The Canary Club Blitz and Giveaway

Book & Author Details:
The Canary Club 
by Sherry D. Ficklin
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: October 16th 2017
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult
Synopsis:

“Bad Luck” Benny is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Recently released from jail, he has vowed to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. But he also needs to care for his ailing sister and the rest of his struggling family, and he’ll do anything to make that happen—even if it means taking a position with a notorious crime boss. He soon finds himself in over his head—and worse still—falling for the one dame on earth he should be staying away from.

Masie is the daughter of a wealthy gangster with the voice of an angel and gun smoke in her veins. Strong-willed but trapped in a life she never wanted, she dreams of flying free from the politics and manipulation of her father. A pawn in her family’s fight for control of the city, and with a killer hot on her heels, she turns to the one person who just might be able to spring her from her gilded cage. But Masie is no angel, and her own dark secrets may come back to burn them both.

Two worlds collide in this compelling story of star-crossed lovers in gritty prohibition-era New York.

Perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams’ A CERTAIN AGE or Libba Bray’s THE DIVINERS, THE CANARY CLUB by Sherry D. Ficklin will entice Historical Romance fans of all ages. This Gatsby-era tale filled with dazzling speakeasies, vicious shoot-outs, gritty gangsters, and iridescent ingenues has also been compared to the television series Z: THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING and BOARDWALK EMPIRE.

 

 

CANARY CLUB EXCERPT 

“Is the laudanum not helping?” Doctor Mackie asks, shining a penlight in my eyes, momentarily blinding me.

I take a deep breath. Truthfully, I passed the last three bottles off to June for recreational use. Despite his assurances it will help with my insomnia, I can’t bring myself to use it. After seeing Mother abuse it so often, and with such devastating results, just the thought of it turns my stomach.

“I don’t like it,” I complain. “It makes my mind foggy.”

Putting the light down, he tsks. “That’s the point, dear.”

Far greyer than a man should be in his mid-thirties, Doc Mac has a surprisingly grandfatherly countenance. One stern look from him carries the guilt of a hundred nuns, and he gives me one now.

“I know you are under a great deal of strain, dear.” He hesitates, choosing his words very carefully. My father is his employer, so he can only complain so much about my working such long hours, my frequent headaches from the smoke and lights, and my borderline high blood pressure. We both know the culprit behind my troubles, but we also know that nothing either of us says or does will change my circumstances. “But you must try to rest. You will put yourself in an early grave otherwise.”

“Better me than someone else, I suppose,” I quip, attempting to lighten the mood, but failing.

“The laudanum will help you relax. Help you rest. You need that, at least.”

Sprawling back against the white wing-backed chair, I wave him off. “Whatever you say, Doc.”

He opens his mouth to speak, but he’s cut off by Butler, who clears his throat behind him.

“What is it?” I ask, wearily draping one arm over the headrest.

“JD just telephoned, Miss. He and your father are on their way here. Doctor, they ask that you remain here until they arrive. There has been a shooting.”

I spring forward, the bodice of my floral dress tightening around my middle, adding to tension already growing there.

“Is everyone alright?” I demand, pushing to my feet and slipping back into my t-strap shoes.

“One assumes not,” Butler responds, holding out his gloved hands. “But I gather that he and your father, at least, are unharmed.”

My breath escapes in a low hiss. Is this my fault? Retaliation for the beating I’d personally ordered on the man who’d assaulted my friend? Or was this something else entirely? Father has no shortage of enemies on his own. Even so, I mentally curse myself for adding one more name to that list—even if he’d well and truly deserved it.

Doc nods to me. “I should go wash up and get ready to receive any wounded.”

I nod, but say nothing. This is his real job, after all. Not looking after me—though Lord knows he tries to do that as well—but pulling out bullets and stitching up knife wounds. The sort of thing that can’t be done in a hospital without having to answer too many questions. I motion to Butler, who stands in the doorway still.

“Fetch some clean linens and towels. Set them up in the kitchen. It will be easier to clean up blood from the tile than the carpet.”

He bows stiffly and exits, leaving me standing in the study and wringing my hands. I should probably go, or at least hide in my room. That’s what Daddy would want. He’s very keen on pretending the violence of his world can’t reach its icy hands into my life—though deep down, I’m sure he knows better. Perhaps this will be a good thing, a way to remind him that, despite his best efforts, he can’t shelter me. He can’t keep me safe, not really. Perhaps he’ll be more open to the idea of sending me off to college, then.

I roll the thought around in my head, balancing it with the silent prayer that whoever is hurt will be all right, while wondering if using this person’s misfortune to my own advantage makes me a truly awful person.

I don’t have time to debate it too much because the front doors open with a thunderous boom, and I rush toward the sound. One young man, his face pink with exertion and speckled with sweat, carries the limp body of another as JD ushers them toward the kitchen. Father enters last, followed by Vincent, who twists his cap in his hands. Daddy rushes toward me, planting a rough kiss on my forehead.

“You should go to your room, darling. You don’t need to see this,” he mutters, nearly pushing me down the hall. Then he points toward Doc, who is ushering the boys into the kitchen. “Take care of that boy. He saved my life.”

I dig my feet into the long carpet. “No, that’s alright, Daddy. I want to see if I can help.”

Without giving him a chance to respond, I hurry to the kitchen, throwing open the door just in time to see Doc lean over the young man now laid across our antique mahogany table.

The one who’d been carrying him backs up against the sink, watching Doc work with intent eyes.

“What can I do?” I ask, taking a spot across the table.

Doc doesn’t even look up; he simply hands me a towel. “Apply pressure here while I remove the bullet.”

Taking the towel, I press it to the young man’s side, drawing a deep groan from the mostly unconscious patient.

Doc uses his light to check the boy’s eyes. Though his face is spotted with blood, his skin paler than my fine bone china, there’s something attractive about him in the cut of his jaw and the small, barely noticeable dimple in his chin. As soon as the thought comes, I shake it away, forcing myself to remain clinical as Doc cuts off his shirt and tie with a pair of medical shears.

No time for that now.

“Young man, can you hear me?” Doc asks as he sets to work. “What’s your name?”

The other boy answers, “It’s Benny. Benjamin.”

“Alright Benny, this is going to hurt, but I need you to lie very still.”

Doc motions to the other boy, then to me. “You two are going to need to hold him.”

I almost ask why since he clearly isn’t responsive, but the other boy takes one shoulder, just above where Doc begins to cut. As soon as the metal pierces his skin, the boy bucks, his eyes flying open. I struggle to hold his other side, pinning him to the table with all the weight I have.

Finally, there’s a wet popping sound, and Doc wrenches the bullet free. Blood flows in earnest now, down Benny’s arm and soaking his chest. The boy whimpers through gritted teeth. Doc wets a rag with some laudanum, pressing it over his nose and mouth for a few seconds. When he finally draws it back, the boy’s head lulls to the side, his green eyes wide.

Leaning over, I lower my face close to his. “Are you alright?”

He opens and closes his mouth a few times, as if it isn’t quite functioning.

Finally, he half grins and manages to slur, “I can’t feel my tongue.”

I let out a sharp laugh, and he smiles up at me. “Hey, you’re really pretty.”

“You aren’t too shabby yourself,” I offer with a grin. “I mean, except for being full of holes and all.”

He frowns. “Why am I full of holes?”

His face is so full of concerned innocence that it’s hard not to smile. “Because you got shot, silly.”

“I got shot?” His head jerks up in alarm. “Is everyone else alright?”

“Calm down,” I say, soothing him as best I can with a hand on his shoulder. Then, realizing I’d almost forgotten to keep pressure on the towel at his side, I return to it. “Everyone else is fine.”

He nods once, his expression relaxing again. “I feel pretty good, considering. Really good, actually.”

“That’d be the laudanum Doc gave you. Takes the edge off,” I offer, my eyes flicking up to Doc. He’s slowly stitching up the hole in the boy’s shoulder. The bleeding has mostly stopped; it’s just sort of weeping now. “But you’re gonna be fine, Benjamin. Just rest now.”

His eyes flicker up to mine. “That’s a shame.”

“What is?” I ask.

“That I’m gonna be fine. I kinda like being here with you.”

I sigh. “Oh, you like bleeding out on my kitchen table?”

He nods once, his face serious. “Whatever it takes.” He hesitates, then continues, “But just in case I don’t make it, do me a solid and look in on Aggie for me.”

I raise one eyebrow. “Aggie… that your girl?”

But his eyes roll back and his face goes slack, his head rolling to the side once more.

 

 

Purchase Links:

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Glitter and Gold (A Canary Club Prequel) is currently FREE!

Links:

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Author Bio:

Sherry is the author of over a dozen novels for teens and young adults including the best selling Stolen Empire series. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.
Sherry also writes contemporary romance under the pen name SJ Noble. You can find her at her official website, www.sherryficklin.com, or stalk her on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/sherry.ficklin.

 

 

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Monsters and Angels Excerpt and Giveaway

 

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Book details:
 
Monsters & Angels 
by Anne Marie Andrus
Publication date: October 11th 2017
Genres: Historical, New Adult, Paranormal Romance
Synopsis:

Fledgling nurse Sorcha Alden knew she had the skills to save lives, but she never dreamed that her own life would be the one in danger.

Driven by tragedy to honor her family name, Sorcha embarks on a journey that takes her from the bleak but familiar streets of New York, through the sultry and seductive city of New Orleans, and into the brutal jungles of Nepal. Forging friendships and carrying on her mother’s mission of healing was her dream. Plunging into a love affair with the mysterious Dr. Ashayle could have been a fairytale.

Being murdered and waking up as a blood-thirsty monster—became her living nightmare.

Torn away form a life that had just begun, Sorcha returns to New Orleans as a newborn vampire, forced to start over in a cutthroat underworld of devilry and decadence. Complicated politics, bitter rivals and jealous ancestors stand between her and the promises she’s still determined to keep.

In a realm where the boundary between good and evil is as murky as the Mississippi River and immortal does not mean invincible, will Sorcha ever risk her shattered heart and love again? Can the magical harmony of the Crescent City give her enough courage to fulfill her eternal destiny?

 

Excerpt:

Hospitals were worse than high school. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. Plenty of people saw Vir and Sorcha disappear into the woods at the festival and come running back when the ground shook.

“The earthquake was terrifying.” Sorcha hid her face in her hands.

“And, common for this region,” Zelia said.

“Everyone laughed at us.”

Chère, they’re jealous.”

Sorcha slumped onto the stool in front of her dressing table. “Of what?”

“The power couple. Young, beautiful and in love.”

“Love is a stretch.”

“Since the festival, he’s been here every night for dinner or tea. It’s obvious Vir adores you.” Zelia picked up a lock of Sorcha’s hair. “Split ends.”

“What do the Sisters think?”

“He’s a gentleman and gives them no excuse to object.” Zelia grabbed scissors. “Let me trim an inch.”

“Just a wee inch.” Sorcha stared at her friend’s smile in the mirror. “He adores me?”

“Maybe you caused the earthquake.”

 

 

Purchase Link:

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AUTHOR BIO:

Anne Marie has been an equestrienne, chorale singer, candy-striper, EMT, and baseball fan. Roaming the back roads of New Jersey with her family, she found great respect for antiques, historical locations and the stories they hold. Her current list of favorite pastimes include coffee, bourbon, and Les Miserables–which requires more bourbon. She has been known to attend sporting events just for the flyover. The boat she and her husband christened Glory Days, is her escape from the chaos of everyday life.

The inspiration for Anne Marie’s debut novel, Monsters & Angels, is her fascination with vampires and her passion for everything New Orleans. When she isn’t writing, she can be found working nights with the critical care team in a busy trauma center.

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The Divine Heart Promo and Giveaway

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The Divine Heart

by Danielle R. Mani

Genre: YA Paranormal

Release Date: September 27th 2017

 

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Elle Collins spent most her life waiting for someone else to die…

When a heart donor is found, Elle awakes from surgery gifted with more than just a new heart—clairaudient messages and spiritual apparitions haunt her until she is convinced that she must be insane. Either that, or her donor is sending a message.

Desperate for answers the medical community can’t provide, Elle’s divination leads her to the family of her donor—a young girl named, Cas. With the help of her best friend, Rob—the guy who’s a testament that her new heart is capable of love, Elle must make sense of the clues Cas is sending. As pieces of Cas’s life and death emerge, Elle will discover that she and Cas share more than just a heart.

 

Excerpt:

She lets out a long sigh. “I heard that you received the heart of a girl about the same age as you.” She looks at me intently. I can tell she’s trying to read my expression, but I play it cool and keep a straight face. “She had an accident, honey.” After a long pause and a moment of uncomfortable silence, she continues. “There was nothing anyone could do,” She takes a deep breath and pushes the strands of hair away from my face. “Are you okay?”

“I am,” I say, surprised by my composure. A sense of calm washes over me and I use my pain as a guide to trace my fingers over my chest. I feel the bulkiness of the bandages under the linen hospital gown and rest my hand over my chest. It takes a moment before I feel the beating of my new heart. It’s different—steadier. I slide my tongue over my lips and taste the salt of my tears. Thank you. Thank you. I’m not exactly sure whom I’m thanking—God or my donor. It doesn’t feel right to thank God for what’s happened. He couldn’t have taken this girl’s life just to save mine. Closing my eyes tightly, I say a quiet prayer. I wish I knew your name. Then I could know whose soul I am praying for.

“Cas!” The voice is a soft, willowy whisper. I open one eye and gaze around the room. My mother is seated in the chair next to me, a closed People Magazine on her lap. She’s staring at a blank TV screen, lost in thought. The nurse is standing in the doorway, speaking with a doctor. From where I lie, I can’t see anyone else around.

“Cas!”

 

 

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About the Author

Danielle R. Mani is a fan of the paranormal in both print and film. In her first book, The Divine One, Ms. Mani combines supernatural fiction with the everyday dramas of young adulthood. Her newest YA paranormal novel, The Divine Heart, is scheduled to be released later this year. Ms. Mani holds a Bachelor of Arts in education and a Master of Science in communications. She is currently a doctoral student studying parapsychology. She resides in Westchester, New York, with her husband, four children, two dogs, and two rescue cats.

 

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By Blood Sworn Excerpt and Giveaway

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Book details:
By Blood Sworn 
by Janice Jones
(The Dagger Chronicles #2)
Published by: Amberjack Publishing
Publication date: August 22nd 2017
Genres: New Adult, Romance, Supernatural
Synopsis:

As the Dagger, Alex Stone hunted down supernatural threats on covert ops team, Night Command. After the capture of a particularly bad-ass vampire, Tristan Ambrose, Alex gets out of the game. In the years following her departure, Alex started a hot new clothing line and moved on with her life. She was happy pretending the supernatural didn’t exist, but, with Tristan’s escape, she’s pulled back into the game.

Alex is hired to continue guarding the very tempting body of Jason Stavros–up-and-coming vampire politico–alongside her new team, The Trackers. Stavros is scheduled to head to an international conference of the supernatural community in Bucharest, and Alex and her new team must keep him safe while investigating new threats, and ghosts from the past.

When the conference is interrupted by betrayal and sabotage, Alex must pull her weakened team together to bring the saboteurs to justice–and get some well-deserved revenge.

Suddenly, she’s not just back in the game, she’s all in.

By Blood Sworn is the thrilling, psychological, and sexy sequel to In Her Blood , the first book in The Dagger Chronicles series by Janice Jones.

 

Excerpt:

The sky was a brilliant orange canvas of light that would give birth to a clear, starry night. On the way back home, she’d pick up two bottles of tequila; she was going to need both to drown the bad dreams.

As she made her way back home through light traffic, Alex cursed Ramsey for the 911 text to come to this scene. Ever since she had taken over the Tracker team, the brief time between work and sleep was occupied by his attempt to exert control over her like never before.

Access to classified files was the trade-off. Now that she was completely back inside, she could request information previously deemed “need-to-know” before. As a temporary agent with a specific project, Alex didn’t need to know what the Trackers had been up to over last few years. Her assignment was clearly defined and restricted to bringing in the test subjects for evaluation. She’d almost finished that job when all of this came up.

Her phone buzzed in the hands-free holder attached   to a speaker. She tapped the answer button on the steering wheel.

“How’d it go?” Ramsey’s familiar polished tone boomed. “Anything interesting to report?”

“One of the company’s Executive Assistants and her new husband were murdered,” Alex replied as she came to a stop at the traffic light. “Your team is bringing in their two children.”

“Why?” Ramsey harped. “We’re not a daycare center.”

As traffic moved again, she rolled her eyes. “The children killed them.”

“Oh,” he sighed. “I still don’t understand why we can’t let the kids go to the local authorities.”

“They were turned and killed their parents,” Alex huffed. “That’s why.”

She thought she heard a low snicker come from the line, but why would he laugh at that? The whole situation was messed up, and she wished she could get to the truth some other way.

“How old are the kids?” he finally asked. In the back- ground, she heard a rapid typing sound.

“I have no idea,” Alex replied. “Maybe eight and twelve or so, I guess. The oldest one was around sixteen.”

“What? Wait, I thought you said there were two of them,” Ramsey snipped.

“There are now,” Alex stated. “I had to dust the oldest.”

Now she was sure he was laughing. His snicker reached her ears; she wanted to reach through the phone and rip out his throat.

“Of course, you did. What would an investigation be without you killing someone?”

“Look,” Alex hissed as she snatched the phone free. “He turned his brother and sister and watched as they killed their parents. He was not coming with us without a fight.”

“We’ll get a story on the local news by morning,” Ramsey replied. “Nothing too dramatic. House fire should do the trick.” More typing. “Looks like they just moved in, so no nosy neighbors to wonder about the activity around   the house.”

Alex remembered a cable television van and a moving truck out front. All the people around the house were pretty much ignored. She wasn’t too keen on them setting a fire, but anything else would raise too many flags. Couldn’t have the neighbors thinking a serial killer was on the loose or anything.

“What will you do with the kids?” she asked.

“See if they can identify the idiot vampire who turned them,” Ramsey answered. “After that, the Council will send a courier to retrieve them. They’ve been notified.”

She almost dropped Creed’s name, but she decided against it once he mentioned the Council. That information would be useful to her later. If she told Ramsey, he’d have a kill order placed on Creed. She needed him alive, for now. Apparently, no one got Ronnie’s reference or Ramsey would have made some smartass remark about it.

Purchase Links:

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AUTHOR BIO:
Graduating with a Masters in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University, Janice’s first novel, In Her Blood, is the first book in her vampire adventure series The Dagger Chronicles. This series introduces you to the world of Alexa “Alex” Stone, ex-vampire hunter and assassin turned fashion mogul. Hiding in plain sight, Alex must return to the world of the supernatural in order protect a handsome vampire and her own secrets. Look for Book Two, By Blood Sworn to hit online outlets soon. Janice is looking forward to readers of New Adult Fiction and Vampire lore to embrace a new kind of action adventure hero, a woman with many secrets and many stories to tell.
(Author photo courtesy of Omar Ramos Photography www.omarramosphotography.com/Makeup by LaChandra Middlebrooks)
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Beyond the Mist Book Blitz and Giveaway

Book & Author Details:
Beyond the Mist
by Casi McLean
(Lake Lanier Mysteries, #2)
Published by: The Wild Rose Press
Publication date: September 15th 2017
Genres: Adult, Romance, Time-Travel
Synopsis:

Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes.

The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams.

Can Piper avoid the international espionage and terrorism of 2001 New York, find Nick, and bring him home before he alters the fabric of time, or will the lovers drift forever Beyond The Mist?

 

 

 

Excerpt 

A soft mist hovered over the moonlit lake, beckoning, luring him forward with the seductive enticement of a mermaid’s song. Rhythmic clatter of a distant train moaned in harmony with a symphony of cricket chirps and croaking frogs. Spellbound, Nick Cramer took a long breath and waded deeper into the murky cove. Dank air, laden with a scent of soggy earth and pine, crawled across his bare arms. The hairs on the back of his neck bristled, shooting a prickle down his spine that slithered into an icy pool coiled in the pit of his stomach. He clenched his fingers into a tight fist, determined to fight through the emotion consuming him. Fear sliced through his belly like icy shards until he finally heaved, forcing rancid bile to choke into his throat.

I have to do this––he inched forward––only a few more steps and––

A sudden surge swirled around him, yanking him into a whirling vortex, where a violent blue streak dragged him deeper, deeper beneath the lake into the shadowy depths. Heart pounding, he battled against the force, twisting, thrusting toward the surface with all of his strength but, despite his muscular build, he spun like a feather in wind into oblivion. When the mist dissolved, Nick Cramer had vanished.

 

 

Purchase Links:

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AUTHOR BIO:

Award winning author, Casi McLean, pens novels to stir the soul with romance, suspense, and a sprinkle of magic. Her writing crosses genres from ethereal, captivating shorts with eerie twist endings to believable time slips, mystical plots, and sensual romantic suspense, like Beneath The Lake, WINNER: 2016 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for BEST Romantic Suspense. WATCH THE TRAILER https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwOqm8DUUfA

Casi’s powerful memoir, Wingless Butterfly: Healing The Broken Child Within, shares an inspirational message of courage, tenacity, and hope, and displays her unique ability to excel in nonfiction and self-help as well as fiction. Known for enchanting stories with magical description, McLean entices readers in nonfiction as well with fascinating hooks to hold them captive in storylines they can’t put down.

Her romance entwines strong, believable heroines with delicious hot heroes to tempt the deepest desires then fans the flames, sweeping readers into their innermost romantic fantasies. Ms. McLean weaves exceptional romantic mystery with suspenseful settings and lovable characters you’ll devour. You’ll see, hear, and feel the magical eeriness of one fateful night. You’ll swear her time travel could happen, be mystified by her other worldly images, and feel heat of romantic suspense, but most of all you’ll want more.

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A Veil of Shadows Promo Post and Giveaway

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A Veil of Shadows (The Shadow Gate Chronicles #2)

by Michael W. Garza

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: September 22nd 2017

NeverHaven Press

 

Summary:

A desperate search leads to a new world

Naomi and Gavin are on the run. Having narrowly escaped Azzmon’s clutches, they find themselves hunted by Malick, another Shade Lord. He has amassed an army of foul creatures, and the city-state of Tarravale stands on the brink of chaos. Naomi’s ability to open Shadow Gates makes her an alluring target, and the Shade Lord will stop at nothing to possess her. The children must find a way to escape before their new world is buried in an unwinnable war.

Excerpt:

Naomi was desperate to get away. She looked for any opening in the crowd but found a growing sea of figures filling in the shadows of the night. Another surge pressed up against her back, and she stumbled forward as someone pushed her from behind. Naomi fought to get back into the crowd, but something grabbed her hand. She was yanked out into the line of dancing fiends, lunging around the fire before she remembered her armor. The drunken, foul thing she’d stripped at the edge of the foothills had been one of the goblins, and it was apparent they expected her to join in on the dance.

The beat came from a row of goblins seated in a line close to the fire. The creatures slammed their fists on crude instruments in a semi-coordinated arrangement. Naomi was pulled into a loose circle, prancing around the musicians. Terror instantly set in and she froze. It took two well-placed jabs in her side to get her moving again.

It all started with a hop. Naomi focused on the creature in front of her and did her best to ignore the hooting and hollering of the surrounding spectators. She caught on to the steps as her growing panic mixed with a strange determination to get it right. It took a few moments for her to grasp the basic moves, and then she added in a few of her own to make it her thing. She tried to forget that she was boogying in the very center of an enemy camp. Her mental block had little effect on keeping out the roar of the crowd, but it allowed her to remain focused on what she was doing.

Her unfitted armor came with its own share of issues. The chest plate was too big for a teenage girl while managing to be too short at the same time. Naomi was forced to hold onto her helmet with both hands to keep it from slipping off as she danced. The pace of the drums picked up, encouraging the performers to do the same. The train of goblins moved at an alarming speed, and before long Naomi had to hop, skip, and jump to keep up. The entire ordeal culminated in a group howl that scared her half to death.

A sudden bellow of applause from the crowd mixed with shouts and whistles. One of the onlookers seized Naomi by the shoulders and shook her furiously. She thought he might strike her before he finally lifted his head back and laughed as loud as a foghorn. The man let her go, and she stumbled backwards. The goblins broke from the line, and Naomi found herself alone by the fire. Her predicament quickly shifted from bad to worse. The surrounding sea of goblins unlatched their armor, and it wasn’t long before Naomi was the only figure wearing a helmet.

The attention started with a few glances, first from the goblins and then the men and serpent-kind as they headed back to their own gatherings. Naomi walked away, keeping a straight line for the open divide between the goblin circle and an adjacent gathering of men. She heard the patter of boots following after her. They called out in the goblin’s foul language, but she didn’t dare turn around. The calls echoed from one gathering to the next, and the commotion was enough to draw several curious eyes.

The first real sign of trouble came from a hard pinch on her arm. A hand took a firm hold of her cloak and wouldn’t let go. Naomi strained to pull away but couldn’t. She saw figures moving toward her from the corners of the gathering. The goblins appeared to know something was up, and her chances of escape shrank by the moment. She finally gave in and spun around, coming face to face with a goblin’s bulbous head, its eyes glowing bright yellow in the firelight. Another powerful pull flung her around in the opposite direction, and she was sure the ruse was up.

 

 

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About the Author

Michael W. Garza often finds himself wondering where his inspiration will come from next and in what form his imagination will bring it to life. The outcomes regularly surprise him and it’s always his ambition to amaze those curious enough to follow him and take in those results. He hopes everyone will find something that frightens, surprises, or simply astonishes them.

 

 

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H.A.L.F.: Origins Promo Post and Giveaway

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H.A.L.F.: ORIGINS (H.A.L.F. #3)
by Natalie Wright
Genre: YA Sci-fi Romance
Release Date: August 24th 2017

 

Summary:

Alien predators attack Europe. A deadly virus spawns an epidemic. And a clandestine organization conspires to profit from chaos and forge a New World Order.

In this heart-pounding finale of the H.A.L.F. series, Tex, Erika and the rest are in a race against time. In books one and two they fought for their lives. Now they battle to save us all.

Tex and Erika are again fugitives and running for their lives. But when Tex falls gravely ill, a Navajo healer is his only hope for survival. Tex emerges changed in mind and body but with vital information: how to stop the predatory M’Uktah from destroying those he has come to love.

Erika Holt seeks a respite from the threats to her life but hasn’t given up. As she and Tex launch a mission to shut down the galactic highway used by the invaders, she grows closer to her troubled human-alien hybrid companion. But what about her on-again, off-again boyfriend Jack?

Jack Wilson, along with his new friend Anna Sturgis, is determined to put an end to the Makers’ schemes for world domination. Complicating matters, the valuable medicine to counter the alien virus has been stolen.

As both alien and human forces line up against them, the destiny of all mankind is hand the hands of these young warriors. And time is running out.

“The latest satisfying addition to the H.A.L.F. series has something for everyone: exciting action scenes; great love stories; fascinating new aliens; and relatable characters fighting to save the world and find their places in it.” ~Alyssa H., Red Adept

 

 

EXCERPT:

1

ERIKA

Raindrops pelted the windshield of the rust-bucket truck Erika had borrowed from Ian’s dad. Nearly an hour had passed since she’d seen the lights of the last police car recede in her rearview mirror, but her fingers still shook as she turned on the windshield wipers. They were little help. The spittle of rain turned the dusty windshield into a muddy mess, and the sun-rotted rubber of the wipers streaked the glass.

The jacked-up truck tackled the harsh terrain of the desert like a pro. The police cars were no match for barrel cacti and creosote bushes as large as small cars. The local Ajo police that had tried to stop them likely didn’t know that they were chasing a human-alien hybrid that had escaped, again, from a secret underground lab controlled by the clandestine organization known as The Makers. The Makers had surely spun the lies necessary to convince local law enforcement that Tex was a dangerous fugitive. Ironic. The lie had become the truth. Erika and Tex were, in fact, fugitives on the run and again fighting for their lives. It was like déjà vu all over again.

Erika’s bottom was bruised from bouncing on the seat. Her wrists ached from gripping the wheel. After nearly an hour of rough riding, they hit a two-lane road going east. Erika was heading to New Mexico, where her Aunt Dana, her father’s sister, lived. Without complications, they would get to Aunt Dana’s in about eight hours. If she’ll have us.

Tex had been quiet but awake as Erika navigated the bumpy ground. Once they reached the smooth pavement, he tucked his knees to his chest, hugged his arms around his legs, and became a silent egg-shaped blob on the seat next to her. Erika had seen him withdraw into himself before, but he was even more quiet and still than usual.

Erika wished he’d have stayed awake longer. She wanted to pry answers out of him. She had questions about his time with the Conexus, when he had been linked directly to their hive-mind collective. Ever since Dr. Randall had unhooked Tex from the Conexus, he was acting distant and short-tempered. Erika wondered what had really happened to him during his time with the Conexus. And what did he mean when he spoke of struggles for humans to come and the knowledge he got from the Conexus? She hoped he would answer these questions and more when they got to Aunt Dana’s.

The dribble of rain became a hailstorm. Peanut-sized ice balls pinged the metal roof of the truck. Within minutes, the hail turned into a deluge. Erika turned the wipers to full blast, but that only smeared the windshield faster. The Tex blob remained eerily quiet and unperturbed.

Erika’s swollen right eye, a gift from one of the Makers’ guards during their escape from the school, made it difficult to see. Both eyes were heavy with fatigue. She blinked rapidly and shook her head, trying to clear the drowsiness. She switched on the radio, and raucous Tejano music blasted. She wasn’t a fan of the accordion-heavy genre. The ancient truck speakers distorted the sound, making it nothing but noise to her ears, but at least the booming music helped keep her awake.

Erika had never been much of a life planner. Her current situation of living day-to-day did not bother her as much as it might have irritated some people. She was focused on her current task, getting Tex safely to a location where he could heal. She’d help him find a place to stay hidden from the Makers and Sturgis. She wasn’t sure what came after that. Just stay awake. And alive.

Tex didn’t stir or acknowledge the radio. Is he dead? She poked at him with a finger. “Tex? You okay?”

With his head still to his knees, his voice was muffled but cool and even. “I am alive if that is what you mean.”

“You’ve been so quiet. With the escape back there at the school, the dogs, and now the rain… I was just hoping that you’re all right.”

Tex raised his head slightly and turned toward her, his large eyes peeking over his arm. “I have been through worse.”

The understatement of the century. She’d been through worse, too: the days of fever she endured after the Conexus gave her the virus, the long hours of watching Ian wracked with pain when she could do nothing but watch him inch toward death, weeks of hunger and thirst. She had been forced to take the lives of others or lose her own, and she had watched her mom breathe her last breath. They’d all been through hell and back.

Tex’s indifference was still better than silence between them. The tinny horns and the beat of the music stopped abruptly.

The radio announcer broke in, speaking in Spanish. “There has been a massive terrorist attack in Europe. The entire continent is without power. Communication systems are down. Though reports are sketchy, US authorities state that the attacks appear to be focused on London and Paris.”

Erika’s chest tightened. For a moment, she forgot to breathe. “He said that communication systems are down in Europe and there’s been a massive terrorist attack. The terrorists hit London and Paris.”

Tex unwound his arms from around his legs. “I understood what he said.” He sounded condescending, as though everyone could understand Spanish as well as English.

“Oh. I just assumed that—”

“You assume a great many things.”

Erika didn’t know what he meant, but she was more worried about what the heck was going on in Europe than her traveling companion’s surly attitude. The radio announcer spoke of the apparent sophistication and coordination of the attacks. He stated that the terrorists had clearly used an advanced technology that took out the power grid across Europe. Terrorists with advanced technology? Could the Makers be behind this?

Continuing in Spanish, the announcer said, “The US has raised the terrorist alert level to high and has closed all borders, effective immediately. There are reports of disruption to GPS and cellular service in the United States, indicating possible destruction or interference with multiple satellites.”

“Just what we don’t need. First the virus to deal with, now terrorists run amok.”

“It is not a terrorist attack,” Tex said with total conviction.

“You just heard the guy say it’s a terrorist attack. He said the report came from NORAD.”

“Then this NORAD fellow is wrong… or lying.”

During her time at Casa Sturgis, Erika had lost most of her faith in the authorities. Getting locked up in an underground city run by crazy government scientists and black-budget military would do that to you. Even if The Makers were behind AHDNA, that didn’t negate the fact that, somewhere along the line, some important people were very corrupt. Maybe even a lot of people.

Even after all she’d seen, though, she still believed most of the people working for the government weren’t crooked, self-serving traitors who would sell out the lives of millions just for their own little piece of the post-virus pie. People like Dr. Montoya worked for the government. Dr. Montoya had risked her life to help them to keep the antivirus out of the hands of the Makers so it could be synthesized to help the masses rather than the elite few chosen by William Croft and company.

“Why would the military lie about terrorists?” she asked. “And if it’s not terrorists, then who would cause a massive power failure?”

“Something far worse than extremists with a vendetta. Pull over. I will drive now.”

“Have you ever driven before?”

Tex shook his head. “Pull over,” he repeated.

“And what do you mean ‘worse’?”

“Erika, I tire of questions every time I ask something of you. There is a helicopter on its way. You did not think that the Makers would send only a few local law-enforcement vehicles after me, did you? Shall we argue further? Or shall I attempt to lose those that tail us?”

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Book Trailer:

About the Author

Natalie writes adventurous fantasy and science fiction for teens and adults including her award-winning H.A.L.F. series and The Akasha Chronicles. Her first novel, Emily’s House, has been read over 2 Million times on Wattpad!

When not writing, reading or questing in Skyrim, Natalie meets readers and appears on writer panels at comic cons and book festivals throughout the western U.S. She and her mascot baby alien traveled over 10,000 miles in the past year!

Natalie lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband, teen dauther and two cat overlords.

 Sign up to my email list and receive a FREE PDF copy of book 1: http://bit.ly/SUBSCRIBE_Natalie

 

 

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ORIGINS Mega Giveaway:

ORIGINS Launch Mega Giveaway is going on throughout September. Entrants have the chance to win the following:

  • GRAND PRIZE: 1 Winner will receive the following: $100 Amazon Giftcard + Signed, Hardcover copies of the entire 3-book H.A.L.F. series + branded book swag, including metal bookmarks, complete set of H.A.L.F. Character Trading Cards®, keychain, and buttons + non-branded, retail swag themed to the book. Retail value of this prize is $240+
  • FIRST PRIZE: 1 Winner will receive: $25 Amazon Giftcard + Signed, Paperback copies of the entire 3-book H.A.L.F. series + branded swag (as listed above) + non-branded swag. Retail value of this prize is $75+

10 Runner-Up Prizes: 10 Winners will receive: A gifted copy of Amazon Kindle version of an eBook of the reader’s choice from among Natalie Wright’s published, single-book works (Emily’s House, Emily’s Trial, Emily’s Heart, The Deep Beneath, The Makers, or ORIGINS). Retail value of this prize if between 99¢ to $3.99 (depending on book chosen and price at the time gifted).

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Summoner Spotlight and Giveaway

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Summoner by S.D. Grimm

Publication Date: September 4, 2017

Publisher: Entangled TEEN

 

Synopsis:

When Allie’s best friend dares their group to play a game in a cemetery—something she calls “witching”—Allie never expects what it might mean for her. When she plays, she doesn’t just find bodies, she summons their souls. But one soul wants more than Allie is willing to give.

And the boy next door could be the key to saving her.

Cody Burkhart. Straight from Montana, cowboy hat wearing, and smoking hot, he’s just the thing to help Allie become “normal” again after the death of her mother. And as her newly appointed Guardian, he’s also just the thing to help Allie ward off the vengeful spirit who’s after her soul. Except Cody has his own demons to slay that keep him closed off. But as the full moon approaches, so does their only chance to break the curse, and Cody will have to make the biggest sacrifice of all.

 

 

Excerpt:

Mandy was right; moonlight made it easier to see, but the uneasy feeling in my stomach intensified as I moved toward that grouping of headstones. They were crooked and uneven. Like the ground beneath them settled a long time ago but never actually stopped settling.

The damp air made it harder to breathe.

“All right, what do I do with these things?” Derek took one of the L-shaped wires from his sister.

An involuntary shiver crept up my back as I recalled how cold those things were.

“Hold it like this.” Nell held the smaller section of the wire in her hand, letting the larger section point straight out in front of her. “One in each hand.” She gave Derek the other one. “Now, loosen your grip so they’re free to move when they want to, and start walking.”

Derek examined his metal rods. “You’re saying they’ll move on their own?”

“Yep.”

“No way.” Derek shook his head and tried to hand the hanger back.

“You scared?” Nell’s smile was evident in her voice.

“No.”

“Good.” Nell pointed toward the graves. “When you’re over an actual body, you’ll see the two points converge.” She held her arms in front of her as if they were the metal coat hangers. Then she folded them and her fingertips nearly touched. “If one side still sways—” she demonstrated by moving her right hand a little, “—then you’ve most likely hit a female.”

“You can’t possibly tell that.” Mandy’s voice was as breathless as I felt.

Nell simply shrugged. “We’ll let the tombstones tell us afterward.”

Did she have any fears? Was I the only one covered in a chill that seemed to cling to my soul? Maybe Mom’s death had altered me in this area, too. Death wasn’t this far-off elusive thing that I never thought about anymore. Death was real. Always present in my thoughts because of the hole it had left in my heart.

Derek tried to hand his sister the rods. “Maybe you should go first and show us.”

Nell made chicken noises.

Derek shifted his shoulders like he was preparing to shoot a free throw. “I just don’t want to mess up.”

Hunter groaned until Derek started walking. At first, nothing happened. Then, as he walked past the headstone, to the other side, the metal rods twitched toward him.

“Whoa.” He stopped.

Imaginary centipedes raced across my skin.

“Keep going,” Nell whispered.

 

 

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AUTHOR INFO:

 

D. Grimm’s first love in writing is young adult fantasy and science fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency and author of SCARLET MOON. She currently has four books under contract, including the remainder of her YA fantasy series Children of the Blood Moon. When she’s not writing or editing, Sarah enjoys reading (of course!), practicing kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, training dogs, and binge-watching shows with great characters. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog. You can learn more about her upcoming novels at www.sdgrimm.com.

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* Keychain

* Charm

* A journal based on the one Allie’s mom gave her

* Allie’s salsa recipe

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Body Parts by Jessica Kapp

Publication Date: August 15, 2017

Publisher: Diversion Publishing

Synopsis:

People would kill for her body.

Raised in an elite foster center off the California coast, sixteen-year-old Tabitha’s been sculpted into a world-class athlete. Her trainers have told her she’ll need to be in top physical condition to be matched with a loving family, even though personal health has taken a backseat outside the training facility. While Tabitha swims laps and shaves seconds off her mile time, hoping to find a permanent home, the rest of the community takes pills produced by pharmaceutical giant PharmPerfect to erase their wrinkles, grow hair, and develop superhuman strength.

When Tabitha’s finally paired, instead of being taken to meet her new parents, she wakes up immobile on a hospital bed. Moments before she’s sliced open, a group of renegade teenagers rescues her, and she learns the real reason for her perfect health: PharmPerfect is using her foster program as a replacement factory for their pill-addicted clients’ failing organs. And her friends from the center, the only family she’s ever known, are next in line to be harvested.

Determined to save them, Tabitha joins forces with her rescuers, led by moody and mysterious Gavin Stiles. As they race to infiltrate the hospital and uncover the rest of PharmPerfect’s secrets, though, Tabitha finds herself with more questions than answers. Will trusting the enigmatic group of rebels lead her back to the slaughterhouse?

 

 

Excerpt:

The exit door buzzes. My breath catches when I notice it’s not a trainer—it’s Ms. Preen. And, she’s holding a red file, which can only mean one thing.

One of us is getting out.

Her heels make quick, light clicks as she crosses the floor past the weight equipment and yoga mats. She crinkles her nose as she moves through the thick cloud of sweat. By the time she reaches us, Meghan’s out of the pool. We stand, two-dozen bodies huddled together, anxious to hear the news. I scan my friends’ faces, wondering whose turn it is to go. Parker wraps his free arm around me. I imagine this is how a gymnast feels after a routine, waiting for her scores. Did I perform well enough? Could I have done more?

Will I win the ultimate prize: a family?

Ms. Preen presses through to the pool area, but stands far from our group, as if she thinks we’ll throw her in.

It’s crossed our minds before.

The light shines off her blonde bob, and her face is flawless. Freeze-dried, we like to say.

“Where is she?” Ms. Preen looks at our group as if she can’t tell us apart, which is probably true. Even though she pops in at least once a month to check on our vitals, she isn’t interested in getting to know us. She’s the one in charge of pairing us with families, but all she knows is what we’re good at. Meghan is the fast one; Paige climbs like she’s part monkey; Parker’s built like a brick house; and me, I have the lungs.

“The redhead, where is she?”

All eyes turn to me.

“We have names, you know,” Paige says, her voice curt. “Hers is Tabitha. T-A-B…”

Ms. Preen pulls a piece of paper out of the file, holding it up toward the row of skylights to read it. “Yes. She’s the one.”

Parker tightens his hold on me and I clasp my hands together to stop them from shaking. Ms. Preen doesn’t need to know I’m nervous. I’m supposed to be elated, ready to go. Maybe I’ve been fooling myself.

I wiggle out of Parker’s grip to step forward. “That’s me.”

Ms. Preen shoves the paper back into the file. “Get dressed. I’m taking you for your final screening. If you pass, you’ll be out tomorrow.” Her voice is hard and she turns to walk away.

I glance back at the group, at the faces I’ve known since childhood. They’re excited for me, but I can see the disappointment in their eyes. I know the look, because up until today I’ve watched friends leave, waiting for my turn.

Now that it is, I can’t move.

 

 

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AUTHOR INFO:

 

 

Jessica Kapp enjoys writing Young Adult Contemporary and Speculative Fiction. Story ideas often strike at inopportune times, and she’s been known to text herself reminders from under the covers.

She lives on a small farm in Washington with far too many goats and an occasional cow.

 

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The Dark Mermaid Book Blitz and Giveaway

Book & Author Details:
The Dark Mermaid
by Christina L. Barr
Publication date: September 5th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Synopsis:

“True love is not a myth. It’s mystic. It’s a force in the universe that draws two people together, resulting in incredible power, for either good or complete chaos.”

On the day Luna proves that she is powerful enough to be her father’s heir, she is banished for saving the life of an enchanting human boy. Her father, the king, gives her two options: kill Ian and regain her honor by the time she comes of age, or be destroyed.

Luna finds shelter in forbidden waters and comes under the protection of her father’s greatest enemy, the Sea Witch. As her ward, Luna becomes a fearsome warrior, but struggles with the fear of turning her powerful magic dark.

With only days remaining before her seventeenth birthday, Luna finds Ian sailing the seas in search of answers. Luna is determined to escape her father’s wrath, and the Sea Witch’s plot of revenge, but dark forces won’t allow her to live a human life without making an impossible sacrifice.

 

 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

I was born with a serious defect. On the surface world, they call it “kindness”. My father first noticed it when I was a child. When we turn thirteen, we swim out of our territory with nothing but a small blade. I watched my king’s eyes dig into mine as violently as the knife that bleed my arm numb. He always told me that he had a lot of faith in me. It’s funny how faith only felt like heavy expectations on my tiny shoulders. And when I could feel the vibrations in the water from an oncoming threat, he made sure to leave me in the darkness, surrounded in a cloud of my blood.

I heard tales from my sisters of their glorious fights against the monsters of the deep. They only had to face one and return home with the corpse. They spoke of their fear boiling and bursting out of their hearts like a geyser rushing out uncontrollably, but they had a thirst for battle that was born as soon they saw their vicious opponents in the water. The victory shifted their terror into a satisfying thrill, but I was not as fierce as my sisters, and I was surrounded by three fish, three times my size.

I swam up fast and avoided two of them, but the third nearly took my bloodied arm off with its sharp and jagged teeth. I did manage to stab its eye as it swam past me, which was the only easy meat to get to. The rest of its body was covered in scales as hard as stone.

Taking on all three was impossible, and my little body was pumped full of fear. The adrenaline helped me swim faster, but they were made to chase and kill. They couldn’t hide their nature, and I couldn’t run from mine.

When I had about a thousand feet on them, I turned around and braced myself. I had little hope in my blade, but I gripped it firmly and told myself that I could defeat those monsters, if I truly believed in myself. My father would not accept me if I needed to be rescued. The rumors were that he’d rather have me dead than be a disgrace. I could not fail!

I closed my eyes and swung my blade forward. I put all my strength into that swipe, and I felt my energy leave my body and expand forward like a giant fin. I opened my eyes just in time to see their bodies disintegrate into ash, and glitter from the fading light that I somehow produced.

I was too stunned to move for a great while. I never had such an incredible power on my own, so I looked to the blue and red crystals embedded into the golden blade. It was an ancient weapon forged by my ancestors, but I had no idea that it could do so much damage. My sisters had never mentioned it, and I’m certain they would have boasted about their exploits.

Even though I had rightly fought for my survival and won, I was rattled. I was certain that I could do it again—in extreme circumstances—but I wasn’t changed like my sisters. They were

reborn as warriors, and I still felt like a child. Worst of all, I didn’t have any remains. I would have to find another creature to kill, but I needed to tend to my wounds.

I returned home, struggling not to break down from fear of what my father would do to me. When I entered the walls of our crystal palace, my people were my enemy. They once revered me as a princess, and now they sneered their noses from my repulsive presence. I could feel their eyes whispering tales of my cowardice, and they were not as subtle as they believed. And when I entered my father’s throne room, so I could properly explain, I was met with his trident pinning my arm against the wall.

I couldn’t afford to lose any more blood, and he had severely cut me again. I tried pulling the trident away, but I couldn’t even get it to budge. I took my eyes off my bloodied arm, and by the time I looked up, his coal eyes were peering into mine. “Father—”

“Silence!” His hand clasped tightly around my neck. “Do you think I’ll grant mercy to a failure? You are my blood, and you’ve disgraced me!” It was insane to me at the time, but beyond the intensity of his rage, I remember sensing that my failure wounded him.

I whimpered as he freed me from the trident’s grasp. I was overwhelmed with an unbearable guilt that his disappointment burdened me with. The only reason why it didn’t crush me, was because I saw my demise reflecting in the golden trident he raised to strike me down with. “Do you have any last words?”

“I did kill!”

“Then where is the body?” He glared with a hatred I thought he only reserved for his enemies. I didn’t understand how his disappointment in me could transfer into such violence. When I was smaller, he would often tell me that I was his favorite. What good did his favor do?

I held up the blade that he had given me, and out of my desperation, I was able to make it glow a radiant blue with speckles of golden dust. “I used this blade to kill them, Father. Their bodies were completely blown apart. I swear!”

His eyes moved to the blade. Then, he looked at me in awe. “You do hold the power.” He smiled and cradled my face. “You are my true successor.”

My sisters were gathered around. They were mildly jealous before, but I had a feeling they would rip the flesh from my bones, if it weren’t for my father’s praises and the fear of what he would do if they attacked.

My father was never affectionate toward me, but he’d always gaze upon me with a curious eye. When I trained with my sisters, I thought he was testing me and assessing my potential as a warrior. It was no secret that he wanted a son, but Fate gave him six daughters instead. He made us twice as fierce to make up the difference. I couldn’t have known that he was expecting me to have such great power. “I want to see what you can do.”

“Sire.” One of his warriors came into the throne room and bowed. “There are humans sailing in our waters. What are your orders?”

He looked down at me and smirked. “My daughters and I will handle this ourselves.”

My sisters all cheered. They apparently had enchanting voices, but I had never heard them, nor had I ever opened my mouth up to speak. I suspected that I shared a similar gift, but I didn’t want to use my voice to lead unsuspecting sailors to their deaths.

“Keep the blade,” my father instructed. “I want to see you in action.”

I looked at the dagger in my hands. I heard such terrible things about the humans. Everything they touched, they laid waste to. Father said we had to kill humans to keep their dark nature from destroying us, but I didn’t see how we could be any better than them. I didn’t know if my life served any purpose beyond hunting and defending my home.

“Come, my children.”

He must have been in a good mood, because he let my eldest sister bind my wounds before we followed him into battle. Each stroke of my tail made my heart pound faster. I had never been to the surface before. My sisters told me that humans didn’t have tails. They had legs to stand upon, and they loved to watch them run for their lives as they tried to save their ships from sinking. It was one of their favorite games.

The water illuminated the higher we rose. I saw something large and round far up into the sky, but it glowed and brightened up the world. And when I breached the surface, the light gently rested on my skin as I whipped my hair back.

There were hundreds—thousands—of lights far up into the sky, and the biggest one was radiating a foggy white. I took in air, and it filled my lungs with an odd sensation. I wanted to finally hear my own voice, but for some reason, I was afraid to speak.

“Scout the area,” my father encouraged. My sisters waded just a few feet below the surface and waited for my report.

I gulped and slowly swam to a boat not too far away. I had seen ships before, but they were sunken treasures abandoned by the humans and eroded over time. I don’t know why the mystery of the humans intrigued me so much. I heard they were an evil menace that threated our way of life. I had also heard they were cowardly weaklings that we could easily destroy. I didn’t know how to imagine weaklings with such power. Some of the stories must have been false or highly exaggerated.

But when I finally snuck close enough to see the faces of the terrible creatures, I saw they were just like us.

There was a boy running along the deck with some sort of white animal. His smile was infectious. He was making noises with his mouth that I didn’t quite understand. Spoken words were very different than thought. There were also other sounds coming from some sort of box that an older human male controlled. He sat beside a beautiful woman with golden hair.

The sounds coming from the box were magical, like the melody that the whales would sing to each other, except there were so many different noises to make it complete. It was fast, and his human feet moved along with it. It was incredibly strange, but so intriguing. The boy looked like he could have been from my world, if he weren’t having the time of his life on those legs. I moved my tail along with the sounds, but it wasn’t the same as his clumsy and wonderful feet.

When the boy smiled, the right side of his mouth curved just a little higher than the left, and it made his eyes shrink, just a smidgen. They were as vibrant as the blue lights flickering in the sky. His short but bountiful hair bounced with the rhythm of his body, and even though it was as dark as the deepest of the ocean’s depths, the white glow of the night reflected onto his locks so brilliantly that I wouldn’t have questioned if he held some sort of power over night sky. His skin wasn’t too different than mine, but he had a glow to his skin that made him look as if life itself had kissed him. I know that this sounds silly, but I found myself wishing that I could keep him as a treasure to gaze upon.

He had a pretty face, but his arms were frail and easily breakable, but threats could come from even the tiniest of creatures, so I closed my eyes and listened to his thoughts. I tried to connect his mind to the words he was speaking, and it wasn’t long before I could begin to understand his conversation.

“It’s good to know that those expensive hip-hop lessons haven’t paid off,” the older man teased.

He stumbled from the insult and his bushy brows furrowed against his sparkling eyes. “Aw, I’m not that bad,” the boy said.

“I think he’s wonderful,” the woman encouraged. “But stop dancing around on the boat. You’re gonna make the whole thing tip over.”

“How old do you think I am? Five? I can’t tip over this huge thing.”

“Maybe,” the man said. “We’re in the Bermuda Triangle. All sorts of weird things happen here.”

The boy rolled his eyes. “Those things aren’t true.”
“We’re here to explore the mysteries of the Atlantic.”
“Really? Because I thought we were sailing to Puerto Rico so Mom can buy shoes.” “And other things,” she laughed. “You’ll love Puerto Rico. It’s gorgeous. You might even

meet a little summer girlfriend.”
“What makes you think I don’t already have a girlfriend?” he teased with a dashing smile. “You better not!” She got up from the comfort of her husband to tackle her son. He fought

her off viciously, but he was laughing as if he enjoyed it. It was odd. I had never seen a family interact in such a way. A family was supposed to be a pack you could hunt with. They were supposed to look out for you while you slept, and you did the same for them when they needed to rest. What the humans were doing was completely different than anything I had ever experienced. They were enjoying each other’s company. They were…Happy? I think that’s the word I’m looking for.

“What are you doing?” My father’s voice rang in my head. He wouldn’t understand what I was seeing. I hardly did, but I yearned for it so badly. Why couldn’t he hold me in his arms like the human father did to his son? The boy didn’t fear his father as I did. He would probably never intentionally hurt him, yet I still ached from the wounds my father inflicted upon me. Any lessons the boy learned, was probably for his personal benefit, and not because of some war that I didn’t understand.

“I’m observing.”
“You’ve done enough observing,” he said. “It’s time we attack.”
“No!” Out of desperation, my words entered through my mind and out of my mouth. My

voice was still weak, but I had finally heard it, and I thought it was beautiful. “Did you hear that?” the boy asked.

“Ian, don’t!”

He didn’t listen and ran over to the edge of the boat. I quickly dunked back under the water to escape his eyes, but I felt like such a fool. It was forbidden for humans to know of our existence. Anyone that saw us had to die.

I thought I had gone down far enough, but I felt a light shine on me. “Who’s there?”

I heard him speak to me, and I was at a loss of ideas. If only I could have convinced him that I were a human! It was either that, or I had to make him and his parents leave immediately. I slowly breached the surface, so he could see my face.

There was a slight pause as he laid eyes on me for the first time. My sisters told me that they were able to enchant humans with their beauty, before they dragged them into the ocean’s dark waters to drown. Perhaps I was doing that to Ian. I should have grabbed him by the back of the neck to finish him off. That was our way.

“You’re beautiful…” he mumbled very quietly, but in complete awe. I suppose I was right about him being enchanted.

But—for some mysterious reason—I found that I felt the same. My world was incredibly vast. It didn’t matter how far I ventured out in the water; there was always so much more to explore. Suddenly, my world was rapidly shrinking, until it was small enough to fit into a speck of light inside his eyes. “Ian…” My voice wasn’t strong enough. I tried reaching out to him through my mind, but he wasn’t ready to listen. “You have to—”

“How did you get out here? Are you hurt?”
I shook my head, hoping that was a sufficient answer.
“Mom! Dad!” he called.
“No.” My protest was only a whisper. “They can’t see—”
“Where did you come from?” his mother asked in a panic.
“Give me your hand.” His father got on his stomach to reach me better. He didn’t know

  1. He should have assumed I was dangerous. In my world, we didn’t tolerate any threats. He was probably three times my age, so how could he have lived for so long being that naïve?

I wanted to know why they were being such fools, but I could feel the vibrations in the water from my family fast approaching. “I’m sorry…” I dove back in the water and waited for the worst to be over.

They called out to me, and I knew that if I didn’t come back up, they would dive back in to get me. They must have at least feared sharks. It boggled my mind as to why they would risk their lives for mine.

I heard Ian’s parents scream, and then, there was a splash in the water. I backed away and prepared to strike them—if I needed to—but it was young Ian that bravely came to my rescue. And when he saw that I did not need to be saved, he yelled something in the water and lost his air.

Was he afraid of what I was? Did I disgust him? I wasn’t sure. All I sensed from him was his confusion from the herd of mermaids coming to rip him into pieces. His father dove in the water next. I knew my sisters would attack him. We always tackled the biggest prey first.

I’m not sure why I did what I did, even to this day, but I grabbed Ian by his waist and swam as fast as I could. He reached out to his father, but I couldn’t stop if I were going to save Ian.

He screamed, and I knew he would not have enough breath to survive the journey to safety. I had no choice and pressed my lips against his. His eyes bucked, but he soon relaxed enough to close them, and he allowed me to breathe life into his weak and pitiful body.

Through that moment, his mind was open to me. I could feel his desperation to be reunited with his father and mother. What he felt for them was deeper than anything I had experienced my entire life. His father wanted to protect him because he loved his son, and he loved his son because he was his. There was nothing more to it than that. It was their bond of blood and a covenant they forged together from the first time his father held his newborn son in his arms. I didn’t understand how something so simple could be so definite and infinite. My father only wanted to protect his legacy. If it weren’t for my strange power, I would be dead, and he would have been glad to be rid of his weakling daughter.

I wanted to leave. I wanted to go with Ian and be with his family. If all the humans loved like he did, then that’s what I wanted to experience. If only I were born into their world…if only I had a pair of legs to stand upon—to dance! What a glorious life I would have.

Ian tried to swim back to his father, but my sisters had already gotten a hold of him, and they were using their daggers to slash him apart. I grabbed Ian to keep him from leaving, and we were compelled to watch as his father’s flesh was ripped in pieces.

My eldest sister jumped into the air and clear over the boat, returning with Ian’s frightened mother in her arms. Ian’s struggle to get away from me intensified, but I held him tighter. I was much stronger than him, and there was no escaping their fate.

My father enjoyed watching his daughters kill. It made him proud to know he had raised such ruthless warriors. But he couldn’t rest while his daughters did all the work. He was also a warrior, and he needed to destroy to feel powerful. “Stand aside.”

My sisters quickly separated and waited with glee. My father was king because he could control the most powerful of weapons that my ancestors left for us: a trident. He didn’t use its powers too often. He much preferred to kill with his bare hands. But when he outstretched his hand toward his victim, and summoned the might of the trident, it was a glorious sight to behold.

Ian’s mother began to swim toward her son, and he reached out his hands for her. But they were too far apart to ever touch again, even after she exploded in golden and red streams of light. His father was a bloodied corpse. His mother was eradicated from existence. Only Ian was

left, and I had a serious choice to make. I could feel his broken mind. His tears were lost in the immensity of the ocean. He was screaming, so he was surely about to suffocate. It would have been a service to put him out of his misery. He couldn’t take care of himself. His mother and father were his entire world. It was only right to let him die like all the other humans my family had destroyed.

I still don’t understand why I swam away. I even rose to the surface for a jump, so Ian could catch a breath.

“What are you doing?” my father yelled. “Kill him.”

His furious command echoed in my head. When and if I returned home, he was probably going to kill me. My sisters chased me for a good while, but they eventually let up when I started approaching the shore.

I found a rock large enough to place Ian on. Someone was sure to find him. I only hoped that he could salvage what was left of his life and find people that loved him as much as his mother and father did.

“Ian?” The dawn was beginning to break. I didn’t want him to become crispy in the sun, but I couldn’t stay with him. “Ian?” I shook him, but he would not open his eyes.

I pressed my ear against his chest. His heart was still beating. “I think you’ll be alright, Ian.”

I brushed some hair off his face. Ian certainly was a handsome creature. I was desperate for him to open his eyes, and I think it was more than wanting a mental memory of his sea glass gems. I saw that my fingers were trembling as I stroked his cheek, and I realized that if he never

opened them again, I would be lost without a world. His heart was pulling tightly onto mine, and I was being ripped into pieces. “Please, be alright.”

I pressed my forehead against his and looked inside Ian’s mind again. He was at peace in his mother’s arms as she hummed a pretty melody. She rocked back and forth while he drifted between consciousness. The sun lit the world in its gold and warm embrace, and the beams of light poured into his eyes every time he was close to finally resting them. I think he was in his home, surrounded by trinkets he had grown attached to, but none of it was as fulfilling as his mother’s touch.

I didn’t understand how he could retreat to a peaceful place after witnessing such horrific death, but I grew envious of him. If I were torn apart in my trial by those monsters, where would I go in my final moments? There wasn’t a hug or a tender kiss from my kin to draw from, and even though I was accustomed to not having affection or admiration, I was suddenly aware of how awful that was.

I was desperate to have what he had lost, and I was aching from the fact that I had taken away the people he loved. It was selfish of me, but I retreated into Ian’s memory to feel the comfort that we both desperately needed. I could hear his mother’s soothing voice just as clear as I heard my father commanding me to slaughter Ian. As I watched her holding her baby boy, I could feel her intentions of protecting him. I could feel the love that he felt, and in a few seconds, her lovely song was on my lips.

He began to open his eyes, and I stayed long enough for a swift peek. I knew that I’d never be able to keep him for myself, but I’d never forget his mystifying eyes.

“Wait!”

I couldn’t. I jumped back in the water and swam home to beg for forgiveness. I couldn’t stay with the humans as long as I wasn’t one of them. It was foolish to think differently, even for one second.

I was hoping that my father possessed even one ounce of love and compassion that Ian’s parents had for him. If he did, I had the smallest bit of hope that I would survive. I swam to where I believed my home was, but I didn’t see the crystal walls or my wicked sisters waiting to judge me.

“You won’t find Atlantis,” my father said from behind. “It’s hidden from outsiders.” I was too frightened to face him, but I needed to. “Father—”

As soon as I tried to turn my head, it snapped back from the force of his blow to my face. “You let one of them go.”

“I’m sorry! He was only a boy.”

“He’s a human,” he seethed. “He’s a filthy, disgusting human. Human explorers killed your mother. Did you know that?” He never spoke of my mother. How was I supposed to know?

“No.” I held my cheek and struggled not to sob from the pain. My father was large in stature and very muscular. He didn’t need to hit me that hard to get his message across. I could taste blood in my mouth.

“He’ll tell others of our existence. More humans will come. They’ll kill us, and we’ll kill them. They won’t be satisfied until blood fills our waters, and I won’t be satisfied until their cities are ruins at the bottom of the ocean. There will be no peace.” My father was masking his excitement, but I could see the intention in his mind. He wanted the end of humanity, and it didn’t matter how many of us had to die in the process.

I had to stop it. “No one will believe him, Father.”
“Where is the dagger?”
I clenched my fingers on instinct, and my eyes bucked. I knew I had it when the attack

started. I didn’t remember dropping it in the water, but I hadn’t held it for a while. “I must have dropped it on the rock where I left him. I’m sorry. I’ll bring it back here and—”

“You’re not welcome back unless that boy is dead.” He yanked my hair and pulled me close to his face, so I could see his dark eyes. “I want that dagger to slit his throat and his heart in your hand. Do you understand?”

My family was harsh, but they were all I had. He couldn’t expect me to live on my own in the ocean. There was no crueler place in nature. Practically everything ate each other to survive. Safe territory was hard to come by, and it was only safe until something came along to kill you for it. Sharks and giant octopuses were the least of my worries. There were other creatures like me who were much more dangerous and even stronger. “Father, please—”

“You are no daughter of mine.” He threw me away in repugnance. “I am incapable of breeding weakness. You will never be one of us until you destroy that boy.”

I was literally shaking, even though I consciously tried to steady myself. It was disgraceful to be fearful of anything, but being alone in an endless world of predators was a death sentence. I

wasn’t sure if I had anything to live for, but I knew that I wanted to live long enough to find a reason. “There has to be another way, Father. Please!”

“You would forsake your honor and your people over the life of a human boy?” Rage flashed in his eyes, and his trident pulsed with power like the jolt from an eel. The spark frayed my tail, and I whimpered. Every bit of pride he held for me deteriorated like a meal inside of a beast’s belly. “Has he infected you with his weakness?”

“No, but…” The image of Ian’s eyes opening as I sang to him completely overtook my mind. I tried to suppress it, because I didn’t want my father to experience the intensity of my memory, but it poured out of me. Ian was groggy and terrified. His world had been crushed. The love that I felt in his heart should have been replaced with a need for righteous vengeance. He inhaled from the shock of seeing my face, but the hate never flooded in. Instead, an exhale of relief and awe followed, as if being with me needed no explanation. We were together, as we were meant to be.

I know that I left as soon as I could clearly see his eyes, but I remembered seeing my reflection inside of them. I think I saw a different mermaid than I had ever seen before. Perhaps we were always the same, and I was only beginning to wake up to the truth that she knew her entire life.

I was living in a nightmare, and I wanted to be free.

I had offended my father too greatly to be allowed to live. He thought too little of me to be disappointed. Eradicating me was a matter of propriety. He gripped his trident, and its power rippled toward me. I raised my hands instinctively. The little hairs on my arms began to singe, but before I could burst into dust, I felt my skin beginning to harden. I had closed my eyes, but it felt so odd that I looked to see my skin darkening. I had heard that my father turned an enemy to stone once. I was certain he was doing the same to me, but he actually seemed startled once he noticed that I was changing.

I might have been mistaken. The light from the trident skewed my vision, and your mind plays tricks when you’re certainly about to die. I might not have been sure about what I saw, but my father did clearly see something that made him withdraw his attack.

“Your sisters are weak. You’re strong enough to be my heir. I have no respect for you, but I do value you’re potential.” Even admitting that terrible compliment was difficult for him. “You have until your seventeenth birthday.”

“To do what?”
“To regain your honor and kill that boy.”
My hands returned to their normal color and softness, but I was aching internally. “What

if I can’t find the same boy? Can it be another?”
“No. It must be him.” His commandment rung through me like the crunch of a skull being

crushed between his fingers. “It’s either him, or I kill you both.”
And once again, he left me. I had no friends, no family, no resources, and no weapons. I

could hear the sounds of whales singing in the distance, but I could feel other vibrations in the water. There was danger surrounding me for miles, and I wouldn’t have the protection of my family or my father’s subordinates.

I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I returned to where I had left Ian, but he was already gone. I probably could have deceived my father, if I found the blade, but it was missing as well. I swam around the shore, but he was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t blame Ian if he never returned to the water, but if I couldn’t find him, I would never be able to return home, the humans would bring war to us, and we would bring hell to them.

“I’ll find you,” I said to Ian, wherever he was. “I don’t care what I have to do, but I swear that I will.”

And that’s how my story began. I showed mercy to a human boy that should have died with his parents. His life meant nothing compared to the safety of our worlds. I had no choice but to search the ends of the earth until I found him. But finding him wouldn’t prove to be the most difficult matter. The man I swore to kill, also became the man that I loved.

Regardless, he still had to die.

 

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AUTHOR BIO:

As the daughter of sci-fi enthusiasts and a pastor, Christina L. Barr has been taught to believe that anything is possible. She’s been a serious composer as far back as twelve-years-old, and has had the opportunity to sing her songs around the world.

In 2007, she graduated from Holly High School number nine in her class and attended College for Creative Studies. She started a pop culture website called The Gorgeous Geeks with her two older sisters, and was even featured on Times Magazine.

Her addiction to writing emerged when she was eighteen and started her first novel. To date, she has nine novels published, fourteen completed, and her goal is to finish thirty books by her thirtieth birthday.

She is currently a Creative Director and spends her days making graphics and videos.

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