Friday, February 27, 2015

#M9BFridayReveals Chap 2 of Hunted by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki #ya #paranomal #giveaway

We've got another great chapter reveal from Month9Books. Make sure to scroll down for the giveaway and to today's second post, a cover reveal of The House on Blister Hill, an MG by KT Gannon.

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing Chapter 2 of
Hunted (Sinners #2) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
HUNTED is the electrifying sequel to the bestselling debut BRANDED, A Sinners Series, by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki.
It’s been three months since the revolt against the Commander’s fifty-year-old regime failed.
Under a new ruler, things were supposed to change. Get better.
But can anyone really be trusted?
Lexi and Cole soon find out, as life takes an unexpected turn for the worse.
In this ever-changing world, you must hunt or be hunted.
Lives will be lost.
Dreams will be crushed.
Fears will be realized.
Secrets will be exposed.
When Cole is once again faced with losing Lexi at the hands of a monster, one encounter will change everything.
Connect with BRANDED fans on Instagram at:
add to goodreadsTitle: Hunted (Sinners #2)
Publication date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Available for Pre-order:
You can read Chapter Two HERE!
Happy Reading and Enjoy!
Abi and Missy 2
Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumbler
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
The book will be sent upon the titles release.


Cover Reveal - The House on Blister Hill by KT Gannon @SHPMiddleGrade #mg

I'm glad you kept scrolling down for the day's second post! Here's a cover reveal from Spencer Hill Press - The House on Blister Hill by K.T. Gannon

Book Blurb:
Twelve-year-old Neddy Puddy's greatest desire is to settle the score with Delores Shrumm, her arch-enemy and former best friend. But one summer night, a strange snow falls over Neddy's hometown of Heaven's Peak, North Carolina, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Neddy touches the snow, and it burns, leaving blisters on her hand. But where did the burny snow come from, and what does it portend? The next morning the snow is gone, but when Grandpa Joe dons his bowler hat, sets out with Old Jim Flint on a secret errand, and ends up dead, Neddy has more than a broken heart to deal with. She has a mystery on her hands.

Why did Grandpa Joe go to that awful, abandoned house on Blister Hill? And why has a carnival pitched its tents on Blister Hill's front lawn? The Carnival of Shivers is no ordinary carnival either. Dead dogs with shining red eyes patrol the carnival's perimeter, and with attractions like Bash the Banshee, The Diabolical Dunking Tank, and the Tent of Pickled Punks, the place seems designed to make kids squirm.

To make matters worse, all the adults in Heaven's Peak have come down with the floating flu, and can no longer protect their children. When BD Lamb threatens to eliminate each and every bugsnot kid west of the Dismal Swamp, Neddy knows that everyone she loves might disappear with the last fold of the carnival's tents.

But Neddy is not alone. Despite being dead, Grandpa Joe is still doling out advice from beyond the grave, because Grandpa Joe's spirit is stuck inside his bowler that now rests on top of Neddy's head. With a posse of misfit kids and Old Jim Flint by her side, Neddy will have to face her worst fear and worst heartache, and live to tell the tale.

In Heaven's Peak, dead things own the world, and darkness has eyes.

But darkness doesn't last forever...or does it?

Title:  The House on Blister Hill
Author:  K.T. Gannon
Publisher:  Spencer Hill Middle Grade, an imprint of Spencer Hill Press
Expected Publication:  October 20, 2015
Book links:  SHPMiddleGrade | GoodReads 

Author Bio:

KT Gannon was born in Queens, New York. She studied writing at Columbia University and then received her MSW from New York University. KT worked with victims of violent crime in New York City for years before returning to writing. Now she lives in Arlington, VA with her stuntman-turned-lawyer husband and her three amazing daughters: Ava, Cate and Syd. When KT isn't writing she can be found in the bleachers at Ava's softball game, answering (inadequately) Cate's questions regarding human existence, and reveling in Syd's quiet triumphs.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Author Interview - A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael #romance #giveaway

Welcome to the my stop of the blog tour for A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael. Read through for my interview, an excerpt, and a giveaway

A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael
Anaiah Romance

Can you choose between fighting for your life and fighting for your heart?

When twenty-two year old Emme Sawyer joins a Marine unit heading into Helmand Providence, she focuses on what she does best: keeping her men safe. But, when the unit is hit by an IED, Emme realizes she can’t save everyone. With her humanity on the line, and her faith in question, she seeks comfort from Raven, her commanding officer. Soon, Emme develops feelings that don’t belong in a combat zone, where each step could be your last.

Raven keeps his emotions locked up tight, never allowing the men to see him sweat. But when Emme joins his unit, all bets are off; and the feelings he thought he left stateside begin to emerge. Knowing that the deserts of Afghanistan are the last place to start a romance, and the United States military’s view on fraternizing; Raven tries to deny his heart. Emme and Raven learn you can’t always choose where love finds you. And that sometimes, you just have to trust in God’s plan.

Release Date:
March 3, 2015

Book Links:

Buy Links:
Amazon | B&N | Smashwords  

1. Where/how did you come up with the idea for your story? Did it suddenly pop into your head or were you brainstorming?

The idea of writing a military romance has been in my head forever.  I loved watching MASH and China Beach, television shows of the eighties, and would think about how a woman could have a more important role in the story.  So I had the basic idea years ago.

2. Did you start with the main character, the world or the overarching concept?

The main character.  The setting originally was in Vietnam but when the war in Afghanistan and Iraq began I started researching and changed the setting.

3. Panster or Plotter? Or in between? 

Kind of in between, leaning a bit more towards pantser.

4. Are you a fan of writing contests?

I use to do a lot of them but never got much input or got input that was polar opposite so I do not do them anymore.

5. How did you find your agent? How many query letters did you send? I sent a bazillion letters out. 

I found my current publisher after the publisher I was with before folded.  We connected through the first publisher and I was very excited to be a part of an inspirational press.

6. What's the best marketing tool you've found so far?  Word of mouth is the best marketing tool. 

Signings help get your name out there but can be pricey.  I find blog tours helpful as well.

7. What do you like best about your mc?

I love how she puts other’s needs before her own and how brave she is.

8. What do you like best about your main antagonist?

I like the fact he isn’t really an antagonist, he’s struggling to be an equal with the mc.


The freezing temperatures of the night woke Doogie. The area was quiet, except for a few light snores coming from the men. She got up, stretched her muscles, and then grabbed an MRE and headed to the fire.
Raven’s shadowed outline was visible next to the fire as she approached.
“Quiet tonight,” she said.
“You should be sleeping. Not sure when it will be this quiet again.” Raven’s deep voice sent a chill through her.
“I’m not much of a sleeper.”
“We have guys with NVG’s watching. The Taliban might be using the dark to maneuver around our flanks. But I don’t think so. You should at least rest.”
“Hmm,” she hummed while she squeezed the bag she held.
“What’s for dinner?” Raven’s expression was more relaxed than usual.
            “Uh?” Doogie held the label toward the fire. “Applesauce. But it’s debatable as to the amount of apples in it.”
            “I have some beef stew in my pack if you want it. You can’t keep up with only applesauce.”
            “Why is it always stew? Why can’t they MRE a cheese burger?” Doogie sucked on the bag.
            “I think the food has to be juicy to get out of the bag.” Raven shrugged.
            “Stew has chunks of mysterious stuff. You’d think a few chunks of normal food would fit in there. Besides, ketchup is juicy.”

            “Well when you get out you can go into the business of creating wonderful gourmet MRE’s. The men would love you.”
            “And the women.” Doogie smiled at him.
            The corner of Raven’s mouth looked like it might have turned up, but she wasn’t sure. “Who can forget the women?”
            “I’ll hire you if you need a job after the war,” Doogie offered.
            Raven snuck a quick glance at her before returning to stare at the fire. “I’d appreciate that. I could be your tester. I’ll see if the cheeseburger is up to par. I’ve been known to cook a mean burger.”
            “Excellent. Maybe you could even cook the burger since I don’t cook.” Doogie rubbed her hands together at the thought of seeing Raven after the war.
            “You don’t cook?” Raven seemed surprised.
            “I enlisted at nineteen so didn’t have time to hone my domestic skills.”
            “Oh,” was all he said.
            They stood in awkward silence for a few minutes.
            “Today’s Valentine’s Day,” she blurted.
            Raven narrowed his eyes, his mouth in its signature scowl, and then started to laugh. “Yeah, I guess it is.”
            “It’s just. Well Tahk told me.” She was such a dork.
            “Was he planning a party? Handing out Valentines to the locals?”
            Doogie’s head jerked to look over at Raven. Had he just tried to be funny? She’s never had an actual conversation with him. Usually he talked at her…or yelled at her. She let out a stiff laugh. “No.”

Author Bio:
Connie grew up in Seattle but moved to Central Washington to be closer to all things outdoors.  Married with two college boys she keeps busy kayaking, mountain biking, skiing ,and hiking through the beautiful hills of the Wenatchee Valley.  Growing up with a love of reading the transition into writing seemed natural and she can be found on summer days writing under the tree in her front yard surrounding by her three dogs.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Interview with Ryan Craig Bradford, author of Horror Business #giveaway #horror @chapterxchapter @theryanbradford @month9books

Today we have my interview with Ryan Craig Bradford, author of Horror Business. For the rest of the tour schedule, go here. And don't forget to read through to find the rafflecopter giveaway, thanks to Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours

First, a bit about the book.

Armed with a passion for classic B-grade horror movies, a script co-written by his twin brother, and a wicked crush on his death-obsessed neighbor; hardcore horror fan Jason Nightshade must finish his student film.
But his plans are derailed when the children of suburban Silver Creek start disappearing – his twin brother among them. Battling a possessed video camera, a crazy zombie dog, a monstrous bully, and a frighteningly broken down family life, Jason embarks on a mission to find his lost brother so the two can write an ending for his story.
As any horror fan knows, saving the day won’t be easy, as Jason finds himself forced to face the real world where death isn’t just a splash of fake blood on a camera lens.

My interview with Ryan Craig Bradford:

1. Where/how did you come up with the idea for your story? Did it suddenly pop into your head or were you brainstorming?

I'd had the idea to write a horror novel that paid an homage to B-grade genre films for awhile before actually sitting down to write Horror Business, but could never figure out the angle. Then, in 2007, there was this weeklong period where I suddenly and mysteriously had a series of fever dreams and nightmares, from which I'd wake drenched in sweat and shivering. My girlfriend told me what I said while asleep: sometimes they were disjointed sentences, sometimes they were extremely troubling non-sequiturs, and occasionally I'd slip into a pristine, foreign tongue.

Anyway, I can't remember the full content of these dreams, but I was able to parse out bits and pieces, which eventually became basis for Horror Business. And once I started writing it, the dreams stopped as suddenly as they began.

2. Did you start with the main character, the world or the overarching concept?

I definitely started with the main character. However, the main character in Horror Business—Jason Nightshade—has gone through so many changes since the first draft. He used to possibly be a werewolf (I wanted to play up the ambiguity). About halfway through writing the novel, however, I experienced a severe bout of writer's block. I began reading a bunch of terrible memoirs because I thought that would help me get into the minds of other people. It was actually Tim Allen's Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man where I had an epiphany: Allen's had his share of troubles, but he's always been true to himself. Make you main character true to himself and, in turn, yourself!

So I wrote Jason as a regular human boy instead of a possible-werewolf and the story just flowed.

3. Panster or Plotter? Or in between?

I'd like to think I'm more of a panster (I had to google that btw), although I think I'm becoming more of plotter as I age. Pansting (am I doing this right?) is definitely more exciting, but plotting requires less work down the line. There's a rule that I like to follow (but actually made up just now): plotter in the streets; panster in the sheets. 

[Marlene: oh yes, you're doing this right - yay pansters!] 

4. Are you a fan of writing contests?

I'm not NOT a fan of them.

5. How did you find your agent? How many query letters did you send?

I've actually sent out very few query letters in my writing career. The whole process of finding an agent and that whole scene—in my opinion—is counteractive to writing. It seems strange to me that one would have to do the whole presentation and dance—forming a pitch, polishing up a manuscript—just for someone to maybe accept it, turn it around, and do the same thing to a publishing house. I feel that it wastes a lot of time that you could be writing. It feels like, with query letters, you have take on the role of an agent to acquire one.

I got my agent, Rebecca Podos at Rees Literary, from publishing a story in [PANK], a great online journal. This story got her attention and she approached me, asked if I had anything novel-length. I sent Horror Business and she acquired it, pending some editorial suggestions.

Horror Business ended up being a difficult book to sell because it's not totally classifiable, genre-wise, and it's pretty rough/harsh for the YA crowd. I think it took close to a year and a half for it to find a home at Month9Books, and let me just say I have the utmost respect for Rebecca because she had the determination and perseverance to push the book, again and again. Her belief in it is what eventually got it sold.

I imagine that if I had found an agent on my own terms with query letters, I may not have that same determination on my side.

So I think all this is to say: write more, query less. Get an agent who will fight for you, don’t fight for an agent.

6. What's the best marketing tool you've found so far?

Twitter and Facebook are fine, but I've found them to be less useful as time goes on, especially when there's so much emphasis on cultivating personal brands and online presences. The last thing I want to be is a "brand", and there is nothing more unappealing than a person who is an online, non-stop, self-promotion machine. As I write that, I know that I'm just as guilty as anyone else, though. I guess it's a necessary evil.

I'm a big fan of subliminal marketing. I have tried incorporating the words "Horror" and "Business" into casual conversation more often, sometimes under my breath, similar to punctuation. For example, a sentence might go (words in brackets are whispered): "[horror] Have you read Tim Allen's memoir? It's great! [business]. You end up sounding slightly creepy, but people remember creepy!

I've also started saying "Horror Business" in place of "God bless you" after someone sneezes. This often startles people, but I think it does a pretty good job of getting inside their heads.

 [Marlene: ok, this is hysterical!]

7. What do you like best about your mc?

I like how he's kind of an a-hole. I never understood why people want their protagonists to be "likable". Throughout the editing process, I got a lot of notes from editors wanting to make Jason more likable. It was probably the biggest complaint. But I also understand why people wouldn't want to spend a few hours with someone that they dislike. In the end, I found a nice middle ground that I'm happy with. Jason is complicated; he can be cruel and selfish, but he is also human and we, as readers, grow with him. You ultimately root for him.

8. What do you like best about your main antagonist?

There's a bully in Horror Business based on someone I knew in high school. It was incredibly fun to write his scenes—basically turning him into a dumb monster. It's childish, I know, but … *sits back, cracks knuckles, puts on cool shades* …whatever

9. Anything else you like to share about your journey or your upcoming launch, including links to giveaways or ways people can help spread the word?

I hope you enjoy Horror Business! I spent a lot of time on it, and it's been a crazy, long journey from writing to publication. Now I just have to get over the fear and anxiety that no one will like it. Let me know what you think, and find me online at I also tweet: @theryanbradford.

[Marlene: yeah, based on this interview, I MUST read Horror Business]

About Ryan Craig Bradford:
Armed with a passion for classic B-grade horror movies, a script co-written by his twin brother, and a wicked crush on his death-obsessed neighbor; hardcore horror fan Jason Nightshade must finish his student film.

But his plans are derailed when the children of suburban Silver Creek start disappearing – his twin brother among them. Battling a possessed video camera, a crazy zombie dog, a monstrous bully, and a frighteningly broken down family life, Jason embarks on a mission to find his lost brother so the two can write an ending for his story.

As any horror fan knows, saving the day won’t be easy, as Jason finds himself forced to face the real world where death isn’t just a splash of fake blood on a camera lens.

Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter 

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cover Reveal: Fall of Knight by Steven Cross #thriller

Title: Fall of Knight
Author: Steven Cross
Genre: YA psychological thriller
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Release Date: April 7th, 2015

A normal teenager Dean Knight is not.

With a mental illness that threatens to take over his sanity; a sister who’s deep in her own problems; and a wasted mother who couldn’t care less about it all, Dean is left to battle real life on his own. School, bullies and medications are his realities.

Then there are also the ghosts, the hallucinations and of course – the monster.

In the middle of it all, when everything seems to lose purpose, hope comes shining down on Dean’s miserable life. Her name is Ella and for one reason or another, she actually wants to be close to Dean. With Ella’s help, the lost teenage boy decides that he could finally win a battle or two – both in real life and in his writing.

But hope is a tricky thing. And the monster seems to know that.

When secrets buried down for almost a decade come out in the open, what do you do?

Steve Cross’s first successful writing project was a play about a werewolf that his eighth grade English class performed. Though the play was never published, the warm fuzzy feeling from its public performance has never quite left Cross, who continues to sink his teeth into a variety of writing projects. His first publication was a haiku, followed by two middle grade novels published by POD publishers and a young adult novel published by Buck’s County Publishing.
A fanatical St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan; a lover of all kinds of YA fiction, as well as the writings of Dean Koontz and Stephen King; a fan of all kinds of music – from Abba to the Zac Brown band, Cross dreams of the day he will write a best-selling novel or sell a screenplay for seven figures, so he can retire and write more best-selling fiction.  Until that day, he and his wife Jean, Missourians born and bred, will continue to toil in the field of education and live in peace with their two dogs and two cats and wait around until their daughter Megan and son-in-law Sean give them grandchildren to spoil.

Friday, February 20, 2015

#M9BFridayReveals Prologue and #Giveaway for Nobody's Goddess by Amy McNulty

Welcome to this week's M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we will be unveiling the prologue for
Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1) by Amy McNulty
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Nobody's Goddess
In a village of masked men, each loves only one woman and must follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.
Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.
add to goodreads
Title: Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Amy McNulty

When I had real friends, I was the long-lost queen of the elves.
A warrior queen who hitched up her skirt and wielded a blade. Who held her retainers in thrall. Until they left me for their goddesses.
Love. A curse that snatches friends away.
One day, when only two of my retainers remained, the old crone who lived on the northern outskirts of the village was our prey. It was twenty points if you spotted her. Fifty points if you got her to look at you. A hundred points if she started screaming at you.
You won for life if you got close enough to touch her.
“Noll, please don’t do this,” whispered Jurij from behind the wooden kitten mask covering his face. Really, his mother still put him in kitten masks, even though eleven was too old for a boy to be wearing kittens and bunnies. Especially ones that looked likely to get eaten for breakfast by as much as a weasel.
“Shut up, I want to see this!” cried Darwyn. Never a kitten, Darwyn always wore a wolf mask. Yet behind the nasty tooth-bearing wolf grin—one of my father’s better masks—he was very much a fraidycat.
Darwyn shoved Jurij aside so he could crouch behind the bush that was our threadbare cover. Jurij nearly toppled over, but I caught him and set him gently upright. Sometimes I didn’t know if Jurij realized who was supposed to be serving whom. Queens shouldn’t have to keep retainers from falling.
“Quiet, both of you.” I scanned the horizon. Nothing. All was still against the northern mountains save for the old crone’s musty shack with its weakly smoking chimney. The edges of my skirt had grazed the dusty road behind us, and I hitched it up some more so my mother wouldn’t notice later. If she didn’t want me to get the blasted thing dirty, she should have let me wear Jurij’s trousers, like I had been that morning. That got me a rap on the back of the head with a wooden spoon, a common occurrence when I was queen. It made me look too much like a boy, she scolded, and that would cause a panic.
“Are you going or not?” Darwyn was not one for patience.
“If you’re so eager, why don’t you go?” I snapped back.
Darwyn shook his wolf-head. “Oh, no, not me.”
I grinned. “That’s because you’re scared.”
Darwyn’s muffled voice grew louder. He stood beside me and puffed out his chest. “I am not! I’ve been in the commune.”
I poked toward his chest with Elgar, my trusty elf-blade. “Liar! You have not.”
Darwyn jumped back, evading my blow. “I have too! My uncle lives there!” He swatted his hand at Elgar. “Get that stick away from me.”
“It’s not a stick!” Darwyn never believed me when I said that Elgar was the blade of a warrior. It just happened to resemble a tree branch.
Jurij’s quiet voice entered the fray. “Your uncle lives there? That’s awful.” I was afraid he might cry and the tears would get caught up in the black material that covered his eyes. I didn’t want him to drown behind the wooden kitty face. He’d vanish into thin air like everyone else did when they died, and then we’d be staring down at Jurij’s clothes and the little kitten mask on the ground, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from giggling. Some death for a warrior.
Darwyn shrugged and ran a hand over his elbow. “He moved in there before I was born. I think a weaver lady was his goddess. It’s not so strange. Didn’t your aunt send her man there, Jurij?”
Jurij was sniffling. Sniffling. He tried to rub at his nose, but every time he moved the back of his hand up to his face, it just clunked against the button that represented the kitten’s nose.
I sighed and patted Jurij on the back. “A queen’s retainer must never cry, Jurij.”
Darwyn laughed. “Are you still playing that? You’re no queen, Noll!”
I stopped patting Jurij and balled my hands into fists. “Be quiet, Darwyn! You used to play it, too!”
Darwyn put two fingers over his wolf-mask mouth, a gesture we had long ago decided would stand for the boys sticking out their tongues. Although Darwyn was the only one who ever did it as of late. “Like I’d want to do what some girl tells me! Girls aren’t even blessed by love!”
“Of course they are!” It was my turn to put the two fingers over my mouth. I had a tongue, but a traitorous retainer like Darwyn wasn’t worthy of the effort it took to stick it out. “Just wait until you find your goddess, and then we’ll see! If she turns out to be me, I’ll make sure you rot away in the commune with the rest of the unloved men.”
Darwyn lunged forward and tackled me. My head dragged against the bush before it hit the ground, but it still hurt; I could feel the swelling underneath the tangled knots in my hair. Elgar snapped as I tried to get a grip on my attacker. I kicked and shoved him, and for a moment, I won the upper hand and rolled on top of him, almost punching him in the face. Remembering the mask, I settled for giving him a good smack in the side, but then he kicked upward and caught me in the chest, sending me backward.
“Stop!” pleaded Jurij. He was standing between us now, the little timid kitten watching first one friend and then the other, like we were a dangling string in motion.
“Stay out of this!” Darwyn jumped to his feet and pointed at me. “She thinks she’s so high and mighty, and she’s not even someone’s goddess yet!”
“I’m only twelve, idiot! How many goddesses are younger than thirteen?” A few, but not many. I scrambled to my feet and sent my tongue out at him. It felt good knowing he couldn’t do the same to me, after all. My head ached. I didn’t want him to see the tears forming in my eyes, though, so I ground my teeth once I drew my tongue inward.
“Yeah, well, it’ll be horrible for whoever finds the goddess in you!” Darwyn made to lunge at me again, but this time Jurij shoved both his hands at Darwyn’s chest to stop him.
“Just stop,” commanded Jurij. Finally. That was a good retainer.
My eyes wandered to the old crone’s cottage. No sign of her. How could she fail to hear the epic struggle outside her door? Maybe she wasn’t real. Maybe just seeing her was worth twenty points after all.
“Get out of my way, you baby!” shouted Darwyn. “So what happens if I pull off your mask when your queen is looking, huh? Will you die?”
His greedy fingers reached toward Jurij’s wooden animal face. Even from behind, I could see the mask tip dangerously to one side, the strap holding it tightly against Jurij’s dark curls shifting. The strap broke free, flying up over his head.
My mouth opened to scream. My hands reached up to cover my eyes. My eyelids strained to close, but it felt as if the moment had slowed and I could never save him in time. Such simple things. Close your eyes. Cover your eyes. Scream.
A dark, dirty shawl went flying onto the bush that we had ruined during our fight.
I came back to life. My head and Darwyn’s wolf mask spun toward the source of the sound. As my head turned, I saw—even though I knew better than to look—Jurij crumple to the ground, clinging both arms across his face desperately because his life depended on it.
“Your eyes better be closed, girl!” The old crone bellowed. Her own eyes were squeezed together.
I jumped and shut my eyes tightly.
“Hold that shawl tightly over your face, boy, until you can wear your mask properly!” screamed the old crone. “Off with you both, boys! Now! Off with you!”
I heard Jurij and Darwyn scrambling, the rustle of the bush and the stomps of their boots as they fled, panting. I thought I heard a scream—not from Jurij, but from Darwyn. He was the real fraidycat. An old crone was no match for the elf queen’s retainers. But the queen herself was far braver. So I told myself over and over in my head.
When the last of their footsteps faded away, and I was sure that Jurij was safe from my stare, I looked.
Eyes. Huge, bulbous, dark brown eyes. Staring directly into mine.
The crone’s face was so close I could smell the shriveled decay from her mouth. She grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me. “What were you thinking? You held that boy’s life in your hands! Yet you stood there like a fool, just starin’ as his mask came off.”
My heart beat faster, and I gasped for more air, but I wanted to avoid inhaling her stench. “I’m sorry, Ingrith,” I mumbled. I thought if I used her real name, if I let her lecture me like all the other adults, it would help me break free from her grasp. I twisted and pulled, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch her. I had this notion that if I touched her, my fingers would decay.
“Sorry is just a word. Sorry changes nothing.”
“Let me go.” I could still feel her dirty nails on my skin.
“You watch yourself, girl.”
“Let me go!”
The crone’s lips grew tight and puckered. Her fingers relaxed ever so slightly. “You children don’t realize. The lord is watching. Always watching—”
I knew what she was going to say, the words so familiar to me that I knew them as well as if they were my own. “And he will not abide villagers who forget the first goddess’s teachings.” The sentence seemed to loosen the crone’s fingers. She opened her mouth to speak, but I broke free and ran.
My eyes fell to the grass below my feet as I cut across the fields to get away from the monster. On the borders of the eastern woods was a lone cottage, home of Gideon the woodcarver, a warm and comfortable place so much fuller of life than the shack I left behind me. When I was near the woods, I could look up freely since the trees blocked the eastern mountains from view. But until I got closer …
“Noll! Wait up!”
My eyes snapped upward on instinct. I saw the upper boughs of the trees and almost screamed, my gaze falling back to the grass beneath my feet. I stopped running and let the gentle rustlings of footsteps behind me catch up.
“Jurij, please.” I sighed and turned around to face him, my eyes still on the grass and the pair of small dark boots that covered his feet. Somehow he managed to step delicately through the grass, not disturbing a single one of the lilies that covered the hilltops. “Don’t scare me like that. I almost looked at the castle.”
The toe of Jurij’s boot dug a little into the dirt. “Oh. Sorry.”
“Is your mask on?”
The boot stopped moving, and the tip of a black shawl dropped into my view. “Oh. Yeah.”
I shook my head and raised my eyes. There was no need to fear looking up to the west. In the distance, the mountains that encircled our village soared far beyond the western fields of crops. I liked the mountains. From the north, the south, and the west, they embraced our village with their jagged peaks. In the south, they watched over our fields of livestock. In the north, they towered above a quarry for copper and stone. And in the east, they led home and to the woods. But no girl or woman could ever look up when facing the east. Like the faces of men and boys before their Returnings, just a glance at the castle that lay beyond the woods against the eastern mountains spelled doom. The earth would shake and threaten to consume whoever broke the commandment not to look.
It made walking home a bit of a pain, to say the least.
“Tell me something important like that before you sneak up on me.”
Jurij’s kitten mask was once again tight against his face, if askew. The strap was a bit tangled in his dark curls and the pointed tip of one of his ears. “Right. Sorry.”
He held out the broken pieces of Elgar wrapped in the dirty black shawl. He seemed very retainer-like. I liked that. “I went to give this back to the—the lady. She wasn’t there, but you left Elgar.”
I snatched the pieces from Jurij’s hands. “You went back to the shack? What were you going to say? ‘Sorry we were spying on you pretending you were a monster, thanks for the dirty old rag?’”
“No.” Jurij crumpled up the shawl and tucked it under his belt. A long trail of black cloth tumbled out immediately, making Jurij look like he had on half a skirt.
I laughed. “Where’s Darwyn?”
Of course. I found out later that Darwyn had whined straight to his mother that “nasty old Noll” almost knocked his mask off. It was a great way to get noticed when you had countless brothers and a smitten mother and father standing between you and any form of attention. But it didn’t have the intended effect on me. I was used to lectures, and besides, there was something more important bothering me by then.
I picked up my feet to carry me back home.
Jurij skipped forward to join me. One of his boots stumbled as we left the grasses behind and hit the dirt path. “What happened with you and the crone?”
I gripped the pieces of Elgar tighter in my fist. “Nothing.” I stopped, relieved that we’d finally gotten close enough to the woods that I could face forward. I put an arm on Jurij’s shoulder to stop him. “But I touched her.” Or she touched me. “That means I win forever.”
The kitten face cocked a little sideways. “You always win.”
“Of course. I’m the queen.” I tucked the broken pieces of Elgar into my apron sash. Elgar was more of a title, bestowed on an endless number of worthy sticks, but in those days I wouldn’t have admitted that to Jurij. “Come on. I’ll give you a head start. Race you to the cavern!”
“The cavern? But it’s—”
“Too late! Your head start’s over!” I kicked my feet up and ran as if that was all my legs knew how to do. The cool breeze slapping across my face felt lovely as it flew inside my nostrils and mouth. I rushed past my home, not bothering to look inside the open door.
“Stop! Stop! Noll, you stop this instant!”
The words were something that could easily come out of a mother’s mouth, but Mother had a little more patience than that. And her voice didn’t sound like a fragile little bird chirping at the sun’s rising. “Noll!”
I was just an arm’s length from the start of the trees, but I stopped, clutching the sharp pain that kicked me in the side.
“Oh dear!” Elfriede walked out of our house, the needle and thread she was no doubt using to embroider some useless pattern on one of the aprons still pinched between two fingers. My sister was a little less than a year older than me, but to my parents’ delight (and disappointment with me), she was a hundred times more responsible.
“Boy, your mask!” Elfriede never did learn any of my friends’ names. Not that I could tell her Roslyn from her Marden, either. One giggling, delicate bird was much like another.
She walked up to Jurij, who had just caught up behind me. She covered her eyes with her needle-less hand, but I could see her peeking between her fingers. I didn’t think that would actually protect him if the situation were as dire as she seemed to think.
“It’s crooked.” Elfriede’s voice was hoarse, almost trembling. I rolled my eyes.
Jurij patted his head with both hands until he found the bit of the strap stuck on one of his ears. He pulled it down and twisted the mask until it lined up evenly.
I could hear Elfriede’s sigh of relief from where I was standing. She let her fingers fall from her face. “Thank the goddess.” She considered Jurij for a moment. “There’s a little tear in your strap.”
Without asking, she closed the distance between them and began sewing the small tear even as the mask sat on his head. From how tall she stood above him, she might have been ten years older instead of only two.
I walked back toward them, letting my hands fall. “Don’t you think that’s a little stupid? What if the mask slips while you’re doing that?”
Elfriede’s cheeks darkened and she yanked the needle up, pulling her instrument free of the thread and tucking the extra bit into the mask strap. She stood back and glared at me. “Don’t you talk to me about being stupid, Noll. All that running isn’t safe when you’re with boys. Look how his mask was moving.”
His mask had moved for even more dangerous reasons than a little run, but I knew better than to tell tattletale Elfriede that. “How would you know what’s safe when you’re with boys? You’re already thirteen, and no one has found the goddess in you!” Darwyn’s taunt was worth reusing, especially since I knew my sister would be more upset about it than I ever was.
Elfriede bit her lip. “Go ahead and kill your friends, then, for all I care!” The bird wasn’t so beautiful and fragile where I was concerned.
She retreated into the house and slammed the door behind her. I wrapped my hand around Jurij’s arm, pulling him eastward. “Come on. Let’s go. There’re bound to be more monsters in the cavern.”
Jurij didn’t give beneath my pull. He wouldn’t move.
I knew right then, somewhere in my mind, what had happened. But I was twelve. And Jurij was my last real friend. I knew he’d leave me one day like the others, but on some level, I didn’t really believe it yet.
Jurij stood stock still, even as I wrenched my arm harder and harder to get him to move.
“Oh for—Jurij!” I yelled, dropping my hands from his arm in frustration. “Ugh. I wish I was your goddess just so I could get you to obey me. Even if that means I’d have to put up with all that—yuck—smooching.” I shivered at the thought.
At last Jurij moved, if only to lift his other arm, to run his fingers across the strap that Elfriede had mended. She was gone from my sight, but Jurij would never see another.
It struck them all. Sometime around Jurij’s age, the boys’ voices cracked, shifting from high to deep and back again in a matter of a few words. They went from little wooden-faced animals always shorter than you to young men on their way to towering over you. And one day, at one moment, at some age, earlier for some and later for others, they looked at a girl they’d probably seen thousands of times before and simply ceased to be. At least, they weren’t who I knew them to be ever again.
And as with so many of my friends before Jurij, in that moment all other girls ceased to matter. I was nothing to him now, an afterthought, a shadow, a memory.
Not him.
My dearest, my most special friend of all, now doomed to live or die by the choice of the fragile little bird who’d stopped to mend his strap.

Amy McNulty
Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently spends her days alternatively writing on business and marketing topics and primarily crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cover reveal - Jennifer Murgia's Castle of Sighs #ya #fantasy @JenniferMurgia @covercontessa @SpencerHillP


Some secrets cannot be kept—in life or in death.
Months have passed since Rune has heard a single whisper from her long-dead mother, the great witch of Bavaria. But the absence of one evil has only made room for another.
After rightfully inheriting her ancestral home, Pyrmont Castle, Rune settles into a quiet life taking care of two orphans left in the wake of the terrible witch hunt that claimed dozens of lives in the nearby village. As the days grow colder, the castle’s secrets beckon and Rune finds herself roaming where no one has set foot in a long time. In the bowels of the fortress is a locked room full of memories that hang like cobwebs—shelves stacked with jars, strange specimens, putrid liquids, and scrolls of spells. Rune is undeniably drawn to what she finds there, and she begins to dabble in the possibilities of magic, hoping to find a cure for the strangeness overwhelming the castle.
As secrets unspool, the delicate thread of Rune’s world is threatened when she realizes the key may lie in the dark forest she once called home and the boy she thought she knew.

Links: Goodreads

Author bio:
Jennifer Murgia has long loved the dark and speculative -- and it's from these dark places that she weaves fantastical stories, often hoping to find truth in them. Her Young Adult novels include the  Historical Fantasy FOREST OF WHISPERS (9/9/14 -- Spencer Hill Press), BETWEEN THESE LINES, ANGEL STAR, LEMNISCATE & THE BLISS. She is the co-founder and coordinator of YA FEST and currently resides in Pennsylvania and Marketing Director for Leap Books, LLC.
Literary Representation:
Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary Agency ~

Connect with Jennifer:

Jennifer is available for book signings, book fairs, interviews, library and school visits. Please contact
her directly for scheduling at:  

Publicity inquiries:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book release - Escucha Means Listen by Talia Aikens-Nunez #multicultural #weneeddiversebooks

From the mowing of the lawn to the splish-splashing of rain puddles, Talia Aikens-Nuñez’s bilingual picture book Escucha Means Listen introduces toddlers and babies to the sweet sounds around them.

Welcome to the blog tour for Escucha Means Listen by Talia Aidens-Nuñez.  

Follow the tour and read about the book, read reviews, and make sure to enter the gift card giveaway!!

About Escucha Means Listen:

Take a journey through the world—just listening. Escucha Means Listen helps children discover sounds around them in English and Spanish.

Book information:
Title: Escucha Means Listen
Author Name: Talia Aidens-Nuñez
ISBN-13: 978-1-61937-590-1
Genre: Fairy Tales, Multicultural, Family, Grade School, Animals

Read An Excerpt:

Buzz. Buzz. Qué oyes? (What do you hear?)

Las abejas (The bees) circling the flowers.

Woosh. Woosh. What do you hear?

El viento (The wind) is whistling by.

Shh. Shh. Qué oyes? (What do you hear?)

Las hojas (The leaves) are dancing on the trees.

Purchase Links:
Musa ($.99) Escucha Means Listen
Amazon ($2.99) Escucha Means Listen

About the Author:

Talia Aikens-Nunez wanted to be a meteorologist, a politician and a lawyer. It was raising her bilingual children that inspired Talia to write multicultural children’s books. Her family loves nature so much that she and her husband vowed that they will always try to live close to water, so now they live on a river in Connecticut.

Find Talia Online:

Amazon Author:


Twitter: @Talia_N

Link to Tour Schedule:

Tour Coordinated by:

~ Amber M. ~
Promotions Specialist and Media Contact at Musa Publishing
Owner of Sapphyria’s Book Promotions

Enter the Gift Card Giveaway:

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

4 Star #bookreview for Bev Elle's Fly Me to the Moon #romance

Ticketing agent Jessamy Taylor has been in a dating slump exacerbated by moving her sickly mother into her home. The truth is she's never gotten over the quirky Dr. Griffin Sanderson whose Obsessive Compulsive Disorder drives her crazy, despite his excellent bedside manner.

Fly Me To The Moon is a love song covered by many, the most memorable being Frank Sinatra. Griffin whistles this tune incessantly, but that’s just one of the many odd quirks Jessamy Taylor either loves or hates about him. Since their ill-fated love affair two years prior, she’s found no one to replace the good doctor.

A date with a self-absorbed jerk that goes awry for Jessamy somehow ends with her in Griffin’s arms. Will the changes he’s made be enough this time, or will secrets tear them apart?

My Review:
I don’t normally read romances, but I did enjoy the stories in the short story collection Frequent Flyers that I highlighted in October. With Valentine’s Day coming up, I agreed to review Fly Me to the Moon, now also a standalone novella by Bev Elle.

Jessamy is a ticketing agent still getting over a breakup with the gorgeous, but OCD-ridden doctor, Griffin Sanderson. Although she has her own OCD demons, she couldn’t handle adding his to the mix. Now he wants to try again. It’s a bit of a rocky road, but now that Griffin is taking medication for his disorder, maybe things will work out.

This is a fun story which keeps the reader rooting for the relationship the whole way. Character development is great, both for the main characters and friends and family members. I’d love to drool over Griffin’s butt too! The story also puts a spotlight on the difficulties people who suffer from OCD must go through each day. And best of all, there’s tons of fun references to movies and TV shows – including my favorite, The Big Bang Theory.

Although I would have loved to take my editor’s pen to a few typos, some excessive adverbs and telling language, the story is well written and a fun, fast read. I recommend with 4 stars.
Kyla rasped, “I-Is that Griffin petting a dog over there?”
Jessamy shielded her eyes with her hand and peered across the cul-de-sac. If she’d seen it first, she might have choked on her lemonade, too. Griffin Sanderson was petting the Fowlers’ dog.
“Oh my God, he is!”
“Don’t they have like a gazillion germs or something? And what happened to his glasses?”
“Actually, some would argue that dogs are cleaner than humans. And Griffin got contacts.”
“Finally. You know, Jess, he’s looking kind of good, today. You might want to tap that again since he’s had a makeover and all.”
Jessamy waved her off. “I couldn’t possibly.”
“Why not? The guy I see over there looks infinitely tappable.” Kyla set her drink on the table and folded her arms.
Jessamy sipped her lemonade. “He may look tappable today, but you didn’t have to experience what I did with him as his girlfriend for two years. I should’ve called it quits after our Christmas trip to the Poconos, but I had fallen for him, and like so many misinformed women in history before me, I thought I could change him.”
“You’d think you two would’ve been great together, twin OCD and all. And I thought you said the trip to the Poconos was perfect.” Kyla said, air-quoting the word perfect.
“Everything was perfect up until that trip. We had so much in common. We both loved science fiction. We were both G.R.R. Martin geeks who watched the Game of Thrones show together and nitpicked how the show differed from the books. And even though I had the books on my kindle, he gifted me the hardbacks as a three-month anniversary present.” Jessamy smiled at the memory.
“I remember. You two were enough to make regular folks gag.”
“And you and Carter don’t—with your copious PDA?”
Kyla laughed. “But at least we don’t get all aroused over an episode of The Big Bang Theory.”
“Carter likes that show.”
“Not more than he likes me, though.” Kyla actually twirled her hair.
“Is he coming today?”
“Yeah, after he does his Saturday morning nine holes with his boss. Ugh!”
“Good, we’re going to need all the people we can get to eat up all this food.” Jessamy eyed the tables balefully.
“Look!” Kyla said. “Griffin’s holding the Fowlers’ baby. Now doesn’t that make your ovaries want to explode?”
Jessamy turned her head slowly, knowing the sight would slay her. Griffin never held babies. She took it all in as if in slow motion. Mark was holding their toddler in place as Jenny was cleaning up the sticky Popsicle he was covered in, while Griffin was holding the four-month old. He cradled her a bit nervously at first, then he seemed to get his baby-holding legs under him and finally began to smile and talk to her.
Jessamy and Kyla could hear her baby giggle from where they stood. “Aww!” They said in tandem.
Bev Elle is the author of sweet and spicy, contemporary romance. She's a lover of books - those already written, and those she harbors in her very active imagination. Writing is a passion she's had for many years, but was unable to act upon. Until now. Bev Elle is the mother of three human children and two canines. She is also the lover of one husband. When Bev isn't writing in her spare time after work, she is thinking of doing so.
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