Tag Archives: new release

Yay! IN THE AFTER by Elisa Dane guest post and giveaway @chapterxchapter @ElisaDane @swoonromance

 

elisa dane

In the After

In the After by Elisa Dane

Publication Date:  February 2, 2016

Publisher:  Swoon Romance

Julie: I love that cover, don’t you? I’m excited to host Elisa Dane for today’s stop on her blog tour. Her new book sounds amazing, and I can’t wait to read it! I know she has some interesting things to share with us, so I’ll get out of the way and let her get to it. ♥

Welcome Elisa!

Elisa: Hello, and thank you so much for having me on your blog today. I’m so thankful you took part in my blog tour and I can’t wait for you all to read/meet Sadie and Hayden! I’m feeling rather chatty today, so let’s talk about the young adult and new adult genres and the challenge of keeping story-lines fresh and interesting, shall we?

 

I’m sure since you’re reading this you’re like me and a voracious reader and lover of the written word. No joke, over the past month I’ve read eighteen books. I don’t often get the chance to binge read like I have, but when I do, I want to be carried away by the stories I delve into. I want to get lost in the characters and their worlds. With the staggering amount of books available to us on Amazon and other retailers, it can be a challenge to find stories that aren’t familiar to us in some way. Therein lies the problem. How do authors keep stories fresh when there are only a finite number of tropes in which to write about? How do authors make their stories stand apart from everyone else’s?

 

For me, it’s all about voice, and knowing just how far you can push your readers to suspend their disbelief. I love writing fiction. I get to make shit up for a living. Pretty. Damn. Cool. That said, I write in the contemporary genre. I can place my characters in harrowing situations, but those situations have to be believable. Let’s say my main character’s name is Suzy and she’s never known her father, and recently lost her mother to drug abuse. Suzy is heartbroken and bereft. Suzy and her mother live in a quiet, suburban neighbourhood. It wouldn’t take any stretch of the imagination for us as readers to watch Suzy interact with police and social workers. I think for a lot of us, it would be both believable and suspenseful to read about Suzy being stalked by her mom’s dealer who wants the money her mother owed him. Suzy’s in school and doesn’t have a job. How will she pay the dealer? Even more shocking/suspenseful would be to read about Suzy having a run in with her mother’s pimp, who’d she’d worked for in an effort to pay off her drug dealer. Suzy had no idea her mom was leading a double life turning tricks while she was in school to help support her drug habit. Suzy falling in love with her mother’s pimp, getting pregnant with the pimp’s baby, and killing the dealer, taking all of his money in the process is where my suspension of disbelief cuts off. Um … no. I don’t believe for a second, sweet, innocent, virginal Suzy would fall for her mother’s slimy pimp, develop a heroin dependence like the one that killed her mom, get pregnant, and off a drug dealer with a sawed off shotgun before fleeing the country. Is it possible for Suzy’s character to do all those things? Yeah. Is it believable? Not to me.

 

Voice is another important factor in keeping any genre of writing fresh. The more the author inserts his/her voice into a character, the more I’m drawn in. No one wants to step into a flat, monotone character’s life. As readers, we’re trying to escape our reality for a little while and live in someone else’s life. If the character is flat or boring, we’re not able to escape. I’m a fan of real dialog, which includes the use of swear words when it’s appropriate. I’ve never understood people’s aversion to profanity in books when it’s realistic to the character/situation. If the character I’m reading about is hurting, I want to feel that hurt, and I want to see that hurt in their dialog. Another important thing about voice: it needs to change with each book. If I’m reading a series of books by the same author, I want that author’s overall style to remain the same, but I need each character’s voice to be different. I don’t want to read three different stories with the same character in each book with nothing different but a change of name and scenery.

 

As you can see, authors have their work cut out for them. Writing a book and struggling to incorporate the above elements along with at least a hundred others is no small feat. It takes patience and a lot of hard work. Hard work that is always worth it in the end when a reader tells you they fell in love with your characters and their stories. As a reader, I know what I want in a story. I want a fresh approach to storylines that have been done before, and characters that suck me in and force me to feel and fall for them. As an author, I work tirelessly to make sure I do just that.

Julie: Wow, that was some great insight into the genre from someone who knows and understands it so well. Thanks so much for being here and sharing your thoughts with all of us. XO

 

Want to know more about Elisa and her books? Check it out!

 

Book Blurb:

Sadie Reynolds is a liar with secrets. At school, she’s part of the popular crowd known as AE, despite being broken inside. She hides it well. She has to. The slightest bit of imperfection will land her in the same shoes as her Geeky neighbor named Ian.

Ian and his only friend are the object of Sadie’s friends’ ridicule, ire, and entertainment. The AE rule the school with intimidation and retribution against anyone who would dare question their supremacy.

Sadie steers clear of most of it, terrified someone will find out her secret. She isn’t the least bit perfect. In fact, she suffers from PTSD stemming from the murder of her mother right before her eyes when she was a child. She can barely cope from day-to-day, hiding her truth and trying to fit in. But she knows it’s only a matter of time.

Hayden is a “Waverly,” a kid with the misfortune of living in the small farming town of Waverly that borders the very affluent Lexington Parrish. The AE doesn’t mix with “Waverlies.” Ever.

Desperate to get away from her oppressive friends, Sadie crashes into Hayden at a bonfire and the attraction that sparks between them is nothing short of electric. But Hayden’s an outsider and when things heat up, Sadie will be forced to choose between her friends and her new boyfriend.

Only Queen Bee Britt isn’t having it. She will not allow Sadie to cross her. Sadie can either do what Britt wants her to do or she will reveal Sadie for the PTSD freak that she is.

Sadie does some soul searching about who she is and who she wants to be. She can’t live her life like this. Not any more. One fateful night will help her see how much things have to change.

She’s determined to no longer allow the AE to rule her life. She will be strong, stand up for Ian and love who she wants in Hayden. Determined and invigorated, Sadie goes to school feeling hopeful for the first time in forever.

But, the unthinkable happens.

Shooters attack dozens of students before the two eventually take their own lives, leaving the school a decimated shadow of what it once was.

Suddenly who lives where, wears what or loves whom seems like the least of Lexington Parish’s problems as everyone and everything changes forever in the after.

IN THE AFTER by Elisa Dane is a hard-hitting and heart-warming story of tragedy, love, loss and redemption. It is recommended for readers 14+.

Link to Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28471919-in-the-after

Purchase Links:

Amazon

 

Giveaway!!!

 Contest ends November 27, 2015 

One (1) winner will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and a digital copy of In the After by Elisa Dane(INT)

Enter here!!! http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c08c9e8e496/?

About the Author:

e dane

 

Elisa Dane loves books, chocolate, reality television, her family, and All Star Cheerleading. Not necessarily in that order! She writes contemporary YA romance with cheerleaders. Yep. She writes what she knows, and it’s her hope that her stories will not only take you on a romantic journey that will warm your heart, but that you’ll find a new respect for the sport of All Star Cheerleading you may not have had before. She’s represented by Brittany Booker of the Booker/Albert Agency, and has published a NA paranormal series under her real name, Lisa Sanchez.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr | Goodreads

 

Link to Tour Schedule:

http://www.chapter-by-chapter.com/blog-tour-schedule-in-the-after-by-elisa-dane/


M9B Friday Reveal: ASHES IN THE SKY Chapter 1 by @JenniferMEaton #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books

 

Hi everybody! *waves*
Today my pub sister Jennifer M. Eaton and Month9Books
are revealing the first chapter for ASHES IN THE SKY, which releases March 15,
2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to
receive a eGalley!!
*Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post! 
 
A quick note from the author:
Hello alien fans!

I have to admit that Fire in the Woods was meant to be a stand-alone. When approached
to write a second novel, I really had to scratch my head. I mean, the story was
over, right?

Well, apparently I “left them screaming for more” as everyone always says.
I really didn’t want to deal with the direct
aftermath of book one, so I decided to fast forward a few months: to a time
when things should be settling down for poor, exhausted Jess. All she wants to
do is get her life back to normal again, and to do that, she needs to get back
to school.

Unfortunately for Jess (and maybe fortunately for us) it will be a little while
before our girl has anything close to a normal life again. So enjoy Jess’s
first day back at school after saving the world. Here is chapter one of Ashes
in the Sky: book two of Fire in the Woods.

Alien Kisses!
Jennifer M. Eaton


Title: ASHES IN THE SKY
Author: Jennifer M. Eaton
Pub. Date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon |
B&N
Goodreads
After inadvertently saving the world,
eighteen-year-old Jessica Martinez is ready to put adventure behind her and
settle back into the familiar routine of high school.
 
Though when she’s offered an opportunity
to photograph the inside of an alien space ship, Jess jumps at the chance.
After all, she’d be crazy to turn something like that down, right?
 
Spending time with David on the ship has
definite advantages and the two seem to pick up right where they left off. But
when Jess discovers a plot to sabotage David’s efforts to establish a new home
for his people on another planet, neither David’s advanced tech nor Jess’s
smarts will be able to save them.
 


ASHES IN THE SKY is an action-packed,
romantic Sci Fi adventure that will leave readers screaming for more.

 

Exclusive Excerpt

1

Dad’s brow creased. “You don’t have to do this, Jess. We can turn around now and go home.”

His fingers rapped on the limousine’s armrest as we pulled up to the entrance of my normally quiet school. Outside, police officers and several uniformed security guards held advancing reporters and camera crews on the sidewalks.

“Relax, Major,” Elaine said, across from me. She pulled out a compact and touched up her lipstick. “Two months after single-handedly saving the world from an alien invasion, Earth’s teenage savior returns to finish high school.” She snapped the case shut. “This is the public interest story of the year.”

Dad’s nose flared. “Yes, she’s supposed to be going to school, but you’ve made it a media circus. Why’d you have to schedule a press conference in the auditorium?”

She slipped her lipstick back into her designer purse. “They would have been here anyway. The best way to calm a stalking fox is to invite him in for tea.”

“Tea? I’ll give you tea.”

I held up my hand. “Dad … ” I didn’t have to finish. I never did. Their arguments were always the same. Father protects daughter, while the publicist pushes media exposure as far as she can legally get away with—and me stuck in between.

Elaine wasn’t all that bad, as far as publicists went. Not that I’d known any other publicists, but she’d been by my side since my very first press conference, and the hundred or so more over the past two months. She could be pushy, but she understood the power of a pint of Death By Chocolate ice cream at the end of a long day, which totally earned her brownie points in my book.

Dad’s gaze returned to me. “We just got back. Do you really need to do another press conference?” The deep lines around his eyes added to the weight of my own exhaustion.

I shifted in my seat, my hands clammy against the leather interior. “If we go home, they’ll just show up here again tomorrow. Let’s get this over with. Maybe then things can get back to normal.” I grabbed his hand. “I can do this.”

Dad pressed his lips together. Of course, he knew I could do it. But knowing and wanting me to answer another set of invasive questions were two different things, and I loved every stubborn inch of him for it.

Elaine fluffed my hair and adjusted the collar of my shirt. “Show time.” She knocked twice on the window, and the Secret Service agent outside opened the door for her. She glided through the crowd with a practiced grace.

Camera-palooza erupted outside. Dang, there weren’t this many photographers when I met the president.

Dad stepped out before me, an imposing figure in his combat uniform. Having an over-protective father did have its advantages. No one was getting by this bodyguard. No one.

I closed my eyes and clutched the charm on my necklace. My mother’s strength seeped into me, giving me courage. You’ll be fine, I heard her whisper. You’re my strong little girl. Always have been.

“I’ll try, Mom.” I opened my eyes and shuddered. You would think I’d be used to the feeding frenzy by now. This was the longest fifteen minutes of fame ever.

Steadying myself on the limo door, I stood.

“Jess, look over here.” Flash.

“Miss Martinez, how does it feel to be back at school?” Flash.

“Jessica, to your right.” Flash. Flash.

The faces and camera lenses blurred. My mind filled with the phantom sounds of alien weapons. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply to ward off memories of blinding lights and screaming voices.

It was over. The aliens had left, and I was alive. We were all still alive.

The Secret Service closed in around us as Dad placed his hand on my back, guiding me to the front entrance. With a well-rehearsed smile, I made my way forward, hoping to avoid a repeat of tabloid-gate when the worst-of-the-worst photos of me turned up on the cover of the National Daily.

Dad moved beside me as we stepped over the threshold. I slipped my fingers into his hand and squeezed. One more press conference. Just one more. I could do this.

We made our way through a throng of reporters, students, parents, and teachers to the auditorium. Hundreds of voices jumbled into one chaotic roar rebounding off the lockers.

A microphone appeared in front of my face. “Ms. Martinez, how did you—”

Dad pulled me to his chest as two Secret Service agents pounced on the guy. The reporter and the agents sunk back into the crowd, disappearing like a stone thrown into water.

“There will be question and answer time after the presentation,” Elaine called as we passed through the auditorium’s stage door.

I exhaled, rubbing my arms. That had to be the worst crowd ever.

Dad circled the area behind the curtains and checked the cracks and crevices backstage. The Secret Service agents had long since given up on trying to convince him that the government pre-secured all of my speaking engagements. I used to joke about their paranoia, until someone actually found a bomb. Those guys in ugly suits quickly became my best friends.

“Did you practice your speech?” Elaine asked.

I raised an eyebrow. “No.” You’d think she’d stop asking me that. I hadn’t memorized one yet. Why would I start now?

I pulled aside the curtain and scoped out the auditorium. A sea of smiling, wide-eyed faces filled the room. Camera crews and reporters intermingled with the student body.

Going back to high school was supposed to help me get my life back.

This fiasco was not getting my life back. But maybe if I answered everyone’s questions now, they wouldn’t keep asking later.

Hey, a girl could dream.

Elaine patted my shoulder before heading out past the curtains. Her heels clopped across the wooden stage as she passed a huge poster of National Geographic’s “The Night the World Stood Still: Special Edition.”

Steven Callup’s cover photo was one of those shots every aspiring photographer dreamed of catching: perfect lighting, engaging subject, active backdrop, and undeniable emotional tone. I wasn’t drooling over this masterpiece, though; because the photograph featured me.

The flames over my shoulder were in crisp focus and flawlessly mirrored in my dark hair. The mottled hues of a fresh sunrise blended perfectly with the devastation in the background. And my God, the expression on Dad’s face as we embraced … the love in his eyes.

That night would haunt me forever. Something incredible had happened, and it had nothing to do with an alien invasion. That cover immortalized the moment for the world to see: a year after my mother’s death, my father finally opened up and started to feel again.

I released the curtain, ready to face my peers, knowing that no one gave a rat’s ass about me or my dad.

They only wanted to know more about David.

I mean, I totally got it. An alien guy crash lands on Earth and has to escape before his people wipe out humanity. Heck, I’d be interested, too. But the clincher was that David changed his people’s minds because of me. I was the heroine in the story of the millennia, whether I liked it or not.

I cringed, thinking of how many people had contacted me for the movie rights. Ashes in the Sky, they wanted to call it. What kind of idiotic title was that? Ridiculous, all of it. The world almost ended right in front of me. I didn’t need to see it again on a big screen.

As Elaine announced my name, and the audience applauded, I wondered if anything would ever be as it was before David’s people arrived.

I took my place behind the microphone and squinted into the harsh auditorium lighting. I’d been in that audience dozens of times, but never on stage. The faces looking back at me were familiar, but distant. Awestruck.

This place was my school. My safe haven. Having the media here was wrong.

I gritted my teeth and gripped the sides of the lectern. This assembly would be the absolute last time I talked about what happened to me in public. Ever.

A mop of perky, blond curls caught my attention from the third row. My BFF Maggie beamed as she gave me a thumbs-up. Part of me relaxed, knowing I had a friend near.

Maggs was the only other person who’d known about David before the Army started chasing us. She even risked her own rear-end helping us escape. She’d talked her way out of a grounding from her father, the general, thank goodness. Damn, he must have been ticked when he found out what she’d done.

Taking one last breath to steady myself, I edged closer to the mic. “You’d have to be dead not to know what happened two months ago. So I’m just going to open it up to questions.”

Hundreds of hands shot into the air.

One of the moderators handed a microphone to a bubbly girl with a blond ponytail. “Is it true that the alien looked just like Jared Linden?”

And, it starts.

“Yes. David mimicked an advertisement and looked just like Jared Linden’s character in that movie Fire in the Woods.”

Okay, that was only half of it. The truth was far too embarrassing. David pulled Jared Linden’s features from my mind. He didn’t look exactly like Jared. Just the hotter parts. The rest was an amalgamation of other cute guys he’d yanked out of my brain. There was no way I would admit to that, though.

A tall kid in a black band tee stood. “So what really happened out there? They were going to annihilate us. How’d you get them to change their minds?”

I cleared my throat. A flash of David’s smile and the warmth of his touch sent a shiver down my spine. “Luck was totally in our favor. If David’s plane hadn’t crashed, we never would have met. It didn’t take long before he realized the human race was worth saving.”

A teacher handed a microphone to a girl wearing glasses. “How long will it take them to terraform Mars?”

Ugh. I tried to think of David’s new home like Seattle or Los Angeles, but it wasn’t. It was Mars. As in: not Earth. Talk about your long distance romance.

“I have no idea how long it will take them to make Mars livable. I do know that they are running short on supplies, so I’m hoping it will happen pretty quickly.”

A girl in a cheerleader uniform flagged down the lady with the microphone. “Everyone says you and the alien were doing it. Inquiring minds want to know. Was he any good?”

Camera flashes singed my eyes as a teacher tried to pull the mic away from the girl.

“No,” a reporter shouted. “Let’s hear the answer.”

The audience murmured, shifting like hyenas waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting foal. Beside the stage, Dad’s face became an unnatural shade of crimson.

Crap.

“Well?” the cheerleader asked.

I wiped the sweat from my palms, remembering the shockwave that raged through me when David’s lips covered mine. The tabloids had reduced our relationship to supermarket trash, and Rah-Rah Girl probably wouldn’t know a real emotional connection if it bit her.

David and I shared something so deeply intimate it transcended everything. No one could possibly understand. I wasn’t even sure I understood. All I knew was that I was in love, and I’d probably never see him again.

I blinked, realizing the room had gone quiet, awaiting my answer about doing it.

My hands fisted, but I forced a smile and rustled up the rote response Elaine had prepared for me. “I heard that rumor, too, but David and I were only friends.” A sickly gash sliced through my heart. The thought of living the rest of my life with him on another planet was akin to living in the desert without water.

Was he out there somewhere, longing for me as much as I yearned for him?

My stomach fluttered. I hated how people’s stupid questions dredged up feelings I’d worked hard to suppress. I had to get off that podium.

A kid in the back stood. “How does it feel to know that six million people died while you were out there hugging dear old dad?” He pointed over my shoulder to the huge magazine cover behind me. “How does it feel to know the death count is still rising?”

It was? “Umm—”

“When did you know they were hostile?” someone else shouted.

My heart thumped against my ribcage. “I, uh—”

A reporter snatched the microphone. “Do you honestly believe they won’t come back and finish us off?”

The rumble of voices intensified. Cameras flashed as dozens of voices drowned one another out. So much for school being my safe haven.

Elaine gripped my shoulder and pulled me from the dais. “Thank you,” she said. “That’s all the questions we have time for today.”

She scooted me past the curtains, Dad following close behind. The volume in the auditorium escalated.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “We should’ve been ready for that. Next time—”

“There’s not going to be a next time.” I thrust my chin in the air. “That was my last public appearance. I’m already behind in school, and I need to graduate this year. I just want to get back to my classes and put this all behind me.”

She grinned in that syrupy way adults do when they are about to condescend your butt. “We’ll talk about this later, honey.”

Dad’s gaze seared through her before he offered me a nod of approval.

No, Elaine. We would definitely not be talking about this later.

 




 

Corporate Team Leader by day, and
Ranting Writer by night. Jennifer M. Eaton calls the East Coast of the USA
home, where she lives with her husband, three energetic boys, and a pepped up
poodle.
 
Jennifer hosts an informational blog “A
Reference of Writing Rants for Writers (or Learn from My Mistakes)” aimed at
helping all writers be the best they can be.
 
Beyond writing and motivating others,
she also enjoys teaching her dog to jump through hoops—literally.
 
Jennifer’s perfect day includes long
hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the
fire with a great book; but her greatest joy is using her over-active
imagination constructively… creating new worlds for everyone to enjoy.
Connect with the
Author: 
Website | Twitter Facebook | Goodreads





 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eGalley of ASHES IN THE SKY. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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M9B Friday Reveal Assets- GENESIS GIRL by Jennifer Bardsley

Today Jennifer Bardsley and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for GENESIS GIRL, which releases September 27, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!


A quick note from the author:

“The first time I saw the cover to Genesis Girl I got chills. Genesis Girl is a psychological, Sci-Fi thriller, and the blood-red cover conveys that perfectly.”–Jennifer Bardsley

 

Fifty years ago cell phones unleashed a Brain Cancer Epidemic.
Terrified by technology, worried parents entrusted their children to a charismatic leader.
Barbelo promised to keep his Vestals safe from the Internet, hidden behind lead-lined walls.
Now, digital purity is valuable and a Vestal named Blanca is auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Blanca is the most obedient eighteen-year-old her purchasers have ever met.
She is a blank slate for the genesis of anything they want.
But too bad for Blanca.
Their new beginning could be her end.
On to the reveal!
 

 

Title: GENESIS GIRL
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, &eBook
Find it: Amazon
|
Goodreads

 

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. 


Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.


Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. 


By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online. 

 

Exclusive Excerpt

Chapter One

My boot hits him in the nuts at the same time as the flash goes off, but it’s too late. The Virus has already taken my picture. He was aiming for Fatima, but I pushed her away just in time. I sideswipe his legs and topple the Virus over while he moans in agony from my kick to his groin.

“Nobody takes my picture, you freak!” I stare at his tattooed face. There’s something familiar about the snake inked around his eyebrow, but I can’t quite place it. We’re in the underground parking garage at school, and the fluorescent lights shade everything ugly. I crouch down and flip the Virus onto his stomach, bashing his nose against the pavement.

Ever since I was little, teachers have warned me about Viruses. They’re paparazzi scumbags whose sole purpose in life is to destroy privacy and expose secrets. I’ve never seen one in person until today.

“Hand me your belt,” I tell Fatima. I hold the Virus in place by grinding my knee into his back while Fatima slips off the cinch from her black spandex uniform. I wrestle the man’s arms behind me with both hands. Surprise, surprise—security doesn’t show up until I’m already hog-tying the bastard.

“You’re not so special now, Vestal!” the Virus says as they haul him off.

He’s right.

Until about two minutes ago, I was a Vestal postulant. A blank slate. An Internet virgin. There were no images of my moniker floating around cyberspace. My parents had never blogged about my every poop. It had been planned that way from the beginning. They had castrated my virtual identity for the promise of a better life.

In one week I’m graduating from Tabula Rasa. Today was my chance to shine while I’m interviewed by companies. Only nobody will want me now.

With one flash of his thumb camera, that jerk destroyed my life.

“Don’t worry,” Fatima says, helping me to my feet. “You’ve still got a face that can sell soap. I knew it the first time I saw you. Your skin’s your best feature, and that hasn’t changed.”

The sound of the security gate opening drowns Fatima out. We watch as a white car enters the Tabula Rasa garage. A flash of sunlight taunts me before the gate closes. All my life I’ve lived in this twenty-story fortress of protection. Today was going to be my first day in sunshine, being interviewed by bidders.

But that Virus ruined it all. How the hell he snuck in, I’ll never know.

“You’re the girl next door,” Fatima says, a bit louder. “Couture might not want you, but the average American will.”

I nod because I’ve heard it all before. Not everyone can be the seductress. I’ll never be like Fatima, I don’t begrudge her that. A clear face, green eyes, and brown hair are what I have to work with, and that’s fine. But there’s no fixing a picture of me on the Internet.

“It’ll be okay, Blanca,” Fatima says again.

But we both know that isn’t true.

For a Vestal, a clear Internet history is the most important thing. Without that I’m nothing. Our elusive privacy is what makes us valuable.

I’ve watched our class shrink from two hundred eager postulants to a graduating group of ten. The infractions were usually unavoidable: their memory was spotty, their temperament was bad, or worst of all, they turned out ugly. But once in a while, somebody was thrown out because of an online transgression.

Everyone left is bankable. Ten perfect human specimens who could sell you anything.

Even Ethan, with his poufy hair and scrawny build, is a sure thing. He wears glasses now despite his perfect vision, and goes around in bow ties and suspenders. “Nerdy but in a good way,” the teachers say. “This one’s going high-tech.”

Beau can write his own ticket too. He’s six feet tall and can out bench-press every other guy in the group. America will drool.

And then there’s Fatima standing next to me. With her dark eyes and svelte figure, she’ll have her choice of any fashion house.

I had been hoping to sell cosmetics. That’s prestigious too, and I really had a chance. But nobody will bid on me now. The auction is a week away, and I’m ruined!

“Blanca?” A woman approaches us right as a dark black limousine pulls through the gate. “That car isn’t for you. Good luck with your interviews, Fatima.”

Fatima waves at me sadly and slides into the vehicle.

“Let’s get this disaster under control,” says the woman as the limo drives away. Her billowing skirt makes her look ethereal in the shadows of the parking garage. I have never seen her before. But she’s wearing white like our teachers and has a platinum cuff, so of course, I follow her.

She takes me to a room on the twentieth floor of Tabula Rasa that boasts a wall of windows. “Darkened for privacy,” says the woman when she sees my apprehension.

I approach them hesitantly, unaccustomed to the glass. I see a tiny patch of sky surrounded by glowing billboards. On every rooftop is an advertisement featuring a face I already know. Vestals stare down at me from all vantage point, hawking perfumes, cars, and weight-loss supplements.

“You’ll be up there too, Blanca. There’s still hope.” The woman stands at my elbow.
I peek and study her this time. She’s fortyish with blue eyes and a heart-shaped face. I know she’s a Vestal because of her white outfit, but I don’t recognize her.

Weird. I know all the Vestals. Everyone does.

The hydraulic doors hiss open, and we both turn to look. The Tabula Rasa headmaster enters in a swirl of white cloak.

“Blanca,” he says, “you have a problem.”

“Yes, Headmaster Russell. I’m sorry, Headmaster Russell.”

“I don’t know how you let this happen.” He strides to the enormous windows, holding a manila file folder. None of the Tabula Rasa faculty are permitted computers, including Headmaster Russell.

“You mean you don’t know how you let this happen, Russell.”

I brace for impact. Nobody talks to Headmaster Russell that way and gets away with it. I know that better than anyone. He grits his teeth. “Security is being questioned as we speak. Sit down, Ms. Lydia. Please.”

“I will not sit down.” Ms. Lydia’s stare could cut glass. “Not until you apologize to Blanca. She deserves better, and you know it.”

There is audible silence. Headmaster Russell rubs the golden cuff on his wrist. “Blanca, I’m sorry that this happened to you.” His eyes don’t meet mine.

Ms. Lydia snaps her fingers.

Headmaster Russell clears his throat and tries again, this time meeting my gaze. “I’m sorry that I let this happen to you. I should have protected you better. I will do everything in my power to make sure you are still harvested at the auction.” Then he turns to Ms. Lydia who stands resolute and icy. “Are you satisfied?”

“Perhaps.” She shrugs. “Let’s see what’s in the folder.”

A few moments later we are seated at the table in the center of the room. Headmaster Russell shows us the picture of me that is now plastered all over cyberspace. I fight back tears.

first look at newest vestal, the caption reads. Then there’s me executing a roundhouse kick, my hair flying back, and my face a perfect mask of rage.

“This is what we are dealing with,” says Headmaster Russell.

“It could be worse.” Ms. Lydia presses her lips together. Right then an old-fashioned phone hanging on the wall rings. “Well, Russ? Aren’t you going to answer that?”

Headmaster Russell jumps to answer the phone. I can hear him say “Blanca” and “photograph,” but that’s it. My future is muffled as he whispers into the receiver.

Ms. Lydia extends her hand to me. Her touch is very cold, but her shake is firm. “My name is Lydia. I’m the elected agent of all Vestal graduates. I lead the Tabula Rasa board of directors.”

“What was your company?” I ask. I still don’t recognize her. But I notice her platinum cuff. That means she was top pick.

“I didn’t have a company. I went Geisha.”

I try to keep my face blank. Really, I do. But what she said is so shocking that my eyes widen for an instant. Ms. Lydia notices.

“It’s not as bad as you think,” she says. “Maybe it’s better. There are many ways to be a Vestal, and they all have honor.”

“Of course,” I answer. “It says so right in the Vestal Code of Ethics.”

Most Vestals leave Tabula Rasa with major corporations, but on rare occasions they enter contracts with private individuals as Geishas.

Nobody wants to go Geisha. Giving up privacy for another person’s pleasure is creepy. Selling out to a company is so much better.

Headmaster Russell hangs up the phone with a loud click. He smoothes his cloak over his barrel chest. “Blanca has five bidders,” he says. “That picture has whipped up a frenzy.”

“Good,” says Ms. Lydia. “You’re redeemed.”

I’m not sure who she’s talking to, but I brave a smile anyway.

***

Barbelo Nemo founded the Vestals fifty years ago after the Brain Cancer Epidemic rotted humankind via cell phones. Bluetooth scanned sensitive neurons. Wi-Fi washed over weakened gray matter. Before the medical community realized what was happening, millions of people were dead.

Scientists promised finger-chips were the solution, but Barbelo forged a different path. Why risk another tech-induced health crisis? Barbelo set Vestals apart and kept us safe. Eighteen years of schooling at Tabula Rasa behind lead-lined walls, and then twenty-five years of service to the Brethren. We have a sacred duty to remain digitally pure.

If it weren’t for Tabula Rasa, I’d be tech-addicted like everyone else. I’d expose my private thoughts to total strangers. I’d be too engrossed in my finger-chips to pay attention to my friends. I’d judge people by scanning their profile before I met them in person. I wouldn’t buy anything or go anywhere unless the Internet told me it was a good idea. I would let my finger-chips rob me of forming real relationships with the actual people who matter in my life. What’s worse, I wouldn’t know I was ruined. I’d willingly give up my humanity one byte at a time.

But as a Vestal postulant, I’m sheltered from that. Chaos swirls around us, but Vestals are constant. We are loyal. We keep secrets. We remind the world there is a better way to live. Because we are so trustworthy, the public buys anything we sell.

No wonder corporations lust for us.

It’s been seven days since the Virus stole my picture, and I’ve made it to the auction after all. I’m sitting on stage with the other Tabula Rasa graduates, safe inside the lead-lined walls of school. The Harvest is minutes away. We’re about to auction our purity to the highest bidder. In front of us are Silicon Valley elite. Many of them are flexing their palms, frustrated that their finger-chip connections won’t work.

Fatima’s hand is on my thigh, and my hand covers hers. Sweat trickles down my back, tracing the curve of my spine as I arch my shoulders in perfect posture. I curl my toes inside their black leather boots, trying to release the pressure.

My whole education, my entire existence, has led up to now.

This morning I woke up in the metal bunk bed of my cloister. In a few days I’ll move to my new home, the Vestal quarters of my business sponsor. I’ll represent a company, a product, and a lifestyle. The world will follow my life through carefully released images. Whatever my company chooses to share will become my new identity.

Where I eat, who I date, what I do. It will all be for one purpose— to sell my company’s products.

I’ll never beg my friends to like my pictures. Total strangers will hang on my every word. I’ll be a Vestal, and millions of people will care about who I am.

Even better, I’ll have a family. Older Vestals will be my mentors. I’ll join their manufactured family in print, media, and billboard campaigns across America.

If I’m lucky, the company will have at least one Vestal in their roster close to me in age. Hopefully a guy. Preferably one who looks more like Beau and less like Ethan. I’ve been waiting eighteen years for a boyfriend, and he had better be good.

“Fatima,” the announcer says. My best friend squeezes my hand and winks at me. Then she walks to the stage. She’s gorgeous, like always. Ever since we were little, I always knew Fatima would be the top pick. Fatima has a body that can sell anything. She’s smart too. It will say that in her portfolio.

But when Fatima stands up there at the podium next to Headmaster Russell, there is only a shuffle of papers in the audience. Heads are bent over still placards. Fatima glances back at me with panic.

No one is bidding.

A woman wearing a white suit scrambles on stage and grabs Headmaster Russell’s arm, whispering into his ear. It’s Ms. Corina, from charm and deportment. She doesn’t appear so polished now.

Ms. Corina points to me, and Headmaster Russell looks too. Then he cringes.

“There has been a change of plans,” he announces to the audience. “Bidding on Miss Fatima will wait. Bidding on Miss Blanca will begin.”

Fatima gazes at me from across the stage. I know what she’s thinking without her saying one word. Fatima’s the seductress, and I’m the girl-next-door. She’s the one people drool for, not me.

I try to smile placidly, like Charming Corina taught us. But watching the audience freaks me out. I’m used to the black uniforms of students and the white robes of teachers. Now all I see is the ambiguity of color.

I try to focus as Headmaster Russell says something about my education.

“Poetry, literature, music,” he says. “Blanca is the perfect package. She’s well versed in the seven liberal arts and entirely ignorant about science and technology. A Vestal Virgin for the modern age.”

Headmaster Russell regards me with dark eyes. Then he turns back to the sea of faces. “Blanca’s the perfect image for your company. Born and bred in Nevada and groomed right here at Tabula Rasa. Let’s start the bidding at five million dollars.”

A deep breath. I fight to be calm when I see arms shoot up and numbers wave. But I don’t think about the auction or my impending future. I think about my past.

Until now, I had no idea I came from Nevada.

Were my parents still in Nevada? Were they scanning the news feed on their palms at this very second? Were they trying to guess which name was mine, eagerly anticipating their cut from my sale? My parents were going to make a lot of money off me.

But my so-called parents aren’t important. All that matters is right now: the bidding war. So many people shout that Headmaster Russell appears stressed. He uses the sleeve of his cloak to wipe sweat off his forehead.

“Thirty million? Do I hear thirty-one?” he asks. That’s when I feel the skin on my arms prickle. Companies won’t pay that much for a Vestal. But private individuals do.

“Thirty-one-and-a-half?” Headmaster Russell asks loudly. Another arm goes up. Then another. “Thirty-two? Thirty-two going once? Going twice? Sold,” says Headmaster Russell, banging the gavel. “Sold for the highest price ever paid in Vestal history. Sold to Mr. Calum McNeal for thirty-two million dollars.”

And just like that I’ve gone Geisha.

A middle-aged man stands. His hair is brown but graying and longish around the ears. He’s smiling so hard, it looks like he’s going to burst.

***

I’m finally wearing white, but I don’t feel like I deserve it. Instead I feel dirty inside as I stand with my fellow graduates around the Pool of Purity. My unlit candle weighs heavy in my hand, and I nervously finger its waxy edge. Everyone has been sold to a company but me. Fatima won’t make eye contact.

“On this the most private of nights,” Headmaster Russell says, “we celebrate the blessing of one more class of Tabula Rasa graduates. The brothers and sisters who came before you surround you with their guidance and welcome you to our ranks.”

I feel their presence before I see them. Older, experienced Vestals step from the shadows and flank us in a larger ring. Together we form two concentric circles, our billowing white robes hovering over the pavement, reflected in the water.

“The candle please.” Headmaster Russell turns to look at Ms. Lydia, who stands nearby.

She is beautiful in the moonlight, her heart-shaped face a mask of serenity. When she reaches out her candle to touch his, the sleeve of her gown slips down below her elbow, exposing her platinum cuff against creamy skin. “The beacon of light,” she says. “We are a sacred fire that will not burn out. Those who came before you welcome you into our Brethren.”

Soon the flame is passed from candle to candle. The dark circle of Tabula Rasa graduates illuminates in a warm glow. When Fatima tips her candle to mine, she struggles to smile. She hasn’t spoken one word to me since the auction. My harvest price was double hers. But I know that’s not the real problem between us. It’s because I’ve gone Geisha.

Headmaster Russell’s voice is solemn. “Vestals are a beacon in a dark world. We alone stand together. We are living sacrifices for all that is pure and all that is sacred.”

An older Vestal steps forward with a silver tray. Nine golden cuffs sparkle in the candlelight. The single platinum cuff beckons to me. I am the top pick.

Ms. Lydia selects a golden cuff. “It is time for the vows. Master Ethan, do you solemnly swear to uphold the Vestal order?”

“I do,” says Ethan, stepping forward.

“Will you consecrate your body? Will you promise to never be marked by ink, stain, piercing, or technology? Will you give your highest self to our cause?”

“I promise,” says Ethan, holding out his arm.

Ms. Lydia snaps the golden cuff on his wrist.

“And now, for the sealing,” says Headmaster Russell, who approaches with a small blue flame. There is total and utter silence for this, the most sacred part of the ceremony. Headmaster Russell singes the metal, searing it shut. Ethan’s golden cuff now marks him for life. The whole world will forever know he is a Vestal.

The sealing happens eight more times until finally, I am the only graduate who remains.

Ms. Lydia picks up the platinum cuff and holds it to the light. “There are many paths a Vestal can take, but one thing is constant. The world relies on us. We are the last guardians of private living. When we sell our reputation, it is with purpose and thought. We do not give it away freely like the masses of humanity. To be purchased privately is a holy act within itself.”

My tears start when she says this. They roll down my cheeks, washing away the shame. It’s like a window has opened in my heart, releasing all the pressure. I feel joy again. Joy and pride for being a Vestal, no matter what.

This is my time. This is what I have lived for. When Ms. Lydia snaps the platinum cuff on my wrist, it is the happiest moment of my life.

 

 
 
 

 

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily HeraldShe also blogs at Teaching My Baby to Read with the mission of sparking a national debate on the important roll parents play in education. Jennifer is a graduate of Stanford University and a member of SCBWI. She lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, WA.
GENESIS GIRL will release in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sequel  will come out in 2017. Jennifer is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Literary AgencyLLC.
Follow the Jennifer on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive the FIRST eGalley of GENESIS GIRL.
International.

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Blog Tour and Giveaway: White Light by Anna Simpson @emaginette @missyshirley2 @gina_wynn

Hi everyone! I’m SO excited to have friend and talented writer Anna Simpson take over the blog today.

Blog Tour Schedule:
https://emaginette.wordpress.com/white-light-blog-tour-schedule

White Light

About the book:
Emma never dreamed of being a super-sleuth. In her mind, she’s more Scooby Doo than Nancy Drew and when her nosy neighbor, Mrs. Perkins, drags her to an anniversary party to solve a mystery, she rolls her eyes, buys a box of chocolates and hops in the car.
What’s a party without an attack on its host—or more accurately on the host’s grandson, sparking an allergic reaction and moving the party to the hospital waiting room. Suddenly, everyone is a suspect. Emma and Mrs. Perkins, along with Great Aunt Alice (a spirit with boundary issues who keeps stepping into Emma’s body like a new dress and playing matchmaker), dive into an investigation that almost gets Emma killed along with the man they are trying to protect. With so many reasons to kill him and so much to be gained if he died, Emma and Mrs. Perkins must unravel the tenuous ties that point to every member of his family as potential killers.
Even if it means going back to the psych ward, Emma will protect her friend and this innocent man. What good is freedom if it’s haunted with guilt?

Anna’s got some things to tell us about her new paranormal mystery White Light, available now from Three Worlds Press. ***…and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post. Welcome Anna!

Why Mysteries?

Thanks for hosting me today, Julie. It means a lot.

I like layers.

Multilayers, in fact.

And mysteries have them. They start off rather simple at first. In fact, I might even say they are so straight forward that anyone can predict what will happen next. But it isn’t always the case.

Because the basic story isn’t so straight forward. It holds hidden gems—vague comments or random clues—that have the power to change everything.

That’s what a mystery is to me. An obvious story transformed into a curtain of lacework—delicate, yet intricate. The gaps don’t leave holes so much as reveal what’s behind it. Little glimpses of more story, more layers, which may or may not be important or skewed.

The question then becomes: Can I figure it out before I’m told the answer?

Have you read anything like that before? If not, try a mystery. Something by Agatha Christie or Ruth Rendell. They were masters at letting the reader think one thing is going on when actually it’s something completely different.

I dare you to try to figure it out. But before you pick up the remote, let me warn you watching Poirot and Marple it isn’t the same as reading about them.

If you accept the challenge, let me know what you think. Julie always knows where to find me.

True. Hi, it’s me again, Julie. I’m popping in to tell you where you can get more information on Anna’s new story …

Goodreads link:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28245754-white-light
Purchase links:
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-whitelight-1949539-152.html
http://www.amazon.com/White-Light-Anna-Simpson-ebook/dp/B019DHODC6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450190342&sr=8-1&keywords=white+light+anna+simpson
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/white-light-6
Excerpt:
To stay free, I perform a ritual every morning. It begins with stepping outside, where dawn streams through the leafy branches of my maple tree, landing, shifting, and dancing on the flowerbeds at my bare feet. A steaming cup of coffee warms my hands. The fragrant air fills my lungs. I sip, leaving the liquid on my tongue to capture a moment of rich goodness.
My name is Emma, and I need to stay grounded and calm. It’s important for my health, so I walk along the fence and let the cool blades of grass tickle my toes and dewdrops cling to my skin. For fun, I kick a ball of dandelion fluff. Little parachutes take flight catching the same breeze moving the leaves above my head. The seeds float up, and up, over the fence to land on Mrs. Perkins’ perfectly tended lawn. Not a dandelion or mat of moss to be seen.
In a half acre of green sits one flowerbed, brimming with Lily of the Valley. I remember the first time I saw them over fifteen years ago. The delicate white bells could only be fairy hats. Today, the round base of cemented river stone is still full of waxy green spear tips. I don’t see fairy hats anymore. No, now I enjoy the effects of nature—its simple perfection.
Mrs. Perkins does it best. In fact, everything around Mrs. Perkins is perfectly cared for—her home, her yard, her car—all perfect.
But not today. A dark line sits between the jamb and the edge of the door.
A few inches of shadow drives my calm away and prickles the long blonde hairs at the nape of my neck. Butterflies in my stomach tell, no scratch that, demand I find my phone and go next door.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not a snoop.
Mrs. Perkins, a wiry old bird, did everything herself. I’m not sure if it is because she’s the independent sort or if she has no one else to help her. Either way, when she suggested we watch out for one another, I agreed.
I’m also alone. It doesn’t bother me unless I catch the flu or something. Then I wonder if I will die and no one will notice. It’s a thought, or fear, I can’t shake. Mrs. Perkins’ house has my full attention, and within it sits the same worry. I’ll check on her because she would do the same for me.
I crash into my kitchen, slopping my coffee onto the counter as I slam the mug down. My phone could be anywhere. My gaze travels from the pine tabletop to the gray marble counter. It’s not here. I push through the swinging door to the living area, run my fingertips between the couch and chair cushions, scan the smoked-glass coffee table through my veil of long blonde hair, and sneak a peek under my overturned book on the throw rug. Desperate, I check around the bowl by the door where I toss my keys as I pass the spiral staircase to the loft. Still nothing.
Down the short hallway, I rush to my bedroom. I tug the midnight blue duvet off the bed and shake it. My pulse speeds up as something thuds on to the carpet. I pick up my smartphone and check the battery. Half power.
Excellent. I dash through my front door, across the lawn and unlatch Mrs. Perkins’ white picket gate. Her shiny yellow front door looks as solid as stone. I follow her path to the back wondering if danger lurks.
I gasp as I near the door. It’s like living a moment in a crime drama. I mimic what I have watched on television and bring up my phone to take a picture. Inching forward, heart pounding, I wonder if poor Mrs. Perkins is sprawled out on the bathroom floor, from a stroke, heart attack, or a butcher knife.
Don’t worry, Mrs. Perkins. I’m coming.
I pull my cotton sleeve over my hand and push the door wider. Her kitchen looks untouched as if it’s sterilized or newly installed. Tiles cool my bare feet with each step. Fear scratches at my nerves, “Mrs. Perkins? It’s Emma from next door. Are you okay?”
Silence.
I raise the phone to call for help.
A small sound carries from deeper in the house. I should stop, leave, and make the call.
Following the sound might be dangerous or, worse, plain stupid. And I’m scared. So scared, my breathing is all I hear over the pounding of my heart.
I’d look stupid if I’m wrong. Ravenglass Lake is so small-townsville, and Benny the bully is like no cop I’ve ever met. He would be no help. Worst of all, they’d call me crazy for sure. I slip the phone back into my denim pocket, quietly open her knife drawer, and pull out a meat cleaver. Armed, I creep forward.
Thank goodness Mrs. Perkins likes an open airy room. Evil housebreakers have nowhere to hide in the dining room.
A small thump like a cat landing on carpet makes me jump. But Mrs. Perkins doesn’t have a cat…or carpet—only allergies.
I tighten my grip on the cleaver as I stick my head into the living room. All is quiet and undisturbed. I enter the corridor to the front door. To my right are stairs to the upper floor. Farther ahead is a hall closet and nook where she keeps a desk and a small bookcase. Nothing seems touched.
I glance up at the glittery ceiling, swallow, and pull my phone from my pocket. The sensible thing is to dial 911. I sidestep for the front door, but in my mind’s eye Mrs. Perkins, wiry but frail, shakes her head. Her arm outstretched urging me not to leave.
Thump, I freeze. The noise is right beside me coming from the hall closet.
Without thinking, I open the door and find Mrs. Perkins tied up with duct tape across her lips. Her green eyes, round and unblinking, grow wide, and her usual perfect curls are mussed. I drop the cleaver. It clatters on the floor, and I pull the tape free.

Links:
https://emaginette.wordpress.com
https://twitter.com/emaginette
https://www.facebook.com/ShoutWithEmaginette

Want to know more about Anna? Well, we got more …
Bio:
Anna Simpson lives near the Canadian-US border with her family. Even though she’s lived in several places in British Columbia, her free spirit wasn’t able to settle down until she moved back to her hometown.
She is easy to find though, if you know the magic word — emaginette. Do an internet search using it and you’ll see what I mean. 🙂

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Cover Reveal and Giveaway: FEAR MY MORTALITY by @EverlyFrost @Month9Books

Today Everly Frost and Month9Books are
revealing the cover and first chapter for FEAR MY MORTALITY, which releases April
5, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers
to receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:

Hi there! I’m so excited to share this cover with you. I love the dark, intense
colors and the girl who shows the determination, heart, and resilience that my
main character needs to survive in her world. (Do you see the gold scorpion?
Keep an eye out for that in the book.) Thanks so much for stopping by!
On to the reveal!
 
 
Title: FEAR MY MORTALITY
Author: Everly Frost
Pub. Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon
|
Goodreads

 

In a world where people are invulnerable
to illness and death, with lives spanning hundreds of years, a sixteen-year-old
becomes witness to the impossible – her brother’s failure to regenerate after
death after which she suspects that she too may be mortal.

Chapter Reveal HTML

Exclusive Excerpt

But Eve turned from the serpent

and did not eat of the fruit.

And for her obedience,

she was allowed to reach out her hand,

take from the tree of life and eat,

and live forever.

Evereach Origins, Second EditionChapter One

I never could watch anyone die.

Tricycle wheels flipped through the air. Brakes shrieked and metal crunched. The kid’s trike rattled all the way across the road and hit my foot. I froze at the curb in front of my house, school bag sliding off my shoulder, vision filled with the spinning wheels. I told myself to walk away, pretend I hadn’t heard the smash or seen the boy go under the vehicle. I should shrug it off, like I was supposed to.

I should ignore the impulse to help.

I bounded around the broken bike and sprinted to the car in the middle of the road. A little arm extended from underneath the front fender, palm up, motionless. Biting my lip, I sank to my heels, wishing his fingers would twitch, fighting the tears that welled behind my eyes.

First death.

The silence was heavy after the squeal and crash. I hovered, not sure if I should pull him out. I hated my brother for leaving me behind. If Josh had driven me to dance class like he was supposed to, I wouldn’t be here now, staring at first death and not knowing what to do. I’d be going about my day like normal. No, I reminded myself. Today was not an ordinary day. Today was Implosion.

The driver emerged from the car with annoyance on her face. I flinched as she slammed the car door. Another woman ran from a nearby house, screaming into a phone. She raced to the driver and gave her a shove. “That’s my son! I’m calling the Hazard Police. You’d better be insured!”

The driver threw up her hands and backed off, slumping against the side of her car, clicking her fingernails together, and tapping her heels against the pavement.

I knelt down to the boy as his mother continued to yell into the phone. She paced up and down the road, her voice shrill. “How long will it take to get a recovery dome here? What—you’ve got to be kidding me. I’m already late for work.”

Wisps of his blond hair touched the side of the wheel like yellow cotton candy, all floating and soft. I wondered if his soul floated there too, inches above the hot road, waiting to get back to his body. I was glad I couldn’t see the rest of his head.

Before I touched him, something zipped past my shoulder.

The drone circled up and back, swinging close to my ear. Shaped like a metal cross no bigger than my hand, it skimmed the air in front of the car. Beneath the hum of its four miniature rotor blades came the chatter of shutters. It was taking shots of the damage: the boy’s hand, the wheel, a piece of tricycle jammed under there with him. Assessing the situation and relaying the information twenty miles west to the nearest Hazard Police station.

The information drone flitted from spot to spot, whirring around the car straight toward the driver, hovering and clicking, transmitting her image back to the police. The kid’s mother was next, before the drone flew to me. A pinprick of light struck my eyes, and I stopped still, waiting for it to take the shot and move on, but the clicking stopped.

I frowned as the mechanical chattering died. Instead of taking my picture, the drone floated, paused for the first time. I stared back at it, waiting, a feeling of unease spreading through my chest.

Someone grabbed my arm.

My elderly neighbor, Mrs. Hubert, wrenched me to my feet, a pair of pruning shears wavering in her other hand. The camera clicked behind me—just once—and I imagined the blur of my body captured in the image. Before I drew breath, Mrs. Hubert’s strong grip propelled me several feet from the car. Her long braid—a sign of her age—slapped against her thigh as she strode away from the accident, taking me with her.

“Come away, Ava. You don’t need to get caught up in that.” She flicked her head in the direction of the scowling driver who looked like she wanted to strangle someone. I guessed she didn’t have insurance, after all.

“But, he’s still under there … ” I threw a confused look at the boy’s mother. She still hadn’t checked him.

“Everyone deals with first death differently. You need to get used to it, if you want to get through Implosion tonight.”

Implosion. When I get to see the color of my own blood.

She tugged on my arm again. “Besides, the Hazard Police will be here soon. They’ll take care of him.”

Behind us, the info drone returned to the crash as Mrs. Hubert urged me further away from the accident. I picked up my bag and tried to forget about the child. I guessed it would be at least half an hour before he regenerated and was fully conscious again—faster if the Hazards brought a recovery dome.

Mrs. Hubert opened her gate and went back to pruning her rose bushes like nothing had happened. The shears snapped. Petals floated to newly mulched earth, bright red on brown. “Go on. There’s nothing more to do here.”

I forced myself to focus. If I didn’t hurry, I’d miss dance class completely.

It took me twenty minutes to rush to the dance studio downtown, which made me ten minutes late. Dance was part of my schooling and counted as the first two classes of my day. Luckily, the studio was located just a few blocks up from the school. As I puffed toward the café below the studio, I slowed for a moment to breathe in the normality of people drinking coffee, the crackle of open newspapers, and the soft jumble of conversation. No more broken bike and tiny hand.

Approaching the corner of the building, I gave Lucy, the owner of the café, a quick wave. She’d offered me a waitressing job over summer holidays, which was perfect because I could head upstairs to dance practice after my shift. She returned the wave with a bright smile. With her olive skin and dark brown hair, Lucy had the kind of complexion that hinted at what some people called an ‘unfortunate’ Seversandian heritage. Not that my own features were far off: brown hair, brown eyes, and skin that was a shade darker than pale. A very long time ago, there was free movement between our country, Evereach, and the country across the sea, Seversand, but not anymore.

I took the stairs two at a time, raced past the poster I normally drooled over—an ad for the Conservatorium, the most prestigious dance academy in all of Evereach—and launched myself through the door.

Inside the studio, students were moving away from the warm-up bar into the center of the room. Ms. White towered at the head of the dance floor, her reflection tall and straight in the mirror behind her. “Hurry up, class! Selections for the Conservatorium are only six months away and I won’t accept dawdling because summer’s here.”

I ran to put my bag down, searching the group for my best friend, Hannah. I caught sight of her pale blond head among the other students, shining like the first ray of sunlight that morning. She threw me a questioning look as Ms. White pointed me to the warm up bar. I rushed through my stretches and positioned myself at the back of the room, focusing on the new routine, until Hannah maneuvered her way over to me.

“Where were you?”

“There was a car accident. One of my neighbor’s kids got hit.”

Her eyes glazed over. The boy’s death wouldn’t matter to her. It shouldn’t matter to me.

“And Josh hates me, but what’s new.” I leaped, twisting my body mid-air and landing on my feet, to spring upward again.

Hannah dipped away, and when she moved back, she edged closer so we could talk. “Are you ready for Implosion tonight? My Mom was all mushy about it this morning, it was embarrassing.”

I forced a laugh. “Yeah, my parents not so much.” Mom had taken me shopping for a new dress in all black so it didn’t show the blood. Black wasn’t compulsory and Josh had told me that some kids at his Implosion ceremony the previous year wore white, but those were mostly the religious kids, and they framed their Implosion clothes afterward to remind themselves about faith. I only had Josh’s word for it, since only adult members of the family were allowed to attend the ceremony and it wasn’t televised. Other than the dress shopping, my parents hadn’t talked about Implosion much, like it wasn’t important that I was becoming an adult.

After tonight, I’d be allowed to grow my hair past my shoulders—but only about half an inch, since the length of our hair had to match our age. And I’d be allowed to drink. And move out of home, except only the really fast healers did that since they were offered paid Hazard training while they completed their last year of school. I figured I’d be stuck at home for the next year, but Josh was heading to college after summer holidays.

“So, what about Josh? He’s going to the Terminal tonight? I heard it’s going to be a massive fight.”

My stomach clenched and I missed the move Ms. White was demonstrating. Josh had begged to go to his graduation party, but our parents insisted he come to Implosion with me. “Dad said no.”

“But all the graduates are going. It’s the last time they’ll get to kill each other.” The lightness was gone from her voice. “He has to be there.”

I shrugged, but the nonchalant gesture was a lie. How could I tell her that the very idea of the Terminal made me sick? That my heart hurt every time I remembered the little boy under the car. That the thought of Implosion—of being killed—made me shudder so hard I couldn’t breathe. Hannah hadn’t died before either, but I knew she didn’t feel the same way.

I said none of those things as Ms. White’s voice drowned out my thoughts, beating out a warning with a finger pointed firmly in my direction. “Concentrate, Miss Holland. Or I’ll have to send you to school without your Extra-Curricular Pass.”

Hannah flicked me a quick, apologetic glance and I ducked my head and willed my body to obey the music, to turn when it should and leap when it should. Finally, I lost myself in rhythm and movement and the quiet that always fell over me when I danced.

When we arrived at school, it was morning break and students crowded the halls. I pushed on the doors just in time for someone to release a wash of red flyers advertising the Terminal.
A familiar giggle told me that Sarah Watson posed against the nearby wall. Her nail scissors glinted as she tilted her bleeding ear, showing off how her blood didn’t even drip before her skin healed.

Fast healer.

I rolled my eyes and turned away before the inevitable face sucking with her latest conquest, but I was surprised when it was Michael Bradley. He had Sarah hanging off his arm like she was an extension of his elbow.

“Remember when we said we’d never be some guy’s accessory?” Hannah grabbed my hand with her eyebrows way up in her hair. “That’s the one guy I’d make an exception for. Do you know he’s never lost a fight at the Terminal?”

Josh didn’t say how fast Michael healed at Implosion the previous year, but I’d heard he turned down Hazard training. I guessed, if my Dad were part owner of the Terminal, I wouldn’t bother with a job either.

Sarah caught my eye before I could pretend to look somewhere else. “Hey, Ava,” she said, looking me up and down from my regulation-length short ponytail to my leggings. “Been to dance class? Seems like a waste of time to me.”

She turned away before I could reply, but Michael gave me a nod, a strangely serious acknowledgement of my presence, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. I frowned at him as Hannah pulled me along. “Pfft. She’s just jealous. Besides, did you know she’s a third child?”

“Truly?” When I turned twelve, Mom had given me ‘the talk.’ At the end of it, she’d told me that our bodies were only designed to have one child, maybe two, and that was a good thing given how long people lived. Otherwise the world would be overpopulated.

Hannah drew me into the swarm of students. “Did you see how fast she heals? She’s probably a Basher.”

I glanced back at Sarah and Michael as they disappeared into the milling students. Members of the Basher gang were always fast healers. There were images of them on the news, always slightly blurry and concealed in full camouflage gear, and I’d heard stories about them, whispers of espionage and subterfuge, talk of theft and threats, hatred of slow healers, but they were always far away, somewhere else. They went to extremes to keep their identities secret and nobody knew who their leader was, but their message appeared in graffiti sprawled on the corners of billboards or across the sides of buildings: Bury the weak.

“Do you think it’s true what they say about the Basher cells underground?”

“That they bury slow healers alive.” She screwed up her face in disgust. “The police seem to take it seriously, but I don’t know. Sounds like a scary story.”

“I don’t understand why they hate people who don’t heal fast.” I struggled to say the words ‘slow healer.’ It was insulting to label someone that way.

Hannah shrugged. “I heard they think slow healers make us look weak, vulnerable; everything we use Implosion to prove we aren’t.” She smiled and bumped my shoulder, trying to lighten the mood. “Hey, if I turn out to be a slow healer tonight, you’ve got my back, right?”

I attempted a smile as she pulled me down the hallway. Heading to class, I checked the steady stream of students for my brother. School was finishing early in honor of Implosion—I had only two classes left—and I didn’t trust him to wait to give me a lift home.

As soon as the final bell rang, I raided my locker, hugged Hannah, and raced out to the parking lot.

Josh was already opening the driver side door as I ran up. “Hey.”

He didn’t answer, settling behind the wheel with his hair blending into the cracked black leather seat. He pointed at me and then to the passenger seat.

I raced around to the side and dropped into the seat, just as his best friend, Aaron Reid, appeared, his red hair tousled and full of gel. He drummed his fists on the hood of the car and shouted at Josh through the windscreen. “See you at the Terminal, buddy!”

He signaled to Josh, put a finger to the underside of his chin, and pretended to pull the trigger. Josh mocked a slit throat in return. A ghost of a smile crept onto my brother’s face as he revved the engine and slammed the car into reverse. Josh drove faster than the speed limit, but I picked my battles.

I chose my words carefully. “Aaron seems to think you’re going to the Terminal tonight.”

His jaw flexed and there were murky stains under his eyes that made him look hollow. “So what if I am?”

I took a deep breath. It wasn’t because I didn’t want him to go to the Terminal—as much as I couldn’t stand the idea of people killing each other with swords or guns or drones, or whatever new thrill the Terminal came up with. I didn’t want him to miss his graduation party either. But he’d been through Implosion before. He knew what was coming.

“Josh, it’s my Implosion. You’re my brother. I need … ”

I don’t want to be alone when I die.

I swallowed the words I couldn’t say. I’d be surrounded by hundreds of kids. My parents would be there. But, somehow, the thought of my brother standing beside me gave me courage. Even if I regenerated straight away. Even if there was a chance I was a fast healer, I didn’t want to lose myself to that moment of darkness. That moment of death.

The words tumbled out of my mouth. “I need you to be there.”

He didn’t look at me, his expression hooded and unreadable, as his hands tightened on the wheel. He was quiet for so long that exasperation bubbled up inside me.

“How can playing at the Terminal be more important than my first death?”

“Because I’d rather kill than watch you be killed.” He glared at me as we stopped at an intersection, a deep darkness behind his eyes.

I struggled to understand. “Implosion’s important … ”

“You’re a freak, Ava. It’s a stupid ceremony that lets people sleep at night. Seversand isn’t coming to kill us. Because we can’t die. Nobody can.”

He tapped his temple and pressed his finger there, his eyes boring holes into me. “The only war we fight is the one in here.”

I struggled against the burn of tears behind my eyes. At school, we’d learned about the old world war that began when Seversand attacked Evereach and was fought over control of Evereach’s rich soil and water supplies. It lasted a hundred years while both countries raced to create a nuclear bomb. In the end, when Seversand dropped the bomb on Dell city—the city where I now lived—it didn’t kill anybody. After that, they drew up an international treaty: as long as each country’s children regenerated at Implosion each year, no country would try to conquer another again. There was no point in wasting resources on a war that couldn’t be won.

But it wasn’t the past that bothered me. It was the look in my brother’s eyes. I’d practically said aloud that I was scared to die and now he knew my deepest fear.

I didn’t understand why I felt this way, why death bothered me so much.

Why am I like this?

It was a question I’d asked myself a thousand times and I still didn’t have any answers. All I knew for sure was that I was alone. Alone and different. I couldn’t stand to see the pity in Josh’s expression. I slumped in the seat for the rest of the trip, until we pulled into the driveway.

Josh was out of the car before I had time to gather my things. I dragged myself toward the front door as the local neighborhood-watch drone coasted by the house. There was a happy shout behind me and the little boy pedaled past on a shiny, new tricycle, his fine hair puffed up and wafting as he picked up speed. His mom gave me a wave. I tried to smile as I headed inside, down the corridor, past the connecting door to the garage, and around the corner to the bottom of the stairs.

Mom was sitting at the computer, visible through the open door opposite the stairwell. She jumped out of her seat as soon as she saw me. “Ava?”

I was already part way up the stairs. “Yeah?”

“Get ready, sweetie. We’ll have a bite to eat and then we’ll go.”

I dragged myself to the landing halfway up, pausing as the air screen in Mom’s study blared after me, the excitement in the female newsreader’s voice palpable.

“Sixteen-year-olds all around Evereach are preparing for Implosion tonight. At exactly 6:00 p.m. in each time zone, young people of every nation have proven their ability to regenerate, including teens in Seversand.” A hint of derision crept into the newsreader’s voice as she mentioned Seversand, but she continued without pause. “In other news, Starsgard has refused to extradite the computer hacker known as Arachne … ”

Starsgard. It was the only country that didn’t take part in the world war or Implosion and its borders were heavily-protected. On a map, the three countries reminded me of a set of lungs. Evereach and Seversand formed the lungs on either side, a wide sea between them, but they were joined at the top by a backbone of impassable mountains. Starsgard was those mountains.

The newsreader’s voice faded as I made it to the top of the stairs, turned left, and headed to my room, passing Josh’s closed door on the way. Farther down the hall was the upstairs lounge. I wanted to run through it to the deck beyond, push the sliding doors open, and gulp fresh air. Instead, I turned into my room where I found the black dress, pressed and clean, lying on my bed next to a pair of dark stockings. Shiny black heels waited on the floor.

Next door, Mrs. Hubert’s lights weren’t on. Normally, her flickering television turned my bedroom into a disco, a kaleidoscope of moving lights. I peered out to see that her blinds were drawn and shuttered, and at the side of her house the garbage can was overturned, spilling white plastic bags across the side path. I frowned as I headed to the bathroom across the hall to wash up.

Too soon, I was dressed and ready and Mom was calling. “Ava? Josh? Time to go.”

Dad met me at the bottom of the stairs, dressed in a new black suit and Mom in a dress similar to mine. Dad held out his hands for me.

I didn’t know what to say, so I blurted. “I don’t feel like eating.”

“That’s okay, honey, let’s just go. There’s been a change of venue, so we have further to travel.”

I followed Mom and Dad to the car and seconds later Josh thumped down the stairs behind us. Climbing into the car, I tried not to crush my dress, smoothing it out in my lap.

Dad spoke to the navigation system and the serene female voice confirmed: The Terminal. I started, glanced at Josh, and he smirked back at me.

As the car passed the darkness shrouding our neighbor’s house, I said, “Mrs. Hubert’s place is dark tonight. Is she out?”

In the front seat, Mom tilted toward me. “I’m sorry, sweetie. Mrs. Hubert had her final death today.”

I stared at the window, frowning at my own reflection, as Mom said, “We mustn’t be sad. She had a wonderful life. I’m sure all her descendents will come to the wake.”

“She just didn’t seem that old. I mean, her hair was longer than anybody’s, but … ” I remembered her braid slapping her thigh. Halfway down the back meant fifty years old. To the waist was one hundred. To the top of the thigh was two hundred and after that people stopped measuring as long as it stayed long.

Dad said, “There isn’t always warning. Our bodies just stop regenerating. She must have been at least 350 years old.”

Mom gave me a calming smile as the car continued out onto the main street. “I’m sure we’ll be invited to the wake. Come on now, it’s time to enjoy the evening.”

Thirty minutes later, the entertainment precinct glowed ahead. Movie theaters, malls, and restaurants surrounded the massive Terminal skyscraper like ants swarming around a dirt mound. Once there, we pulled into a multi-level parking lot and followed the complicated neon signs to the entrance. The glass walkway opened into what looked like a living room, lined with plush leather couches and fine wooden coffee tables. A security camera drone floated in each corner of the room and on the opposite side, a big mahogany door advertised the entrance, with a touch screen in the middle.

There was a short line, with other people dressed like us, all in black. Mom tapped in a code and tugged me through with Dad and Josh close behind. Moving across a walkway, we entered an enormous, dimly-lit room, with people already milling about—500 kids and their parents—all of the sixteen-year-olds in Dell city. The room was flat across the floor, but the sides curved up and over like a dome around us.

Surveillance drones hummed across the ceiling, recording what was happening for the eyes only of each country’s highest authorities: Presidents, Prime Ministers, and monarchs. Somewhere in the heart of Evereach, President Scott would be watching, flanked by the Head of the Hazards and the High Justice. The Seversandian President would be watching too. I’d seen pictures of her, standing at the head of an army amassed across shimmering sand dunes, her dark brown hair tied into a high ponytail and a row of jewels strung across her cheek from a ring in the side of her nose.

To one side of the room, a group of kids stood praying, heads bowed, all wearing identical white cloaks that made them stand out like glow-in-the-dark figurines. I wished I could see the world the way they did—that our fate was decided by a woman in a garden who told a serpent to get lost and was rewarded for her faith with eternal life. Implosion for the faith community was a part of remembering and giving thanks. But the drones hummed and the room was like a crypt and it was impossible to think about new beginnings when the whole world waited for us to die.

“Hey, buddy!” Josh’s friend, Aaron, appeared out of nowhere, fist thumping with my brother.

Dad looked surprised. “Aaron, I didn’t know you had a sibling here tonight.”

Aaron pointed over his shoulder and I noticed for the first time the Hazard officers standing at intervals around the room. They were covered from neck to foot in fitted green uniform, designed to allow them to move fast. Each wore a pair of drone-control visors, so transparent I could barely see them from that distance.

The man Aaron pointed to had the same color red hair as Aaron and a drone hovering at his shoulder. “My brother’s with the Hazards, so I got to help set up.”

As Aaron spoke, his brother’s drone drifted toward us, and mom wasn’t the only one pointing at it. “That’s new.”

Smooth and sleek, the drone was striped gold and black and was bigger than any I’d seen before. Silver protrusions dotted its underbelly, tranquilizer darts masquerading as decorative studs. Its movements were calm, wafting close to the ceiling.

Aaron’s response was indifferent. “It’s a wasp.”

I’d heard about them on the news. They were Weapons to Apprehend Suspect Persons—the latest police response to the Bashers. This one was the same black and gold as the other wasps, but it had narrow stripes all around its body, and I realized that each wasp was decorated differently.

Aaron winked at me. “I’ll be taking off now.” He shook my father’s hand. “Have a good evening, Mr. Holland. Mrs. Holland.” A quick glance at Josh and Aaron was gone.

My skin prickled as Mom and Dad gave me a gentle push forward. Other kids were separating from their families and moving into the center of the room. Somehow, I ended up close to the front as we formed rows in rough arrow shapes across the floor. I hadn’t even had the chance to look for Hannah. What was already dim lighting darkened so I could barely see.

I looked back for my family, frowning as Josh slid away from my parents, carefully angling his way toward the back of the room. He was taking his chance to leave and part of me sank to the floor. He could have stayed just this once.

The lights went off and the sudden silence crashed over me.

I flinched as sound boomed around the curved walls, an explosion in the air. A giant, orange mushroom billowed up around us: an air screen of projected images engulfing us in pictures of an inferno, as though we’d been dropped into the heart of a fireball. I gasped as the shape of the first exploding nuclear bomb splashed color across the height of the walls, swelling around us, a reminder to the world’s authorities that it was our city on which the bomb had fallen hundreds of years ago.

The image of a woman appeared in front of me, kneeling inside the flames, her body cracking and roiling, separating and pulling together, trembling as she resisted the force of the explosion around her. I shuddered at the realization that I was looking at real footage of the day the bomb exploded.

The woman opened her eyes as words etched the air around us.

We are Evereach. We are invincible.

She struggled to her feet, her voice a whisper that may as well have been a shout. “We aren’t dead. You didn’t hurt us.” Her braid swished around her body, flicking into the air under a force that I could only imagine, lit up by flame and heat.

She reached to the ground and for the first time I noticed there was someone at her feet: a teenage girl, her eyes big and dark, fissions forming across her skin and healing all at once like her body was a jigsaw puzzle fighting to stay whole.

The woman’s voice rose. She threw back her head and shouted into the air, shouting at Seversand and all the countries allied with it. “Look at us! Our children are alive. You cannot hurt us!”

She grit her teeth against flame and heat. There was an echo of her words as others appeared, others who’d fallen. They clambered to their feet and joined in her shout against the wind and fire, the dust of exploded buildings, shards of glass and wood whirling around them.

The people of Evereach roared. “Our children do not die.”

Suddenly, my parents were beside me, each of them holding one of my wrists. I tried to pull away from them, and they shot me alarmed looks. Nobody else was trying to run. Nobody else was afraid.

They each held a knife in one hand, gripped one of my wrists in the other, pulling me close. I tried to wrench myself away from them, but the image of the woman and her daughter ghosted through me, leaving me cold and frozen. Above us, the drones swarmed, buzzing like a thousand insects, capturing the flash of steel, exposed skin, determined eyes.

When I died, I’d find out whether my soul floated or whether it left me or whether there was no such thing as a soul at all. I tried to take deep breaths, tried to stop shaking. We were strong, and we had to show the world that we could never be broken.

The woman’s voice whispered into the silent dark. “You will never defeat us, for our children do not die.”

Blades bit my wrists.

 

 
 
 

 

Everly Frost is a writer. If she doesn’t
have her laptop handy, then she has a pen and paper stashed nearby. She writes
young adult and middle grade fiction set in worlds like ours with unexpected
differences. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.


Her debut YA fantasy FEAR MY MORTALITY is coming in early 2016!


For updates on FEAR MY MORTALITY and the
Mortal Eternity Series, and more, please follow Everly on
Facebook
 and on Twitter.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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M9B Friday Reveal: Redesigned Series Cover Reveal – Dragonrider Chronicles by Nicole Conway with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

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Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are reveal the cover for

Traitor (Dragonrider Chronicles #3)
by Nicole Conway

an upcoming Month9Books title!

Not only are we revealing this gorgeous new cover,
we are also reveal the redesigned cover for the series!

You guys are in for a treat!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

 

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Can anyone survive being lost in Luntharda?

No amount of training has prepared Jaevid Broadfeather for the frontlines of battle. Now facing the true horrors of war, with Luntharda looming on the horizon, Jaevid has begun to question everything he thought about his heritage. The only thing keeping him going is his oath to protect his dragonrider brothers. But in an instant, even that slips through Jaevid’s fingers as he steps from the safety of his dragon’s saddle into the depths of his mother’s wild homeland—the kingdom of the gray elves.

Stranded in Luntharda with his partner, Lieutenant Jace Rordin, Jaevid must finally confront the demons of his own past as he uncovers the truth about a war that began before he was ever born. Armed with a new appreciation for destiny, and flanked by his trusted friends, Jaevid moves to make the final strike against an enemy that has hidden in plain sight for far too long.

One kingdom’s traitor will become the world’s last hope.

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AND NOW HERE ARE THE REDESIGNED COVERS
FOR BOOKS 1 AND 2!

 

Fledgling NEW 1800x2700

When Jaevid Broadfeather is given the rare opportunity to become a dragonrider for the king’s army, the 15-year-old boy has no idea that he is part of a conspiracy that will rock the very foundations of the kingdom.

Jaevid Broadfeather has grown up as a wartime refugee, hiding from the world because of his mixed racial heritage. He feels his future is hopeless, until a chance encounter with a wild dragon lands him in Blybrig Academy—a place usually forbidden to anyone but the rich and royal. But Jaevid’s case is special; no dragon has voluntarily chosen a rider in decades, so the proud riders of Blybrig must begrudgingly let him join their brotherhood despite his bloodline. Lieutenant Sile Derrick, a sternly tempered man with a mysterious past, becomes his instructor and immediately takes a peculiar interest in Jaevid’s future.

While struggling through the rigorous physical demands of training, things begin to go awry. Jaevid witnesses the king’s private guards kidnapping Sile in the dead of night. When none of the elder riders are willing to help him, Jaevid begins a dangerous adventure to save his instructor.

Everything Jaevid learned at the academy will now be put to the ultimate test.

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Avian NEW 1800x2700

Jaevid wants to pass his Avian year of training . . . but will he even survive it?

What kind of power is lurking inside him? After a year of training to become a dragonrider, Jaevid Broadfeather has been sent home to rest during a three-month interlude. But when he returns to find the king drake has chosen Beckah Derrick as his new rider, Jaevid realizes something big is about to happen. Every fiber of his being is pushed to the breaking point as Jaevid battles through his avian year, preparing for the final graduation test of the battle scenario. But there is more standing in his way than a few pushups and fancy sword moves. Jaevid must face a new fear as he is tormented by a gruesome nightmare of a mysterious gray elf warrior murdering the royal family of Maldobar. It seems obvious to him that this is some kind of message about how the war started long ago—until Felix assures him the king is very much alive. With his strange powers growing stronger by the day, and that violent dream replaying in his mind every night, Jaevid no longer wonders if he will pass his avian year or not—he wonders if he will even survive it.

The truth will soon be set loose.

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NicoleConwayPhoto

Nicole is the author of the children’s fantasy series, THE DRAGONRIDER CHRONICLES, about a young boy’s journey into manhood as he trains to become a dragonrider. She has completed the first two books in the series, and is now working on the third and final book.

Originally from a small town in North Alabama, Nicole moves frequently due to her husband’s career as a pilot for the United States Air Force. She received a B.A. in English with a concentration in Classics from Auburn University, and will soon attend graduate school.

She has previously worked as a freelance and graphic artist for promotional companies, but has now embraced writing as a full-time occupation.

Nicole enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She also loves watching children’s movies and collecting books. She lives at home with her husband, two cats, and dog.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram

 

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