Tucson Festival of Books! 2017

Hello World!

So, if you’re subscribed to my newsletter, or if you live near me/work with me/follow me on any sort of social media, you know that I’ve been obsessing over the Tucson Festival of Books for months now. This is one of my favorite things about living in Arizona, and it’s the spring equivalent of Christmas for me. Last year, I had a great time going to panels from authors who couldn’t wait to share their insight on the publishing world, pass me their cards, and dole out great advice for a rising YA author! This year, I got to experience the festival on a whole new level, and it was an amazing experience.

First of all, I probably earned the step equivalent of a day at Disneyland on my FitBit, and I’m not mad. This is the 3rd largest book festival in the nation, and it takes up a large part of the square-mile campus at the University of Arizona. Booths on booths on booths. Booths everywhere. For day one, I spent a couple of hours in the Young Adult Pavilion, and I had the best time connecting with readers old and new! I ran into a lot of great friends of mine and was happy to have my family there. It was also a treat getting to say hello to fans I met at Sunnyside High School in February, along with the coolest kid ever named Kayden who I met at Barnes and Noble in December. What an awesome feeling it was to hear him talk about how much he loved the book, how much he loves Pietro, and how much he can’t wait for the sequel!

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But of course, I always love experiencing the festival as an attendee as well. I love the smells of paperbacks, kettle corn, and sunscreen in the air. I love the music. I love the little science town where the kids play with water and look at Gila monsters. And I love connecting with other authors! The highlights for me were Bob Proehl, who wrote A Hundred Thousand Worlds (which I listened to on Audible and loved so much that I bought the hardcover and read it again), and James Dashner, who wrote the Maze Runner series (which I haven’t finished but am loving so far!) There was so much I wanted to ask and share with these two, but you know how it goes. When you meet people you look up to, you forget your own name. Basically, even after you’re published, you never stop being a fanboy/fangirl!

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Oh, and did I mention food? Gelato is my tradition, but I also had to get one of these amazing chicken-on-a-stick things. Like, how can chicken be so tender without being a chicken tender? I’m legitimately curious.

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Anyway, that’s the quick version of a long weekend that I will cherish forever! I’m already marking TFoB 2018 on my calendar, and if you’re a lover of books, food, authors, music, or sunshine, I hope to see you there!

STARFALL Launch Blitz & Giveaway

Hello readers! February is a fantastic month for book lovers. First off, I can’t wait to reveal the cover for my next novel, THE UNSEEN, tomorrow! It’s been so hard to keep under wraps since I first saw it in September! But today is all about the awesome Melissa Landers and the novel she just launched. Congrats Melissa, I’ve been waiting a long time for Starfall! Here’s what she wants you to know, and be sure to enter the Rafflecopter below!

STARFALL Launch Blitz & Giveaway

Hi, booklovers!

I’m author Melissa Landers, and I’m so excited to launch STARFALL, the second and final book in my Starflight duology! This story picks up shortly after the first book ends, but now Cassia and Kane are the main characters, with Doran, Solara, and the rest of the Banshee crew pitching in to help take down an intergalactic mafia. (You know, just an ordinary day in space.) And while saying goodbye to characters is never easy, I think I gave the crew a proper sendoff with plenty of humor, heart, and action. I hope you love STARFALL as much as I do!

Haven’t read the first book? You’re in luck, because for a limited time, Starflight is on sale for 99 cents in all e-formats. Now you can binge read the entire duology in one sitting!

Praise for Starflight:

“Smart, action-packed and utterly addictive!” –New York Times bestselling author Amie Kaufman

“Starflight has the cinematic appeal, warp-speed action and unlikely heroes of Star Wars.” –Justine Magazine

“A lively tale of romance, space pirates, conspiracy, and made (as opposed to genetic) families.” –Booklist

“A great choice for fans of raw sci-fi action, reminiscent of the lawlessness presented in the television series Firefly.” –School Library Journal

If you love sci-fi adventure with a dash of romance, I hope you’ll pick up the Starflight duology today. Starflight and Starfall are both available in stores and online.

STARFLIGHT (book 1)

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2jmEOqA
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2kjs57n
Book Depository (free international shipping): http://bit.ly/1OoN2WD
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/1IIMPx7

STARFALL (book 2)

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2jmNsW2
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2ddKuih
Book Depository: http://bit.ly/2k98EvN
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/2dhMLry

To celebrate my book birthday, I’m offering one lucky winner a Starflight duology swag pack, complete with bookmarks and two signed mini posters! The giveaway is open internationally. Due to sweepstakes laws, entrants must be 18 years or older to participate.

Best of luck, and happy reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Melissa Landers is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public—just ask her husband and three kids. She lives outside Cincinnati in the small town of Loveland, “Sweetheart of Ohio.” For more information or just to say hello, visit http://www.melissa-landers.com.

Interview with The Ivory Queen

Happy New Year from the World Between!

Wherever you are today, I hope the stroke of midnight sparked a year of magic and excitement. I was happy to spend New Years Eve with family, putting party hats on my week-old niece and enjoying champagne and cider to celebrate The Carver’s latest milestone. Yesterday, we hit #1 Best-Seller status on Amazon, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Enzo and Pietro are over the moon excited right now that so many people chose to join them on their road trip, and 2017 is going to be filled with amazing new destinations for them. In fact, I got to visit one of them last year when I was writing The Carver. I’m not sure I’d go back any time soon, because Queen Avoria’s presence lingers and our interview unsettled me a bit. I think it’s time I tell you about my conversation with her. Don’t worry–I took every precaution to make sure that I would be safe during my interview with Queen Avoria of Florindale, and even if I lost a part of my soul, I have faith that Enzo will save us one day. One can only hope…

Ivory Queen: You may enter.

Jacob: Do you promise you’ll be cool? You won’t reap my soul or anything?

I.Q.: Don’t be dense, Lore Master. If I reaped your soul tonight, who would tell the story of my glorious ascension to the ultimate throne? Somebody needs to keep a record of my beauty and persistence, and ensure that all the worlds know of my conquest. You favor me by conducting your inquiry. I might even thank you when it’s over.

Jacob: I suppose I appreciate that. Thank you for not ending my life.

I.Q.: Spare me the small talk.

Jacob: Alright, let’s dive right in. There are three worlds that I know of at this point in my research–the New World, where I’m from; the Old World, where you’re from; and The World Between where we sit today, also known as Wonderland. Why are you here? Did you choose to be here?

I.Q.: My ultimate destination is a world beyond, one that I’ve made where people bend to my will. I do not intend to stay here forever. I asked why Lady Fortune steered me here. It seemed a cruel punishment for a beautiful queen–being trapped in a cursed mirror–but I choose to treat Lady Fortune’s plan as an act of kindness. I can add the realm of wonder to my conquest, and my ascension will be all the more glorious for it. I’m happy to be here.

Jacob: And yet I assume you’re already working on a plan to get out?

I.Q.: Yes. That plan is of no concern to you. Next question.

Jacob: I want to show you a picture and find out what’s going on. Do you remember this night?

ivory_queen

I.Q.: *snatches picture out of my hands* Who painted this portrait? How dare anyone spy and capture an image of me without my knowledge like some shameless bandersnatch paparazzi? Was it you, Lore Master?

Jacob: Ha! I can promise you it wasn’t me. I couldn’t even draw a stick figure of you. It’s why I write instead. I have a question about the man in the painting, though. He’s giving you a really weird look. You ever see a reality show, like The Bachelorette? People give each other this look all the time on those shows. It usually means drama’s about to happen. What’s going on between you two?

I.Q.: That is Cornelius Redding, the so-called King of Hearts. He found me on the streets of the Wondercity and offered me shelter. I offer him protection and strengthen his hold on Wonderland. In turn, I strengthen my own hold on the realms. Our relationship is professional and symbiotic. How dare he give me those dagger eyes behind my back? It is you who means drama, Mr. Devlin, showing me this image to spite me!

Jacob: Well, I can hardly imagine the two of you were having friendly brunches and playing golf with flamingo clubs every day. Surely there’s something else there, right?

I.Q.: You are merely seeing the visage of a troubled man. You may have heard that the Queen of Hearts is no longer alive after Alice showed up and wreaked her mischief in the realm of wonder.

Jacob: Wait, really?

I.Q.: Oh, you didn’t know? Somebody killed the queen. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to figure out that it was probably that girl. Certainly don’t get the idea to blame me, Lore Master. I think that’s quite enough for today. I demand my own book, Mr. Devlin. Have your spy paint me on the cover, and call it Ivory Queen.

If you’re ready to learn more and set the stage for the second novel in the Order of the Bell series, preorder this novelette on Amazon and enjoy Ivory Queen on 1.10.17!

The Ivory Queen EBook

Adventures in Unclehood

Hello world!

Whew! 2016 has been a roller coaster! News has been a little goofy, often bordering on terrifying, from “clown sightings” to political overload to a lot of our favorite stars blinking out (still not over Alan Rickman, or David Bowie, or the idea that we almost lost Princess Leia…)

One of my favorite quotes in the world comes from Charlie Chaplin, who said, “You’ll never find rainbows if you’re looking down.” So I have to say thank you to 2016, because while I haven’t entirely been a fan of this year, I found some of the brightest rainbows I will ever see between the everyday storms. I’ll never forget the day I got to see and finally unveil the cover for THE CARVER. I’ll never forget my time at Utopia in Nashville, meeting my wonderful publishers and selling out of exclusive pre-release copies. I want to remember camping out at San Diego Comic Con and having so much fun at Phoenix Fan Fest. And finally, I want to remember every second of this past Christmas Eve, when my lovely niece was born!

I want to remember driving to the hospital before 4am, a magical unexplored time of day when the road is yours and all the traffic lights turn green for you, and in Tucson (the astronomy capital of the world) you can see every individual star in the sky.

I want to remember being in the car listening to Moda’, my favorite Italian band, and connecting so deeply with the lyrics that I felt like my heart was singing along.

I want to remember the 4am breakfast burrito with cheese and chorizo and potatoes and eggs. MMM!

I want to remember the wait, even if it had already been agonizing going through another day and a half. Never ever let it be said that my sister is not a warrior. She was in labor for 45 hours, during which I was able to go home twice and sleep, do a full day at work, and the rest of the time I just sat in the hospital cafeteria eating M&Ms, writing a bit, and finishing Six of Crows.

I want to remember finally meeting the baby around 8pm, and she was entirely perfect. All this time, I’ve been so excited for Disney movies and secret conversations in Italian and the hope that maybe she’ll be a Marvel geek like me. I’ve been so excited to watch her grow up and try on ambitions and identities like little hats. But then I saw her how she is now, and I decided I’m in no rush to get to get to the rest. She’s already perfect, and I don’t want to miss any of those beautiful transitions in he epic life she’s about to have.

So yeah, I just got a little more sentimental and deep than I intended to, but perhaps some of you out there can relate to this feeling, whether you’re an aunt, uncle, parent, or even a big brother or sister!

With all that said, I think I’m ready for a new year. I envision 2017 to be a great one. At some point, I’ll be wrapping up the first draft of my trilogy and venturing into new waters. I resolve to brave them all with the same inquisitive spirit that was necessary to tackle THE CARVER, and to make sure that my writing only gets stronger by nurturing the muse every day. I resolve to devote lots of time to adventures in unclehood and writing down all those little details, and being more consistent about working on my general health and well-being.

Whatever your story has been in 2016, I raise my glass to you and empower you to give it a happy ending! I wish you a wonderful week and holiday season, and may you find those rainbows going into 2017!

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Upcoming Giveaway for Ivory Queen!

Happy Sunday!

Today I’m really excited because we’re officially less than a month away from the release of IVORY QUEEN, a novella that bridges THE CARVER to the upcoming sequel, THE UNSEEN!

The Ivory Queen EBook

In preparation for the new release, I wanted to announce that I have a giveaway coming up later this week. I will be signing and personalizing five CARVER bookmarks, along with five IVORY QUEEN bookmarks and mailing them out. The IVORY QUEEN bookmarks are brand-spankin’-new; nobody has these ones yet! I’ll be sending one of each to five people on my mailing list and announcing the winners in my next issue on Thursday. That means entry is easy and takes about thirty seconds! All you have to do is sign up for my monthly newsletter by following this link:

http://eepurl.com/cmRTdr

You have until Wednesday, December 14 at 6pm EST to enter! Then, check your email on Thursday to see if you’re one of the five winners. Even if you don’t win, you’ll be among the first to get an exclusive preview of the newest concept art and a brief character bio for one of the key players in IVORY QUEEN and THEN UNSEEN! It’s gonna be so much fun!

May Lady Fortune be on your side!

Thank You Notes from Florindale

Hello worlds!

As I said back at the beginning of the month, there’s a lot to be grateful for right now. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with my family last night, got a bit of writing done, knocked out about 80% of my Christmas shopping with relative ease (in and out of Kohl’s in 20 minutes during the first hour of Black Friday? What happened this year?), and honestly, I’m on cloud nine right now! The Unseen is in Blaze Publishing’s loving hands for the proofreading stages, and I’m incredibly excited about releasing the sequel to The Carver next year. With that, I have to say THANK YOU for the love of writing that I was born with, and the opportunity Blaze gave me to let that love blossom into an actual career. This is the one thing that I could do for all eternity and never get bored. I love living the life of a storyteller. Thank you for being a part of it with me!

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Of course, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I had to ask a few of my characters what they’re thankful for, and I received these notes from them:

Pietro

I’m thankful for all the sweet deals I scored on Black Friday. Nike shoes were on sale, as was that Go Pro I’ve been eyeing at Best Buy. Now I can take videos in the sky! Oh, you probably want a real answer, huh? Well, I suppose I have to add coffee to the list, because coffee is life, and where would I be without my beautiful wife, my teenage mini-me, or my best friend Pino and his family? It’s one of my favorite traditions when we have Thanksgiving dinner together. Guys, I’m sorry I keep forgetting the cranberry sauce, but do any of you honestly like it?

Rosana

Besides the obvious choices like my mom and my friends, one thing I’m really thankful for is the kindness of strangers. Truly. I know what it’s like to be homeless. I’m not going to pretend like I enjoyed it or would ever want to go back to sleeping in the subway tunnels, but while most people think it would mess with your worldview, you actually see a lot of the best parts of humanity sometimes. I’ll never forget a single stranger who went out of their way to make sure I had dinner for the night, or a pillow and a fresh blanket, or even just a bottle of water. There really is still good in the world.

Enzo

I think my experiences are making me a better person. I’m guilty of complaining a lot. People used to say I was like one of those teenagers in an 80s movie, laying on the bed brooding and tossing a baseball up and down for hours. Sure, that kinda hurts, but I don’t think they were wrong. Everything I’ve been going through has really opened my eyes in a lot of ways. I’m starting to see the magic of this world, and maybe even enjoy it a little. I miss my family more than ever, but I have to stop and think how they’d want me to respond to my situation. How cool is it of Pietro to drive me across the country to look for them? So yeah, I do have a lot to say thank you for.

Liam

Snow made her famous pies last night, and almost everything else (I promise I offered to help her cook, but she was already in a very particular mindset…) This particular prince is in the most blissful of food comas this morning. I can’t say enough thank yous to my wife for being who she is. I’m thankful for Florindale and for the New World. I don’t always understand it, but it’s quite beautiful and filled with a different kind of light. I’m thankful that my life has been relatively dragon-free so far, because I’ve never been so fond of those beasts. And I’m thankful for Enzo, Miss Rosana, and our other chums.

Violet

My gratitude today belongs to The Order of the Bell: my guardians, my friends, and the defenders of the Old World. We have such a history together, and it is rich with both dark trials and unfiltered light. Along the way, I’ve always been certain that they trusted me, and that’s something I will never take for granted. No matter what happens to these worlds, these people, or these souls, I will forever be grateful to The Order for doing their very best to protect the light.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

November Gratitude

Hello worlds!

Once again, I feel like I haven’t written in forever, and so much has been happening! It’s also November, and I feel that there’s so much to be thankful for right now.

Since I last wrote, I’ve been taking THE CARVER around Tucson and having a blast at places like Sunnyside High School as well as Barnes and Noble’s Mini Maker Faire! Seriously, what a dream to be signing books inside of Barnes and Noble. I loved the conversations I had this weekend. Honestly, how could I not form an instant bond with the four-year-old who loves Captain America and can’t wait to put a Carver button on his shirt? Or the woman who just wanted a fist bump for seeing a young Latino publish a book, or all the teens whose faces lit up when they saw the amazing cover work for this series? I also had such a great time at Sunnyside. My heart thundered with joy to see so many teens openly sharing their enthusiasm for books and writing. One girl listened to my book spiel and said, “Wow, you wrote that book? Do you, like, do autographs and stuff?”

Of course, I found that comment very endearing because only three or four days before, I was in full-on fanboy mode at Phoenix Fan Fest. (Because what else do I do with my free time when I don’t have my author hat on?) You all know about my love for cons, and this year’s Fan Fest will easily be one of my favorites for a long time to come. First of all, it’s much smaller and more intimate than the bear that is San Diego Comic Con, so thankfully camping out overnight wasn’t a thing this time. (Although I’ll be ready to take on the bear again in July!) Fan Fest lines are quick and painless, and I hardly had time to compose a Tweet! There were some great costumes as well, including a devoted group who went all out to form an ensemble of Harry Potter characters ranging from a very convincing Sirius Black to a Rita Skeeter with just the right amount of hair product…

And I’m very excited to have a Stranger Things poster on my desk now, signed by “Hopper” and “Eleven”! I loved chatting with Millie Bobby Brown, who had the best reaction when I asked her how Phoenix was treating her. Spoiler alert: nobody really liked the heat–do I blame them?–but they love the people! Elizabeth Henstridge from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was incredibly kind and signed my S.H.I.E.L.D dvds, and as for Brett Dalton (who some of you might know as my “fan casting” for Liam), we need to start a hashtag to get him in a Carver Netflix series so I can be best friends with him. A long time ago, I actually wrote to him for an autograph request, and he responded with a handwritten note on a 3 x 5 card. I brought that card to Fan Fest to thank him personally for his time. He had a really great response to that, and then we had a fun chat about SHIELD and dinosaur rights, because he feels very strongly about the fact that people keep going back to Jurassic Park. We also got a few goofy selfies in! #BrettForLiam, please?

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Lastly, I recently had a quick trip to Spokane, WA, and while I was there, I was so captivated by this Chinese Lantern Festival:

lights

The whole time, I wondered how my characters would react to the festivities, especially Mulan! There were also contortionists, “face changers” (you must YouTube this!), and martial artists. It was a great time to walk around with a cup of hot chocolate and let my imagination stew a bit. After all, revisions for THE UNSEEN are nearly complete, and I’m shifting half my attention to two new projects: the third and presumably final book of THE ORDER OF THE BELL, along with a fun side project for NaNoWriMo! I’d love to tell you more about it, but I think I’ll save it for my first newsletter. I’m officially inviting you to jump on my mailing list before I roll out the first letter! I’d love for you to be first in the loop on all my future projects, events, and get some exclusive insight on these worlds I’m building. Who knows–I might even give some fun things away from time to time, just to say “Thank you!”

Until then, what are you thankful for this month?

Haunted Halloween Blog Tour: Pt VI

October is the month of fears, and we’re going on tour with some of our favorite authors to talk about what their main characters are afraid of. What keeps them up at night? What nightmare has them waking in a cold sweat? Each day, we’ll feature a new main character and delve deep into their subconscious to see what they fear. And each day, you’ll have a chance to enter to win some awesome prizes!

It only seems fitting that we’d end on Halloween with a main character pitted against her very own Freddie Kreuger while locked away in an asylum. Nightmares run rampant in Asleep by Krystal Wade, and we’re going to take another look at one of the nightmares torturing young Rose…

Asleep Excerpt

Rose fell asleep that way, smiling, exhilaration making the trip into dreamland take forever. But once she was there, she wanted to crawl back out, back into the land of the waking.

Someone dressed in dark robes grabbed Rose by the wrists and jerked her forward. “Come.”

“No. Please. Not again. Just leave me alone. I just want to sleep.” She glanced back toward the bed and found it wasn’t there. She wasn’t even sure where she was. Her eyes burned, and everything appeared black and fuzzy, like opening her eyes under water at night.

“Come.” The person tugged her along by some invisible force, down dark hallways and stairs, and through cold, drafty rooms where she couldn’t see anything and felt like she was surrounded by ghosts or lunatics—or worse, ghosts of lunatics.

Jingling sounds bounced off the walls—keys? Weapons? Rose didn’t want to find out—and the clang of doors closing vibrated in her chest.

Blackness stretched on forever, only an occasional light swirling by in Rose’s peripheral vision, ramping up her heart even faster than before she’d fallen asleep. “Where are you taking me?”

The person finally stopped next to a big gray door, and Rose ran into his back. His, because he grunted, his, because he was a giant, too tall and too wide and too strong.

Rose tried to apologize, but she couldn’t open her mouth again, her muscles too weak to break through whatever barrier trapped her voice. Panic took hold of her, and she tried to reach up and touch her lips, but she couldn’t. Her hands were secured by the giant before her.

Rose backed away and made it two steps before she was yanked right back, chains jangling.

Chains. She’d been chained.

Why couldn’t she wake up? Why couldn’t she force her way to the surface? Maybe if she hurt herself or found a way to kill herself, she’d wake up. People can’t die in their dreams, supposedly, or so she’d heard on some silly cartoon in the common room the other day.

Yanking harder, planting her feet with all her strength, Rose tried to dislocate her wrists, pulling and twisting and groaning.

“Stop it.” A growl erupted from the man in front of her, which only made her pull harder, struggle more, breathe faster. Breathe, breathe, breathe through her nose. Not enough air. The smell of duct tape overwhelmed Rose.

She’d been chained and duct taped.

“Don’t. Please.”

Phillip? Rose stilled to get her chains to stop banging against each other, listening for his voice. When she didn’t hear anything over her own breathing, she ran at her captor, knocking the hood from his head. His bald, white head was disfigured by thick, raised scars tracing his skull in circular patterns. He turned around as if time was not a concern to him, as if on some mechanical switch flipped to the slowest setting. The man’s expression was blank, but his eyes were as red as blood.

Definitely not Phillip.

She wanted to hide, to cower. Her legs quaked beneath her. Her heart thundered against her ribs. The man reached into his pocket, and Rose’s panicked breaths through her nose and muffled sobs bounced
off the walls.

“Don’t,” she heard Phillip say again, but the man’s mouth hadn’t moved. Was Phillip here somewhere? In her nightmare? “Don’t hurt her.”

The man pulled out a skeleton key and inserted it into the cuffs securing Rose’s hands, and she immediately backed away, rubbing at the raw, tender flesh. She ripped the tape from her lips next, crying out as she lost a layer of skin and tasted blood flowing into her mouth. He reached into his pocket again and then held out several charcoal pencils, one of them her pencil. He inclined his head in the direction of the door beside them, which she now saw had 206 and Briar written on it. “Draw.”

Dasleep-k-wade-m3igging his long, witch-like nails into her back, the man shoved her into the room, slammed the door, and slid a bar across it. He locked her in.

Rose was alone, freezing and shaking and alone, holding charcoal. All along the walls were outlines of trees, spindly, leafless trees. Winter trees, white chalk against a concrete canvas.

“No. No, don’t leave! Don’t leave me here . . . .”

She spun around in search of Phillip, for the origination of his voice, for some clue as to what the hell was going on. But she found nothing but the white trees staring back at her.

“Hello?” Rose held her breath and waited for a response. Anything. “Greg? MacGregor?”

“Mom. Mom!” she heard him shout, and then another voice broke through the madness, “You have to save her.”

Rose didn’t recognize the second speaker. He didn’t even sound human, just a bunch of garbled words that found a way to make sense in her dream.

“I can’t. She left me.”

“Not her.” Two lights flashed on, one above Rose, the other above Phillip. He was tied to a chair, bound at the wrists and ankles, naked from the waist up and covered in bruises. A black splotch covered his ribs, big enough for a fist to have made, the same shape as the bruise on his elbow. She took in the others, details about his injuries. A long, bleeding cut above his left nipple. A yellow bruise at his right hip bone. Rose had to memorize this Phillip against the real, breathing, living Phillip so she could differentiate between dream and reality.

But just as quickly as his form appeared, it disappeared before she could finish her appraisal. “Make her draw.”

The reminder that she was here too raised the hairs on Rose’s arms and neck. She waited, sure her heartbeat could be heard by everyone within a three-block radius, but Phillip didn’t respond except with stony silence.

She took a step forward but found her ankle chained to a peg in the middle of the floor. “Phill—?”

Something smacked Rose in the head from behind, and her vision filled with spots. She whirled and threw her hands out, trying to find someone she could fight, someone who deserved her wrath, but her hands didn’t find anyone.

A light blinked on from overhead, and a dark figure rushed up to Rose and punched her in the stomach. She doubled over and gasped, sucking air into her lungs in harsh, wheezing breaths.

“Draw,” the garbled voice demanded.

Rose shook her head, unable to get to her feet and fight, unable to breathe.

A booted foot slammed into her back, flattening Rose to the floor and stealing what little air she was able to recover. She lay there, face pressed to the cool concrete, head spinning, light from above blinding her. Rose wished she could just wake up. Wake up. Wake up.

“Draw,” the voice once again demanded.

Rose couldn’t. Not in her dreams. Not in real life. Not ever. Rose couldn’t draw because she had no inspiration. She couldn’t even remember what her inspiration was, what prompted her fingers to turn her daydreams and creativity into reality, what made them finish something once started.

“Stop,” Phillip shouted, his voice strong and sure. “Just draw, Rose. Draw. You’re like me. They won’t stop. Draw, Rose. Please.”

Wheezing, she lifted her head and looked at the wall full of outlined trees. With sore muscles and no air and feeling like she might die any second, how could she get up and do anything?

The light blinked off again, and the light over dream-Phillip came on. A cloaked figure approached him with a red-hot branding iron aimed right at his chest. Phillip’s eyes went wide and he screamed, loud and feral and absolutely terrifying, pushing against the floor with his bound feet. He turned his head to the side, shaking the chair so much Rose was surprised it hadn’t broken. Screaming. Over and over he screamed, breaking her with his terror.

“Stop,” she muttered, her voice weak and not nearly loud enough to be heard over his. So Rose got to her knees and said it again. The figure still approached Phillip. So she got to her feet and sucked in a ragged breath and shouted through the pain coursing through her chest. “Stop!”

The figure tossed a casual glance her way and shook his finger at her, the iron an inch from Phillip’s chest.

Rose looked in her palm and then up to the wall. Maybe she couldn’t draw, but she could fill in the trees with color. “Okay.”

She made her way to the lifeless trees, legs trembling as she pulled the weight of the chain along with her, back and stomach aching. White chalk rested near her bare toes, so Rose picked it up, placed it on the wall, and set to work.

Phillip stopped screaming. The lights blinked off from over him, but the hot iron remained in the dark. Rose knew it was a threat. If she quit or gave up, Phillip would be injured.

And so she drew and drew and drew, filling in all the empty spaces between the tree outlines with plain colors until her hands felt like they would fall off. Until her legs were too weak to hold her up any longer and she collapsed. And the next moment she blinked her burning eyes open, she was lying face up in bed.

Rose never slept on her back. Ever. She lifted her hands, half-expecting to see residue of chalk on her
fingers, but there was nothing. Just a dream.

Just a dream that left every muscle sore, her body trembling with exhaustion, and her brain demanding she sleep at least four more hours. But she hadn’t moved, hadn’t left this room. Reaching beneath the mattress and bed frame, she found her pencil. Right where she’d left it. These meds were really messing with her. Rose hated the way they made her feel, and she planned to tell Dr. Underwood all about the nightmares to see what he could do to fix this.

She hurried to get dressed, marched down the hall and took her meds, then marched along farther to grab breakfast. But Rose stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Phillip sitting at their table, counting his bruises, ignoring the bowl of crap in front of him.

The urge to run to him and ask if he was okay was so strong Rose had to fight to remain rooted in place. She knew what happened last night was just a dream, but she couldn’t seem to balance that with the image of this broken guy sitting at her table. They looked so much the same: dream-Phillip and reality-Phillip.

Ignoring the food line, she took a seat beside him and grabbed his left hand. Rose had to touch him, to see if he was real or an illusion. She didn’t trust herself anymore. Not with nightmares as vivid as she had. And she could hardly ask him to lift his shirt so she could see his bruises.

“Are you in there?” she asked.

Phillip startled and squeezed her fingers in his hands, his warm, trembling hands. “You’re like me, Rose. Like me. They won’t stop. They’ll hurt you.”

about the book

asleep_coveredit3“To cure fear, you must use fear.”

Rose Briar claims no responsibility for the act that led to her imprisonment in an asylum. She wants to escape, until terrifying nightmares make her question her sanity and reach out to her doctor. He’s understanding and caring in ways her parents never have been, but as her walls tumble down and Rose admits fault, a fellow patient warns her to stop the medications. Phillip believes the doctor is evil and they’ll never make it out of the facility alive. Trusting him might be just the thing to save her. Or it might prove the asylum is exactly where she needs to be.

Available Amazon. Add the book to your Goodreads list!

Haunted Halloween Blog Tour: Pt V

October is the month of fears, and we’re going on tour with some of our favorite authors to talk about what their main characters are afraid of. What keeps them up at night? What nightmare has them waking in a cold sweat? Each day, we’ll feature a new main character and delve deep into their subconscious to see what they fear. And each day, you’ll have a chance to enter to win some awesome prizes! We met Vee from our recent dystopian release The Surrendered, but now we’re getting to know her a bit better by finding out what haunts her each night when she closes her eyes…

My name is Vee Delancourt, and my biggest fear is all about failure. In a world where the nation abuses its children in unspeakable ways, losing this fight just isn’t an option. I hope I can prove myself worthy of the trust so many have put in me. I hope I can one day redeem myself for the mistakes that I’ve already made. . .and for the lives that have already been lost.

She’s here, my old friend is. Stalking my sleep again.

Well, not her exactly, but some version of her. While the pale skin is the same, if maybe a shade lighter, the hesitant smiles I once marveled at have disappeared. A twisted scowl now decorates her gray lips. Grayish. Not quite blue; not quite white. The color of death.

“You,” she snarls at me, one thin finger aimed in my direction. “You killed us all.”

I shake my head, backing until I come in contact with something. I don’t have to look to know it’s the big covered truck from Hopkins Farm. I’ve been here before, in these very Mills, on this very day. It’s the day that everything changed. The day I escaped the System and set into motion a chain of events that would forever change the lives of so many people. Not all for the better.

My ethereal pursuer continues to advance on me, and my heart races wildly in my chest. “I didn’t mean to!” I cry, pleading with her to understand. “I didn’t know so many would die!”

“Die, die, die. We’re all dead. We died. We’re done. Dead.” Babbling is her only response.

My chest squeezes. Something’s not right. Isn’t there supposed to be peace in the beyond? A great
releasement of all the bad experiences? A big screw you to all who did you wrong? This is unfair.

She hesitates in her advance, her feet floating stationary over the dirt path for one moment. Her head tilts slightly, as though listening to sounds in the distance. She grimaces, shudders, and then moans. “They beckon. They call. . ..” She throws her head back, wailing, “No! I will not go!”

I cover my ears at the thunderous howl, releasing a scream of my own. “Let me help you! Let me fix this!”

Another murderous shriek sounds as I step toward her. “I don’t want to go! Make it stop! I WILL NOT GO!”

I sob, the gasping sounds ripped from my chest as I struggle to stay upright. I feel the blackness trying to take me even now. “Please. Please let me make this right.”

Her head drops forward, drool running from her mouth and over her chin. Colorless eyes swing back to me, and in them I see a sorrow unlike any I have ever witnessed. “You’ve done enough, little rebel. Selfish. Unthinking. Ignorant, rebel. You killed us all.”

“No.” My head continues to deny, but my heart twists at the knowledge that she’s. . .right. She’s dead because of me. Tears overspill my eyes, tracking marks through the grime on my cheeks. I choke. “But I was only trying to help you.”

Her bark of laughter startles me and I jerk in surprise when her finger points again, this time to my left. “Fail. Failing. Failed.” She cackles. And what of them? Will you help them too?”

My head turns.

They’re all there. My dear, sweet friends. Ann and John William. Cason. Matthew. My father. The Overseer. The Master. Asa. All the children. There are so many of them, both known and unknown.

All with the same murderous intent.

To make me pay.

about the book

thesurrendered_ebookAfter a financial collapse devastates the United States, the new government imposes a tax on the nation’s most valuable resource—the children.

Surrendered at age ten—after her parents could no longer afford her exorbitant fees—Vee Delancourt has spent six hard years at the Mills, alongside her twin, Oliver. With just a year to freedom, they do what they can to stay off the Master’s radar. But when Vee discovers unspeakable things happening to the younger girls in service, she has no choice but to take a stand—a decision that lands her on the run and outside the fence for the first time since the System robbed her of her liberty.

Vee knows the Master will stop at nothing to prove he holds ultimate authority over the Surrendered. But when he makes a threat that goes beyond what even she considers possible, she accepts the aid of an unlikely group of allies. Problem is, with opposing factions gunning for the one thing that might save them all, Vee must find a way to turn oppression and desperation into hope and determination—or risk failing all the children and the brother she left behind.

Now available!

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Haunted Halloween Blog Tour: Pt IV

October is the month of fears, and we’re going on tour with some of our favorite authors to talk about what their main characters are afraid of. What keeps them up at night? What nightmare has them waking in a cold sweat? Each day, we’ll feature a new main character and delve deep into their subconscious to see what they fear. And each day, you’ll have a chance to enter to win some awesome prizes! Bailey is the sixteen-year-old protagonist of the Paranormal Comedy THE CONCH SHELL OF DOOM by Ryan Hill. When Bailey isn’t fighting off sea monsters, he’s fighting off his friends’ snark, a healthy fear of rejection, and anxiety. But rejection isn’t the only thing he’s afraid of…

What am I most afraid of? by Bailey Southwick

What am I not afraid of is probably the better question. I’m afraid my friends will find out who I have a secret crush on- actually, let’s leave her name out of it. If they ever found out, I’d never hear the end of it. I know a lot of people say, “Oh, I’d never hear the end of it,” but I’m serious. Marshall and Tim would hound me until I moved to Allakaket, Alaska, population 107. Even then, I’d still get texts, emails, and even real mail from them with more jokes. To top it off, one of them – most likely Marshall – would make sure the crush knew I liked them in the most public and humiliating way possible.

Maybe Allakaket isn’t the worst idea.

I’m also afraid of goblin sharks, sand soldiers, and having some bad guy’s head put on my body. Definitely the last one. No, my body isn’t the most athletic, but I’m still growing into it? Also, it’s mine. I don’t want some gross head taking control, rendering me basically dead. No way. That’d stink.

Also, I’m afraid of my anxiety. It pops up at random moments and causes all kinds of problems. I do my best to manage it, but that can only get me so far sometimes. I wish it weren’t the case, but it’s the lens through which I view life. It makes me who I am, and it can make me my own worst enemy.

about the book

Bailey didn’t mean to catch his parents plotting to unleash the sinister Trenton Maroney and his powerful oceanic army on the world. It was an honest mistake. Now, he’s got the horribly disfigured Mr. Lovell on his trail, which is doing wonders for Bailey’s anxiety.

His only ally is Franklin, a burn-out several decades past wishing his brother Trenton was destroyed for good. Franklin has battled his brother for two thousand years, and has nothing to show for it except his beloved Mustang.

To stop Mr. Lovell from awakening Trenton, Franklin and Bailey will have to get past his parents, a one-eyed stoner, crooked cops, giant Scotsmen, and Trenton’s army, which can only be summoned by one thing: the mysterious Conch Shell of Doom.

Amazon

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