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Dec 16, 2013

Unknown by Melissa Pearl

Darkness is covering the land. As the city of Mezrah grows with power and greed, the rest of the world can only stand by and wait for their inevitable destruction. The only hope against this growing power is an ancient prophecy that people have stopped believing in.

Then a star begins to fall.

Princess Kyla of Taramon stopped trusting in the power of light the day her father died. Trapped in a city she does not care for, under the watchful glare of her mother, the queen, she struggles to accept her fate.

Then a star begins to fall.

Jethro has loved Kyla for as long as he can remember. Learning that she was to marry his cousin drove a wedge between him and the feisty princess. Watching her from a distance is a torture he is unable to free himself from.

Then a star begins to fall, sparking an ember of hope and sending these two seekers on a treacherous journey into the unknown.

Download Unknown, Book 1 of The Elements Trilogy, from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iTunes.

Excerpt


“Nikara?” Mordekai poked his head into the room, he saw the small lump in the bed and hurriedly approached his apprentice. “Nikara, my dear.” He shook her shoulder.

She let out a soft groan and turned towards him. “Morning already?”

“No. No.” He shook his head. “Sorry to wake you, but this is of the utmost importance.”

Her wide, slanted eyes looked dry as she gazed at him. He knew she would never have the impudence to consciously show it, but he could sense her reticence.

“Please, child. You must see this.”

Biting her rosebud lips together, she slid out from beneath the covers and took the candle he held out to her. Throwing a robe over her shoulders, Mordekai danced like an excited child as he beckoned her to follow.

Her steps were too sleepy and slow for his liking, and he found himself dragging her through the streets. She knew not to question him before she must and stayed silent throughout the short journey. They reached the top of the stairs and stepped out onto his small perch.

“Mordekai, what are we doing up here?”

He turned away from the inky blackness below and gazed up at the sky. His white teeth beamed through his grey beard. “Look through the telescope.”

Nikara covered her yawn with delicate fingers. “Mordekai…”

“Just look, child.”

She blinked slowly. He knew she didn’t like him calling her child anymore; she was nineteen years of age and quite a beauty. He noticed how men now stopped to glance at her, something he was struggling to adjust to. To him, she would always be the little waif he found bleeding on his doorstep.

He bit his lip as she stepped towards the telescope he had spent hours gazing through. He knew the night sky better than anyone in the city.

Nikara squeezed her left eye tight and peered into the lens.

“Do you see my star?”

Her small fingers swivelled the telescope to the north. “Yes,” she mumbled.

He watched her in agitated silence. Her body was rigid, her fingertips turning white as they pressed against the smooth wood.

Had she noticed? Why wasn’t she saying anything?

Finally unable to bear it, he whispered, “Do you notice—"

“It’s moving.” She glanced up at him, her lips parted. “I thought I was seeing things, but…” She bent down to have another look. “It’s…” Stepping away from the telescope, she leaned against the wall. “Mordekai, is it falling?”

He let out a chuckle. “Look for a diamond glowing in the north, though it falls, it will not fail.” He quoted the second part of the prophecy with a laugh.

“What does that mean?”

“It means I was right. The diamond of the prophecy is not the crystal in Taramon Tower. It is this star.”

The one he had discovered sixteen years ago.

Nikara swallowed. “Mordekai, it’s been too long. No one believes the prophecy anymore.”

“Well maybe they should.”

Her lips pressed together in a tight grimace as she looked out into the inky blackness. “Do we tell—?”

“No. No, we mustn’t. He forbade talk of the prophecy years ago; we must keep this to ourselves.”

His face scrunched in thought as he turned his gaze to the far borderlands.

“Mordekai?”

The tremor in her voice was hard to miss, and he felt a touch of guilt as he turned to her. “Pack your things, child. It’s time to leave Mezrah.”




Find more from Melissa on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Dec 13, 2013

We're Moving!


I'm moving my website to bestfantasynovel.com. From here on out, this will be the website to visit for all of my latest updates, thoughts and featured books. I should be getting the feed transitioned soon, but go ahead and explore the new site!

Dec 11, 2013

SNAP: Happily Ever After? by Michele Drier

Loving Jean-Louis for eternity doesn't mean that Maxie Gwenoch will let him turn her. Jean-Louis is a vampire, is gorgeous, is the second-in-command of the Kandesky Family of Hungarian vampires, and is her boss at SNAP, the multinational, multimedia celeb gossip empire where she is the VP for International Planning. She moves to Kiev to build a home with Jean-Louis and finds her future under a cloud from Leonid, a rival from the Huszar family, now living in a bolthole in the ruins of Chernobyl. Will Maxie find safety by giving up her days and joining Jean-Louis in the vampire nights?

Download SNAP: Happily Ever After? from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Excerpt


Had I forgotten Leonid? Oh no, I’d never forget him.

He’d captured me, held me hostage for Jean-Louis, beat and raped me, let his toady Jules rape me. Much of the immediate horror of that time was pushed so far back in my mind that it took an effort of will to bring it out, but the fact that it happened never left me.

And I hadn’t forgotten that Leonid got away after the murder verdict and execution of Matthias, the head of the Huszar family.

“You said he couldn’t be found. You said there were only some tales of people and animals going missing in Romania and Belarus.”

His glimmer dimmed then flared back again, a sure sign he was going to try to convince me of something. “It’s true, we believed he was disappearing back in to the countryside. He had no contacts, no money and only a few followers. We didn’t think he’d try and head for Ukraine, but he did. He still had a small nucleus of followers here in Kiev.”

There was no oxygen in the room. I couldn’t breathe. My heart pounded. I knew Jean-Louis saw that. He may not have hunted and killed humans for food for more than 500 years, but his instincts were still there. I tried to keep myself calm around the Kandeskys, hoping they’d forget I was a regular. Fat chance.

On occasions like this, with blind panic and fear running along my nerves and affecting my circulatory system, the vampire’s internal hunting responses started to kick in.

He looked at me. “This is not something I wanted to tell you and I certainly didn’t want to tell you until we had a chance to decipher the information coming in. I had a very different ‘Welcome to Kiev’ planned.”

OK, I knew he’d explain things. But, wow, I didn’t even think that Leonid would be part of the explanation. He watched my eyes fill with remembered terror and reached over to hold me, but I pushed him away.

“And when were you planning to tell me this?”

He sighed. “Nik and I planned an evening with you. We’d tell you about Leonid then go over all that we knew and all that we’re planning to neutralize him. I, we, never want him coming within miles of you ever again.”

I flashed back to my first glimpse of him, standing on the steps of Nik’s mansion so coldly angry that the air around him looked crystalline. “I hope your anger wasn’t part of the plan.”

He threw his head back and laughed. “You ninny! Even teasing me, you do entertain. No, of course not. Now you’ll have to wait. Nik’s already gone up to his room.”

Rooms! Ah ha, an opening. “Speaking of rooms...”

He looked at me, gazed around the room and looked back. “What’s the matter, you don’t like the accommodations?”

I threw my reader at him and followed it up with a pillow. He was fast, batting the pillow back hard enough to knock a gasp out of me. I found a breath. “No, I wasn’t expecting to be put up in an economy hotel. And where’s the help?”

“We were going to hash all of this over with you until you forced a change of plans. You’re going to have to wait for this, too. I will say that we had other ideas about accommodations, but we’re having to use a fall-back position. And until yesterday, we didn’t have one.”

He was up, pacing, a movement I knew well. His mind worked more creatively and clearly when he was on the move. Then his pacing stopped as he threw himself down on the bed next to me, turned my face to his and kissed me, so hard, so long and so deep I melted from the heat that rose to engulf me.

“My love, my love.” He was murmuring into my hair. “I’m desolate without you. If you’re not around when I expect you to be, I panic. I know I react badly, in what looks like anger, but it’s fear...fear of losing you.”

His hands were stroking my hair and moving down my back, then he started pulling my shirt up.

“What do you have on? Where’s all your lingerie? Didn’t you pack it?”

I all but giggled. There were times when I even slept in one of his old shirts, so that I had his scent with me, but tonight I’d been too upset to want anything of him around. And sexy lingerie to sleep alone! No way.

“No thanks to you, but yes, Elise and I packed some things. Of course I don’t have anyone here to help me...”

I stopped. He was helping me. Sort of. He managed to pull the tee over my head, which trapped my arms, and began kissing and slowly licking my breasts, working his way down my body. The bed shifted and I heard sounds of clothing coming off, the soft snick of buttons and the hiss of a zipper. As tangled as I was in the tee, I hadn’t managed to get an arm free before I felt the length of his naked body against mine.

Now I truly melted and lived for the sensations he brought to me.

As I came back to consciousness, I was aware of movement in the room. I opened my eyes to the faintest glimmer of dawn and saw him silhouetted against the window as he pulled the heavy drapes shut.

He turned to me. “It’s six, true dawn is still half an hour away. I’m leaving now. We’re planning dinner and a long conversation tonight. No matter what, remember that I love you for eternity.”

I slept, my body remembering his touch and my mind drifting in an ocean of caring.

Without Elise to wake me, I jerked upright from a deep sleep, disoriented. Where was I? What time was it? The room was dark. I groped around on the bedside table, found a lamp and flipped it on. Memory came washing back. Last night, the wretched fight, Nik’s guest room, Jean-Louis...ah, Jean-Louis. I lay back on the pillows remembering the last look of him closing the curtains...oh, crap! What time was it? I was supposed to meet Jean-Louis and Nik for dinner and a discussion.

I rolled back over and checked. Four in the afternoon. Enough time to shower and get ready, even without help.

The tap on the door came as I was putting the final pins in a wrapped updo. He came in and I stood. I’d chosen a short, layered dress the colors of autumn leaves and strappy two-inch Via Spigas and felt confident enough to hear what the two had to say.

Jean-Louis looked me over and smiled. “I knew when we offered you the job that we’d chosen well. A woman who can overcome adversity, a few little bumps along the road, and still come up looking good enough to eat!”

This time I picked up a pot of blush to throw but decided I didn’t want to waste perfectly good Lazlo on him. He knew I hated those stupid vampire cracks, made them only to push my buttons. I gave him the evil eye as I sailed out the door.

Something was wrong. Something was missing. I looked around as Jean-Louis joined me and took my arm. Bam, that was it. No demons!

Even after the execution, I had demon guards outside the door to my suite in the Baron’s castle. Though the Huszars may have been scattered or co-opted, their centuries-old headquarters was only a few miles away and Stefan Kandesky and Jean-Louis didn’t believe in taking chances.

Here in Kiev it was pleasant being able to come and go without a trailing demon, as fond of them as I’d become.

Under the freedom of not having a guard, though, there was a twinge of nervousness.

Leonid was alive.



Find more from Michele on her website and Facebook

Dec 9, 2013

Blur by Kristen Middleton

Danger lurks in the dead of night...

Seventeen year old Nikki and her twin brother, Nathan, move to the small town of Shore Lake to start over after their mother is brutally attacked. When a missing teenager washes up on shore during their first night at the cabin and there are whispers of vampires in Shore Lake, Nikki begins to realize that there are things roaming in the darkness that are far more sinister than what they left behind in the city.

Blur is recommended for mature readers. You can download it at AmazonBarnes and NobleiTunesSony and Kobo.


Excerpt



A strange noise jolted me awake, and I looked towards the window, only to find myself alone.

Must have been dreaming…

Sighing with relief, I checked the time and noticed I’d been in the tub for a half hour. The water was too chilly to enjoy anymore so I decided to get out. I toweled myself dry, put my robe on, and unplugged the bathtub. I then padded into the bedroom where I stopped dead in my tracks. Ethan was on my balcony, leaning against the railing watching me. He reminded me of a predator studying its kill before striking.

Time seemed to stand still as the realization of what Ethan really was sunk in. Obviously, he’d made it up to my balcony all by himself, and yesterday, we’d soared through the night faster than what was humanly possible. There could only be one explanation now, and it chilled me to the bone.

We stared at each other for what seemed like forever and then he pointed to the door.

Swallowing hard, I stepped over and unlocked it.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” he asked softly.

My heart was hammering in my chest and I bit the side of my lip, trying to decide what to do.

“Well?” he asked, smiling devilishly. “I promise I won’t hurt you, Nikki. In fact, I imagine you’ll enjoy my company immensely.”

I let out a ragged sigh and nodded.

He stared at my mouth. “I’d like to hear you say it.”

“Come in, Ethan.”




Find more from Kristen Middleton on her blog and Facebook.

Dec 6, 2013

The Shifter: Book One of The Healing Wars by Janice Hardy

A dangerous secret. A deadly skill.

Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers, Nya's skill is flawed: she can't push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden. If discovered, she could be used as a human weapon.

But one day Nya pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. She refuses—until Tali and other League Healers start disappearing mysteriously. Now Nya must decide: How far will she go to get Tali back alive?

You can find The Shifter on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or IndieBound.

Excerpt


Danello lived in one of the better boardinghouses on Market-Dock Canal, in a neighborhood I could only dream of affording. His family had three rooms to themselves—two bedrooms attached to a small kitchen and dining area. Though a woman’s touch still showed, it had been a long time since it showed strong. Two dying plants—possibly coriander—sat on a shelf near the window, holding back faded and singed curtains bunched on one side. A rack of worn copper pots hung above a small stove, its skinny pipe chimney snaking up the side wall. They did have a view, though it was only a grassy corner of a market square. Two people were huddled under a bush, a ratty blanket tucked around them. I looked away.

“Did you find her?” a boy called, running out of the room on the left. “Oh, I guess you did.” His mouth wiggled as if he was unsure whether to be happy I was there or scared that I had come.

“This is—” Danello turned to me and laughed sheepishly. “I don’t even know your name.”

“Nya.”

He nodded. “Nya, this is Jovan. The other two are with our da.”

Not knowing what else to do, I waved, and the smaller version of Danello waved back. Same rich brown eyes, same pale hair, same determined yet sad set to the chin.

“Da’s unconscious now,” Jovan said in the measured tone of someone trying very hard to sound grown-up. Saints, he was so young. Too young to carry pain that wasn’t his. “Do we need to wake him?”

My stomach twisted, but I shook my head. “Don’t wake him. I can do it while he’s asleep.”

We moved into the back bedroom, small but cozy. Paintings of flowers hung on the walls, some painted on wood, others on squares of cotton. By the bed, Jovan’s twin brother sat on a yellow stool, his unhappy face pale and tight. Their little sister sat on the floor at his feet. Her blond head rested on his

knee and her arms were wrapped around his shin. Neither looked up.

“That’s Bahari, and Halima there on the floor.”

I backed away. No bed was worth this. I wasn’t healing, I was deciding who suffered. Saints did that, not me. “I can’t do this.”

“Yes, you can. So can they.” Danello squeezed my hand, drew me forward. “What do we do?”

“Change your mind, find a pain merchant who’s buying, drag him here by his hair if you have to, just please don’t make me do this.”

He took both my hands, held them tight. They were warm, and for one irrational moment I felt safe. “What do we do?” he asked.

What we had to, even if we didn’t like it. Hadn’t I always wanted to be a Healer? It might not be what Tali did, but I could help them. The shift was only for a few days, until the pain merchants were buying again. It wasn’t as if I were permanently hurting them. I gulped down air and reluctantly pulled my hands away.

“Nothing yet,” I whispered. “I have to see how badly he’s hurt first.”

His da’s forearm bent the wrong way, so that was broken for sure. The thigh was bloody and gouged, but the leg was straight. I glanced at Jovan and my stomach rolled. Just think about their father . I went to the opposite side of the bed and placed my hand on his forehead. Cold, wet strands of the same pale hair as his children’s stuck to my fingers.

Tali’s voice echoed in my head. She’d been teaching me what they taught her, claiming it was in case the League ever let me in one day, but I wasn’t so sure of that. I figured it was just her way of making it up to me ’cause she got accepted and I couldn’t.

I took a deep breath. Feel your way through the body, to the injury. My hand tingled as I felt my way through blood and bone. Broken arm, as expected. Three broken ribs. Torn muscle on the leg, but not broken. Cuts and bruises all over, but he’d heal that on his own.

“It’s not as bad as you thought.” I explained his injuries as best I could without scaring the little ones. Bahari already looked ready to bolt.

“I’ll take the arm and leg,” Danello said as if ordering dinner. “They can each take a rib. That won’t be too bad, will it?”

Spoken like someone who’d never had a broken rib.

“It’ll hurt to breathe deep. Bending and stretching will be hard.” Three sets of brown eyes went wide. I almost smiled, but figured my grin would scare them more than the pain. “No roughhousing ’til the pain merchants are buying again.”

Bahari jumped up, his fists clenched at his sides. “I don’t want to do this.”

“We have to. It’s for Da,” Jovan snapped back.

“I’ll”—Bahari looked around the room—“do something else to help. Go to the herb sellers.”

“Bahari!” Danello gasped. “Half the time they sell you poisons. I’m not risking Da’s life like that.”

I shuffled back against the wall. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this either, and I didn’t want to shift anything to Bahari if he didn’t want it.

“It’ll hurt,” he said.

“Yes, but you can handle it for a few days.”

“But—”

“Do it, Hari,” Jovan said in a voice too old for such a small boy. “Da’s never let us down, and we’re not letting him down now.”

Bahari didn’t agree, but he didn’t say no again either.

“Fine, then it’s settled. Me first.” Danello dragged over a chair from under the window and sat down, grabbing the arms tight.

“Danello…”

“Do it.”




Find more from Janice on her writing blog, website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Dec 5, 2013

Violet Skies by Edward L. Cote

To break up my writing time, I design book covers for fellow authors. Here's my latest cover design and a bit about Edward L. Cote's Violet Skies, the first book in his new series of the same name.  Each book is a novella, short and easy to read. This is a fresh twist on classic fantasy, but it keeps its essential nature intact.


Taya Mindaerel and her mother, the Oracle of the Prairie Winds, must flee their home or face certain death at the hands of a dark hunter and his man-eating horse. Their journey takes them to Aurum, the City of Gold, where they seek the aid of the Great Magus Olbinaar.

On the way they meet three allies- Alex, a vagabond, Brand, a master swordsman, and Ogger a wild creature. They will need all the help they can get to surmount all the obstacles in their path.

In the city however, they learn that their journey has just begun.

Download Violet Skies on Amazon and Smashwords, or purchase the paperback.

Prologue


Olbinaar stood in the Grand Library of the Hall of the High Council. Two stories of books lined the walls, which were divided by oak doors at regular intervals. Six ladders granted access to the higher bookshelves. Two huge windows stood opposite each other, displaying grand views of Aurum, the City of Gold. Through each he could see the city’s aqueducts, markets, buildings and towers short and tall. The window on the western side brought light from the setting sun.

The blue robes Olbinaar wore and the insignia decorating them spoke plainly of his station and power as a Great Wizard of Aeovas. Long years and hard days had worn upon his face. Thick gray hair formed half a ring around the bald spot on top of his head and matched his well-groomed but bushy beard. His blue eyes studied the room, and his stocky frame stirred impatiently.

“Ah, Olbinaar. I thought I’d find you here,” a jovial voice said.

Olbinaar turned to find a younger colleague entering the room. “Dibian,” he said. He offered a slight bow, a courtesy not returned. “I’m waiting for the Council.”

Dibian closed the door behind him. “Yes, I know.” He wore not the blue robe of his official position, but his own black robes of fine silk. His flippant self-indulgence and habit of overeating gave him a large gut and a soft visage, but his weight was not the first thing most people noticed when they saw him. No, that would be the damnable smirk he always had on his perfectly shaven face. He kept his brown hair trimmed with the same meticulousness, but that did not draw the eye in the same way.

“You’re out of uniform,” Olbinaar said, adjusting his own robes proudly.

“Trust me, you’re the only one who cares.” Dibian walked over to a table, where he found a bottle of blue wine that had been left for Olbinaar. It was an excellent vintage, carefully crafted from blueberries and four other fruits, each more rare than the last, then aged for decades. Dibian examined the bottle’s markings and nodded in approval. With a quick gesture, he chilled it. He poured himself some of the rich dark blue wine in a crystal glass. “Are you sure you don’t want any?”

The elder wizard shook his head. “I hate to think of what that bottle must be worth. I wish the Council would spend its taxes more wisely than on attempts to impress us.” He sighed. “But frankly, I’m wondering what’s keeping them so long.”

Dibian smiled. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

Olbinaar scoffed. “Really? They’re scared, Dibian. Ultimately, there’s no telling what they will do. They must have some reassurance that we won’t simply run roughshod over them, but what . . .” he lowered his voice, “what can they really do to protect themselves?”

The younger man peeked over his glass, clear blue eyes shining. “What indeed.”

Olbinaar allowed himself a small smile. “This is unlike you. I’ve grown accustomed to you opposing everything I say out of habit.”

Dibian laughed quietly. “Whose habit is that, old man? I do what I do for my own reasons. It is you who always react to my moves, and second-guess my motives.”

Just when he thought his colleague might say something to soothe the sting from that barb, Olbinaar saw something through the western window. Three explosions lit the evening sky, quieted by distance. People filled the streets with panic.

For a second, Olbinaar stood shocked, but he roused himself to action. “The city is under attack! We must warn the Council!”

“The Council is dead,” Dibian replied flatly. He took a drink of wine then set his glass down on the table.
Olbinaar's knees wobbled. “What? Are you mad? How do you know this?” He started off toward the Council Chambers. “If this is some kind of prank—” Another explosion tore the top off of a tower. Rubble fell to the streets below in a violent cloud of dust. Olbinaar stopped walking when he saw it through the window, which shook with the roar of the blast.

Dibian sharpened his voice. “It’s no joke. They’re dead, old man. Every last one.”

“But how?”

“I killed them.”

The silence stood thick, until broken by another explosion, this one closer to the window.

Olbinaar turned to face Dibian with eyes wide in shock. “Why?”

The younger man laughed. “Why? Isn’t it obvious? Did they think they could ride us like donkeys? Or leash us like dogs? What good is a law, against us? Against this kind ofpower?” As if to punctuate his words, another explosion shattered the great window behind him. Glass shards rained on the wizards, but both protected themselves with shields of their own power, raised by well-trained reflex. The wind howled through the broken window.

Dibian raised his voice. “Pieces of paper won’t stop this. When Ruegar went mad and took it upon himself to exterminate the rest of us one by one, what did they do?”

“There was nothing they could do!”

“Exactly! We’re practically gods!”

“Are you mad? What gives you the right?”

“What right do they have to try to bind us with their laws? And now this latest farce? Do they expect us to surrender the very means to defend ourselves?” Dibian shook his head. 

Olbinaar slowed his breathing, and closed his eyes.

The murderer sighed. “Would you prefer it if I turned them into puppets? I’m fed up with even pretending to subjugate myself to those petty politicians. We all are, whether we admit it or not.” He paused. “It will be better for us to rule openly. You’ll see.”

The elder frowned. “You mean for wizards to rule the world? What of democracy?”

Dibian laughed. “Democracy is the rule of the best con artist. Let those who have true power rule over those who do not.”

The explosions continued, growing more intense. Olbinaar knew there had to be a terrible panic in the streets, and untold dead and wounded. What he could see would not be the half of it. He looked out the broken window, a breeze blowing his robe and beard. He asked, “Are you doing this somehow?”
Dibian scoffed. “What would I have to gain? This city could stand to be redecorated, but there must be some easier way to do that.”

Olbinaar rounded on him, but before he could speak, Dibian scowled and said, “Who do you think it is out there? Telaron and Sela are in the city as well, and that makes four. Did you really think Ruegar would pass up a chance to come after four of us at once?”

Olbinaar sighed. “I did not know you were here, or that you had brought your lover.”

“Ah yes, but I am, and I did. Hmm.” Dibian paused to take a fig from the tray and bite into it. “I wonder if he simply followed me here. I've made no secret of my whereabouts.” He finished the fig and licked his fingers. “Oh well. What’s done is done. Ruegar is here, and I know none of you can defeat him alone.” He walked over to the broken window and put a finger to his lips. “Perhaps . . . I could . . . but I've too little to gain to risk my life on those odds.” Dibian looked down, where Olbinaar could see a crowd running through a street below. The murderer looked back at Olbinaar with that arrogant smirk. “It seems we’ll have to work together this time.”

Olbinaar looked out the window, at the fire and crumbling buildings. He knew what Ruegar wanted— he was trying to smoke them out. He also knew that he could not hope to defeat Ruegar the Mad on his own, but Dibian had some skill in magical combat, and his lover Sela was twice as fierce as any man. Olbinaar’s apprentice Telaron might already be dead, but if he were not, only swift action would save him. Justice for Dibian's crimes would have to wait. The only way to prevent much more bloodshed was to fight alongside a half-mad devil of a woman and a cold-blooded murderer.

Olbinaar growled, frowned, and fumed, but there was nothing else he could do. He looked over his shoulder and said, “For now.”



Find more from Edward on his website, Twitter and Goodreads.

Dec 4, 2013

Dangerous Depths by Karen Amanda Hooper

Hell hath no fury like a selkie separated from his true love.

The gate to the sea creature realm is finally open. Yara wants to bask in the glow of her budding relationship with Treygan and explore Medusa’s world, but as the new leader of Rathe her powers are needed to save a sea creature she’s never met.

Rownan assumes the worst is behind him when he returns home to be reunited with his wife, Vienna, only to discover she’s gone. She traveled to the evil realm of Harte to find another gateway to Earth and was never heard from again. Rownan claimed he would go through hell to be with her, and now he must prove it.

Rownan, Yara, and Treygan will put their lives and souls at risk by traveling to the most dangerous realm of all. Love is supposed to conquer all, but no one has ever conquered Harte.

Purchase Dangerous Depths in ebook or paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Find more from Karen on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest

Dec 2, 2013

The Art of Forgetting: Rider by Joanne Hall

A young boy leaves his village to become a cavalryman with the famous King’s Third regiment; in doing so he discovers both his past and his destiny.

Gifted and cursed with a unique memory, the foundling son of a notorious traitor, Rhodri joins an elite cavalry unit stationed in the harbour town of Northpoint. His training reveals his talents and brings him friendship, love and loss, and sexual awakening; struggling with his memories of his father who once ruled there, he begins to discover a sense of belonging. That is, until a face from the past reveals a secret that will change not only Rhodri’s life but the fate of a nation. Then, on his first campaign, he is forced to face the extremes of war and his own nature.

This, the first part of The Art of Forgetting, is a gripping story about belonging and identity, set in a superbly imagined and complex world that is both harsh and beautiful.

Download The Art of Forgetting: Rider on Amazon.

Excerpt


The first gleam of dawn found Rhodri back on the river bank, while most of the town still slumbered. Mounds of stone, abandoned the previous night, were heaped near the edge of the water. He coerced the early-rising wherry pilots to deliver it to the top of the dam. The river was peaceful, sparkling silver in the morning light. It was hard to imagine it as the scene of yesterday’s violence, if not for the splashes of blood staining the stonework, and his own vivid memories.

By noon, the dam was almost complete, the water on the south side of the barricade considerably lower than that on the north. No sign of the demon. Rhodri hoped it had fled downstream in the night, but his reading suggested that once a territorial creature like that latched on to a place, it would die rather than leave it.

The river on the north side drained away into two deep channels that ended in hastily-dug ponds. They were keeping the water away from the houses, for now, but soon they would be swamped. The King’s Third needed to work fast. The water slowly drained away downstream of the dam, unveiling broad swathes of gravel and patches of dark, sticky mud. Fish thrashed in the dregs of the water as the cavalry gathered on the bank, weapons drawn. Rhodri squeezed the hilt of his sword, anxious to see what they faced. And still the water level dropped, with no sight of the demon. A ripple of impatience ran through the crowds of watching townsfolk. They had come to see blood spilt, and if the demon wouldn’t bleed for them, they would find another target.

The water dropped another inch. In the depths, something stirred, a ripple running crosswise to the current. The hilt was slippery in Rhodri’s hand, point drooping as he tried to hold it steady at Garrod’s command. He could cut and run; it would be easy, compared to facing what lay beneath the surface of the water. But his captain had ordered him to hold the line, and years of training, of drill morning and night, bell after bell, obeying Garrod’s every word of command, had changed him to his core. The discipline driven into his mind overpowered his body’s instinct to flee so strongly it was barely more than a fleeting thought, instantly overridden. Captain Garrod said hold the line. The line would be held, until death or fresh command released him. Beside him he could hear Nik’s heavy breath whistling through his teeth, hear the jingle of mail as his leg twitched in the stirrup, but he kept his eyes on the water, on that treacherous ripple that ran the wrong way.

“Advance!”

The gravel of the riverbed crunched under Liberty’s hooves. The circle was slowly tightening. If the creature was to make a move, it had to be soon. The rippling had increased, the surface of the water agitated, broken up until Rhodri wasn’t sure what he was looking at. Sweat prickled his scalp, trapped under his helm. This was not like patrolling in Northpoint, where the enemy was visible, understandable. This was fighting magic, a beast that might not act in any logical way, that had unknown power. Nik whimpered softly at his side.

Hold the line hold the line hold the line hold

The surface of the pool exploded, an eruption of water white and freezing and blinding. Beyond it, through the mist, the spray, Rhodri heard a horse scream, a howl of pain, a voice yelling orders. Nik was yelling too, and Rhodri caught the cry and echoed it in his own throat, exultant, furious, released from the tension that had held him still. The line, moving as one, pounded forward down the sloping bank, blades levelled, cutting a swathe across the drying riverbed.

There was water everywhere. It was like riding through a nightmare storm, a waterfall, that churned the gravel to mud. It was in Rhodri’s eyes, his ears. He was deafened by the pounding on his helmet, blinded by the torrent. He had lost Nik, lost the Captain, had nothing but the feel of Liberty plunging forward between his knees, ears flat, teeth bared, and the cold, slippery leather of his sword hilt against his palm. In the rushing white ahead, it struck squealing softness, an inhuman sound, and the water rushing around him turned red. When he breathed in, he tasted copper.

“No!” He struck out again, fighting more than the beast, fighting his own evil memories that sought to trap him and drag him under. His blade stuck, ripped free. Something tore loose and was flung away, and the crimson rain deepened to black.

“Fall back!”

Which way was back? There was only the mud, the rain, the endless slashing against an enemy that seemed to be everywhere at once, hiding behind its shield of falling water. Liberty backed up, one step at a time. The torrent was thinning; Rhodri could see the blood-streaked faces of his companions, teeth set in morbid white grins, like the faces of skulls. There was grass beneath his hooves, and when he wiped his eyes, he could see the far bank of the river. The black water pattered down, lightly now, and in the sludge at the bottom of the stream a bloodied lump of flesh writhed as squealed, hissing through razor teeth, scrabbling in the last of the water as if it was a blanket it sought to hide under. Blood pulsed from a dozed slashes in its hide, and gobbets of pulsing flesh were scattered up and down the riverbank. Its body shimmered and bulged, as if its skin was too thin to contain the surging currents held within, and it was sucking the water around it back into its body, healing its own wounds, raising its savage head to snarl at the watchers on the bank. It was down, but it wouldn’t stay down for long.



Find more from Joanne on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Nov 29, 2013

Persephone by Kaitlin Bevis

There are worse things than death, worse people too.

The "talk" was bad enough, but how many teens get told that they're a goddess? When her mom tells her, Persephone is sure her mother has lost her mind. It isn't until Boreas, the god of winter, tries to abduct her that she realizes her mother was telling the truth. Hades rescues her, and in order to safely bring Persephone to the Underworld he marks her as his bride. But Boreas will stop at nothing to get Persephone. Despite her growing feelings for Hades, Persephone wants to return to the living realm. Persephone must find a way to defeat Boreas and reclaim her life.

Download Persephone on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Smashwords and Musa.


Excerpt


The branch crashed in front of me, scraping my legs. I ran for the parking lot as fast as I could. The frost closed in, surrounding me. I’d never been claustrophobic, but as the frost cut off my escape path with a solid white wall, I panicked.

Fog rolled in, like cold death, cutting off my view of the park. It curled around me, brushing against my face, arms, and legs. I turned back to the tree and ran faster, my dress tangling between my legs as the fog and icy wind blew against my skin.

The parking lot is the other way! my mind screamed. The other way was cut off by a mountain of ice. I felt as if I was being herded. By ice?

I slipped on the icy ground, falling face first into the frost. Ice crept up my toes and along my legs. I thrashed and screamed. I felt the fog becoming a solid mass above me, pinning me to the ground. The ice piled around me. Am I going to be buried alive?

I dug my nails into the frigid snow in front of me and tried to claw my way out of the frosted death trap. I was so panicked I didn’t feel it when my nails broke against the impenetrable wall of ice, leaving red crescents of blood welling up on sensitive skin. An hysterical sob worked its way out of my throat as I gouged red lines into the ice. The ice was above my knees, snaking its way up my thighs. I shivered.

Shivering’s good, I reminded myself. It means your body hasn’t given up…yet. The cold was painful, like a thousand little knives pricking my skin. A violent tremor went up my spine, sending waves of pain through me.

“Help me!” I screamed, knowing it was futile. I was going to die here.

Except I couldn’t die. Could I? Mom said I was immortal, but was that all-inclusive? Did I have a weakness? Was snow my Kryptonite? If I got hurt, would I heal or would I be trapped in an injured body in pain forever?

I suddenly didn’t know if immortality was a good thing or a bad thing. The cold hurt. I was kicking, screaming, and clawing my way out of the frost, but for every inch I gained a mountain piled around me. I thought I heard a man’s laughter on the wind, the sound somehow colder than the ice freezing me into place.

The ground before my outstretched hand trembled. The shaking increased. The earth lurched beneath me. The surface cracked and the sound was so loud that for a moment all I could hear was high-pitched ringing in my ears. The ground split into an impossibly deep crevice. My voice went hoarse from screaming as I peered into the endless abyss, trapped and unable to move away from the vertigo-inducing edge.



Find more from Kaitlin on her website, Twitter and Facebook

Nov 27, 2013

Shadows of the Realm by Dionne Lister

Bronwyn and Blayke are two strangers being drawn into the same war. Their world is facing invasion from the Third Realm. While they move unknowingly toward each other, they are watched, hunted, and sabotaged. When the Dragon God interferes, it seems their world, Talia, will succumb to the threat. Can they learn enough of the tricks of the Realms before it’s too late, or will everything they love be destroyed?



The young Realmists’ journey pushes them away from all they’ve known, to walk in the shadows toward Vellonia, city of the dragons, where an even darker shadow awaits.

Download Shadows of the Realm, the first book in the The Circle of Talia series, on Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Smashwords. It's only 99 cents for the next two weeks!  


Prologue


In a lonely brick farmhouse a child named Blayke slept under cosy blankets. He dreamt of splashing in warm summer puddles. His nostrils filled with the scents of grass and earth.

He reached dirty fingers into a puddle at his feet and tried to grab a slimy frog. The touch of his fingers on the water sent the frog dashing away, chased by the black clouds racing across the surface of the water, mirroring the sky.

Thunder boomed again and again. Thick clouds marched to its beat, effortlessly smothering the sun. Blayke’s fingers sank further into the darkening puddle until his fingers touched something rough and icy — too large to close his hand around. Blayke tried to let go of the object but his hand was stuck. Adrenalin flooded his body. He tried to shake the object loose, but to no avail.

Fat pellets of water erupted from the sky, soaking him in seconds. He looked up, squinting his eyes against the pouring rain. He bit his lip against the urge to cry. Every instinct told him to run. Thunder closed around him; lightning struck meters from the quickly expanding puddle. Blayke leaned back, twisting his whole body in a vain attempt to break free. Sweat from his exertion mixed with the rain on his face.

His palm peeled away from its anchor, leaving layers of skin behind. Blayke fell back, landing with a splash on the sodden earth. He stared at his bleeding hand, what had happened?

The ground vibrated beneath him, the tremors matching the slow and powerful rhythm of the thunder. The puddle boiled, bubbles of mud bursting to the surface, contaminating the balmy air with stagnant wafts. Blayke scurried away from the deepening water on hands and knees. He scrambled to rise but the jerking earth toppled him.

He was now at the edge of the seething pool. He watched the water drain away into the ever-growing cracks forming around its edges – the unseen depths hungrily sucked the liquid, draining it as quickly as the sky could dump it there.

The earth gave a final, violent tremor. An ebony creature surged forth amid the cacophony of trembling earth and breaking sky. It towered menacingly over small boy and tall trees alike.

The giant creature’s bellowing screams assaulted Blayke. He huddled on the ground, gasping for breath. His bleeding hand throbbed, and the beating rain stung the back of his neck. Blayke scrunched his eyes tight, and prayed to every god he had ever heard of to make everything disappear; the rain, the thunder, and the monster. Fear of impending death made him cry.

Rain battered him, but the earth ceased shaking. The creature’s commanding voice replaced the primal screams that made the downpour seem a whisper. “I have come to take you. Look at me and behold your destiny.”

Blayke lifted his head against all will and instinct, compelled by immense power within the voice. A colossal black dragon stood close, too close, dwarfing the small human as an ancient oak does an ant. The creature stared at Blayke with penetrating silver orbs.

The boy’s eyes, once fixed on the nightmare, could not move. So this was it, his death was here, so soon. How could that be? Tears flowed again as he realized his short life had existed just to fill the belly of this dragon, a special dragon no doubt, but still a dragon. Blayke took comfort in the warmth of tears that mixed with the rain on his face, as the giant creature reached toward him with massive claws.

It snatched Blayke, with one swift and powerful gesture, and thrust him into a mouth full of sword-sharp teeth.

Blayke woke screaming, feeling as if he were choking on his own blood. Arcon ran to Blayke’s room, arms raised, ready to fell any intruder who would dare harm his boy. Relief at the absence of an attacker was short-lived as he tried to sooth his terrified nephew. Blayke sobbed in his arms as he described the nightmare in vivid detail. Arcon knew this was a prophetic dream, marked by the Dragon God no less.

The dangerous and terrifying times foretold by the First Circle were nearing, and his nephew’s nightmare confirmed the worst. Arcon, one of the most powerful Realmists ever to have lived, and member of The Circle, prayed they would be given more time to prepare; their lives, and all life on Talia, depended on it.

Blayke eventually fell asleep and his uncle retired quietly to his study, where a hot cup of tea and mesmerizing flames in the hearth could not dilute his fears — the evil they had banished over a thousand years ago would return; it was already on its way.



Find more from Dionne on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Nov 25, 2013

When the Hero's Away, the Dragon Will Play

A guest post from Jason Halstead. 

It was about this time in 2012 when I decided to take a chance and write a traditional fantasy book called Child of Fate. I assembled a cast of characters that were part imagination and part remnants of time spent playing Dungeons and Dragons as a kid. The real D&D, with paper, pencils, and dice. It also required lots and lots of soda and pizza so our character sheets could end up spotted with grease stains.

Child of Fate climbed slowly but steadily up the charts until in early 2013 it exploded and was selling like crazy. I was quick to use this as a springboard and wrote the sequel, Victim of Fate, early in 2013. Silver Dragon followed and the trilogy continued to perform very well. Unfortunately, a trilogy ends at three books but I still had more stories to tell.

That meant I had to start a new series about those characters. The new series was longer and dealt with established characters coming to terms with their rise to fame and power, as well as the repercussions of what happened to them in the Blades of Leander trilogy already. The new series was called Order of the Dragon, and it began with Isle of the Ape and then continued with Chasing the Dragon and Sands of Betrayal. And now, as of today, I'm excited to announce that it's completed with the release of Dragonlady.

But does that mean that this foray into medieval fun and games is over? Well, read the book and find out! Order of the Dragon is completed, but there's always opportunities for more adventures to spring up at any time.

With the Order of the Dragon in retreat Alto's thoughts turn to home and his future with his betrothed, Lady Patrina of Kelgryn. But the future, once a shining light guiding him through a dark tunnel, has grown cloudy with indecision and confusion.

One last torch in the darkness remains, directing him to revisit some of his darkest times and put to rest the ghosts of his past. The ghosts he finds are more than memories, they've been given flesh and blood and are reaching out from beyond for him.

Defeated but not destroyed, the silver dragon has been watching and waiting. Her plans, years in the making, are coming to fruition. Only one man dares to defeat her, but Alto is the man she waits for so that she may spring her trap and rule from her mountain throne forever.


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To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Nov 22, 2013

Demon's Doorway by Glenn Bullion

Alex has a good life. Being a unique half demon, he's used his powers to conquer feral vampires, the darkness inside him, and help ghosts in need. But there's one more challenge that will be his strongest. Marrying Cindy, the love of his life.

Jack has been cursed by a witch's magic for two hundred years. Unable to sleep, unable to die, his only hope for peace lies with young Kevin, a pure witch.

Kevin has his own problems. Controlling the forces of magic is only the beginning. He's lost, unsure of himself, trying to find his place in the world. Now, a man named Jack is asking him to perform magic he didn't even know existed.

A wedding, a witch that needs guidance, an invulnerable man with anger issues, and a new threat, with evil intentions. Four-hundred-year-old vampire Victoria may finally be in over her head.

Download Demon's Doorway on Amazon and Smashwords.

Excerpt


The timing couldn’t have been better. Alicia was finally alone. She sat on the edge of a table, not far from the buffet, with her legs crossed, watching everyone around her. Kevin understood Jack’s comment about her being proud of her legs. She was stunning, and could only imagine how she looked in a pair of shorts.

She didn’t see him as he approached. He could introduce himself to her. His mind was blank, but they did have Victoria and Alex in common. Certainly some topics of conversation would pop in his head.

She ran a hand through her short hair and smiled at someone across the room. Even her smile was beautiful. Kevin felt his confidence slipping. He tried to hold onto it before it left, but it was no use. It ran through his fingers like water.

He veered off, taking another angle and walking straight for the buffet table. It was all but deserted, and he grabbed a paper plate to not look like an idiot.

Although it was probably too late for that.

Closing his eyes, he tried to keep calm. Every terrible thought came, one after another. Jack was probably belly-laughing at his expense across the room. If Alicia truly was watching him, she either felt he was a coward or a pig.

He absentmindedly put a tiny amount of food on his plate. He wasn’t hungry at all, but couldn’t drift through the buffet line empty-handed. The staff smiled politely at him, and he returned the gesture.

“The ham is good,” a voice said next to him. “Have you tried a piece of the wedding cake yet?”

He turned his head, and there she was. Alicia stood mere inches from him, with her own paper plate. She was smiling at him, waiting for an answer. The problem was her smile seemed to do something to Kevin’s brain, and he’d already forgotten what she asked.

Something tried to form in his mind, but it wasn’t words. His stomach dropped when he realized what it was.

“Baby powder.”

Alicia wrinkled her nose. “Uh, excuse me?”

He looked up at the staff, most of whom had gathered along the wall, no longer needed in the kitchen.

“Does anyone have a pen I could borrow?”

A kind woman handed him a pen, and Kevin set a napkin on a bare spot on the table. He scribbled in the witch’s language, the letters and words coming naturally.

Chili powder. Olive oil. Baby powder.

That was it. Another ingredient in what was becoming a spell-tease. Whenever a spell completed in his mind, he would immediately know what it did. That knowledge still eluded him.

Alicia giggled quietly next to him, looking over his shoulder. “What is that?”

Kevin glanced at the partial spell. To any non-witch, their language looked like strange hieroglyphics, random lines and pictures.

“Uh…something very cool and mysterious.”

“Ooh. So, you’re a cool and mysterious guy?”

“Not really.”

She laughed, an intoxicating sound. “I saw you at the church, sitting next to Victoria.”

“Yeah. That was me. I was sitting to her left.”

He wanted to slap himself. He could only wonder what ridiculous thing he’d say next.

“I was in front. I was the maid of honor.” She glanced down at the table. “I was also the best man. It was a little weird.”

Kevin picked up on a detail. Maybe talking with Jack was rubbing off on him.

Alicia was just as nervous as he was.

His confidence tried to return. It wasn’t back completely, but ever so slightly, like he fed it some of his magic water.

“I think everyone here knows who you are. You’re Alicia, right?”

“That’s me. But everyone calls me Leese. Only my brother calls me Alicia.”

He held out his hand. “I’m Kevin.”

She smiled again as they shook hands. He wished she’d stop smiling. It was distracting.

Leese scanned the dining room. People had started to leave, but there were still plenty left having a good time. They had their choice of places to sit.

“You want to grab a table?” she asked. “I think we’re the only two eating.”

“Yeah, that sounds great.”

They found an empty table off to the side, away from the action. Kevin could see out the doorway and through a window that it was night out. The events earlier in the day seemed like a lifetime ago as he sat across the table from Leese.

“Is that all you got?” she asked, nodding at his plate.

He looked at his randomly-thrown-together food, and pushed it to the side.

“I’m not hungry at all. I only went to the buffet because I was too nervous to walk up to you.”

She smiled, and pushed her food away as well.

“I only got food to talk to you. I was wondering if you even noticed me.”

“Oh, believe me, you were noticed.”

She turned red before gesturing across the room. “So, you’re a friend of Victoria’s?”

He spun in his chair to see the vampire and Jack still sitting, laughing and talking. Actually, she was the one laughing, Jack was more sneering.

“Yeah. She’s the only person I really know here. I only met your brother once.”

“Are you two…?”

He finished her question, laughing at the thought. “A couple? No, no way. She’s a little too old for me.”

“Yeah, just a little.”

At that moment, they both knew. It wasn’t much of a stretch to make. They both knew Victoria was a vampire, and they knew each other knew.



Find more from Glenn on his website and Facebook

Nov 20, 2013

The Blemished by Sarah Dalton

"It all comes down to one simple fact - the Children of the GEM are perfect. We are the ugly and imperfect. We are the Blemished." In a world filled with stunning clones Mina Hart is Blemished. Her genes are worthless and that takes away her rights: her right to an Education, her right to a normal life and her right to have a child. Mina keeps a dangerous secret which she never thought she could share until she meets Angela on her first day at St Jude's School. But their friendship is soon complicated by Angela's adoptive brother Daniel. Mina finds herself drawn to his mysterious powers and impulsive nature. Then there is the gorgeous clone Sebastian who Mina is forbidden from even speaking to... The Blemished is a frightening take on a fractured future where the Genetic Enhancement Ministry have taken control of Britain. It will take you on a ride filled with adventure, romance and rebellion. A beautiful world comes at a price...

Download The Blemished on Amazon, Amazon UK and Smashwords.

Excerpt


I entered the classroom. It felt wrong. The chairs were arranged differently – pushed together into a circle. The rest of the Blemished girls stood around unsure of where to sit and why the strange arrangement. In the centre of the circle was a single chair as though one of us would be the focus.

“Everyone take a seat except Miss Hart.” Mrs Murgatroyd’s voice made me jump. There was a hard edge to it, even colder than usual. I shivered. “Miss Hart, I believe there is a place for you in the middle of the circle.”

With shaking legs I stepped through a gap between two chairs and made my way to the centre. I turned and eyed each of my classmates in desperation while Mrs Murgatroyd looked down at me with a strangely tense smirk on her face. It was as though she was mentally battling with an inner conflict. It made her look frightened and cruel in equal measure. With my chest feeling tight and my breathing coming out in rasps I took my seat in the circle. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Angela’s concerned face.

“For today’s lesson I needed an example, which is why you see Miss Hart at the centre,” said Mrs Murgatroyd as she slowly walked around the outside of the circle. “Today’s lesson is about boys. You see, there are some among you who seem to have had some experience in this area. Isn’t that right, Miss Hart?”

“I… I… suppose,” I stuttered.

I tried to rein in my emotions, to concentrate and be in control. I couldn’t use my gift in front of all these people. It would be too obvious. I glanced down at my hands hoping that she wasn’t going to beat me in front of the class. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Billie shaking her head and remembered what she had said in the garden.

“Angela Dixon?”

“Yes, Miss,” Angela replied with a shaky voice.

“Tell the class how a good Blemished girl should behave around members of the opposite sex,” Mrs Murgatroyd instructed.

“Not to look at them directly. Modestly,” Angela recited.

“That’s correct.” Mrs Murgatroyd never stopped her laps of the chairs with slow paces and her hands folded behind her back, the picture of control. “And why is that?”

“Um, we don’t want to give them the wrong idea,” Angela replied quietly.

“That’s correct,” said Mrs Murgatroyd. “You are not here to mate. Your genes have been proven unworthy. You are here as servants to the GEMs, which is your rightful place. And if you are lucky and behave appropriately for a Blemished then you may even get a job. Now Angela, could you tell me one more thing? How should a Blemished girl behave in the company of a male GEM?”

“W… we shouldn’t talk to them. Or look at them. Unless we are spoken to,” she answered quietly.

“Excellent,” Mrs Murgatroyd said. “Now, class. I would like you to answer together. Should you talk to a GEM boy?”

“No,” said the class in unison.

“Should you reveal your hair to a GEM boy?”

“No!”

I didn’t join in the chant. At this point the tears began to roll slowly down my cheeks and my lips trembled so badly I couldn’t open them.

“Should you let a GEM boy touch you?”

“No!”

“And how about you, Miss Hart? Should you let any of these things happen?” Mrs Murgatroyd moved into the centre of the circle and bent low to speak to me. I felt her hot breath on my cheek.

I shook my head feebly in answer.

“Yet you did. Didn’t you?” She yanked at my headscarf and began to unwrap my hair. Her pointed nails scraped on the back of my neck and her rough fingers pulled my head back and forth. “Do you think you are better than everyone else in this room?”

“No,” I said hoarsely. I could barely see through my tears now. I shut my eyes against the stares of my peers.

“Then why do you act like it?” she said cruelly. She grabbed my hair and pulled my head back. “You bring everything on yourself, Miss Hart. When will you learn your place?”

On the last word she yanked my head back even further and pulled a pair of scissors out of her jacket pocket. The rest of the class gasped. I stared at them – wide-eyed. For a horrible moment I thought she might stab me, but then she did something almost as awful. With a ghastly smile on her face Mrs Murgatroyd cut chunks out of my hair; big, uneven, ugly chunks. I watched in horror as the long strands fell to the floor.



Find more from Sarah on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Nov 18, 2013

The Gatekeeper's Sons by Eva Pohler

In this first book of The Gatekeeper’s Saga, fifteen-year-old Therese watches her parents die. While in a coma, she meets the twin sons of Hades—Hypnos, the god of sleep, and Thanatos, the god of death. She thinks she's manipulating a dream, not kissing the god of death and totally rocking his world. Unused to attention from anyone—god or mortal—Thanatos makes a deal with Hades and goes as a mortal to the Upperworld to try and win Therese's heart, but not all the gods are happy. Some give Therese gifts. Others try to kill her.

The deal requires Therese to avenge the death of her parents. With the help of Thanatos’s fierce and exotic sisters, the Furies, she finds herself in an arena face to face with the murderer, and only one will survive.

Download The Gatekeeper's Sons  for free on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, SonyKobo and Smashwords.

Excerpt

Whether McAdams injured himself in one of her traps or in some other way, he was nevertheless injured, and this added to Therese’s overall optimism as she scrambled beneath the cliff edge with her arms full of rocks the size of softballs. The noise of the falls thundered as she neared them and the spray hit her bare skin and chilled her, a relief after the sweat she had worked up from building her traps in Demeter’s woods.

“How long till nightfall?” she asked Than in her mind. It seemed like hours had passed, and yet the sun still bore down on them high in the sky. “Wait a minute. We never left Olympus, did we? The sun always shines, right?”

If Than answered her, she could no longer hear him this close to the crashing falls. She hadn’t thought of that! How would she make it without him?

Unlike Than and the other gods, she had no powers of telepathy and could not be sure if voices in her head were inspirations or delusions. She almost turned back. In fact, she changed her mind five or six times and nearly wore herself out beneath the cliff edge with indecision. At last she decided it was her best chance of survival to go on with her plan. “I can’t hear you anymore,” she prayed. “But I’ve decided to go on anyway.”

She reached the falls and found a hidden grotto behind the roaring water, but if McAdams came this way to her decoy camp, she would have no advantage for attack. Although there were many little nooks and crevices back here that she could climb onto, she would be open, visible, and vulnerable to his retaliation. She dropped her rocks in a heap, set down her fruit, and looked around.

At the furthest lip of the grotto on the outer edge of the falls, she found a nook way up high that just might work. If McAdams came through the grotto, she would see him, and she would be above him, with gravity on her side. She would also be hidden until he reached the point where she stood now. It also seemed, from down here, anyway, that she might have a view of the deeper canyon in case he came that route. The trick would be hauling the rocks and fruit up the steep wall nearly twenty feet to the nook. First she would try it empty-handed to see if it was possible.

Now that she couldn’t hear Than, she felt really anxious that McAdams could be coming around the corner for her at any moment, and this anxiety caused her to tremble more profoundly than she had before. The trembling made climbing up the nearly vertical wall very difficult. She used her fingers to find places in the wall to grip, and she fished around with her feet for footholds to support her weight. One false step meant falling to her death at the bottom of the canyon.

Dirt from the canyon wall got into her mouth and crunched in her teeth when she clenched them. She ran her tongue around her teeth, trying to wash it out, and she spit and gagged. She reached for another rock, keeping her mouth closed this time, breathing through her nose. A fingernail broke at the tip as she clung to another ledge, but that was the least of her worries.

Thankfully, there were plenty of strong footholds within reach of one another. When she made it to the nook, she found it was actually a cave that tunneled back into darkness. While she was glad to have all this room to store her things and move around, the unknown darkness added to her anxiety. Stop it, Therese! McAdams was the only threat worth fearing right now, she reminded herself. She walked over to the furthest edge and saw that she could indeed see most of the lower canyon from here. This just might work. There were even a few loose boulders she could move, though barely and straining with all her might. Maybe if she scooted them to the edge and found something to give her leverage, she could launch them from the nook. She needed a branch or heavy stick, but there were none around. Would her sword work, or would the rock break it? She unsheathed the sword and tested it, gently at first. The blade gave. It was too flexible. She’d have to find something else. She returned the sword to its sheath.

The sheath! It was light, but it was solid and firm. She unbelted it from her waist and tested it out. It would work! This could be her saving grace! She looked around for other such boulders and found four more loose enough and light enough for her to drag to the edge of her cave.

She re-belted her sword and sheath and climbed back down, quickly but carefully, to carry up her bundle of fruit between her teeth. Then she took the empty shirt back down and filled it with six of the softball-sized rocks. Any more than that might throw off her balance too much or be too heavy and slip between her teeth. She’d have to make a third trip down for the remaining six. She hesitated. If McAdams spotted her, she’d lose the element of surprise. Was it worth getting the remaining rocks? She decided to go for it.



Find more from Eva on her website, Twitter and Facebook

Nov 15, 2013

The White Aura by Felicia Tatum

How do you live with the gut clenching truth that the one you love will die if you meet them? Twenty year old sorcerer Scott Tabors is learning how. After seeing seventeen year old Olivia Whitehead outside of a coffee shop, his heart will never be the same. He longs for her, he wants her, and he knows she will be his. They are heart mates. …but due to a curse on his family, he can’t meet her. Not yet. So for now, he visits her in her dreams. Her dreams where he can tell her everything but his name.

Olivia Whitehead is a typical junior in high school. She and her best friend are having the time of their lives, but she can’t help but notice the changes happening to her. Especially the changes in her heart after she begins dreaming about a mysterious dark haired young man. But what will happen when the school heartthrob decides he wants Olivia? Will she realize the dream man is real or will she move on? 

The White Aura is the first book in The White Aura series. Download it for free on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

The wind is blowing just enough to ruffle my hair. “Hello?” I call timidly. Nothing. It’s completely silent out, not even birds are chirping. I glance around and walk forward. My arms are wrapped around the front of me, not for warmth, but for comfort. I know I’m dreaming, but this is still kind of weird. I see a deer to my left, just watching me. She’s beautiful and majestic. She starts to come towards me the moment I wish I could pet her. My hand slowly reaches out and touches her course coat. Huge brown eyes look into mine, there’s no fear.

“You’re beautiful,” I whisper.

“So are you,” a deep voice says from behind me.

I turn violently, scaring the deer off into the trees. Mr. Sexy is standing five feet in front of me. Jeans and a fitted white t-shirt clothe his fit body.

“You’re here.”

“Of course I am, where else would I be?”

“I thought…well I wasn’t sure if this was our dream or just mine.”
“It’s ours Livvie, it’s ours. Always ours.”



Find more from Felicia on her website, Facebook and Twitter

Nov 13, 2013

Collide by Shelly Crane

Sherry has always known there was something out there.

She's eighteen, works for a tabloid newspaper in Chicago, and has a brother, Danny who is a lazy mooch. They live a pretty normal, dull life. Then the moon disappears. People start to go missing only to reappear later...but different. Sherry has an abusive ex-boyfriend who shows up on her doorstep and claims to be one of these beings.

He's no longer the same person in that body.

He tells her he has come to protect her and her brother and takes her underground, against her will, to save her. There they meet others like them. She begins to unravel the truth about Merrick, about what he's really doing here, about the way he looks at her, about the crazy new dangerous world they live in. Can he convince her that he's here to help? Will she like what she finds when she opens up to the truth? Will he be the one to love her when everyone else has failed her?

Will he be able to protect her?

Collide is currently free to download on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.

Excerpt


“I was lying,” he confessed.

“It’s ok, Merrick. I get it. I’m sorry, I just...I just can’t handle it when people are upset with me and I can’t fix it somehow. I’ll stay out of your way, ok.”

As I hopped down from the counter and turned to leave, he grabbed my wrist and my skin immediately began to tingle.

“You’re so blind,” he breathed, shaking his head.

“I’m sorry?”

He steadied himself, took a deep breath, and then let me have it, all the while, keeping my wrist in his overly warm, shaky, gentle grasp.

“I did lie. I don’t like you, Sherry. I...I love you.” I heard my breath falter, but he continued. “I can’t touch you because it drives this body insane.” He was barely speaking, breathing the words as he leaned closer to me. “My skin... tingles and I can barely breathe, which you’ve noticed. I can’t explain it. I know you’ll probably hate me now when I tell you this, but I couldn’t help it. Sherry, I watched you, too. The first time I saw you was when you were little, when Danny was born,” he smiled while remembering “you were so protective of him. I enjoyed it, I thought you were my little helper, but over the years, I never stopped watching. I split my attention in half and took my full focus away from my charge, your brother. I felt so protective of you. Somewhere along the way it stopped being just protective. As you got older and I saw the person you were, the kind of woman you were, it became something else. I fell in love with you and kept watching and protecting you even when you were on your own. After I came here, when I saw you in your driveway...” He shook his head, his eyes closed. “I’m so sorry. I know what you must think of me, but all this time as a guardian I’ve never broken the rules, never gotten involved when I shouldn’t. I know it doesn’t matter, I’m not human, but I...just can’t let you sit there and think that I hate you when the opposite is true.”

It was all true, not a lie in the mix, which meant he did love me.

I couldn’t move or speak. Shock overtook me, as did those smoldering green eyes. He reached out and cautiously, gauging to see if I’d flinch, ran his free fingers down the inside of my elbow to my wrist. The goose bumps came and he looked at me for indication, good or bad? I had none to give him.

I was the one confused now. How could this perfect, selfless being love me, especially if he watched me over the years with my worthless life and pointless existence? I was short and awkward in my own skin. My lousy apartment had no real friends to fill it. My stupid job. My weirdo parents who didn’t even love us enough to stay with us. My horrible judgment I pounded into my brother's head.

How did I always gauge every situation so wrong?

I realized I was panting. He looked worried, but I couldn’t stop. The hot tears spilled over and I wanted to run so he wouldn’t see, but then I guessed he’d seen it before, hadn’t he? He’d seen it all.

The tears overtook me and a low sob broke loose. I pulled my wrist free and ran to my room, too embarrassed to face him after I’d thought so many horrible things about him, but he somehow was there again, already in my room waiting for me. He reached for my arm, butretracted before he touched me.


I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Sherry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I didn’t want to hurt you, that’s the last thing I ever wanted to do. Please don’t cry because of me.


Wrong. All wrong.

“I don’t hate you,” I squeaked. It was all I could get to come out.

He thought I was mad because he watched me against my will, without my permission, without his call’s permission. But no, it was because I was embarrassed for being lame and not doing something more with my life. To have something for him to see that was worth something and not just embarrassment.

For some reason, I needed him to comfort me again, even after this, I was surprised that I wanted him to.


I’m sorry. Forgive me, Sherry. Just forget I said anything, all right? I’ll never bring it up again and I’ll stay away from you as much as I can. I promise. I’m so sorry.


He started to leave, maneuvering around me. I reached for his shirt in one swift movement, pulling my face into his chest. He seemed surprised, but not as reluctant as usual, as he let me and even wrapped his warm, strong arms around my shoulders. He continued out loud.

“I never watched when I shouldn’t have. When Matt and you...your showers, among lots of other things, I always tuned out. I know I don’t deserve it, but...please forgive me, Sherry. I never wanted to hurt you.” I felt one of his hands slip to the small of my back and to my utter embarrassment, my heart rate picked up and I felt a little sigh release from my lips.



Find more from Shelly on her website, Facebook and Twitter

Nov 11, 2013

Everville: The City of Worms by Roy Huff

College freshman Owen Sage has just started to understand the darkness trying to overtake Everville and the earthly realm. With the help of The Keeper and the Fron army, Owen has managed to buy some time, but new problems have already emerged, new secrets need to be revealed, and the race against time to stop Them from conquering both dimensions has only just begun. The Keeper, Owen Sage, and his friends at Easton Falls University must now battle threats from within. To do it, they must reunite with familiar creatures and join forces with new ones as they navigate their journey to the truth that awaits them in Everville.

The City of Worms is the second book in the Everville series. You can download it on Amazon, where it will be FREE November 14-18!


Excerpt


As he turned the first few pages of discolored notes, doodles, and other markings that he had scribbled on the margins, ‘Ubaloo’ was written at the top of the second page. Next to the word were small drawings of creatures that looked like tiny people, sketches of a humanlike race with perfect musculature, warriors who would intimidate even the bravest of men — that is, if they weren’t a mere twelve inches tall.

More notes were written below the images, foreign-looking letters and shapes. Next to the markings were etchings of the Fwaylan, ferocious doglike animals that resided in The Valley of Darkness.

Cleophas thumbed through the pages and skimmed the words he had written down so long ago. The notes were full of guesses and disconnected theories, but there was one common thread: there was an apparent convergence in Brackenbone, the land of the Ubaloo. It was a place the sketches depicted as one of the eight surrounding lands of Everville and a few days journey west of the Deep Woods, which was connected to The City of Worms across the vast expanse.

Cleophas turned the page. Stuck in the center was an old photograph of Dala. He pulled the photo free, and as he did, his eyes drifted sideways while he reminisced on some of the wonderful moments they had shared together. The shock of her passing had long ago given way to a resolute determination to give her life meaning. Even now, his face exuded a clear focus, undeterred by the reminder of her death or the current situation with Dante, who had been in a coma for the last couple of weeks. His eyes returned to the photograph before he put it back in its previous resting place and stood up from his kneeling position.

Meanwhile, in the brutal desert above the land of the giants, Oldrik, The Keeper who had betrayed Everville, paced back and forth as he pondered his options.

Elmer, one of Oldrik’s three Fron followers, standing at attention said, “Oldrik, what do we do now?”

“Let me think,” Oldrik replied.

“What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”

“I said let me think.”

Elmer plopped down on the ground in frustration, only to snap back up a few moments later. The intense sunlight scorching the ground made it unbearable. “Ouch!” was the word that escaped his lips as the rest of his body shot into the air. The Fron winced as the searing hot dirt burned his rear end. Nickelsized, fluid-filled blisters formed on the portions of Elmer’s thighs that weren’t covered by cloth.

Oldrik continued to pace a few minutes longer, ignoring Elmer’s painful lapse in judgment, and then he spoke.

“The Keeper and Owen’s stupidity will be Everville’s undoing. We must journey to the Dark Forest and discuss the matter with Them,” Oldrik said while thrusting his long wooden stick into the ground, searching for a hollow spot.

“Let’s do it! Let’s do it!” Elmer said as he limped along, unable to hide his injury.

“Yes. Let’s do it!” said Calvin, the other of Oldrik’s Fron followers. With those words, Oldrik’s rod found a weak spot, and the ground engulfed them as they collapsed into the land of the giants.

Oldrik managed to find his footing, and then took notice of the absence of the giants that were supposed to inhabit the area. “Let’s get moving,” he said as he picked Elmer up by his collar and helped him to his feet. Oldrik himself, however, was tired and slow, as were the rest of his followers.

Portions of the walls were covered in patches of faintly luminescent insects that lit up sections of the caverns. These were followed by areas of complete darkness, which lasted tens of seconds, and as they made their way through the underground passageways their skin darkened and shriveled. The brief periods of darkness made their physical changes appear more apparent with each revelation of glowing light. The Fron that followed Oldrik had started to lose the vibrant appearance that their species was known for, and Oldrik himself began to look more tired and aged than a typical Keeper. Despite their sluggishness and disturbing transformations, they continued for hours, and before long they had made substantial gains in their distance.

From atop the stairwell in his Everville workshop, The Keeper looked down at Sako’s assistant Toe and began to speak. “Oldrik and the others have abandoned us. Even now they are conspiring against us. They are misguided and will likely fail, but we can’t afford to ignore them.”

“So what can we do?” Toe said as he looked up at The Keeper.

“We will do what we have always done, and what we will always do. We will seek the truth, and the truth will guide us to the answer. It pains me to see Oldrik and our fellow Fron, whom we have known for ages, fall for the deceit that is the great lie. It’s an internal struggle that we all face, a battle from within that never ceases to rage. At any moment, we can allow ourselves to believe the falsehoods that are spread by our adversaries and the fabrications that Them have convinced even their own kind to believe. It’s this lie that has led to the creation of Them, and it is this lie that has convinced Them that we are the enemy.”

The Keeper turned and looked through the portal wall. He watched from a distance as Oldrik and the others transformed from their previous state into disgusting, hideous creatures.

The Fron who walked alongside Oldrik shrank and shriveled. They looked at each other in dismay as the final consequence of their betrayal manifested itself. Each of them stared with horror at their hands, which had begun to throb. After expending a surprising amount of effort due to the agony, they held their hands in front of their faces and watched as their fingers grew in length and narrowed in width while the tips pulsated
and enlarged to the size of large grapes that looked as if they were about to explode. Sharp nails grew several inches from their now engorged fingertips, and slime oozed out of their pores and began to wrap around their bodies. They writhed in pain as the same thing happened to their feet. The process, which had started off slow, had gradually accelerated and was now almost complete.



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