Friday, April 29, 2016

Cover reveal for Scepter of Fire by Vicki Weavil #ya #giveaway #fantasy

Today Vicki L. Weavil and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for SCEPTER OF FIRE, a companion novel in the CROWN OF ICE Series! Which releases October 18, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a message from the author.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” SCEPTER OF FIRE is a companion book to CROWN OF ICE, my retelling of “The Snow Queen.” It takes place a few years later, in the midst of an invasion by a power-mad foreign emperor, and includes most of the characters from CROWN OF ICE.

However the protagonist in SCEPTER OF FIRE is someone new—17yo Varna Lund, an ugly duckling among swans, who’s certain her destiny lies in taking on the mantle of village healer after the death of her aged mentor. But when a young soldier enlists her aid to care for his injured friend, Varna and her sister, Gerda, are catapulted into the war that has engulfed their country.
Forced to flee enemy troops with her sister and the two soldiers, Varna must also evade her mentor, Sten Rask—revealed to be a powerful mage seeking the enchanted mirror hidden by a former Snow Queen.

To protect the mirror, and their country, Varna, Gerda, and the soldiers join forces with a sorceress, an enchanted reindeer, a brilliant scholar, and a young woman traveling with a wolf. But Varna faces a terrible temptation. Promised beauty and power by the devilishly handsome Rask, she must choose—achieve her own desires, or protect a society that has never embraced her.

The Cover:

I love how this cover matches the cover of CROWN OF ICE, and yet is different enough to set the books apart. Both feature striking young women, but whereas CROWN is glazed with icy blue tones, SCEPTER is saturated with reds, golds and other fiery hues. If you look closely, you can even see flames reflected in the girl’s eyes—very appropriate for a book that deals with sorcerers who wield fire. Although the cover model is not an “ugly duckling,” she does accurately reflect the protagonist during one portion of the book, which I will not reveal at this point due to “spoilers”! 

Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Pub. Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD |Goodreads

Sharp as pine needles, and twice as bitter, seventeen-year-old Varna Lund’s determined to become a healer. At least patients don’t care about her looks, unlike the young men who spurn
her for eighteen-year-old Gerda or even her younger sisters. An ugly duckling among swans,
Varna hopes to bury her passionate nature in useful work.

Her healing skills are put to the test when Varna encounters Erik Stahl, a young soldier who’s
deserted the battlefield to carry his injured friend, Anders Nygaard, to safety. Varna, enlisting the
aid of Gerda, cares for Anders in secret.

But a brutal betrayal catapults the four young people into life on the run, where Varna discovers
her old mentor is actually a powerful wizard. Seeking the enchanted mirror hidden by a former
Snow Queen, the wizard hopes to use Gerda as a pawn in his plan to aid the invading emperor.

Other forces ally against the wizard, including an auburn-haired sorceress, an enchanted
reindeer, a brilliant scholar, and a young woman traveling with a wolf. Along with the soldiers
and Gerda, they vow to prevent the mirror from falling into enemy hands. But tempted with promises of beauty and power from her now devilishly handsome mentor, Varna must choose
between her own desires and the good of a society that’s never embraced her.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”,
SCEPTER OF FIRE is a companion book to CROWN OF ICE.

Vicki L. Weavil was raised in a farming community in Virginia, where her life was shaped by a wonderful family, the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and an obsession with reading. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Virginia, a Masters in Library Science from Indiana University, and a Masters in Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After working as a librarian at the NY Public Library at Lincoln Center, and the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) in NYC, she is currently the Director for Library Services at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Vicki loves good writing in any genre, and has been known to read seven books in as many days. She enjoys travel, gardening, and the arts. Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats. A member of SCBWI, Vicki is represented by Fran Black at Literary Counsel, NY, NY.

Where you can find Vicki: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr

1 winner will receive an eBook of CROWN OF ICE & an eGalley of SCEPTER OF FIRE (when available), International.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Cover and chapter reveal for un/Fair by Steven Harper #MG #giveaway

Today Steven Harper and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for un/FAIR which releases September 6, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a quick introduction from the author.

When the doctor said my son Aran was autistic, my world turned upside-down.  I spent years playing special games with him to help him understand the world better.  But in the process, I learned to understand him.  While I struggled to pull him into our world, he quietly pulled me into his.  This book came out of that.

People always ask authors--including me--why I got a certain scene on the cover or why I didn't put a particular character on the front.  The truth is, authors almost never draw the book covers.  We get a picture of it by email, and it's always a surprise, like getting an early birthday present.  Sometimes the present is a wool sweater you want to wad into a ball and stuff under the bed.  Sometimes the present is a toy you didn't know you wanted until you got it.  The cover for un/FAIR was the latter.  Ryan looks very much like I imagined him in my head, and the salamanders creeping down the top make it clear this isn't a happy fairy book.  The artist even snuck in a reference to the Fibonacci sequence!  I loved getting this one.

On to the reveal! 

 Title: un/FAIR
Author: Steven Harper
Pub. Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD | Goodreads

It's difficult enough to live in the neighborhood "freakazoid" house.  It's even more difficult when you're autistic and neither your family nor best friend really understands you.  So when Ryan November wakes up on his eleventh birthday with the unexpected ability to see the future, he braces himself for trouble.  But even his newfound power doesn't anticipate that the fair folk--undines, salamanders, gnomes, and sylphs--want him dead, dead, dead.  Ryan races to defend himself and his family against unrelenting danger from the fairy realm so he can uncover the truth about his family history--and himself.  Except as Ryan's power grows, the more enticing the fairy realm becomes, forcing him to choose between order and chaos, power and family.  And for an autistic boy, such choices are never cut and dry.





Ryan November woke up on his eleventh birthday and knew he’d be able to see the future by breakfast. He rolled over. His clock said 6:56, so he couldn’t get up for four more minutes. That was all right. He didn’t mind waiting.

Not until he saw the string.

The string was made of liquid silver and lay piled in the exact center of a perfect square of May sunshine on his bedroom floor. It gleamed where the sunlight struck it. Ryan stared. He had never seen it before. The messy string looked out of place in the perfectly neat room. In Ryan’s room, every piece of clothing hung in the closet or lay folded in a dresser drawer. Every book sat in alphabetical order on the shelf. Every toy and video game stood arranged in rows more orderly than troops of soldiers. The squiggle of silver string on the floor made Ryan’s head itch on the inside, where he couldn’t scratch. He wanted to pick the string up and put it away.

The clock stopped him. The little red numbers read 6:57 now — three more minutes to go, even though he wanted to examine the string very badly.

Maybe he could find a way around the problem. Automatically, Ryan ran a flowchart in his mind. If he had written it down, it would have looked like this:

[See Figure 1.]

The chart put him at “Stay in bed,” so he lay there, trying not to scratch his head or squirm with suspense, until at last the numbers flicked to 8:00. Ryan pushed the blankets aside and hurried over to pick up the string, still squiggled across the floor. The moment he touched it, the string moved on its own. It jumped into his hand like a little snake. He felt a cold, tingly sensation, and the string was gone. Instead, there was a perfect circle of raised skin around the palm of his left hand.

“Wow,” Ryan said.

Ryan liked circles. He liked their symmetry, the way you couldn’t tell where they started or ended, the way every part was like every other part. He traced the circle with his finger and smiled. He could have a circle with him wherever he went. Then, because Saturday was a brown day, he put on brown cargo pants, a brown shirt, and brown socks before pulling on his shoes and heading for the stairs. Ryan had red-blond hair that he tried to keep combed but always got away from him, a thin sprinkling of freckles that thickened in the summer, and somber eyes that his best friend Alison always described as “blue pools of inexactitude,” which bugged Ryan because he didn’t know what it meant. At the last second, Ryan remembered to grab his cell phone from his dresser. The circle had almost made him forget. There were already two text messages on the screen:

Happy Shared B-Day, R!!


Happy day kiddo!

He texted back, his thumbs jumping across the keypad like precise, tiny frogs:

Happy Shared Birthday to you, too, Alison!

and Thanks, Mom.

Ryan never felt quite right abbreviating, so he didn’t. Then he traced the circle on his hand one more time and tromped downstairs.

There were fourteen wooden steps leading down to the kitchen. Each one had nine wooden pegs pounded in a straight line across the front edge, and Ryan automatically counted them all at a glance. 126 pegs, just like yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. He liked the number 126. The digits added up to nine, which was also the number of pegs in each step. The number 126 was a good number to start the day with. He jumped over step number twelve. Ryan didn’t like the number twelve. It was divisible by too many other numbers — itself, six, four, three, two, and one. That was half the numbers between one and twelve. Ryan always felt like twelve would keep dividing itself until it vanished entirely, and he didn’t want to step on a stair that might disappear.

Ryan rounded the turn in the staircase and emerged in the kitchen. It was big and airy, and right now it smelled like butter and hot batter. Aunt Zara was on breakfast duty this morning, and today she had settled on pancakes, Ryan’s favorite. Ryan quietly took his usual place on the bench that ran down the long wooden table. Everything in the Cottage was wood — walls, floor, cupboards, ceiling. Wood hinges held the doors on, and wood latches held them shut. Raw exposed beams ran up to support the roof, and the shingles were made of flat wood. The entire house was held together with wooden pegs. Ryan’s dad boasted that not one scrap of steel held the house together. Instead, the builders had used copper and plastic and ceramic. Ryan liked this. Metals like iron and steel felt heavy and harsh and made his stomach queasy.

“My, my. Happy birthday, Ryan,” Aunt Zara said, and put a plate of pancakes in front of him. Ryan tensed a little. Food you could count had to come in even numbers. Mom always remembered this when she cooked, but Aunt Zara sometimes forgot, and it could turn a simple meal into a disaster. Quickly he counted. Two pancakes, two pieces of sausage. Ryan sighed with relief. It would be bad to get the wrong number of pancakes on his birthday.

Ryan glanced up at Aunt Zara. She favored blue blouses and long skirts that flowed together like waterfalls. She wore her blond hair loose around her shoulders except for two blue barrettes that kept her bangs out of her face. She had a long nose and a wide mouth. At the moment, she was smiling with her teeth showing. Her voice had an upbeat tone to it, and she moved like her body was relaxed. Ryan added these things up and decided Aunt Zara was happy. The appropriate response, Ryan had learned, was a smile. So he smiled. Then he remembered that she had just given him something — his breakfast. It meant he had to say something.

“Thank you,” he said slowly, and tensed slightly, wondering if he had gotten it wrong. It seemed like he got it wrong a lot.

“You’re welcome.” Aunt Zara tried to pat his shoulder, but Ryan ducked away. “Sorry, sweetie. I forget.”

Ryan didn’t like it when people touched him. It felt beyond weird to feel their skin sliding over his in ways he couldn’t control. And a hug felt like being suffocated in wet blankets. When he was little, he had screamed and hit. Now he ducked and dodged.

Aunt Zara headed back for the stove. Ryan was turning to his pancakes, silver fork poised, when his world flickered for a second. Everything grew brighter, as if someone had doubled the sunlight, and he heard a knock. A dark-haired girl poked her head through the screen door and said, “Is he still eating breakfast?” and her voice had a strange, ghostly quality to it. Then the extra light vanished and everything snapped back to normal. Ryan realized no time had passed at all.

A knock came, and a dark-haired girl poked her head through the screen door. “Is he still eating breakfast?” Ryan stopped eating to stare. He had just seen this happen twice.

“Come in, Alison,” Aunt Zara sang out. “You’re just in time for pancakes.”

Alison Ferrier stalked through the door and angled across the kitchen to the table, her skinny legs and sharp elbows flopping carelessly in all directions. Even her ponytail looked sharp. Ryan watched her, caught in an awful fascination. One day she was going to puncture something; he was sure of it. Alison was Ryan’s best — his only — friend, and she lived in a tiny trailer in the woods with three sisters and two brothers and one mother (making seven people total, and seven was a prime number). Like him, she was turning eleven today (another prime number, and if you added one and one, you got two). It took two people to be friends, and two was the only even prime number. Ryan liked that.

Alison folded herself onto the bench beside him. “Two pancakes, two sausages,” she said, looking at his plate. “Will it bug you if I have three and three?”

“No,” Ryan said. “That plate over there” — he pointed — “has one pancake on it, so that makes everything Fibonacci.” He said the word the Italian way: feeb-oh-NAH-chee.


“You know. Zero and one make one, then one and one make two, two and one make three.”

“Oh, right. Cool.”

“My, my. Doesn’t your family feed you?” Aunt Zara asked, setting a plate down in front of her.

“Nope,” Alison said, her mouth already full, and Ryan couldn’t tell if this was a lie or not. He thought about asking, then decided not to and ate more pancakes instead.

“Today is our birthday,” Ryan said. “May first.”

“Yep.” Alison grinned, showing a big mouthful of smooshed-up Fibonacci pancake. Ryan laughed. “Where’s everyone else?”

“I don’t know,” Ryan said.

“Your dad went down to the lake for some early fishing,” Aunt Zara said from the stove. “Aunt Ysabeth and your mother are wrapping birthday presents. So stay out of your mother’s bedroom, Ryan, if you don’t mind.”

There was another flick. The world brightened again, and this time Aunt Zara dropped a spatula. It clattered on the stove. Alison spilled her milk, creating a chaotic mess that rushed over the table and dripped into Ryan’s lap.

The world flicked back to normal. Aunt Zara dropped her spatula. It clattered on the stove. Alison reached for her milk glass. Ryan flinched at the upcoming mess. Chaos was the worst. It hurt his stomach and made his head feel like it was going to explode. So he reached out with his own hand and slapped hers down, pinning it to the table.

Steven Harper/Piziks is the author of multiple fantasy and science fiction novels written for adults, notably the Clockwork Empire and Silent Empire series for Roc as Steven Harper and movie novelizations and tie ins for Pocket Books as Steven Piziks (IDENTITY, THE EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING, GHOST WHISPERER: THE PLAUGE ROOM).  He's also the father of an autistic son.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eGalley of un/FAIR. International.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Cover reveal of Caroline Patti's Into the Light #giveaway

Today Caroline T. Patti and Month9Books are revealing the cover for INTO THE LIGHT, book 2 in the INTO THE DARK Series! Which releases July 26, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a message from the author.

Into the Light is the continuation of Mercy's journey with Nathaniel's backstory mixed in. Readers will learn the history of breaching while Mercy engages in the fight of her life. What draws me to the cover are the colors. The palette is appealing and I love how it all swirls together because it perfectly captures how Mercy's two lives, one as a human and one as a Breacher, are intertwined.

On to the reveal! 

Author: Caroline T. Patti
Pub. Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD |Goodreads

Mercy’s family is back together and the threat of danger appears to have passed. But any relief she feels is short lived as she is ripped from her body and thrown in jail. Gage and Nathaniel’s plans to break Mercy out won’t exactly be easy. Stuffed full of a chemical binding agent, Mercy is trapped inside the body of a convict without the ability to breach and set herself free. Unfortunately for Mercy, being trapped in jail becomes the least of her problems when she meets her evil twin, Justice.

Caroline T Patti is the author of The World Spins Madly On and Too Late To Apologize. When she’s not writing, she’s a school librarian, mother of two, wife, avid reader and Green Bay Packer fan. You can chat with her on Twitter: @carepatti or find her onFacebook.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eBook of INTO THE LIGHT & an eGalley of INTO THE DARK. International.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Chapter reveal - Hair in all the Wrong Places by Andres Buckley #ya #paranormal #giveaway

LOVE, LOVE the teaser for this book! Check out the first chapter!

Today Andrew Buckley and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for HAIR IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES! Which releases June 7, 2016! Check out the awesome cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a message from the author.

Hair in All the Wrong Places is the result of a misspent childhood watching late night movies about werewolves and other creatures that go bump in the night. The story follows Colin Strauss; an outsider in the small town of Elkwood who, in addition to dealing with the struggles of puberty, also finds himself being turned into a werewolf. As if dealing with homework, bullies, and an unrealistic crush on the hot goth girl wasn’t enough! I love this cover because it perfectly captures Colin’s character and his discovery that he might indeed be growing hair in all the wrong places.

Author: Andrew Buckley
Pub. Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook

What has he done? 

What's happening to him? 
And what on Earth is that smell?

For Colin Strauss, puberty stinks. Blackouts, hallucinations, and lapses in memory are the perils of growing up werewolf.

Worse than that, Colin worries he might have had something to do with the recent attacks on townspeople. He may have eaten a person. It doesn’t matter that it’s someone he doesn’t particularly like. What kind of boy goes around eating people?

Foolishly, all Colin can think about is how Becca Emerson finally kissed him for the first time. Yep. Hormones are afoot. Or at hand. Yikes.

But girls will have to wait. Collin better get himself under control before someone else ends up hurt . . . or worse.


First, a word of warning …

I don’t want to get too scientific here, but there are a few things you should know before you sink your teeth into this book. I’ve tried to keep it simple enough that anyone twelve and up could read and understand it. Werewolves were everywhere in Europe in the late sixteenth century. Go to a party, there would be a werewolf. Go to work, you’re probably working next to a werewolf. Bump into a stranger on the street—werewolf!

They were slowly killed off in Europe as the true nature of a werewolf is a terribly hard thing to control. Eventually you get that urge to eat someone. And let’s face it; eating people is just rude.

Now here’s the scary bit, the bit that concerns you. While werewolves ceased to be a part of the world, they didn’t necessarily leave it. On the contrary, humans evolved to repress the werewolf gene out of the fear they would be decapitated, shot with a silver bullet, burned alive, or a terrifying combination of all three. What this means is that every single human being is still carrying the werewolf gene. You, right now, sitting right where you are, has the werewolf gene swimming around somewhere inside of you.

Genes are strings of DNA. DNA makes you who you are. You have that werewolf gene inside you. It’s just not active. Not yet.

To fully activate that werewolf gene, you’d have to be bitten by another werewolf, someone who turns into a giant wolf-like creature when there’s a full moon. So fear not! As long as no one has bitten you recently, you’re likely okay.

So why this warning? You’re probably thinking there’s no chance I’ll turn into a werewolf because I haven’t been bitten. That is absolutely true. However, while it’s impossible to turn into a werewolf unless you’re bitten, it is very possible to awaken that sleeping werewolf gene by learning too much about them. This book will teach you a lot about those hairy creatures of the night, so I want you to be extra careful while reading it.

If you notice any of the following things, stop reading immediately:

- You find yourself looking at other humans and thinking lunch.

- You start to notice smells you never smelled before.

- You growl at people instead of talking to them.

- Your nails begin to grow at an alarming rate.

- You scratch your head in public using your leg.

- You greet your friends at the bus stop by sniffing their butts.

- You begin to grow hair in all the wrong places.

You’ve been warned.

Chapter One Loser

Colin looked directly into the reflection staring back at him from the bathroom mirror and with absolute conviction said, “You are a loser.”

His reflection agreed.

Much as he had done almost every day for the last year, Colin evaluated his body. He was tall for a thirteen year old, with lanky limbs and broad pointy shoulders that bordered on skeletal. His face looked to be at odds with the rest of his body with its gaunt features and perpetually dark circles beneath the eyes. Pale skin stood in stark opposition to his unruly dark and stringy hair. Trying to sharpen his vision, he squinted before fumbling with his glasses.

His reflection didn’t look any better with them on.

After drying off, Colin got dressed and headed downstairs.

“Why are you dressed like that?” snapped his grandmother from her usual place in front of the TV. She hadn’t even looked at him yet, not that it mattered. Colin didn’t know what was more disturbing: that despite his grandmother being completely blind, she still watched TV religiously and commented on his clothes every day, or that he still felt the need to defend his choice of clothing to her. He was wearing jeans and an oversized hoody.

“It’s school today, Grandmother. I’m dressed for school,” he murmured.

“I know that!” she spat.

Nothing wrong with her hearing, though.

“Do you need anything?” he asked.

His grandmother sipped tea from a china cup. “I can take care of myself, you little ingrate. Get to school. You’re going to be late. If you don’t get an education, I’ll never get your lazy butt out of here.”

There was no point in arguing.

“And comb your hair before leaving the house. I don’t want people thinking I’m raising a hobo!” she said.

As Colin walked past the living room, his grandmother turned around in her chair and stared in his general direction with gray eyes damaged irreparably by cataracts. Blind eyes followed him as he walked to the door as quickly as he was able. It wasn’t until he was outside with the door firmly closed behind him that he allowed himself to breathe again.

Colin’s grandmother had always terrified him. He couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t blind or cruel. Colin’s parents lived in Seattle and over the past thirteen years had managed to have as little to do with their only son as humanly possible. They were young when his mother had discovered she was pregnant, and the following nine months had put a severe dent in their career plans. They were both up-and-coming lawyers at large firms, and as soon as they could be rid of Colin, they’d passed him off from one distant relative to another. Beyond that, they had no parental aspirations whatsoever.

Just over a year ago, after a short stint living with an uncle and aunt in Ohio, Colin had been sent to the small town of Elkwood to live with his only living close relative—his grandmother, Beatrice Strauss.

She hadn’t welcomed him, there were no hugs, no loving relationship, just a bitter old woman who spent most of her days parked in front of the TV and commenting on what a disappointment Colin was. He’d tried to help her, but she never wanted it. Despite being blind, she was more than able to get around and take care of herself. The only time she left the house was to attend the monthly town hall meetings to which he was never invited.

Colin was twenty feet from the bus stop when the school bus flew by. The mocking grins of students plastered the bus’s back window as it disappeared over the hill. Thankfully, the school was centrally located, which meant he’d be only slightly late.

On his way to school, Colin passed Mrs. Flipple, a kind old lady who walked her tiny, yappy dog, Jinx, each morning, rain or shine. As per usual, Jinx went straight for Colin, yapping in that high-pitched bark that only small, irritating dogs can make. Colin nodded politely to the old lady and held on to a secret hatred for that little dog.

The town was always overcast, and it rained almost every day of the year, which suited Colin’s depressed personality. He was thankful he didn’t live in a warmer climate as he’d have a much harder time being pale and awkward.

He’d survived the seventh grade at Elkwood School with above-average grades and a below-average number of friends. He was still considered a stranger here. His lack of personality, athleticism, and sense of humor didn’t help in the slightest. He wasn’t handsome enough to be popular or ugly enough to be ignored. He was just weird enough that students could be heard wondering aloud about him as he walked by. Now in the second week of his eighth grade year, Colin had one sort of friend, one unrealistic crush, and was the constant focus of several bullies who were determined to make his life miserable.


He reached Elkwood School just as the second bell rang to indicate the start of classes. On average, each grade at the school contained only twenty to thirty students, and because of a limited number of teachers, some classes taught more than one grade or subject.

As Colin ran up the steps to the main entrance, a dark, looming shape confronted him. He looked up into the face of Principal Hebert.

“You’re late again, Mr. Strauss.” His voice sounded like rumbling thunder.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Hebert. I missed the bus.”

“While I admire your use of a classical excuse, I’d prefer if you’d made an attempt at originality. Had you been more creative, I would not feel the need to place you in detention.”

“I’m really sor—”

“But as you’re still trying to apologize rather than give me something interesting to work with, I’ll be seeing you after school.”

Colin studied his feet carefully. “Yes, sir.”

“Run along.” Mr. Hebert gestured, pushing his hand ahead of him in a forward motion.

Colin made his way into the building and chanced a glance back to see Principal Hebert slowly shaking his head. Hebert was a former marine and rumored war hero who had retired to Elkwood almost ten years ago and although he had absolutely no qualifications had been appointed as the school principal. He was a massive hulk of a man with the sort of physique that suggested he could bend large metal things with his bare hands. Principal Hebert was a firm believer in detention and hard work and often liked to combine the two. Most detentions involved cleaning something. Colin made a mental note that his day was not off to a rip-roaring start.

Can’t get any worse.

Colin’s day quickly got worse.

He moved down an empty corridor, his sneakers squeaking loudly on the clean laminate flooring before entering the last classroom on the right.

The entire class turned to look at him. Some groaned, others laughed, a few smirked. Mrs. Davenport was the substitute teacher again today for Biology, and she greeted him with a warm smile.

“Good morning, Colin. Please take a seat. We were just getting started.”

Colin shuffled over to his seat next to Jeremy Rodson, the only person in Elkwood Colin could refer to as a friend. Everyone liked Jeremy even though he had never really joined one particular group. He played on the basketball team, so the jocks liked him. He was smart and maintained decent grades, so he was accepted by the smart kids. He was a good actor, so the creative types liked him. Colin had met him on his first day, and Jeremy had introduced him to the school. With so many commitments, Jeremy wasn’t always around, so Colin was still forced to maintain his unhappy, loner lifestyle.

“No Mr. Winter again?” Colin asked quietly.

“Apparently he’s sick,” said Jeremy and grinned. “Why are you so late?”

“Missed the bus.”

“Detention again?”


“Pay attention, boys,” said Mrs. Davenport with a smile. She was flipping through a PowerPoint presentation about pheromones.

As the only substitute teacher in the small Elkwood School, Mrs. Davenport was never short of work. She was also the kindest teacher that Colin had ever encountered. Her presence had a calming effect on the students that Mr. Winter could never manage.

Mr. Winter was a jerk. It wasn’t just Colin’s opinion but more of a collective agreement throughout the entire school, including the teachers. An uptight individual in his late thirties, he had a particular hatred for students, teaching, other teachers, and did I mention, students? A few years ago, Mr. Winter’s entire family—wife, parents, grandparents—had been killed in a car accident, and rumor had it that the insurance settlement had been sizeable. The rumor quickly proved true when Mr. Winter started travelling the better part of the school year.

“Pheromones indicate the availability of a female for breeding.” Mrs. Davenport was met with a round of sniggers. “Well, it’s true,” she said calmly. “All animals excrete pheromones, and they can indicate a variety of things. Anything from sex to marking territory, and it can even act as a defense mechanism.”

“Colin, you should get yourself some pheromones,” said Gareth Dugan from behind a textbook. His cronies laughed in honor of their leader’s display of wit.

Gareth was a bully with scraggly hair and a troubled complexion. Having been raised on a farm on the outskirts of Elkwood, Gareth had always struck Colin as being quite large for his age. Gareth didn’t like Colin, but then, the feeling was mutual.

“Why would I need pheromones?” shot back Colin. “Your smell already overpowers everything in the room.”

That probably wasn’t smart.’

The entire room agreed with him by sitting in absolute silence.

“That’s enough,” said Mrs. Davenport and cheerfully continued to describe other chemical factors that trigger social responses.

Colin dared a glance back to see Gareth glaring at him like a lion eyeing an injured antelope.

Gareth would inevitably seek revenge. Colin didn’t need a chemical factor to trigger a social response. All he had to do was open his mouth.

He tried his best to concentrate on his textbook, opened at random, but his thoughts remained fixed on how to save himself a beating Jeremy, who remained happily oblivious and completely free of any such dealings, leaned over enthusiastically.

“Did you take a look at Tori yet? Classic Tori outfit.” He grinned and subtly tilted his head backward. Having developed earlier than any other girl in school, Tori was the blond bombshell of Elkwood. Okay, she was more like a small nuclear explosion. To aid the raging hormones of teenage boys, she made a habit of wearing low-cut shirts complimented by extremely short skirts.

Mrs. Davenport turned to the whiteboard, and Colin glanced back three rows on the right to see Tori conveniently perched on the edge of her stool wearing a short powder-blue skirt and knee-high boots.

Colin’s eyes followed the curves of her body upward until he realized she was looking directly at him with a wry smile. He blushed instantly, but the awkward moment was suddenly interrupted as a textbook smashed into the side of his head, sending his glasses skittering across the desk and onto the floor.

The class laughed as Colin slipped from his stool and crawled around in front of the desk, searching for his glasses.

Mrs. Davenport whirled around, spied Colin on the floor, and asked, “What was that? Colin, what are you doing?”

“Sorry, Mrs. Davenport. Just looking for my glasses.”

The bell rang before any further interrogation could be made, and the class headed for the exit. Colin still couldn’t find his glasses.

Ironic. If I was wearing my glasses, I’d have no trouble finding them.

The side of his head was throbbing from where the textbook had struck him. No doubt Gareth or one of his minions to thank for that.

Colin stood and came face-to-face with Becca Emerson, his heartbeat doubling in speed.

“I found your glasses,” she said, handing them over.

“Uh, thanks, B-Becca.”

The rest of the class had cleared out. He put on his glasses, and she came into focus. Around his height with fiery red hair and pale skin, Becca displayed a standoffishness that made most people avoid her. She wasn’t developed like Tori, but neither were most cover models. Becca was a little like Jeremy in that she didn’t associate with any one group, but where he belonged to everyone, she tended to avoid all people. Her dad was some sort of government worker, which translated to “spy” to most middle schoolers.

Becca always wore dark makeup and dark clothes making her look paler than she actually was. She maintained high grades, avoided large groups, and Colin had loved her since he first saw her. It was, of course, a secret love because there was no way he could ever work up the nerve to do anything about it.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

Oh, that voice.

“Uh, yeah. Just another head wound. Probably won’t be the last.” He attempted a half-hearted grin.

They awkwardly stared at each other as Colin’s mind raced for something smart to say.

What do I say? You’re gorgeous? Want to share a slushee? Marry me?

“Okay, well have a good day,” said Becca, and left.

Smooth, Strauss. Very smooth.

Not the most suave guy at the best of times, Colin managed to be even less so around Becca. How would he ever be able to ask her out, let alone have an entire conversation with her if he didn’t even manage to open his mouth?


Having made it to last period unscathed, Colin was busy staring at Becca as the minutes on the clock clicked by while he planned his escape. He would have to move fast, get out of the school, and off the grounds. He’d skip the bus altogether—

“Wonder what Hebert’s going to have you do for detention today? My money is on cleaning the gym floor,” said Jeremy.


“I’m so screwed.”

“It’s not that bad, just cleaning.”

“Not that,” groaned Colin. “Gareth got detention in third period.”

“Well at least you’ll have company,” said Jeremy unhelpfully.

The bell rang, and Colin’s heart skipped a beat.

“Just once Jer, just once I’d love to be as oblivious as you are.”

“You got detention today, Colin?” asked Becca.

Colin almost dropped his books. He hadn’t noticed her approach. “Uh, yeah. I was late today.”

“I know. I was there.”


“I was wondering if I could talk to you. Alone. I can walk you to your detention.”

“I’ve got to run anyway. Catch ya later.” And with that, Jeremy bounced off.

“Y-yeah, of course,” said Colin. This was new territory. Other than the occasional passing pleasantry, Colin had never had a full conversation with Becca. They walked down the south corridor toward the detention room at the back of the school.

“I know it hasn’t been easy for you,” said Becca without looking at him. “It must be strange to move here. Most people are born here these days.”

“Uh, yeah, I’ve heard that. No one ever moves to Elkwood.”

“The people here aren’t open-minded. They only know what they know. And who they know. This probably isn’t making any sense.”

“No. I mean, yeah. Well. No, no it’s not.”

Becca turned to him. Her eyes were a deep hazel color, he’d never noticed before. She put a hand on his shoulder, and suddenly his insides were on fire. It was only a moment, but Colin felt as if she was looking through him.

Colin was way beyond his comfort zone and didn’t know what to do. Was he supposed to say something? Did she want him to kiss her? Or was he misunderstanding her? When it came to reading girls, he was dyslexic. On the flipside, Becca Emerson was actually touching him! With her actual hand! But then she took her hand away and for a moment looked sad.

“I’m sorry, Colin. I thought maybe … but no.” She sighed. “I don’t know if you’ll ever be able to see things clearly here.”

Colin had no idea what she was talking about; he was still reeling from her touch and for once actually managed to say something. “Maybe you could help me?”

Did I just say that?

What was he thinking?

“I have to go. My dad will wonder where I am. Good luck in detention.”

And just like that, she was gone.

The ominous voice of Principal Hebert floated down the hallway. “Nice of you to join us, Mr. Strauss. Are you going to just stand there, or do I need to drag you into detention?”

Colin entered the room, noting the other attendees. Two students, Micah and Nathaniel Cross, otherwise known as the goth twins. They were pale with black tattoos, long black coats, tight black clothing, and permanent frowns plastered across their faces. Gareth sat with his feet up, smirking at Colin.

“Listen up,” began Principal Hebert. “You’re here because you did something or you didn’t do something. All I care about is what you do from here on out. Gareth and Colin, you’re on garbage cleanup. Nathaniel and Micah, you’ll be sweeping the gym floor. One hour, people, and then I expect you back for dismissal.”

Colin’s heart sank in his chest, down his legs, and through the floor. He was a dead man.

Gareth clapped his hands with false cheer. “All right, Colin, buddy. Let’s get to it!”

They grabbed a couple of garbage bags and headed outside. Without saying a word, Gareth just started picking up garbage. Colin, braced for an attack and watched him for a moment before hesitantly bending to the task too. ’It was getting dark, and the rain made the job all the more miserable.

After half an hour, Gareth had vanished around the other side of the building, and Colin began to think that maybe he had been worrying needlessly.

As he rounded a corner toward the back of the school, he saw his mistake. Sam Bale and Kevin Hadfield were sitting on one of the permanent picnic benches. They both looked menacing, as usual. Backtracking quickly, Colin turned and bumped into Gareth who shoved him.

“Where you going, buddy?” He spat that last word.

Colin dropped his garbage bag and backed right into Sam and Kevin, who were standing behind him.

“We don’t have to do this,” pleaded Colin.

“You don’t belong here, Colin,” said Gareth.

“I know. You’ve told me before.”

Gareth stabbed a finger to his chest. “And that smart mouth of yours really doesn’t belong here.”

“It’s attached to the rest of my body; I really don’t have a choice in the matter.”

Gareth faked a punch, and Colin flinched.

“Please, just tell me what to do,” begged Colin, fighting to keep the tears at bay. He’d been here before; he knew what was coming.

Kevin and Sam grabbed one of Colin’s arms while Gareth stood inches from his face. His breath stank. “I want you to go away. That’s all. You don’t belong here. Sooner or later you’ll get the message.”

Gareth punched him hard twice in the stomach and then once in the kidneys. Colin dropped to the ground and curled into a ball. Sam and Kevin began kicking him and then stripped him down to his underwear until finally, they left. Colin lay sobbing on the cold ground, half-naked and in pain.

This had been Colin’s life for over a year. Feeling like he’d failed at life in general, Colin had been reduced to living in a state of constant fear and humiliation. He had suffered bullying and his grandmother’s hatred.

Colin knew he was a loser, but he hated that everyone else knew it too.

The only positive he could think of was Becca and the strange, brief conversation they had shared. He picked himself up, feeling his bruised ribs, wincing as he walked barefoot across the parking lot away from the school. Hebert would be angry that he didn’t return for the end of detention, but he didn’t care. He didn’t intend to come back. He had to do something or he was going to end up dying here in Elkwood.

Colin decided he had to go to Seattle to see his parents.


Andrew Buckley attended the Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film and Television program. After pitching and developing several screenplay projects for film and television, he worked in marketing and public relations, before becoming a professional copy and content writer. During this time Andrew began writing his first adult novel, DEATH, THE DEVIL AND THE GOLDFISH, followed closely by his second novel, STILTSKIN. He works as an editor for Curiosity Quills Press.
Andrew also co-hosts a geek movie podcast, is working on his next novel, and has a stunning amount of other ideas. He now lives happily in the Okanagan Valley, BC with three kids, one cat, one needy dog, one beautiful wife, and a multitude of characters that live comfortably inside of his mind.
Andrew is represented by Mark Gottlieb at the Trident Media Group.

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1 winner will receive an eGalley of HAIR IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES. International.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Cover & chapter reveal of Argos by Philip Simpson with #giveaway

Today Philip W. Simpson and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for ARGOS! Which releases May 10, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a message from the author.

This was a labor of love for me. I have always loved dogs and stories of dog's courage and loyalty. Hearing or reading these never fail to make me cry. Particularly stories of dogs like Grey Friar's bobby and Hachiko. And then there's the story of Argos - probably the most famous and loyal dog of all time. In Homer's Odyssey, there's literally only one page dedicated to the death of Argos and for me, it was the most moving scene in the whole book.

I had to write this book, not only for myself but for all the dogs I've loved throughout my life. I had no choice in the matter.

I love this cover because it's evocative and moody (much like the cover to my last book, Minotaur). It also begs certain questions: why is a dog in a boat being rowed across a river by a heavily cowled boatman? Those who are familiar with the classics will know the boatman is Charon and the river is the Styx. Therefore the dog is in Hades. But why? A dog has no place in Hades so what makes Argos so special? I love covers that make the reader ask these types of questions.

 Title: ARGOS
Author: Phillip W. Simpson
Pub. Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD |Goodreads

Loyalty has no limits

Raised from a pup by Greek hero, Odysseus, Argos has come to learn the true meaning of love and loyalty. But when Odysseus leaves for the Trojan War, little does Argos know it will be 20
years before he sees his master again. With Odysseus gone his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, are easy prey for neighboring kings and the Gods themselves.

But Argos was tasked to keep them safe until Odysseus returns and that is a promise he is
determined to keep – whatever the cost. Told through his eyes, Argos recounts the story of his
life – his pain, his joy, his triumphs and failures; his endurance in the face of hardships almost too great to believe.

Above all else, Argos strives to do what is right – and to remain loyal to his King when all others have given up hope. To live long enough to see his beloved master one more time.

This epic myth of love and loyalty proves that a dog really is man's best friend.



So this is what it’s like to die?

I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly isn’t this slow humiliating descent into darkness. My body aches, bruised by the fists and feet of Penelope’s suitors and servants, joints painfully swollen by age.

Flies swarm around me, attracted by the stench of the manure pile beneath me, or perhaps sensing the death that is slowly creeping toward me. If I am honest, they don’t annoy me so much. My vision is cloudy at best, eyes misted over by the onset of time. I can barely see their dark flickering shapes and I haven’t the strength to dislodge them when they land. To try and maintain a little dignity, I make the odd attempt to flick my tail or ears but both the flies and I know my heart isn’t in it.

Two old men walk past, leading an ox and open wagon through the palace gates. I lift my head slightly in an effort to see them better, more out of habit than any great interest. I sniff the air, trying to gauge what is in the wagon. All I can smell is feces. My sense of smell, almost overcome by what lies beneath me, fails, and I silently curse my aging, traitorous senses. If I had to guess, I would say they are farmers, bringing produce for the palace kitchens, probably to feed the greedy, slovenly mouths of the suitors who buzz around Penelope much like the flies above my dying body.

The two old men spare me a glance. Although my eyes are not what they once were, I detect sympathy in their gazes. Perhaps they recognize me for who I am or who I once was. Or perhaps not. Maybe they just see an old dog dying on a steaming pile of manure.

Hours later, two other men pass by, dressed in finery that makes them anything but farm hands. I recognize their faces but I would know them regardless by their swagger. Two of Penelope’s suitors come to steal another man’s wife. I hate them with every ounce of my being. If I were even five years younger, I would launch myself at them and tear their arms and legs off with great bites of my powerful jaws. But I am not five years younger. I am old and incapable of doing anything but glare at them balefully.

Like the two older men earlier, they look in my direction. One of them says something I can’t quite catch to the other and they both laugh. The taller suitor reaches into a pouch at his side and pulls out an object that he throws in my direction. It lands off the manure pile, well out of paw reach. I suspect it is a piece of dried meat.

“Here,” he says, laughing. “Eat this. If you can.”

His companion joins in the laughter and they disappear through the palace gates knowing full well that I will not be able to reach the tasty morsel. I wouldn’t eat it in any case. I would much rather starve to death than receive salvation from the likes of them.

Directly overhead, the sun beats mercilessly down. Waves of heat wash over me and warms the manure pile even more. The pile of droppings from mules and oxen are a mixed blessing. For the last two nights, my bed of filth has kept me warm and soothed my aching joints. During the day, however, things are altogether different. The heat is stifling, unbearable, and even I, well accustomed to the most repulsive of scents, am sickened.

My tongue lolls slackly from my open mouth. It is almost too much effort to pant but I know that if I do not, I will die from the relentless heat. I am no longer hungry but would give almost anything for a bowl of cool water with which to quench my thirst. Perhaps even a tub that I could plunge my whole body into—something I would never have done as a young pup. All my life, I have avoided baths, but now I am driven almost crazy by the thought of indulging in something I once hated.

A bath would have an additional benefit. The fleas and ticks that infest my body would probably decide that my scrawny carcass isn’t worth the effort and depart for more luxurious quarters. I would not miss them. The flies I can tolerate, but the incessant biting of these degenerate little creatures is almost more than I can bear. If I had the strength, I would obliterate them with mighty paw strokes.

When I was younger, Penelope or Telemachus would sometimes gently comb them from my body while I lay before the fire in the great hall of Odysseus. Just the thought of such times sends a pleasurable tremor coursing through my body.

I daydream about what they would do if they knew I was lying here, dying and surrounded by filth and decay. Penelope would gather my head into her soft hands and gently kiss my forehead. Telemachus, my human brother, would hug me and rub salves into my open wounds. Together, they would ease my pain and comfort me like they have many times throughout my life.

But those times are long gone. Penelope is locked in her rooms in the palace of Ithaca, besieged by unwelcome suitors. Telemachus left the island months ago to seek out his father, my master, the great hero Odysseus. It is probably a futile quest. Odysseus has been gone for twenty years and, if the words of the palace staff are to be believed, long dead. But neither I nor Telemachus believe it, cannot bring ourselves to believe it. I have heard from the gods themselves that he lives, and whilst they like to play with the lives of mortals, I want to believe them. A man like Odysseus does not simply just die. He is destined for more than death.

It is he that keeps my soul harnessed to my body. The loyalty toward my master and a forlorn hope that he will return to me before I am claimed by death. All of my contemporaries have been in the grave for years already. Not me. It is this loyalty and hope that has kept me going for twenty years.

What I would give to see him one last time.

Chapter One

I awake only to discover that I have died. I am surrounded by gloomy silence. The landscape is devoid of features—or color for that matter. Mist washes over me, tendrils swirling together to form almost recognizable shapes and figures. I can hear whispered voices but from which direction they come, I’m not sure.

I know where I am of course. Hades. The Underworld. The halls of the dead. It makes sense that I am here and yet it does not. The last thing I remembered was lying dying on the manure pile outside the palace gates. Clearly, my body had given up its futile quest for life and so here I am.

But that doesn’t ring true. As far as I know, the Underworld is the place where the souls of the dead dwell. The human dead. The souls of other creatures do not find their rest here. Dogs certainly aren’t allowed in—at least I had never heard of any dogs being granted the privilege. I had heard the stories of the heroes who had ventured into the Underworld before their time: Aeneas, Cupid and Psyche, Heracles, Pirithous and Theseus. Not one of them mentioned encountering any dogs.

Perhaps I am going to be the first. But why single me out for this singular honor, if honor is indeed what it is? I have done nothing special. Like most dogs, I have devoted myself and my life to my master. I don’t believe that is so unusual.

A thought occurs to me: maybe I’m not in the Underworld after all. Perhaps I’m dreaming. As dreams go, it’s pretty bland. I console myself in the knowledge that it is still better than reality, where I have to face endless torment from fleas and ticks.

I choose a direction at random and start walking. I have no destination in mind and no goal. It is simply something to do. Padding along comfortably, it is then that I notice something unusual about my body. When I had last seen my own scrawny flesh, it looked nothing like this. My fur is healthy and clean. Clean! My muscles feel strong, nothing like the wasted bag of old bones I had been moments before. I am young again! What joy!

I take some time to experience the true thrill of youth, to leap and bound, and spring lightly. It is a heady sensation. The gods only know how long I do this for. It’s hard to keep track of time in this place but I don’t care—I’m too busy enjoying myself. After some time however, I gradually become aware that someone or something is watching me. Unbidden, my hackles and the fur on the back of my neck rise. A growl rumbles deep in my chest and emerges through barred teeth.

The mist clears and a boat materializes before me, bobbing calmly on a river as black as night. A figure stands on the boat, shrouded in a black cowl, taller than any human. He carries a long pole which he uses to halt his progress against the swift current.

A long finger emerges from the black sleeves and beckons toward me. I don’t move. I can’t move, frozen as I am in fear. I know who this is and I dare not approach.

The figure cocks his head at me as if considering. Then he whistles. It is the same two-tone whistle used by countless dog owners. Against my will, my traitorous tail wags and I take first one hesitant step forward and then another. Before I know it, I am standing on the shore next to the boat and the boatman.

“Pay your fare,” demands a sepulchral voice drifting out of the black cowl. A hand emerges again from the sleeve. This time I get a good look at it. It is twice as large as any human’s, but with six fingers. The flesh enclosing the bones appears to be rotting.

I don’t bother trying to respond. It’s not like I can speak and tell him I have no fare. I believe it is customary to pay a coin to cross the river Acheron—because this of course is what it is. One of the legendary rivers of the Underworld, it marks the boundary of Hades. The only way in or out is across the river and the only way to cross the river is in the boat controlled by Charon, the boatman.

To gain passage, relatives of the recently deceased have to place a coin in the mouths of the dead. I have seen this done many times before, but I have no coin myself. Just to be sure, I open my mouth to check. Sure enough, I feel nothing on my tongue.

Charon cocks his head again. He seems to be listening to something, but even I, with my magnificent hearing, can detect nothing.

“Very well,” he says, seeming to talk to himself. He indicates that I am to enter the boat and obediently, I do exactly that, even though every part of my body screams at me to flee. I have always struggled to resist going for a ride in any form of moving vehicle, be it chariot, cart or boat.

Charon says nothing as he poles us slowly across the river. The Acheron flows into another river, which I assume is the Styx. Unable to resist the impulse, I sit perched in the bow, my tongue wagging, sniffing the warm breeze. I detect nothing I recognize.

Eventually, we reach the far shore. I don’t have to be told to get out. I leap out as soon as I am able which is just as well because no sooner have I done so, Charon turns the boat and heads back the way he had come.

There is a darker line of shadow on the horizon before me, and with no better prospects, I make for it. As I get closer, I recognize it for what it is. A huge inky black gate made of some material I am not familiar with. Two huge doors are set within but it is not these objects that command my attention.

Sitting calmly before the doors is a creature the likes of which I have never seen before. It is a massive dog. It isn’t just size that marks it as unusual. This dog has three heads, a serpent’s tail, and a mane of snakes that weave angrily in and out of the coarse black hair that covers the rest of the creature. Each huge paw is tipped with long claws that bear no resemblance to my own. These claws look like they could shred tree trunks.

I know immediately who it is. Cerberus. The great guardian of the gates of Hell. It is his job to ensure that none of the denizens of this place ever leave.

One of the heads swivels in my direction. I meet the gaze of those blood red eyes with rising panic.

“Be calm, Argos,” says Cerberus in a voice like smoke and thunder. “You have nothing to fear from me.”

“Your appearance certainly belies that,” I say in my head. When I was younger, I had tried to speak but quickly realized that I didn’t possess the clever tongue or vocal apparatus possessed by humans. My habit then had been to reply to rhetorical questions in my own mind. You can imagine my surprise when Cerberus gives every appearance of not only hearing me, but understanding me, too.

The central head of the huge Hellhound nods. “I realize that I appear quite fearsome, but it is mostly for show. Those who dwell here must stay. I could hardly stop them if I had the appearance and abilities of say, a common dog.”

I swear to the gods that the speaking head seems to be smiling slightly. That’s if dogs can smile. I confess I have tried to smile many times, but all I have succeeded in doing is lolling my tongue.

“I don’t think I’d risk a confrontation with you,” I say.

“Really, Argos? I have heard tales of your bravery. I think there are many things you would risk. Especially for your master.” I notice that only one head speaks while the two heads flanking the central one move constantly, their baleful eyes seeking out any who would dare escape.

“You know of my master Odysseus then?” I ask.

The central head nods. “Of course. Odysseus is beloved of the gods—especially by the gray-eyed Goddess Athena. I have even heard my own master, Hades, speak highly of him. His deeds are legendary.”

“They are?” I ask, silently cursing myself for doubting this fact. Of course his deeds are legendary. The actions of my master could not be anything else. I just hadn’t heard of any of them. “So my master lives then?”

“It is not for me to say, Argos. I am sorry. Come closer. Do not be afraid.”

Tentatively, I do as Cerberus asks and trot toward him, stopping a few spear lengths away. My sense of perspective immediately changes and I sit down on my haunches in order to take in the enormity of it. The gate is taller than any structure I have ever seen. As for Cerberus, he towers over me, larger than any creature I have ever encountered. Larger even than a rhinoceros. A visitor to Ithaca once told Odysseus about a mythical creature called an elephant that he had seen in his travels. From his description, Cerberus must be at least equal in size.

As nervous as I am, curiosity gets the better of me. “Can I at least hear about these legendary deeds then?” I ask, wagging my tail hopefully.

“Perhaps another time,” says Cerberus. Eddies of smoke are slowly rising from his speaking mouth. “I have brought you here for another reason.”

“Other than the fact that I’m dead?” I ask.

“Are you?” counters Cerberus.

“Why else would I be here then?” I retort. A niggling doubt is starting to form. Maybe this is a dream after all.

“Let me ask you something, Argos. I have served my master, Hades, for millennia and will continue to do so for all of existence. Why do I do that?”

“For loyalty,” I say immediately. “For love.”

This time, Cerberus nods all three heads. “Indeed. I love my master. He is everything to me and he has repaid my loyalty countless times. I would do anything for him.”

“As would I for my master,” I say.

“And that is why you are here, Argos. You are an exceptional dog. You may not think so but I have watched you and I know. Your loyalty and your love for your master is exceptional. It compares even to my o

wn.” “So why am I here?” I ask, slightly confused.

“Because, I want to hear your story. I want to hear it told in your own words, to experience it from your perspective. I want to hear about everything you and Odysseus experienced together and what made your bond so strong. I want to know why you have waited twenty years for him. In short, I want to hear the story of your life.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because,” says Cerberus, “I want to know that I’m not the only one. That I’m not the only one whose loyalty exceeds all expectation and belief.”

“And why should I do this for you?” I venture.

“You might be surprised if I told you,” says Cerberus.

The words send a shiver running down my spine.

Phillip W. Simpson is the author of many novels, chapter books and other stories for children. His publishers include Month9books, Macmillan, Penguin, Pearson, Cengage, Raintree and Oxford University Press.

He received his undergraduate degree in Ancient History and Archaeology and both his Masters (Hons) degree in Archaeology and his Masters (Hons) degree in Creative Writing from the University of Auckland. Before embarking on his writing career, he joined the army as an officer cadet, owned a comic shop and worked in recruitment in both the UK and Australia. His first young adult novel, Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1), was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for best Youth novel in 2012. When not writing, he works as a school teacher.

Phillip lives and writes in Auckland, New Zealand, with his wife Rose, their son, Jack, and their two border terriers, Whiskey and Raffles. He loves fishing, reading, movies, football (soccer) and single malt Whiskeys.

1 winner will receive an eGalley of ARGOS. International.

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