Tag Archives: teen fiction

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/

Advertisements

Two for Thursday: NOBODY’S GODDESS by Amy McNulty and CROWN OF ICE by Vicki L. Weavil @Month9Books

 

Welcome to this week’s Two for Thursday! #T4T
presented by Month9books/Tantrum Books!
Today, we will be showcasing two titles that will tickle
your fancy,
and we’ll share what readers have to say about these titles!
You just might find your next read!
*Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!
This week, #T4T presents to you:

Title: NOBODY’S GODDESS

Author: Amy
McNulty
Pub. Date: April
21, 2015
Publisher:
Month9Books, LLC.
Pages: 274
Formats:
Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads|
Amazon | Barnes
& Noble
 | Kobo | TBD
In a village of masked men, magic compels each man to love
only one woman and to follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A
woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be
alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his
love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.
Seventeen-year-old Noll isn’t in the mood to celebrate. Her
childhood friends have paired off and her closest companion, Jurij, found his
goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient
spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever chosen her.
Thus begins a dangerous game between the choice of woman
versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness,
life and death—and neither is willing to lose.
Praise for NOBODY’S GODDESS:
“There are many
terrestrial qualities to this 16th-century village, such as mountains, meadows,
forests, and lakes. But there are also hints of magic throughout . . . the
story is fun and engaging, featuring a female protagonist who will resonate
with young teens.”  —School Library Journal
 
“Wow. I
appreciate this fantasy for what it is: detailed, unique, and just all round
amazing. It’s the kind of novel that keeps you guessing, and just when you
think you’ve got the twist, something happens to throw you off course..”~ Melanie
McFarlane author of the upcoming THERE ONCE WERE STARS & SUMMONER RISING.
WHAT READER’S ARE SAYING:
“It was
something so unique and different that I found myself really enthralled with
the story. To the point that I almost had to blink myself out of a daze when I
finished. “~ Jamie, Blogger @ Queen
of The Bookshelves
“I would
definitely recommend Nobody’s Goddess to anybody looking for a great fantasy
book with a plot that’s unlike anything I’ve read before. The characters and
the world are all done incredibly well, and Amy’s talent with making words jump
right off the page to tell the story is just fantastic. “~Ashley,
Blogger @ The
AP Book Club
“This book
is different from any fantasy book I’ve read before in its concept. It treads
the path less traveled, and manages to make a great story that readers can
enjoy and love.”~Bri, Blogger @ Books
And Ashes

 

 

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

 

 
 

Title: CROWN OF ICE

Publication date:
September 9, 2014
Publisher:
Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Vicki L.
Weavil
ISBN: 978-1939765390
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes
& Noble
 | Kobo |TBD | iBooks
Thyra Winther’s seventeen, the Snow Queen, and immortal, but
if she can’t reassemble a shattered enchanted mirror by her eighteenth birthday
she’s doomed to spend eternity as a wraith.
Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes
to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps
local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical
minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away
she needs all the help she can steal.
A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing
mirror shards and Kai’s childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable
obstacles. Thyra’s willing to do anything – venture into uncharted lands,
outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts — to reconstruct the mirror, yet
her most dangerous adversary lies within her breast. Touched by the warmth of a
wolf pup’s devotion and the fire of a young man’s desire, the thawing of
Thyra’s frozen heart could be her ultimate undoing.
CROWN OF ICE is a YA Fantasy that reinvents Hans
Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” from the perspective of a young woman who
discovers that the greatest threat to her survival may be her own humanity.
Praise for
CROWN OF ICE:
“A re-imagining of The
Snow Queen, moving and well written.” Sandra Waugh, Author of The Guardians of
Tarnec Series.
 
“I admire the
depiction of a young woman staying true to herself and not letting the
pressures of love or expectations effect her choice. Thyra becomes an example
that would do any woman proud.” Michelle Hauck, Author of Grudging.
 
“Weavil conducts a
careful balancing act between loyalty to the original story and exploring new
frontiers; I think she succeeds in this task, and fans of fairytale re-tellings
will enjoy this one.”
The Australia Times
 
WHAT READER’S ARE SAYING:
“CROWN OF ICE offers so much more than just the tale
of The Snow Queen with a change of perspective. A solid YA adventure with teenagers
who learn so much about themselves, and each other. Even the expected happily
ever after offers believable surprises that underscore the maturity and
independence they each have gained..”~ Julia, Blogger @ All
Things Urban Fantasy
 
“I was enchanted
by this book from the opening paragraphs. The story is told from Thyra’s point
of view, making it very personal and conversational in tone. By using this
method, the reader gets to know Thyra on a deeper level than normal.”~ Stephanie,
Blogger @ A
Dream Within A Dream
 
“CROWN OF ICE is such a fascinating fantasy, with love
adventure and enjoyable characters. I recommend for all fans of fantasy!!” ~ Tonyalee,
Blogger @ LilyBloomBooks
 
“This book was fantastic, and so different from anything
that I have ever read. I loved every single page of this book, and I very much
look forward to whatever comes next from this amazing author!.”~ Jaime, Blogger
@ The
Best Books Ever

 

 

Vicki Lemp Weavil was raised in a farming community in
Virginia, where her life was shaped by a wonderful family, the culture of the
Blue Ridge Mountains, and an obsession with reading. Since obtaining her
undergraduate degree in Theatre from the University of Virginia, she’s gone on
to acquire two masters degrees, living in places as diverse as New York City
and rural North Carolina. She’s currently the library director for a performing
an visual arts university.  Vicki loves good writing in any genre, and has
been known to read seven books in as many days. She enjoys travel, gardening,
and the arts. Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband, son, and some
very spoiled cats.

 


 

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

 Giveaway Details:
3 winners will receive an eBook of NOBODY’S GODDESS &
CROWN OF ICE. International!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js


Come see us for a book signing event in Georgia! #APOLLYCON February 2016 #YA

I will be in Savannah, GA with Month9Books pub sister

Jennifer Jenkins @authorjenkins for this event.

♦♦♦♦♦

Please come by and say hello!

No, really. Please.

 (I’ll be the one fangirling in the corner over all the

amazing authors I’m super excited to appear with.)

I’ll need someone to help calm me down! 

 

Apollycon

Were going to have a blast!

Check it out … 

When: February 26th – 28th
(The book signing will run all day February 27th!)

 Here’s more information:

@ApollyCon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apollycon/?fref=ts

Apollycon 2016: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/apollycon-2016-the-power-by-jennifer-l-armentrout-release-party-tickets-17295152266

ApollyCon 2016 - The Power by Jennifer L. Armentrout...

FEATURING AUTHORS…

*Subject to change
 

Hope to see you there!


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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js


Giveaway! #T4T THE ARTISANS and THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT SO INNOCUOUS GIRL @Month9Books

Whoo hoo! Look what’s going on at Month9Books today!

My book is paired with the fabulous Leigh Statham’s. (She’s so awesome!)

 

Welcome to this week’s Two for Thursday! #T4T
presented by Month9books/Tantrum Books!
Today, we will be showcasing two titles that will tickle your fancy,
and we’ll share what readers have to say about these titles!
You just might find your next read!
And  don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post!!

This week, #T4T presents to you:

 

Title: THE ARTISANS
Author: Julie Reece
Pub. Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 300
They say death can
be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven
Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving
life in the South Carolina lowlands.
To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning
works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.
Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad’s
drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family
fortune, Gideon Maddox.
But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with
Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in
order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.
Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his
home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing
over her creative rights.
Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and
Raven can’t imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more
than five minutes.
But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world
believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he
really is?
Praise for THE ARTISANS:
“The Artisans has all the elements I love – spooky intrigue, strong friendships, and
a romantic tension to be savored.”  ~ Wendy Higgins, New York Times
bestselling author of the Sweet Evil trilogy.
“Read The Artisans in the middle of the night with a flashlight if you dare. The perfect
blend of romance and horror with a strong female lead kept me reading through
the night.”~ L.S. Murphy author of PIXELATED Bloomsbury Spark and REAPERJ.
Taylor Publishing
WHAT READER’S ARE SAYING:
“Wowza!!!!
That book was so freakin’ good! Intense, insane, freaky at parts and sooooo
good! I haven’t had emotions like this about a book in a long time!”~
Mindy Blogger @ Magical Urban Fantasy Reads
“The first
thing I thought when I finished this book was ‘dang, I would love to see this
as a movie’. The Artisans has such an awesome and haunting concept to it plus I
just adore all of the characters.”~Jena Blogger @ Shortie Says
“The
Artisans was a unique modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast filled with
mystery, romance and wonderful characters. From the first page I was completely
lost in the wonderful setting that Reece created.”~Bridget Blogger @ Dark
Faerie Tales

 

 

Born in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm
until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe,
while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was
magical, but not all.
I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I
spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade
(with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to
read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a
tower, and I won.
Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the
princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win
the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later,
I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and
monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with
my friends.
Then I thought I’d write one down…
Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban
fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances.
I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which
must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to
overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Title: THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT SO INNOCUOUS GIRL
Author: Leigh Statham
Pub. Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Pages: 297
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th century French girls
can only dream of: money, designer dresses, suitors and a secure future. Except
she suspects she may be falling for her best friend Claude, a common smithie in
the family’s steam forge.
When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite
decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love. But the trip proves more
harrowing than she had anticipated, revealing secrets and testing her strength
as well as her heart. Love, adventure and restitution await her in Canada, but
only if she can survive the voyage.
WHAT READER’S ARE SAYING:
“The writing is solid and the world-building – that
clever combination of historical detail and Ms. Statham’s imagination – is
excellent.”~ The Australia Times Books
“I’d give more than five stars if I could. I’d recommend this to anyone who is a fan of
young adult steampunk, girls who aren’t afraid to wield guns and wear pants in
an age of dresses, adventure, and a dash of romance.” ~Bitches n Prose
“ I ADORED this story, and these characters, and I don’t want to give too much away.
It is all worth stumbling across on your own!
With a cover to drool over, fantastic characters, a simmering romance, awesome
historical settings, and majorly cool steampunk elements, The Perilous Journey
of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl (awesome title) easily captivated me, and now that
it is over I want MORE!” ~ The Best Books Ever
“  I’ve only recently discovered Steampunk, and
every story that I read in this genre makes me love it even more. The Perilous
Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl was such an adventure! This book is
rich in so many things and lacking absolutely nothing.”~ Pretty Little Pages

 

 

Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but
found her heart in New York City. She worked as a waitress, maid, artist, math
teacher, nurse, web designer, art director, thirty-foot inflatable pig and mule
wrangler before she settled down in the semi-quiet role of wife, mother and
writer. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five
chickens and two suspected serial killer cats. If the air is cool and the sun
is just coming up over the horizon, you can find her running the streets of her
small town, plotting her next novel with the sort of intensity that will one
day get her hit by a car.
Connect with the Author: Website |Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
 
 Giveaway Details:

 

3 winners will receive an eBook of THE ARTISANS & THE
PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT SO INNOCUOUS GIRL. International!

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.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive the FIRST eGalley
of FEAR MY MORTALITY. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js


Woot! Enter to WIN a stack of fab YA books! #HolidayBookBash @2000_words

Get ready….#HolidayBookBash begins today!!

The wonderful Jodie Andrefski will be featuring interviews with some of your favorite authors, as well as the chance to win a book lovers prize pack just in time for a holiday gift for YOU!

Scheduled authors include:
Ann Noser
Amy McNulty
Courtney Sloane
Heidi R Kling
Julia Ember
Julie Reece
Kira Archer
Megan O’Russel
Nina Rossing
Pat Esden
Pintip Dunn
Suzanne van Rooyen
Vicki Weavil

Interviews will run daily beginning today through Christmas Eve, with the prize pack drawing, of books/swag from me as well as each of the authors, to be held on Christmas Day.

Enter daily as you read about some amazing authors and get behind the scenes peeks at their books and what they are working on now.

And for the really good part…..enter to win an awesome holiday prize pack for YOU!

PRIZE PACK INCLUDES:

signed hardcover copy of FORGET TOMORROW by Pintip Dunn
signed paperback of SUMMER OF HOPE by Jodie Andrefski
paperback copy of CROWN OF ICE by Vicki Weavil
paperback of DEAD GIRL RUNNING by Ann Noser
Swag pack for UNICORN TRACKS by Julia Ember
*eARC of Not Okay Cupid by Heidi R Kling
*eARC of THE GIRLFRIEND REQUEST by Jodie Andrefski
*eARC of SCARDUST by Suzanne van Rooyen
ebook of DRIVING HER CRAZY by Kira Archer, along with a travel mug filled with swag chocolates!
ebook copy of THE ARTISANS by Julie Reece
ebook copy of CRUX by Julie Reece
ebook of NOBODY’S GODDESS by Amy McNulty
ebook of SUPERMASSIVE by Nina Rossing
ebook of THE TETHERING by Megan O’Russell
ebook of the holiday novella,  NUTTYCRACKER SWEET by Megan O’Russell
*eARC =  electronic Advanced Reader Copy. You get to read it before it even hits the shelves!

ENTER HERE:

http://www.jodieandrefski.net/
Please Note*Print books/swag may be US only at author discretion since some participating authors live outside of the United States. Winner will be randomly selected 12/25/15. Once selected, we will notify the winner and if the winner lives outside of the US, it will be at author discretion to ship overseas. The decision is up to each author. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we still love and appreciate all of our readers!!
You don’t want to miss it! Happy holidays, and happy reading!!