Friday, February 27, 2015

The Moorigad Dragon and Reap Not the Dragon Book Blast: Read an Excerpt and Enter to Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


A Magical Universe…

Hidden throughout the worlds are magical portals leading to the secret dimension where Mystic’s Carnival is nestled. A self-aware fair that is both carnival and circus combined, and filled with a plethora of supernatural and paranormal beings.

Performers and runaways, Kyra and Sebastian, are away visiting the human realm when they find themselves at odds. Stay hidden, or interfere with a human’s destiny?

Saving a life doesn’t go unpunished.

Kyra thinks saving Marcus’s life is easy -- slick as dragon snot -- and a one-time deal. The resulting bond tying her to him and enslaving her as protector is unexpected.

She didn’t expect one good deed to turn into an endless chain of good deeds. Or to complicate the relationship with her best friend, Sebastian. And she especially didn’t expect it to place her life on the line.

Kyra’s dragon must keep Marcus alive and salvage her relationship with Sebastian without losing herself or dying.

Buy on B&N | Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | Ghost Girl Publishing

Love is stronger than fear … or is it?

The last thing Sara remembers is a conflicted night out with her boyfriend, Matt, and laying out under the dark night’s sky. How she came to be seated among the crowd under the Big Top is a mystery. When and how did she get there? She doesn’t wait to find out. Whether it’s due to basic fear or the scary, hideous clowns, Sara and Matt run. Run beyond the tent walls into the deep, dark alleys of the carnival. What they find along their mad dash to the parking lot will have them redefining their idea of fun zones, thrill rides, and date nights. Fear is an eat-you-alive monster. Refusing to be defined by that monster, they will confront those fears. What they find?

Perceptions can be excruciatingly misleading … and some monsters have hidden claws.

eBook: Amazon Exclusive | Amazon Paperback | B&N

A Reaper with a mission.

Sebastian is finished following commands. Higher powers be damned. He has his own agenda -- find Kyra and help restore her memory.

At first his plan goes better than expected. But as life starts looking up for the would-be Reaper, his metaphorical sickle becomes caught in a web of complications.

Things are never smooth for Sebastian and Kyra.

Best-laid plans sometimes rest in peace.

A detour -- unexpected and unwelcome -- delivers Sebastian into the depths of an grave situation. Misfortune and misunderstanding are the cards dealt to him. And events fail to flip in his favor.
Creatures from hell all want a piece of the young Reaper. If Sebastian ends up dead, that’s okay. For he has a more grievous beast to worry about. To save the woman he loves, Sebastian will venture into the heart of an all-powerful fire demon.

Sebastian must find a missing dragon and the key to Kyra’s memory without being devoured by sinister beasts or -- even worse -- consumed by his own inner demons.

Buy on Amazon

An Excerpt from Reap Not the Dragon: The Age of the Hybrid, Book Two

Tension tightened Sebastian’s back and shoulders. It wasn’t the request that got to him. It was the sound of her voice, the anxious need. “Better yet, why don’t you ditch work? Come with me now. I can take you somewhere that might just be exactly what you need—” Without warning, Sebastian’s jaw locked up, his every muscle froze, and he couldn’t move. What the f---in’ hell is going on? his inner voice yelled, and his eyes darted left and right.

“Sebastian?” Kyra inquired. “You were saying?”

He couldn’t respond. Couldn’t will his mouth to work or voice to answer. But his gaze narrowed in on the culprit, standing not-so-inconspicuously by the creamer station. Tall, gray suit with hat pulled down to shield his facial features, and a cheesy name tag tacked to his chest, probably his father’s lame idea. All part of the everyone-get-to-know-Sebastian movement. Except, all the names were fake. So what was the point? The Reaper across the room was no more named Mr. Johnson than his father was Mr. Smith.

Damn Reapers. Now Sebastian had a tail because his father didn’t trust him on his own. His gaze shifted to Kyra.

“Sebastian?” Kyra’s eyes bored into him, large and wide.

About the Author:

Debra Kristi found it rather dull always staying tethered to reality. She decided to let whimsy get the best of her, and with the help of her muse she began bringing magical stories to life in 2010. It’s been nothing but write, write, write and type, type, type ever since. Born and raised a Southern California girl, she still resides in the sunny state with her husband, two kids, and three schizophrenic cats. A lover of fanciful stories at a young age, she hadn’t realized the writer bug infected her until much later in life. As a result, her stories pull from a rich history of experiences.

When not busy drumming away at the keyboard or chatting it up on social media, Debra is hanging out creating priceless memories with her family, geeking out to science fiction or fantasy television, and tossing around movie quotes.

Find the author:
Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr | Blog
Instagram | Google+ | Goodreads | Amazon

Enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card through the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Susan Heim on Writing is not responsible for Rafflecopter content or prize fulfillment.

M9B Friday Chapter Reveal and eBook Giveaway: Hunted (Sinners #2) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing Chapter 2 of
Hunted (Sinners #2) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
presented by Month9Books!

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

Hunted

HUNTED is the electrifying sequel to the bestselling debut BRANDED, A Sinners Series, by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki.

It’s been three months since the revolt against the Commander’s fifty-year-old regime failed.

Under a new ruler, things were supposed to change. Get better.

But can anyone really be trusted?

Lexi and Cole soon find out, as life takes an unexpected turn for the worse.

In this ever-changing world, you must hunt or be hunted.

Lives will be lost.

Dreams will be crushed.

Fears will be realized.

Secrets will be exposed.

When Cole is once again faced with losing Lexi at the hands of a monster, one encounter will change everything.

Forever.

Connect with BRANDED fans on Instagram at:
#abiandmissy
#Sinnersfandom
#Sinnersseries
#Colexi
#Sinnersseriesbranded
#Brandedofficialfanpage
#Brandedfandom
#Lexihamilton

add to goodreads
Title: Hunted (Sinners #2)
Publication date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki

Available for Pre-order:
amazonB&N

excerpt


You can read Chapter Two HERE!
Happy Reading and Enjoy!


About-the-Author


Abi and Missy 2
Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure. 

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumbler


Giveaway

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a digital copy of Branded!

The book will be sent upon the title's release.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Time Winders Book Blast: Giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

 photo Time-Winders-Blast-Banner.png

 photo Time-Winders.jpg
Title:   Time Winders
Author:   Blog Glatnek
Published:  March 17, 2014
Publisher:   Stonetree Entertainment
Genre:  Sci-Fi
Content Warning:  Minor violence and sexual references
Recommended Age:  16+

Synopsis:  Tanya is a beautiful young Time Cop chasing criminals through Time. James is an 82-year-old widower. How did these two get stuck together, tracking down a rogue agent? Is someone manipulating the outcome from the future? And what’s with the tea?

Find out how love, loyalty, and friendship can change everything you thought you knew about destiny, in Time Winders.


Excerpt:

“Uh, Tanya? Do you ever, I don’t know, run into yourself? In Time?”

“Don’t be silly. There’s only one of me.”

“But, that doesn’t make sense.”

“The way it was explained to us was, there are multiple iterations of Time, but you are a singularity.”

And that was that. But it was only half the equation.

“Look, that brings up something. I get that you travel through Time (he thought of Time as an entity, now, something he could almost touch), but how do you travel through space? How did we go from California at midnight, to Flanders at noon?”

She nodded. “I had to take a course in advanced temporal-fluidics, and it was still difficult to understand. It’s even harder to explain, but … let me use the analogy my professor used.

“When we travel through Time, think of our toes as leaving the surface of the Earth. In fact, that’s why it was so easy for me to carry you along when you were struggling; Time itself pulls us along. Then, as we step, the Earth rotates beneath us. I choose when and where to touch down.”

James sort of got it. He knew the Earth was roughly 24,000 miles around, so with 24 hours in a day you’re moving about 1,000 miles an hour. If you could theoretically float above the surface (without being flung at 1,000 miles an hour when you left), the planet would rotate beneath you. It would be like traveling at 1,000 miles an hour.

 photo Blog-Glatnek.jpg
About the Author:

Tanya, writing under pseudonym of Blog, is a female, living in Southern California. A biologist, writer and medical illustrator. Married.








Giveaway Details:
There is a tour-wide giveaway.
Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card
Giveaway is international. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winter in the Soul Book Blast: Giveaway for a $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal Cash

Winter in the Soul Cover
Winter in the Soul by Jennifer Novotney


In a world divided by power and greed, seventeen-year-old Lilika harbors an intense desire to return to Winter in the Soul, the place her family left to escape the darkness that was manifesting from a coldness of the soul.

When she meets Talon, their connection is evident right from the start, and together they travel through the Black Kingdom to recover Lilika’s stolen locket. And in search of an answer to the mystery behind Winter in the Soul.

Lilika holds the key to stopping the darkness from spreading. The fate of their world lies in her hands. Will she stop the Black Kingdom before its darkness overtakes them all, or will they succumb to the darkness that is spreading across the land?

add to goodreads

Praise for the Book

“This book is original, cleverly written and most of all a great read.”

“This novel is very suspenseful and can be enjoyed by young and old alike.”

“I really, really liked the story line, it is fresh take in the high fantasy/magic genre.”




EXCERPT: CHAPTER ONE

Spring Bloom

Pulling her blond locks away from her face, Lilika headed outside her cozy house to do her morning chores. When she hit the doorway, she stopped and lifted her face skyward, soaking in the sun’s beams. She reveled in the heat beating down on her and the feeling of warmth that bathed her skin.

She walked to the garden and sat down. Lilika pulled the weeds with the sun shining on her. Her fingers ran across something smooth.

“What is this?” she muttered to herself, digging quickly to try to see just what was in there. She exposed something gleaming from underneath the brown soil.

What could be under the dirt here? She pulled out a gold heart locket from the garden bed. It glittered in an almost magical way, like nothing she’d ever seen before.

“Lilika!” Jet yelled through the open kitchen window. “It’s almost time for school.”

She shoved the locket in her pocket. “Okay! I’m coming.” Her little brother could be such a nuisance sometimes. She would have to wait until later to inspect her find up-close.

“Hello,” a female voice came from behind her.

“Hello?” She jumped up and turned around, shielding her eyes from the sun.

It was so bright, all she saw was a figure blocking out the light, a black silhouette outlined by the sun’s rays. As her eyes adjusted to the change in light, the figure became clearer and clearer: A beautiful, golden-hued woman stood before Lilika.

“Lilika,” the woman said.

How does she know my name?

“Lil! It’s time to go,” her brother yelled again.

She whipped her head around. “Okay, I’m coming.” By the time she turned back, the golden woman was gone.

She stood, walked to the side of the house, and peered around the corner, but the golden woman wasn’t there. She swiveled her head to each side, but didn’t see her. Could this all have just been a figment of her imagination? Maybe sitting in the sun was affecting her. Butterflies danced in her stomach at the thought of the locket she’d found, and she hurried into the house to get ready for school.

***

The mile-long walk to school was a quiet one except for Jet humming to himself. Children said goodbye to their parents and walked out of their rural homes surrounded by lush green grass and foliage, through the center of Spring Bloom. Boys in button down shirts and long pants and girls in light colored, pastel dresses lined the walkways when Lilika and Jet got closer and closer to their destination. Lilika walked along with a solemn expression on her face.

She couldn’t help but think about the golden woman, whether she’d simply imagined her or if their conversation had really happened. What did it mean? She couldn’t tell Jet or their mother or father. They wouldn’t believe her. Something was actually happening to her for a change.

The sun cast bright light over all the individual stone cottages and gardens.

“Good morning, Lilika!” Mr. Woodland waved from his garden.

“Good morning.” Lilika hurried toward school.

“Lil! Slow down,” Jet said.

“Come on,” she said with pursed lips, “we’re going to be late.”

More and more residents filtered out of their houses, tending to their gardens, trimming their bushes, and cleaning windows of their homes. With every stone cottage Lilika passed, the people smiled and waved. She greeted everyone with a wave and picked up her pace once she reached the hill.

Standing in front of the school, she paused and caught her breath before opening the classroom door.

“So, do you want to do something after school? Maybe we can go for a walk or something.” Bryony stopped her just outside the door. Lilika had been friends with her for as long as she could remember.

“Oh, I can’t.” Lilika sighed. “I have to do my chores right away when I get home since I didn’t have time to do all of them this morning.”

“Well, I found something I thought you might be interested in.” Bryony pulled out a big book from her backpack and wiped the dust off of it.

Lilika whipped her head around. “What? What is that?”

“It’s called The History of Winter in the Soul.” Bryony moved her fingers along the raised gold title on the front. “It’s all about Wits.” Bryony opened it and read from the book. “It was a cold that could only manifest out of the coldness in the soul. That is how Wits got to be known as the Winter in the Soul.”

“What are you doing?” Violet butted in. Great, she was always putting her nose where it didn’t belong.

“Nothing. Keep your voice down.” Lilika glanced toward the window to make sure no one was looking. Leave it to Violet to try and join in with them when they were trying not to bring attention to themselves.

“What do you have there, Bryony?” Violet put her hand on Bryony’s shoulder to get a glimpse.

“Nothing.” Lilika shook her head.

“Well, what is it? What’s so interesting?” Violet leaned in closer.

“Oh, please,” Lilika whispered, “just stop. Someone’s going to see, and then we’ll all be in trouble. Just mind your own business and leave us alone. Go, go on.” Lilika waved her hand at Violet.

“Fine.” Violet rolled her eyes and stormed off.

“Bryony, you really shouldn’t have that book. Where did you get it anyway?”

“I found it under my parent’s bed. Aren’t you curious about Wits?”

“I am, but…”

“But what?”

The golden locket popped into Lilika’s head. Who was she to tell Bryony not to ask questions about Wits? She had questions of her own.

“Nothing, come on, we’d better get inside. We’re going to be late.”

Bryony shoved the book back inside her backpack and followed Lilika into school.

Jennifer
Author Jennifer Novotney


Jennifer Novotney was born in Burbank, California, and lived in Los Angeles for most of her life until settling in Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. She attended California State University, earning a bachelor's degree in journalism, and Northern Arizona University, earning a master's degree in English. After college, she spent several years writing and teaching, including at Pennsylvania State University.


50_Amazon_Paypal

GIVEAWAY
Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal Cash
Ends 3/22/15
Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or PayPal cash. Winning entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. Susan Heim on Writing is not responsible for Rafflecopter content or prize fulfillment. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

The Poison Sky Book Blitz: Giveaway for a Clean Teen Publishing eBook and Bookmark Swag Pack

 photo The-Poison-Sky-Blitz-Banner.png

 photo The-Poison-Sky.jpg
Title:  The Poison Sky
Series:  The SYNSK Series
Author:  K.C. Finn
Published:  February 24, 2015
Publisher:  Clean Teen Publishing
Genre:  YA Psychic Historical Romance
Content Warning:  Mild Violence
Recommended Age:  13+

Synopsis:  He delivered my sentence with the gusto of a father revealing a special birthday treat to his child. I received the news as swiftly as a guillotine dropping towards a damned man’s neck.

In 1959, a heavily pregnant Kit Haugen seeks refuge in a bedroom at her grandmother’s old hotel, The Sand Drifts Inn. There she finds a battered, old diary containing a story long forgotten. It is the tale of her grandfather, Reggie Arkwright, a psychic soldier whose talents were put to use in the First World War. Though Kit has always thought of her grandfather as a hero, she is about to discover the horrifying truth of life and war in 1915.

Set during the battles of Ypres on the Belgian front lines, this novella contributes an extra slice of family history to K.C. Finn’s best-selling Synsk saga. The unspoken truth of the Great War waits for those who, like Kit, are brave enough to discover it.

Amazon | GoodReads

Excerpt:

I was certain that something had gone terribly wrong, because the first thing I heard was a deafening, thunderous bang. Flashes of brown and black shot past my vision that convinced me I must have simply fallen off my bed in the barracks, but after I tried to move, I realised that I didn’t have the ability to do so. The hands in front of my eyes confirmed that I had successfully travelled to someone else’s head; they were hands coated in skin as black as coal. The man whose head I occupied spoke in French when he looked up, but I didn’t miss the urgency and strain in his tone. His vision was obscured by mud and tears, which he began to wipe away with the mustard-coloured sleeve of his uniform.

So this was a trench. It was a deep furrow in the earth that was wet from an unseasonably damp autumn, and I was thankful that I couldn’t smell whatever it was that was making my soldier’s nose twitch violently every now and then. Another hideous bang went off overhead, its echo rolling like thunder, and my man dropped to the floor, covering his head with his thickset arms. Mud and debris flew everywhere, slapping him hard on the back with a heavy, wet slop. His gaze travelled down the length of the ditch in the ground, where I could make out six other figures huddled down in similar states of shock.

“What are they?”

A British voice rang out among the men. A mud-caked youth with a scar on his face raced up to my man, his face a picture of panic as he crouched in the dirt.

“What are they throwing at us, Abdul?” he urged. “I’ve never seen the like of it before!”

Abdul just shook his head as another explosion rocked the very earth beneath his feet. Flashes of white light were visible in the right-hand field of his vision. He turned my view away from them, edging closer to the British man as he wet his trembling lips to speak.

Incendiaire, Capitaine, he answered. “Feu de l'enfer!

I had spent a lot of time learning German at the Major’s request, and I reckoned that feu meant something like feuer, the German word for fire. The rest was easy to guess. Incendiary weapons. Fire from the inferno, which Abdul probably meant to mean Hell. I hadn’t realised that the French Africans were defending the homeland, too, but I felt the patriotic flame rise in the dark man’s chest even as he quaked with fear. I was proud of his bravery. As the British captain patted him on the shoulder, I felt him smile.

“We’ll be all right, Abdul,” the captain told him. “We’ll wait it out ‘til the fire dies.”

They didn’t have long to wait. When the last echoes had faded, I watched through Abdul’s eyes as he glanced into the clearing sky above. It was dull and grey from the recent fall of rain, with wisps of black smoke creeping across it like webs spun by a locomotive spider. The soldier and the captain panted heavily, two nations united by their patience as they let the tense, silent moments pass by. Soon, the British captain got to his feet and moved towards a ladder half-buried by mud in the wall. He shoved his feet onto the bottom rung and crept up the first step.

“Well,” he whispered, peeping over the muddy rise of the trench wall, “it looks like the barrage is at its end.”

Something small and bright suddenly flew past Abdul’s vision. Before he could even glance at it, there was a terrible bang -- a louder sound than I had ever heard in my life. In a matter of seconds, a huge flash of white light filled the trench, leaving me blind to whatever had caused the explosion. I winced at the sudden burst of intense pain in Abdul’s chest, a searing, white heat passing over every part of his skin, burning into his body with wild abandon.

Then, everything was dark. Abdul and the trench were gone.


 photo KC-Finn.jpg
About the Author:
Born in South Wales to Raymond and Jennifer Finn, Kimberley Charlotte Elisabeth Finn (known to readers as K.C., otherwise it’d be too much of a mouthful) was one of those corny little kids who always wanted to be a writer. She was also incredibly stubborn, and so has finally achieved that dream in 2013 with the release of her first three novellas in the four-part Caecilius Rex saga, the time-travel adventure The Secret Star and her new urban fantasy epic The Book of Shade.

As a sufferer with the medical condition M.E./C.F.S., Kim works part-time as a private tutor and a teacher of creative writing, devoting the remainder of her time to writing novels and studying for an MA in Education and Linguistics.


 photo CleanTeenPubLogoSm.jpg

Clean Teen Publishing Links:

Giveaway Details:
There is a tour-wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • A bookmark swag pack and winner’s choice of any Clean Teen Publishing eBook.

Giveaway is international. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.

Adventures in Mother-Sitting Book Tour: Giveaway for a $15 Amazon Gift Card and eBook

 photo Adventures-in-Mother-Sitting-Banner.png
 photo Adventures-in-Mother-Sitting.jpg
Title:  Adventures in Mother-Sitting
Author:   Doreen Cox
Published:  January 2015
Publisher:  Whistling Duck Books
Genre:  Memoir
Recommended Age:  16+

Synopsis:
For a daughter, at age 61, being called “mommy” by her own mother was a heart-wrenching experience. This happened to Dody during the course of a three-year adventure as the full-time caregiver to her mother, much loved yet caught up in a downward spiral of physical, mental, and developmentally regressed disabilities.

Each day was an adventure, because when dementia is present, the typical actions involved with her mother’s daily care habits became unpredictable. The experience is also termed an adventure because of the surprising twists and turns of emotion that arose in Dody, compelling her to recognize and face deep-seated fears and unwanted emotional reactions when her performance was not in accord with the spiritual vision that she had of herself. Moments of comic relief saved Dody from the depths of despair during pill-taking and messy hygienic episodes, and during her mother’s nighttime delusions. The mantra that kept her going was an echo of her mother’s life-long response to any calamitous event: you can do what you have to do.

ADVENTURES IN MOTHER-SITTING is not just a chronicle about the dementia-induced antics of an independent, spirited mother as she approaches the time of her death. The book is also about Dody’s journey through a rollercoaster passage of grief that gets intermixed with surprisingly sweet instances of joyful connections with her childlike mother, but also with her innermost self. Throughout the book, Dody portrays the ways in which the physical and mental needs of her mother and her own emotional, spiritual needs lovingly served each other and how dementia served them both.

The memoir depicts the role changes that occur in the relationship between Dody and her beloved mother, but more so, it portrays the more compassionate relationship that she gains with herself as she learns to walk more honestly and gently with her fears, worries, and shortcomings.




Excerpt from Adventures in Mother-Sitting by Doreen Cox:

As had become her usual habit, Mother fell asleep shortly after her dinner, around 7:30 p.m. After cleaning up the kitchen, I watched some TV then started working on a jigsaw puzzle in order to stay awake until midnight. If Mother didn’t wake up before midnight, there was a good chance that she would sleep until morning. By 10:30 p.m., however, I couldn’t keep my eyes open so gave up the puzzle and crawled into bed. About to drift off, I groaned when I heard noises coming from her room, sounds that portended the smooth flow was about to change. It was a few minutes before 11:00 p.m. when I heard Mother babbling loudly in conversation with what I assumed to be was her cast of invisible nightly visitors.

I stayed in bed at first, annoyed that her medications were not doing their job in managing the delusions. She wasn’t jangling the bedrails for all she was worth, so I did not feel an urgency to get to her room. However, when the word “catheter” zoomed into my foggy brain, I jumped out of bed and hustled down the hall, slowing as I got to her door. Mother was touching the bedrails a little when I peeked into her room, but she did not need me at all. She was having a pretend conversation with the three stuffed animals that shared her bed. Mother was trying to place the little bunny-eared duck onto the bedrail after having successfully propped her larger otter and tiger onto the rail. Now with a brain set at toddler age, Mother was talking and playing with her stuffed animal friends. In the midst of my recent musings about why humans hang onto life when any quality left in living seems almost nonexistent, an unexpected answer had come my way.

My annoyance disappeared immediately and was replaced with a feeling I had never felt so strongly before: fierce belly-warming surges of love and protectiveness. This must be what mothers feel when they watch their toddlers at play, I thought while gazing with moist eyes at Mother. If I had stepped into her room at this moment, I am sure that she would have given me one of her toothless grins and tried to say, “Look, Mommy!” But I didn’t step into the room. I’m sure my heart would have burst if I had heard those words. Love and tenderness had enveloped me so completely—it was hard to contain this unexpected sense of motherhood.

I stood and watched until she had drifted off to sleep then went in, picked the duck off the floor, and tucked Mother in once more. After getting back into my own bed, I lay awake for a while and thought about toddler-age children. Most are unable yet to totally understand the onslaught of images, words, objects, and noises that come and go at them throughout their day. Make believe conversations and playacting with small dolls, stuffed animals, and toys engages them completely; to them, their play is real. So, too, was having make-believe conversations with stuffed animals and imagined people so real to Mother. During delusions, her hand gestures became flamboyant, her face animated, and even her sentences were understandable instead of garbled.

This particular incident made me consider a poignant question even more seriously: is it possible that, on some level, dementia can be viewed as a blessing for those who have it and are at the end of their life? For people with dementia, make believe seems to be as much a part of end-of-life experience as it was when they began life as a child. A wave of melancholy hit me strongly then as sadness over the loss of Mother’s adult personality and her motherly presence in my life moved through me. After this wave passed, a feeling of gratefulness lightened my grief. Mother was having her own experience of delightful fun, so real to her. The dementia that had caused her brain to regress back to the age of a toddler served a greater purpose than I had ever imagined. It was me that had to adjust and discern the benefit to her.

The pictures I took of Mother lying in bed surrounded by her animal friends are priceless to me. She loved each one and handled them differently. She was constantly putting on and taking off beaded bracelets from around the neck of her bunny-eared duck. Toward the end of her life, a bunny rabbit propped up Mother’s head when it weakened and began to droop. After her death, each of us took one of her animal friends into our homes. They are our reminders that Mother did experience her own brand of end-of-life joy.



 photo Doreen-Cox.jpg
About the Author:

Born with a sense of wanderlust, Doreen (Dody) Cox had a somewhat convoluted career path, working in various business-related and mental-health occupations. When dementia began to debilitate her mother, Dody resigned from her job as group counselor at an alternative school in order to take on an unforeseen endeavor: become her mother’s care bear. It was after her mother’s death that Dody’s path took another unexpected turn. She chose to honor her mother’s long-held wish: for her to write a book. ADVENTURES IN MOTHER-SITTING is Dody’s first publication, a memoir that emerged from the pages of her journal. Writing was a steadying outlet throughout the three years that dementia took her and her mother on an unpredictably tumultuous, yet heartwarming adventure.

Currently, Dody lives in her native Florida and works part-time, teaching a GED class comprised of multicultural adults in one of her favorite places: a library. She continues to write and has recently published A SACRED JOURNEY, a fictional short story with themes relating to nature, spirituality, hope, and dignity in death.



Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • A $15 Amazon Gift Card & ebook copy of A Sacred Journey
Giveaway is International.

Monday, February 23, 2015

New from Debra Clopton: Betting on Hope Kindle Giveaway

Saddle up for a new romance from novelist Debra CloptonBetting on HopeIn Wishing Springs, Maggie finds what she has always been looking for: a community and a home. But when her past catches up to her, it threatens everything, even the tender hope that this town holds all of her heart’s desires.

Enter to win a Kindle Fire HD 6 to celebrate the release of Betting on Hope

bettingonhope-400 
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • A copy of Betting on Hope
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 8th. Winner will be announced March 9th on Debra's blog.


bettingonhope-enterbanner

{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}

P.S. Stay tuned for my upcoming review of Betting on Hope! Susan

The Crystal Keeper Book Blast: Giveaway for a Kindle Fire HD 6 and a $100 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal Cash

Crystal Keeper 1 to 3
The Crystal Keeper, by Laurisa White Reyes

Fourteen years before The Rock of Ivanore

Jayson lives among the shadows of Hestoria, his sole purpose for staying alive -- to protect his half of the Seer’s crystal. Exiled from his homeland for loving the king’s daughter, Ivanore, Jayson is now pursued by two opposing factions: the Vatéz (League of Magicians), who intend to use the crystal for their own selfish gain, and the Guilde, the ancient guardians of the crystal.

Meanwhile, Ivanore flees from her father to Hestoria in search of Jayson. As the Seer, she is plagued with visions of him being tortured and is determined to rescue him. When the Vatéz capture her, however, she unwittingly jeopardizes everything Jayson has vowed to protect. He must now make a terrible choice: Should he save Ivanore or save the crystal?

The Crystal Keeper trilogy is available in print or digital formats.

Crystal Keeper 1-3

Grab your FREE copy of Exile Now!

Excerpt

Ivanore hunched over the parchment, the tip of her quill flicking above her hand like a trapped bird desperate to escape. The tallow candle cast a cramped circle of light across the table, hardly enough to see by. If only the night would last a little longer. Perhaps then she would have enough time to write everything she needed to. But alas, time was one thing she had too little of -- that and light.

An older man with long, gray-streaked hair and piercing gray eyes waited beside her. The stone bungalow, their most recent of many hiding places, boasted the barest of furnishings: the table, stool, cot -- and a plain wooden chest, its key held tightly in Zyll’s fist.

A sudden thump sounded at the door, startling them both. A strand of Ivanore’s hair, gold as the candlelight, fell across the page. She quickly tucked it back into place and wrote faster.

Zyll laid a hand on Ivanore’s shoulder. “They are here,” he whispered.

Ivanore finished the document and handed it to Zyll unbound. Turning to the chest, he carefully laid the pages inside.

“Wait,” said Ivanore. “Will you keep this as well?” A flat circle of pale green crystal lay in her open palm.

“But you will need it. I mustn’t--”

“Please,” she insisted, pressing it into his hand. “I can’t risk losing this one.”

Zyll reluctantly folded his fingers around the cool stone. “Of course, milady,” he said. Then, adding the crystal to the parchment, he laid a plate of thin wood atop them both, sealing the chest’s false bottom. He closed the lid and locked it.

The pounding at the door grew more insistent. Whoever stood outside was using their full weight against it in an effort to break through.

“We must hurry,” said Zyll.

Ivanore allowed herself a quick glance at the chest, offering the briefest of prayers that the gods would keep it safe until her return. Then, taking her by the arm, Zyll led her through the low archway dividing the bungalow’s front room from the back.

A loud crash of splintering wood resounded through the bungalow. Their visitors had finally broken in.

“Find her now!” a deep voice bellowed.

Grateful for the trousers she now wore instead of her usual cumbersome skirts, Ivanore clambered onto a stool and through a narrow window, lowering herself as quietly as possible to the ground outside. Once Zyll had done the same, they stole away across the rocky field. Though the sky was black as ink, their path was illuminated by the amber glow of volcanic fissures scoring the area for miles around.

“There she is!” a man’s voice shouted behind them. The words sent spasms of fear through Ivanore. She glanced behind her and saw three soldiers emerge from the bungalow, wearing the gold and red cross of her father’s crest. They had tracked her even here, to the remotest corner of Imaness. Would Fredric ever let her be?

Ivanore stopped running. She looked at Zyll, her trusted guardian and ally these past months since she had fled Dokur, and knew her time with him had come to an end.

“You’ll watch over them until I return?” she asked, out of breath. “Keep them safe. Don’t let my father find them.”

“You have my vow,” Zyll whispered, his voice tight with emotion.

Ivanore’s eyes welled with tears as she pressed her lips against the calloused skin of Zyll’s hand.

“Go,” said Zyll. “Go now before it’s too late.”

Ivanore released Zyll’s hand and sprinted forward alone. As she ran, she cupped her hands around her mouth and let out a loud, sharp call, much like that of a hawk or an eagle. She risked another glance over her shoulder and watched as Zyll turned to face their pursuers. As the soldiers neared, their swords glinting in the fire glow, Zyll held up his hands. A horizontal bolt of cerulean lightning shot out from his palms, striking the oncoming soldiers. The men recoiled, their bodies instantly singed and bloody.

Ivanore ran on. In desperation, she repeated her call, and this time another voice called back. A dark form appeared on the horizon, silhouetted against the light of the volcanic fractures and growing larger as it approached with tremendous speed. As it neared, the creature’s massive feathered wings moved the air around Ivanore in warm, powerful gusts. Ivanore saw clearly its eagle’s head with a beak large enough to break a man in two, paired with the muscular, furred body of a lion. As she ran toward it, the gryphon lowered its head, waiting.

Behind her, the soldiers reeled in pain, but they did not forget their duty. One man struggled to his knees, grunting from the effort. Reaching over his shoulder, he slid a short bow and arrow from his pack and swiftly took aim.

Ivanore reached the gryphon and in one smooth motion hoisted herself onto its back, twisting her arms deep into the feathers on the creature’s neck. In that same moment, a single arrow found its mark in Ivanore’s shoulder. She cried out before her body slumped forward and her mind went dark. The gryphon took flight then, and in less time than it took to draw another arrow -- or a breath -- they had vanished into the night.

Laurisa White Reyes Author Photo
Author Laurisa White Reyes

After spending more than a decade as a newspaper editorialist, magazine staff writer, and book editor, Laurisa finally started living her dream of being an author. She is the author of three novels for younger readers, the editor-in-chief of Middle Shelf Magazine, and Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press. She lives in Southern California with her husband and five children.



**FOLLOWING ARE TWO SEPARATE GIVEAWAYS AND RAFFLECOPTER FORMS. BE SURE TO ENTER THEM BOTH!**

Crystal Keeper Launch Giveaway - Kindle Fire HD 6

Ends 2/28/15
Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway



100_Amazon_Paypal

Book Blast Giveaway
Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 3/15/15
Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or PayPal cash. Winning entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. Susan Heim on Writing is not responsible for Rafflecopter content or prize fulfillment. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Unseen Book Blast: Giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card

unseen book blast banner
Unseen - Ebook
Mackenzie Day constantly struggles to silence the voices in her head. The inner thoughts of those around her intrude upon every aspect of her life, threatening to turn it into chaos.

All her life, she thought she was alone as a mind reader -- a freak.

Then a member of a secret organization called The Unseen suddenly introduces himself, and she's immersed in a world she never knew existed. They teach her to hone her skills as a reader, but to what end? Secrets surround her, humming just out of reach, filling her with questions.

Who are they? What do they do with their mind-reading abilities? In the end, just how far will Mackenzie go to be part of The Unseen?

Buy on Amazon | Apple | Kobo | B&N | Google Play


About the author:

Stephanie - unseen
Stephanie Erickson has always had a passion for the written word. She pursued her love of literature at Flagler College, in St. Augustine, FL, where she graduated with a BA in English. She has received several honors in her writing career, including recognition in the 72nd Annual Writer's Digest Competition.

After graduation, she married and followed her husband in pursuit of his dream. The Cure and The Blackout were written to reignite Stephanie's passion, when she found the time. Now that he is settled in his career, it's her turn to devote more time and energy into writing.

Stephanie currently has three projects planned for 2015. Her upcoming release is well underway and is slated for a March 2015 publication date.

Stephanie, of course, loves to read and write. She also enjoys living on the beach on Florida's Treasure Coast. Most of all, she and her husband are in love with their baby girl.

Follow Stephanie on

Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter/Website | Literary Addicts


GIVEAWAY

One lucky winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is international.

The Resistance Book Tour: Giveaway for a $15 Amazon Gift Card, Clean Teen Publishing eBook and Bookmark Swag Pack!

 photo The-Resistance-Tour-Banner.png
 photo The-Resistance.jpg
Title:  The Resistance
Series: The Bionics, Book 2
Author:  Alicia Michaels
Published:  March 10, 2015
Publisher:  Crimson Tree Publishing
Genre:  NA Paranormal Romance
Content Warning:  Coarse language, mild sexual innuendo
Recommended Age:  16+

Synopsis:

All it takes is a spark…

Blythe Sol never would have thought she would become the face of the Restoration Resistance. Yet, that is just what has happened now that the battle lines have been drawn. With the movement sweeping the United States, the stakes are higher than ever as President Drummond continues to prove his dedication to the destruction of the Bionics and all who stand with them.

The flame has been ignited…

As anger and frustration among the American people reaches the boiling point, citizens begin to fight back, many showing their support for the Bionics… despite the personal costs to themselves. As protests turn violent, and people who once cowered in silence begin to fight back, the government continues its practices that fly in the face of the very principles the nation was founded upon.

The time has come to revolt …

Despite the many losses it has sustained, the Resistance stands strong, leading America into revolution and onward toward change. With an unlikely, ragtag family of misfits at its forefront, the Resistance stands, while a girl who lost everything continues to fight for a future that was once impossible, but may now be within her reach.


Excerpt from The Resistance by Alicia Michaels:

The morning air is crisp and cool, the grass springy and damp beneath my feet. Droplets of water are refreshing against my bare calves as I run. My high ponytail swishes side to side, tickling the back of my neck. My chest rises and falls as I concentrate on breathing, filling my lungs with the cleansing autumn morning air. Dog lopes along beside me at a steady trot, his paws padding softly on the ground.

I have spent every morning of the last six weeks running from one end of Resistance Headquarters to the other. It spans exactly four miles. I appreciate watching the changing of the seasons each day, even if it is just a computer program. It’s nice to feel—in some ways—like we are still part of the world. When I’m on my morning run, just Dog and me, I can pretend that nothing has changed. I can almost imagine my Atlanta neighborhood with a park very similar to the one I’m running in, ringed in pine trees. I can imagine the crunching of dry pine needles beneath my feet, and smell their fragrance in my nostrils. There is no Resistance, no Restoration, and no evil president. The M.P.s have no cause to suspect a young girl out on a run with a dog, and they don’t spare her a second glance.

There is no Dax, confusing me with feelings of friendship intermixed with lust, longing, and love. There is no Jenica, staring distantly with dead eyes, quietly mourning the loss of her baby, aborted out of necessity because of the cruel nature of our society. There is no Olivia, whose night terrors now rival mine, and whose rapidly thinning frame reminds me every day of how we failed her. There is no Gage…

Actually, even in reality, there is no Gage because he’s gone. He’s gone because I cast the deciding vote. Make no mistake—I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Reality is crueler than my fantasy. In reality, the Restoration is very much alive and in counterpoint, so is the Resistance. The M.P.s will never see me as just a girl. They fear me, what I am, and what I have the potential to become. In reality, Dax is here daily, a continuous reminder of my flaws and inability to love anyone completely, the way they deserve. In the real world, Olivia and Jenica are shells of their former selves. The former has sunk into herself and retreated from the world; the other lashes out at it with all the venom and malice she possesses.

No matter how much I want to try to imagine an alternate reality where things happened differently, I am always snatched back to the present. No matter how fast or hard I run, I cannot outrun Gage. His absence is more tortuous than his presence, when I’d thought it would be the other way around. I thought that by sending him away, I would finally be able to put my turbulent feelings behind me. Foolishly, I assumed that without having to look into those gorgeous blue eyes of his, I would no longer be a slave to my emotions when it comes to him. By cutting him out of my life, I could stop feeling so damned much. I liked it better when I was numb, when nothing fazed me because I’d built my walls and fortified myself against it all.

But then Dax kissed me and told me he loved me, and Gage made me feel like a normal person again. Together, they made me forget. But I don’t intend to forget again. I want to remember the pain that caused me to go numb, why I avoid these kinds of complications, and why I’m better off alone. At least, in my love life… I will always remember.

 photo Alicia-Michaels.jpg
About the Author:

Ever since she first read book series like Chronicles of Narnia or Goosebumps, Alicia has been a lover of mind-bending fiction. Wherever imagination takes her, she is more than happy to call that place her home. The mother of two and wife to an Army sergeant loves chocolate, coffee and, of course, good books. When not writing, you can usually find her with her nose in a book, shopping for shoes and fabulous jewelry, or spending time with her loving family.




 photo Crimson Tree Pub Logo Sm.jpg

Crimson Tree Publishing Links:
(an adult division of Clean Teen)
Website  |  Facebook   |  Twitter

Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • A bookmark swag pack, winner’s choice of any Clean Teen Publishing eBook, and a $15 Amazon gift card.
Giveaway is international. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Review: "The Maid of Fairbourne Hall," by Julie Klassen


About the book:
To escape a scheme to marry her off to a dishonorable man, Margaret Macy flees London disguised as a housemaid. If she can remain unwed until her next birthday, she will receive an inheritance, and with it, sweet independence. But she never planned on actually working as a servant. And certainly not in the home of Nathaniel and Lewis Upchurch -- both former suitors.

As she fumbles through the first real work of her life, Margaret struggles to keep her identity secret when suspicions arise and prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall. Can she avoid a trap meant to force her from hiding?

Brimming with romance and danger, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall takes readers inside the fascinating below-stairs world of a 19th-century English manor, where appearances can be deceiving.

My thoughts:
As a fan of Downton Abbey, I loved The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, which shows the stark contrasts between life above and below stairs in the early 19th century. Before she took a job as a maid, Margaret was shallow and selfish, never giving thought to her life of ease or those who worked for her. But she undergoes a dramatic transformation once she enters the world of a servant and experiences the many hardships that one endured as a maid. She develops more compassion, as well as an appreciation for her life and those in employment. It is this personal growth that is fascinating to watch, as well as the romance between Margaret and the Upchurch brother she spurned when she was younger in favor of his better-looking but less-responsible sibling. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall is another enjoyable read from Julie Klassen.



Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local library. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link.

Friday, February 20, 2015

M9B Friday Reveal: Prologue for "Nobody's Goddess" by Amy McNulty and eBook Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week's M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we will be unveiling the prologue for
Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1) by Amy McNulty
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Nobody's Goddess
In a village of masked men, each loves only one woman and must 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. 
Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen-year-old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds 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 loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death -- and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.
add to goodreads
Title: Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Amy McNulty
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Prologue
When I had real friends, I was the long-lost queen of the elves.
A warrior queen who hitched up her skirt and wielded a blade. Who held her retainers in thrall. Until they left me for their goddesses.
Love. A curse that snatches friends away.
One day, when only two of my retainers remained, the old crone who lived on the northern outskirts of the village was our prey. It was twenty points if you spotted her. Fifty points if you got her to look at you. A hundred points if she started screaming at you.
You won for life if you got close enough to touch her.
“Noll, please don’t do this,” whispered Jurij from behind the wooden kitten mask covering his face. Really, his mother still put him in kitten masks, even though eleven was too old for a boy to be wearing kittens and bunnies. Especially ones that looked likely to get eaten for breakfast by as much as a weasel.
“Shut up, I want to see this!” cried Darwyn. Never a kitten, Darwyn always wore a wolf mask. Yet behind the nasty tooth-bearing wolf grin—one of my father’s better masks—he was very much a fraidycat.
Darwyn shoved Jurij aside so he could crouch behind the bush that was our threadbare cover. Jurij nearly toppled over, but I caught him and set him gently upright. Sometimes I didn’t know if Jurij realized who was supposed to be serving whom. Queens shouldn’t have to keep retainers from falling.
“Quiet, both of you.” I scanned the horizon. Nothing. All was still against the northern mountains save for the old crone’s musty shack with its weakly smoking chimney. The edges of my skirt had grazed the dusty road behind us, and I hitched it up some more so my mother wouldn’t notice later. If she didn’t want me to get the blasted thing dirty, she should have let me wear Jurij’s trousers, like I had been that morning. That got me a rap on the back of the head with a wooden spoon, a common occurrence when I was queen. It made me look too much like a boy, she scolded, and that would cause a panic.
“Are you going or not?” Darwyn was not one for patience.
“If you’re so eager, why don’t you go?” I snapped back.
Darwyn shook his wolf-head. “Oh, no, not me.”
I grinned. “That’s because you’re scared.”
Darwyn’s muffled voice grew louder. He stood beside me and puffed out his chest. “I am not! I’ve been in the commune.”
I poked toward his chest with Elgar, my trusty elf-blade. “Liar! You have not.”
Darwyn jumped back, evading my blow. “I have too! My uncle lives there!” He swatted his hand at Elgar. “Get that stick away from me.”
“It’s not a stick!” Darwyn never believed me when I said that Elgar was the blade of a warrior. It just happened to resemble a tree branch.
Jurij’s quiet voice entered the fray. “Your uncle lives there? That’s awful.” I was afraid he might cry and the tears would get caught up in the black material that covered his eyes. I didn’t want him to drown behind the wooden kitty face. He’d vanish into thin air like everyone else did when they died, and then we’d be staring down at Jurij’s clothes and the little kitten mask on the ground, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from giggling. Some death for a warrior.
Darwyn shrugged and ran a hand over his elbow. “He moved in there before I was born. I think a weaver lady was his goddess. It’s not so strange. Didn’t your aunt send her man there, Jurij?”
Jurij was sniffling. Sniffling. He tried to rub at his nose, but every time he moved the back of his hand up to his face, it just clunked against the button that represented the kitten’s nose.
I sighed and patted Jurij on the back. “A queen’s retainer must never cry, Jurij.”
Darwyn laughed. “Are you still playing that? You’re no queen, Noll!”
I stopped patting Jurij and balled my hands into fists. “Be quiet, Darwyn! You used to play it, too!”
Darwyn put two fingers over his wolf-mask mouth, a gesture we had long ago decided would stand for the boys sticking out their tongues. Although Darwyn was the only one who ever did it as of late. “Like I’d want to do what some girl tells me! Girls aren’t even blessed by love!”
“Of course they are!” It was my turn to put the two fingers over my mouth. I had a tongue, but a traitorous retainer like Darwyn wasn’t worthy of the effort it took to stick it out. “Just wait until you find your goddess, and then we’ll see! If she turns out to be me, I’ll make sure you rot away in the commune with the rest of the unloved men.”
Darwyn lunged forward and tackled me. My head dragged against the bush before it hit the ground, but it still hurt; I could feel the swelling underneath the tangled knots in my hair. Elgar snapped as I tried to get a grip on my attacker. I kicked and shoved him, and for a moment, I won the upper hand and rolled on top of him, almost punching him in the face. Remembering the mask, I settled for giving him a good smack in the side, but then he kicked upward and caught me in the chest, sending me backward.
“Stop!” pleaded Jurij. He was standing between us now, the little timid kitten watching first one friend and then the other, like we were a dangling string in motion.
“Stay out of this!” Darwyn jumped to his feet and pointed at me. “She thinks she’s so high and mighty, and she’s not even someone’s goddess yet!”
“I’m only twelve, idiot! How many goddesses are younger than thirteen?” A few, but not many. I scrambled to my feet and sent my tongue out at him. It felt good knowing he couldn’t do the same to me, after all. My head ached. I didn’t want him to see the tears forming in my eyes, though, so I ground my teeth once I drew my tongue inward.
“Yeah, well, it’ll be horrible for whoever finds the goddess in you!” Darwyn made to lunge at me again, but this time Jurij shoved both his hands at Darwyn’s chest to stop him.
“Just stop,” commanded Jurij. Finally. That was a good retainer.
My eyes wandered to the old crone’s cottage. No sign of her. How could she fail to hear the epic struggle outside her door? Maybe she wasn’t real. Maybe just seeing her was worth twenty points after all.
“Get out of my way, you baby!” shouted Darwyn. “So what happens if I pull off your mask when your queen is looking, huh? Will you die?”
His greedy fingers reached toward Jurij’s wooden animal face. Even from behind, I could see the mask tip dangerously to one side, the strap holding it tightly against Jurij’s dark curls shifting. The strap broke free, flying up over his head.
My mouth opened to scream. My hands reached up to cover my eyes. My eyelids strained to close, but it felt as if the moment had slowed and I could never save him in time. Such simple things. Close your eyes. Cover your eyes. Scream.
“DO NOT FOOL WITH SUCH THINGS, CHILD!”
A dark, dirty shawl went flying onto the bush that we had ruined during our fight.
I came back to life. My head and Darwyn’s wolf mask spun toward the source of the sound. As my head turned, I saw—even though I knew better than to look—Jurij crumple to the ground, clinging both arms across his face desperately because his life depended on it.
“Your eyes better be closed, girl!” The old crone bellowed. Her own eyes were squeezed together.
I jumped and shut my eyes tightly.
“Hold that shawl tightly over your face, boy, until you can wear your mask properly!” screamed the old crone. “Off with you both, boys! Now! Off with you!”
I heard Jurij and Darwyn scrambling, the rustle of the bush and the stomps of their boots as they fled, panting. I thought I heard a scream—not from Jurij, but from Darwyn. He was the real fraidycat. An old crone was no match for the elf queen’s retainers. But the queen herself was far braver. So I told myself over and over in my head.
When the last of their footsteps faded away, and I was sure that Jurij was safe from my stare, I looked.
Eyes. Huge, bulbous, dark brown eyes. Staring directly into mine.
The crone’s face was so close I could smell the shriveled decay from her mouth. She grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me. “What were you thinking? You held that boy’s life in your hands! Yet you stood there like a fool, just starin’ as his mask came off.”
My heart beat faster, and I gasped for more air, but I wanted to avoid inhaling her stench. “I’m sorry, Ingrith,” I mumbled. I thought if I used her real name, if I let her lecture me like all the other adults, it would help me break free from her grasp. I twisted and pulled, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch her. I had this notion that if I touched her, my fingers would decay.
“Sorry is just a word. Sorry changes nothing.”
“Let me go.” I could still feel her dirty nails on my skin.
“You watch yourself, girl.”
“Let me go!”
The crone’s lips grew tight and puckered. Her fingers relaxed ever so slightly. “You children don’t realize. The lord is watching. Always watching—”
I knew what she was going to say, the words so familiar to me that I knew them as well as if they were my own. “And he will not abide villagers who forget the first goddess’s teachings.” The sentence seemed to loosen the crone’s fingers. She opened her mouth to speak, but I broke free and ran.
My eyes fell to the grass below my feet as I cut across the fields to get away from the monster. On the borders of the eastern woods was a lone cottage, home of Gideon the woodcarver, a warm and comfortable place so much fuller of life than the shack I left behind me. When I was near the woods, I could look up freely since the trees blocked the eastern mountains from view. But until I got closer …
“Noll! Wait up!”
My eyes snapped upward on instinct. I saw the upper boughs of the trees and almost screamed, my gaze falling back to the grass beneath my feet. I stopped running and let the gentle rustlings of footsteps behind me catch up.
“Jurij, please.” I sighed and turned around to face him, my eyes still on the grass and the pair of small dark boots that covered his feet. Somehow he managed to step delicately through the grass, not disturbing a single one of the lilies that covered the hilltops. “Don’t scare me like that. I almost looked at the castle.”
The toe of Jurij’s boot dug a little into the dirt. “Oh. Sorry.”
“Is your mask on?”
The boot stopped moving, and the tip of a black shawl dropped into my view. “Oh. Yeah.”
I shook my head and raised my eyes. There was no need to fear looking up to the west. In the distance, the mountains that encircled our village soared far beyond the western fields of crops. I liked the mountains. From the north, the south, and the west, they embraced our village with their jagged peaks. In the south, they watched over our fields of livestock. In the north, they towered above a quarry for copper and stone. And in the east, they led home and to the woods. But no girl or woman could ever look up when facing the east. Like the faces of men and boys before their Returnings, just a glance at the castle that lay beyond the woods against the eastern mountains spelled doom. The earth would shake and threaten to consume whoever broke the commandment not to look.
It made walking home a bit of a pain, to say the least.
“Tell me something important like that before you sneak up on me.”
Jurij’s kitten mask was once again tight against his face, if askew. The strap was a bit tangled in his dark curls and the pointed tip of one of his ears. “Right. Sorry.”
He held out the broken pieces of Elgar wrapped in the dirty black shawl. He seemed very retainer-like. I liked that. “I went to give this back to the—the lady. She wasn’t there, but you left Elgar.”
I snatched the pieces from Jurij’s hands. “You went back to the shack? What were you going to say? ‘Sorry we were spying on you pretending you were a monster, thanks for the dirty old rag?’”
“No.” Jurij crumpled up the shawl and tucked it under his belt. A long trail of black cloth tumbled out immediately, making Jurij look like he had on half a skirt.
I laughed. “Where’s Darwyn?”
“Home.”
Of course. I found out later that Darwyn had whined straight to his mother that “nasty old Noll” almost knocked his mask off. It was a great way to get noticed when you had countless brothers and a smitten mother and father standing between you and any form of attention. But it didn’t have the intended effect on me. I was used to lectures, and besides, there was something more important bothering me by then.
I picked up my feet to carry me back home.
Jurij skipped forward to join me. One of his boots stumbled as we left the grasses behind and hit the dirt path. “What happened with you and the crone?”
I gripped the pieces of Elgar tighter in my fist. “Nothing.” I stopped, relieved that we’d finally gotten close enough to the woods that I could face forward. I put an arm on Jurij’s shoulder to stop him. “But I touched her.” Or she touched me. “That means I win forever.”
The kitten face cocked a little sideways. “You always win.”
“Of course. I’m the queen.” I tucked the broken pieces of Elgar into my apron sash. Elgar was more of a title, bestowed on an endless number of worthy sticks, but in those days I wouldn’t have admitted that to Jurij. “Come on. I’ll give you a head start. Race you to the cavern!”
“The cavern? But it’s—”
“Too late! Your head start’s over!” I kicked my feet up and ran as if that was all my legs knew how to do. The cool breeze slapping across my face felt lovely as it flew inside my nostrils and mouth. I rushed past my home, not bothering to look inside the open door.
“Stop! Stop! Noll, you stop this instant!”
The words were something that could easily come out of a mother’s mouth, but Mother had a little more patience than that. And her voice didn’t sound like a fragile little bird chirping at the sun’s rising. “Noll!”
I was just an arm’s length from the start of the trees, but I stopped, clutching the sharp pain that kicked me in the side.
“Oh dear!” Elfriede walked out of our house, the needle and thread she was no doubt using to embroider some useless pattern on one of the aprons still pinched between two fingers. My sister was a little less than a year older than me, but to my parents’ delight (and disappointment with me), she was a hundred times more responsible.
“Boy, your mask!” Elfriede never did learn any of my friends’ names. Not that I could tell her Roslyn from her Marden, either. One giggling, delicate bird was much like another.
She walked up to Jurij, who had just caught up behind me. She covered her eyes with her needle-less hand, but I could see her peeking between her fingers. I didn’t think that would actually protect him if the situation were as dire as she seemed to think.
“It’s crooked.” Elfriede’s voice was hoarse, almost trembling. I rolled my eyes.
Jurij patted his head with both hands until he found the bit of the strap stuck on one of his ears. He pulled it down and twisted the mask until it lined up evenly.
I could hear Elfriede’s sigh of relief from where I was standing. She let her fingers fall from her face. “Thank the goddess.” She considered Jurij for a moment. “There’s a little tear in your strap.”
Without asking, she closed the distance between them and began sewing the small tear even as the mask sat on his head. From how tall she stood above him, she might have been ten years older instead of only two.
I walked back toward them, letting my hands fall. “Don’t you think that’s a little stupid? What if the mask slips while you’re doing that?”
Elfriede’s cheeks darkened and she yanked the needle up, pulling her instrument free of the thread and tucking the extra bit into the mask strap. She stood back and glared at me. “Don’t you talk to me about being stupid, Noll. All that running isn’t safe when you’re with boys. Look how his mask was moving.”
His mask had moved for even more dangerous reasons than a little run, but I knew better than to tell tattletale Elfriede that. “How would you know what’s safe when you’re with boys? You’re already thirteen, and no one has found the goddess in you!” Darwyn’s taunt was worth reusing, especially since I knew my sister would be more upset about it than I ever was.
Elfriede bit her lip. “Go ahead and kill your friends, then, for all I care!” The bird wasn’t so beautiful and fragile where I was concerned.
She retreated into the house and slammed the door behind her. I wrapped my hand around Jurij’s arm, pulling him eastward. “Come on. Let’s go. There’re bound to be more monsters in the cavern.”
Jurij didn’t give beneath my pull. He wouldn’t move.
“Jurij?”
I knew right then, somewhere in my mind, what had happened. But I was twelve. And Jurij was my last real friend. I knew he’d leave me one day like the others, but on some level, I didn’t really believe it yet.
Jurij stood stock still, even as I wrenched my arm harder and harder to get him to move.
“Oh for—Jurij!” I yelled, dropping my hands from his arm in frustration. “Ugh. I wish I was your goddess just so I could get you to obey me. Even if that means I’d have to put up with all that—yuck—smooching.” I shivered at the thought.
At last Jurij moved, if only to lift his other arm, to run his fingers across the strap that Elfriede had mended. She was gone from my sight, but Jurij would never see another.
It struck them all. Sometime around Jurij’s age, the boys’ voices cracked, shifting from high to deep and back again in a matter of a few words. They went from little wooden-faced animals always shorter than you to young men on their way to towering over you. And one day, at one moment, at some age, earlier for some and later for others, they looked at a girl they’d probably seen thousands of times before and simply ceased to be. At least, they weren’t who I knew them to be ever again.
And as with so many of my friends before Jurij, in that moment all other girls ceased to matter. I was nothing to him now, an afterthought, a shadow, a memory.
No.
Not him.
My dearest, my most special friend of all, now doomed to live or die by the choice of the fragile little bird who’d stopped to mend his strap.

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Amy McNulty
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
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
The book will be sent upon the titles release.