn the Raven Clan of an impending attack. Countless lives would be spared if the Raven had time to flee the Nest before the Ram arrived. Getting himself killed wouldn’t serve them, even if it meant an escape from the overwhelming ache in his chest.

Thunder rolled again. Zander stared. Gryphon prayed for a miracle . . . and hoped he deserved one.

He turned the key.

The lock clicked open.

But his manacles clattered to the ground before he could catch them.

***

“We’re not waking him.” Zo’s head throbbed as she held Joshua’s wrist to check his pulse for the tenth time in as many minutes.

The boy lay unconscious, but his heart beat a steady rhythm. Zo needed to feel that pulse; it was her tether to sanity. The sound of Ram fists connecting with Gryphon’s body . . . the muffled grunts betraying his pain . . . they still echoed in her mind when she didn’t check her thoughts. From her hiding place, she hadn’t seen Gryphon’s capture, but she had heard. She’d wanted to run out and fight alongside him. Even though she had Joshua and Tess to think of, her inaction tasted like betrayal.

Rain fell all around them, but they’d managed to stay mostly dry beneath the skirt of a giant fir tree.

“This is insane,” said Eva. She had the long nose of her Ram ancestors, set off by a thin mouth. “Do you have any idea what will happen to us if the Ram come back here?” Eva lay flat on her stomach—all leather and long legs—as she scanned the ground outside their fir tree haven.

Even with a full moon, it was impossible to see far beyond the confines of their shelter. “They have Gryphon. They’ll know you and Joshua are close.” Eva ran her hand over her cropped hair, oblivious to the action. “If I were tracking us, I would have found us hours ago.”

Eva was a Ram, just like the soldiers she feared. She’d fled the Gate with Zo for the sake of her unborn child. A baby who would have been killed at birth because it belonged, not to her betrothed, but to a man in the Ram’s slave class known as the Nameless.

Zo gazed up at the tree trunk, hoping to inhale a bit of patience along with the strong scent of pine. “We wait until Joshua’s ready, Eva. Not a moment sooner.”

“But the Nameless will be miles away by now.”

Zo conceded the point. At that moment, hundreds of escaped slaves traveled to get as far from Ram’s Gate as possible to protect their newfound freedom. They didn’t know how to find the Allied Camp. Zo had told Stone, Eva’s lover and the leader of the Nameless rebellion, it was south of Ram’s Gate, but that was the extent of their knowledge, and it wouldn’t be enough to find the slot canyon that led to the Allies.

The Nameless needed her. So did her little sister Tess, Joshua, and even Eva. None of them would survive without Zo’s ability to lead them to the Allies. But it didn’t change the fact that all Zo wanted to do at the moment was sprint up the mountain to Ram’s Gate—the place from which they’d just escaped—and demand the release of the young man she’d come to care for. The man who’d saved her life and the life of her sister, even though doing so had caused him to lose everything.

Gryphon.

Zo’s little sister, Tess, sat like a watchdog beside Joshua’s head, playing with the boy’s red hair. In the low light, she looked even smaller than her eight years.

“Zo’s smart. She knows what to do,” said Tess. She was blond with dirt smeared across her nose and cheeks. She glared at Eva with her giant blue-green eyes, almost daring her to contradict her big sister.

Zo hugged her knees to her chest, fighting a sudden surge of nausea, hoping Tess was right to trust her so completely.

“Someone’s coming,” Eva hissed. She pushed up onto her knees, wielding two deadly looking knives. At the same time, Zo yanked Tess to the ground and threw herself over her and Joshua’s body. It was a futile effort to save them, but fear took over all rational thought.

Soft footfalls crept outside their shelter, each step marking the final moments of their lives. Zo glanced around for some kind of weapon or stick to help defend the two people—two children—for whom she was responsible. All she found in the darkness was a bed of dry pine needles and her medical satchel—nothing to defend them against fighters from the deadliest clan in the region.

The footsteps came closer, muted by the soggy earth. Eva moved from her knees to the balls of her feet, a compressed spring ready to fly into an attack. She adjusted her grip on her knives.

Hope fled. Zo couldn’t catch her breath. Tess. Joshua. Eva. The Nameless. Dying today under this tree meant the deaths of so many others as well. Gryphon’s sacrifice had been in vain.

Large boots stopped mere feet from Zo’s hiding place. Boots she’d recognize anywhere.

“Don’t,” she cried, trying to stop Eva before she attacked.

But her warning was too late.

Eva sprang, blades in hand, aimed at the intruder’s chest.

 

 

With her degree in History and Secondary Education, Jennifer had every intention of teaching teens to love George Washington and appreciate the finer points of ancient battle stratagem. (Seriously, she’s obsessed with ancient warfare.)
However, life had different plans in store when the writing began. As a proud member of Writers Cubed, and a co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, she feels blessed to be able to fulfill both her ambition to work with teens as well as write Young Adult fiction.
Jennifer has three children who are experts at naming her characters, one loving, supportive husband, a dog with little-man syndrome, and three chickens (of whom she is secretly afraid).
Visit her online at jajenkins.com
 Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest |Instagram

 

 
1 winner will receive a paperback of NAMELESS, US Only.

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Meet the Author! J. Keller Ford talks about her characters

IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING eBook Cover 2700x1800The awesome J. Keller Ford joins us today to talk about her first novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King.

I’m beyond thrilled to host Ms. Ford because she is more than a fellow writer. She’s a friend (even though we’ve never met in person) who helped me place my first published fiction. We’ve also traded manuscript critiques (mine were on the second book in this series of hers).

And we both ADORE dragons (enough said, right?)

Without further ado. Here’s Jenny!

Me: How did you come up with the background for David and Eric?

Ms. Ford: I always wanted my two main characters to come from wealth but not have a clue of how they got it or why or even what to do with it. I also knew I didn’t want them to be spoiled brats in the sense that they knew they had all this wealth and always used it to get what they wanted.

Eric and David are “spoiled” for different reasons than being wealthy. They’ve been coddled, sheltered, had things done for them all their lives because of who they are. Both are tired of it. Both are driven to achieve something more than being pretty boys with status. They want their lives to mean something.

We all read stories of poor people wanting to come into wealth. I thought I would turn it around a bit, and take someone who had everything at their disposal, but still their lives were missing important things. Something that couldn’t be bought with money or status such as peace of mind. Honor. Respect. It’s a long process for them get others to see them differently, to be taken seriously.

I hope readers connect with both Eric and David on a personal level because of this struggle. Having wealth isn’t a bad thing. Losing touch with yourself when you do have it is totally another ball of wax.

Me: That’s an interesting twist on the wealth thing. I enjoyed reading about these boys, although I’m Team Charlotte all the way (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, guess you’ll need to read the book so you can find out).

I really enjoyed the pace of the action in your story. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Ms. Ford: I have so many favorite scenes, but there is one in particular that I really like, and it’s the one with David and Trog sitting on a balcony in Gable. David is wrestling with an issue and Trog tries to help him through it, but David doesn’t want to hear. This scene totally took me by surprise as I had no plans to write it. It just came out.

I think it adds immeasurable depth to my knight, Sir Trogsdill and I know personally, I think that’s where I fell in love with him as a character. I mean, like really fell in love with him. I reacted to Trog differently in every scene after that. It was a pivotal moment for me as the author of this book. In that one scene, Trog changed before my eyes. It really affected me. I hope others will feel the same.

Me: I love when minor characters are potent and likable. I admired Trog throughout the story, but I know what you mean about that conversation adding a depth we hadn’t seen before (funny that his creator hadn’t even seen it. That’s what I love about writing).

And for my last question, which character surprised you most?

Ms. Ford: I have to say Trog surprised me the most. I went into this trilogy with a certain vision of Trog. He was knightly, chivalrous, a defender of the universe. But he also has flaws, weaknesses. I wasn’t sure what they were until I started writing the story.

Even in the initial draft, he wasn’t flushed out well. He needed more depth, so I went back and re-wrote scenes. That is when the scene above flowed out of me. I gripped my heart and said to myself, “That’s it.”

As the novel progresses we see scenes that show Trog as a man, not a legend. Not a myth. Not a god. And then we discover a secret, and the explanation for that secret took my breath away.

Trog became larger than life to me, not because he was a warrior or legendary knight, but because he was human. Totally blew me away.

Me: I love that Trog is a valiant knight in the truest sense of the word. His secrets make that even more apparent.

I’m excited to see where the story takes us in the next two books.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Readers, don’t forget to scroll down and enter the contest for a book charm or a digital copy of the book.

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InTheShadowCover

 In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books

Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the realm from the evil lurking nearby.

Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.

Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he’s some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He’s supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who’s too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.

With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.

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Meet the Author

J. Keller FordJ. Keller Ford (known to all as Jenny) is a scribbler of Young Adult and New Adult speculative fiction. As a young Army brat, she traveled the world and wandered the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles in hopes of finding snarky dragons, chivalrous knights and wondrous magic that permeated her imagination. What she found remains etched in her topsy-turvy mind and oozes out in sweeping tales of courage, sacrifice, honor and everlasting love.

When not torturing her keyboard or trying to silence the voices in her head, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, screaming on roller coasters and traveling. Jenny is a mom to four magnificent and noble offspring, and currently lives in paradise on the west coast of Florida with a quirky knight who was silly enough to marry her, and a menagerie of royal pets. Published works include short stories, The Amulet of Ormisez, Dragon Flight, and The Passing of Millie Hudson. IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING is her debut novel and the first installment in the Chronicles of Fallhollow Trilogy.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest |Goodreads

Giveaway Information:  Contest ends June 17, 2016

  • One (1) winner will receive a scrabble tile book cover charm (US ONLY)
  • Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford (INT)

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Rick Riordan brings The Sword of Summer to life

Rick Riordan writes middle grade and young adult adventure books in a way that makes me drool (as I’m rapidly turning pages to discover what happens next). His newest series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, delivers nothing less.

When a book begins with the main character’s death, you know something interesting has got to happen next. Otherwise, the story would be over. Epic fail.

Will he be resurrected? I know it isn’t all a dream because Riordan is too skilled to fall into that trap. Is it all going to happen in the afterlife?

All in all, it earns a solid 4.5 stars from me. Yes, I am surprised that it didn’t make five stars -it’s the amazing Rick Riordan-but I’ll explain my reasons during this review.

My Summary

Magnus Chase (if you recognize the surname here from another series, you’re not wrong) has been living on the streets since his mother’s murder. Apparently, this is a relatively safe thing for a boy to do in Boston. Or maybe just because two other homeless guys are watching out for him.

The story opens with his relatives looking for him. What? He had relatives and they just let him live on the streets? You’ll understand the reasoning before too long.

Magnus has an important destiny in the scheme of the Norse doomsday, Ragnarok. This brings a fire giant, slinging meteors, into downtown Boston. There’s a showdown. Magnus goes over the bridge and wakes up in Valhalla.

If you’re not current with your Norse mythology, never fear. Riordan does a great job weaving the information you need to understand what’s happening into the story.

Magnus makes a few friends. Gets his Valkyrie fired. Is the subject of a dire prophecy. Dies a few more times in practice battles. And sneaks away from Valhalla to embark on a quest to regain the Sword of Summer and stop the end of the Nine Worlds from happening.

My Review

Magnus is an engaging character with an interesting background. Meeting him on the streets made me consider the ugly fact that there are plenty of homeless children living in similar situations. For real. Hopefully, none of them are being hunted by fire giants.

Even though Riordan explains the familial situation, I still have a hard time accepting that Magnus would have been abandoned. His family is searching for him now, but why didn’t they do it two years ago? Why are they assuming he’s still alive? And when we find out WHO he’s related to, it seems even more unlikely (although we don’t really know the time relationship between this story and the two series featuring Percy Jackson).

I admired Magnus for holding onto his sense of humor (since that is how many of us cope with difficult situations). His flippancy was a nice change from the constant sarcasm Percy Jackson uses. In other ways, though, they are similar: reluctant heroes who don’t know their fathers.

I wasn’t put off by the contradictory depictions of Odin, Loki and Thor shown here (and I’m a huge Avengers fan). It’s a different universe, folks. Of course they are going to be different. Only a lazy author would make them carbon copies of something he’d seen in the movies.

The biggest issue I had with accepting this story world is a single question: where are the Greek and Roman gods?

Case in point: Magnus must go out and barter with a sea goddess. They only mention her husband the sea god in passing, but it isn’t Poseidon. How many deities are willing to share their realms with other deities? Shouldn’t there be a scuffle about territory?

There’s no attempt to answer this burning question. It’s like those individuals don’t exist. But we know they do. The presence of Annabeth Chase brings their existence front and center. Maybe this is when they’re all amassing in Greece to face down the giants and Gaia. And yet…wouldn’t their absence be cause for even more turmoil in their domains?

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the book. I just wish Riordan would have set it in a different universe. He could have used our contemporary world and made that work fine. But by bringing Annabeth into the story (even in a minor way), he reminded me that there is plenty of turmoil in this world already, but it isn’t even alluded to by the Norse deities or the human world.

My Recommendation

If you love Riordan’s writing (like I do), you won’t be disappointed. He delivers another page-turner with non-stock characters.

If you’ve read all his other books (like I have, with the exception of the Red Pyramid series), parts of this book will bring a sense of deja vu. Haven’t we been here before? And yet, how could that be true when we’re entering the Norse mythology of Nine Worlds?

You will laugh. You might even tear up. If you want a fast-paced book with likable characters and as much humor as action, this is a book you’ll want to read.

If you have read this book, what were your thoughts? Do you think I’m overreacting about questioning where the Greek and Roman (and perhaps Egyptian) deities are hiding?

The Vanished Knight by M. Gerrick – 3.8 of 5 Stars

In the interest of promoting independently published authors, I often agree to review new releases. In the case of The Vanished Knight by M. Gerrick, I agreed to review the first book in her series The War of Six Crowns in exchange for a free eBook copy.

For those of you new to book publishing in the Amazon paradigm, the goal is to build chatter about your existing titles so that when a new title is released, people are excited to snap it up. I admire the indie authors who willingly put themselves out there with minimal support because they believe in the story they have to tell.

I read this book between July 6th and 9th but waited to post the review on my blog until today. Why? Because today, the second book in the series, The Heir’s Choice, releases on Kindle today. Get your copy by clicking here.

Story Summary

The Vanished Knight CoverCallan, orphaned at the age of eleven, is a foster child with a strange entity living within her. (Don’t get too intrigued by this entity because we learn NOTHING about its origin or real purpose in this book.) She also is plagued by strange dreams of knights and murder.

She lands into a new foster home, where her wealthy “brother” is less than pleased to have a new sister. Apparently, he had a sister who died (but there are mere hints about how and when) and his parents should have sought his permission before trying to replace her with this mousy girl.

They head off to an elite boarding school that is situated near a supposedly haunted castle. Callan likes to blend in, hide in plain sight, in order to cope with new situations. Unfortunately, several things happen the first day of school to prevent that.

In what should have been a pleasure trip, Callan falls into the hands of kidnappers from an alternate world. She is rescued by a boy from school, who apparently is a knight in the other realm.

Soon she discovers that her family might not be as dead as she always believed. This world is on the edge of war (as the title of the series suggests), and Callan appears to be caught between two powerful races who despise and distrust one another.

My Review

Does my summary end abruptly? So does the book. This is one of the reasons I give this book a 3.8 out of five stars on my rating scale.

The author created a winning character with Callan. The girl is compelling and sympathetic. Although she seems too passive at first, readers quickly realize the reasoning for this. Just enough of her history is given to us to help us understand her while yearning to find out more.

The three male characters aren’t nearly as compelling. Although Darrion comes across like a jerk, his strong personality fits his station and background. Due to the sparks that fly between him and Callan, I imagine there will be a romance between the two of them in later books.

Of course, Gawain already fancies himself in love with Callan. His easy-going personality makes him quite likable, but he’s not as well-rounded as he should be if he’s going to be a major player in the story.

The foster brother, James, is my least favorite character in the story (even above Callan’s kidnapper and the unhelpful museum curator). He has zero redeeming qualities. When bad things happen to him, I feel no sympathy. He’s simply a spoiled rich kid who feel entitled to whatever he wants (and that is not relatable to me or any of the young adults I know).

Apparently, he will play an important role in future stories because the sample chapter of the second book features him. His part in this story was minor, and his journey into the alternate world didn’t feel like natural story progression (another strike against this book and why it didn’t quite earn four stars).

Too much time is spent in our world since the actual “story” takes place in Nordaine. Even the title speaks to events happening in this other reality. Most of the events at the boarding school, which took up chapters, could have fit easily into two or three scenes. I did like the arrival scene, but most of the other byplay didn’t add to the depth of story or characters.

What was the problem in this story? Callan has an entity (still a mystery at the end of the book) that keeps her from developing close relationships, but she wants those. In the end, she discovers she might have family alive and well in the alternate world. I’ve read the book, contemplated what it was “really” about, and I’m still coming up blank (thus the lowered rating).

The beginning was confusing, jumping between three perspectives, dreams and reality, this world and that world. I feel like some young adult readers would have closed the book before things started happening.

All this book offers are more questions. Who are Callan’s parents? Why did someone want to kidnap her? What is the entity? Why does the book promise me a vanished knight when that is an underlying issue but not the heart of Callan’s story?

Because this is Callan’s story. Sure, it might also be a little bit of Darrion’s story, but that felt like an introduction to the magical otherworld more than something important. It hints that James has a story, but most readers will be happy when very little time is spent with the rich brat.

In short, this is one of those first books that irritates me. It doesn’t have it’s own story. It is nothing more than set-up for the rest of the series. It says, “Here are the characters. This is what’s going on that’s about to change everything. And we’ll get to that in the next installment.”

A Recommendation

I clicked over to pre-order the second book as soon as I finished this novel. Do you need more of a recommendation than that?

My biggest recommendation is to WAIT to read this until the second book is available. Lucky for you, that’s today. Your appetite will just be whetted for this universe Gerrick creates and this novel will end.

Overall, I believe this book will entertain lovers of all fantasy genres. I had a hard time putting it down after the first three of four confusing chapters. The medieval setting of the alternate universe will captivate those who love historical fiction from that era.

Love knights? You’ll meet some good and bad ones here. Think elves are out of this world? Right again. But they belong to the alternate reality created by Gerrick in this novel.

The scope isn’t quite epic because the cast isn’t too huge to keep straight. Maybe this is why I enjoyed the book (even though this review may give a conflicted recounting).

Pick up your copy of this book and it’s sequel today.

Rewrite, Revise, Repeat…Is it Done Yet?

Rewrite_revise_repeatGood writing is rewriting. I’m not the originator of that wisdom. It seems like I might be a poster child for it, though.

When did I finish this young adult fantasy novel again? Oh, right, before NaNoWriMo last year.

It was ready for a little polish and then off to the beta readers.

Or so I thought. Until I got a critique on the first 20,000 words from the amazing Jami Gold.

It had major character arc issues.

So, I spent December tweaking things, getting a little feedback on the opening from my online critique group.

In January, I went through it all again, trying to spiff it up slightly. I don’t like sending mediocre writing out to readers.

Off it went to four beta readers in February.

And only one of them loved it.

The non-genre readers had issues with some of the fantastical happenings (it is a FANTASY after all), but thought the characters read fairly well. He wasn’t impressed with the ending.

The fantasy genre read-aholic thought the premise was great. He didn’t think the characters arced very much. Everything happened for them too easily – even though the stakes couldn’t get much higher.

Months later, the soon-to-be-published YA Fantasy writer returned the manuscript. Shredded. (No need to mention my writing confidence was also ripped apart. But that’s part of becoming a professional writer.)

Much of the stuff she address was tight writing, which I address most in my editing and polishing phases (which happen once all the revision and rewriting is finished).

The story had so much potential but was weighed down by wishy-washy characters and too few moments of accelerating tension.

So, I spent the next two weeks slicing and dicing the beta manuscript.

Here are a few examples:

  • The first scene was completely scratched and rewritten (for like the fourth or fifth time)
  • The order of the first two scenes was switched (suggestion from my target audience beta group)
  • Several scenes were tossed into the “cut scenes” file (making it a hefty 15,000 words)
  • A few new scenes were added
  • Nearly every scene was intensified with more emotions (teenagers = drama)
  • The end was completely rewritten (for the second time)

In short, anyone who read the original story probably wouldn’t recognize it in the pages of the rewritten story.

Next stop, revision with a red pen.

I print out my manuscript and read it aloud. Every sentence comes under fire.

I’ll address grammar issues if I find them. Obvious word repetition will fall beneath my sharpened editor’s blade.

But mostly, I’m cleaning up the language. Clarifying meaning. Focusing on the individual voice of each passage.

Does that SOUND like something my seventeen-year-old heroine would say? Would a fifteen-year-old surfing science geek think or talk that way?

good writing meme

After that, the manuscript will get two more rounds of edits. It’s during these final polishing rounds that I will search for obvious areas of “telling” rather than “showing.” Major word repetition will be rooted out.

After that, will it finally be done?

Nope, but it will be ready for marketing to agents, editors and publishers. Once they buy it, it will go through several more rounds of editing.

Because every writer knows – a story is never done.

Month9Books Friday Reveal: The Artisans by Julie Reece

The ArtisansLove fairy tales? Like a little romance with your YA Fantasy? You won’t want to miss the newest release from Month9Books.

Title: The Artisans

Publication date: May 2015

Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.

Author: Julie Reece

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?

The Artisans is a delectably rich, layered and dark YA Southern Gothic inspired by Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s classic Beauty and the Beast.

The Artisans has all the elements I love – spooky intrigue, strong friendships, and a romantic tension to be savored.” ~ Wendy Higgins, New York Times bestselling author of the Sweet Evil trilogy.

Available for Pre-Order: Amazon

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ABOUT JULIE REECE:

Born 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!

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  • Three (3) digital copies of The Artisans by Julie Reece
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Book Review: Rebel Heart

rebel heartSince I reviewed Moira Young’s first novel here, I thought I’d check in with readers about the sequel. The series is called Dust Lands and it looks like it will be a trilogy.

The book starts from Jack’s point of view, which is a good choice on Young’s part. He’s said to “betray” Saba in the flap copy, so seeing where that begins gives the reader sympathy for him. Later, more evidence piles up against him and Saba “sees” his betrayal with her own eyes. Her goal in this book is to find Jack, just like finding her brother was the goal in the first novel.

Saba disregards everyone – pretty much like before – to set out on her rescue mission. Of course, her brother and sister refuse to be left behind (did she really think she could leave them?) so they end up facing danger with her.

This time, the dystopian adventure goes awry. Through foreshadowing, the reader expects Saba to make another connection with Demalo, who is now the leader of New Eden and a new movement to remove the aged, infirm and unsavory from the planned Paradise. He’s put a price on her head, but she keeps dreaming about him.

It would have been nice if Saba could have kept one redeeming quality by the end of this sequel.  Unfortunately, I was sitting with Tommo by the campfire, sharing his spiteful thoughts: “Hurt. Betrayed. Decieved.”

As I write this, I’m rethinking my earlier assessment that Saba blows Katniss out of the water in terms of heroic qualities. It seems Young goes just a little too far trying to give Saba flaws. By the end of this book, only Jack is still talking to her, and we’re all imagining he wouldn’t be if he knew how she had betrayed him.

If you read the book, please chime in here and let me know what you think. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy reading it; I was just frustrated that we still didn’t figure out Lugh’s issues and that Saba acted like a self-centered, lovelorn teenager, and she seemed so far above that in the first book.

Source: Young, Moira. Dust Lands: Rebel Heart. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Pubishing Division, 2012. Print.