SOULMATED Cover Reveal & Exclusive First Chapter!

Today Shaila Patel and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for SOULMATED, which releases January 24, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!
 
A quick note from the author:
 
When people find out that I’ve written a book, invariably the first question is, “Where did you get the idea for the story?” If I had a quick and easy answer like, “I checked http://www.BookIdeas.com,” my phone calls with the family would be so much shorter! Anyway, the truth is a bit more complicated—much like my family’s recipe for the perfect cup of chai.
 
After years of writing literary short stories, I thought I’d try my hand at a paranormal romance. Perfectly normal leap of logic, right? (I have Twilight to thank for that!) For whatever reason, I’d been thinking of how emotionally perceptive my mom was and that if there were such a thing as an EQ test (where the E stands for emotional intelligence), my mom would score through the roof. She just always had this uncanny ability to read my feelings. I’d never seen a story about empaths—people who could read emotions like psychics could read thoughts—but the idea grabbed on and wouldn’t let go. And that, my friends, was the beginning. Soulmated is finally ready to be released, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I had fun writing it!

On to the reveal! 

Title: SOULMATED (Joining of Souls #1)
Author: Shaila Patel
Pub. Date: January 24, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 300
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD
Two souls. One Fate.
Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.
Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.
When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.
Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?
Excerpt


CHAPTER 1 – LIAMThey’re calling this a test?

Not even a ping grazed my mind as the five Elders tried to slip past my mental blocks and into my emotions. A sheen of sweat over William’s lip proved he wasn’t faring as well. Of all the cousins now come of age, William and I were the last to be sitting before the Elders. I’d have felt guilty for his not doing so well had he ever shown an interest in leading the family. But, we all knew he’d rather have his head in a library. Now his heart was with his wife Colleen. He at least seemed to have a choice about his fate.

I sighed. Not so for me.

“Are we boring you, Prince Liam?”

I snapped my eyes up to Elder Adebayo. He wore his trademark bow tie with a traditional fila atop his head. In the fraction of a second it took me to untangle the meaning from his heavy Nigerian accent, I’d blanked my expression and sat upright. The Elders sat along one side of an antique conference table, facing William and myself. The manor staff had rearranged the study to hold both the testing and signing-over ceremonies. Gone were the leather club chairs and stained glass lamps normally dotting the large space, giving it the air of a posh library. Now it seemed more an election-night headquarters, like the sort you saw on the telly, with bright lights and a gathering of family strewn about, waiting for the results. A photographer hung out in one corner, camera in hand. Not far from him stood a team of solicitors guarding rolling briefcases that were no doubt stuffed with legal documents for the victor to sign.

My throat-clearing echoed in the now silent room, and my cheeks warmed. “No, sir, not at all. Although, uh … I’d like to know when it is you’ll begin with me.” I pasted on an oh-so-innocent smirk and watched William shake his head and smother a grin. I shrugged at him, hoping to lighten the mood.

Four of the Elders cocked an eyebrow—all except for Elder Claire Brennan, our lone Irish representative. She leaned ever so slightly forward from where she sat at the center of the group.

So much for having a bit of craic.

The familiar knocking on my brain—like the distant sound of drums—told me someone had got past my first line of defenses with their probe. The rest of my mental blocks held up though. The corner of Brennan’s lip stretched upward. Toying with me, was she? I leaned back with a matching smile and loosened my tie. Mum and I were the only ones in the family who’d mastered the skill of probing and manipulation. A handy skill that, especially when the burden of the entire clan’s financial success might well be resting on my shoulders.

As if sensing the end of the ritual, Mum whispered to the house staff and pointed toward the main doors, directing them to begin preparations, most likely. She turned and nearly ran into a Mediterranean-looking man with a grotesque mole on his left cheek. He wasn’t a relation or a solicitor, so I assumed he was a council minister. Their stances were stiff, and despite being too far for me to hear, I sensed Mum’s replies seemed short and clipped. He moved around her, and on his way out, his eyes met mine. He lifted his lips in a smirk.

Arse.

My attention darted to Mum. She was smoothing out the front of her dress, and her shoulders heaved a time or two before she turned back to face the room. I mentally sent her my curiosity, but she ignored me with a smile. She did at least send me her love before she weaved herself into the crowd.

Within a few minutes, Elder Brennan squared her shoulders and opened the portfolio in front of her. The rest of the Elders relaxed back in their seats and passed her folded slips of paper.

Jaysus Christ. Thank you. This bleedin’ muck-up was about done.

After tallying the results, she stood with the help of a finely carved cane. Rumors about her age had always been entertaining—the last one I’d heard was that Claire Brennan was well over 140 years old. Apparently, documents as to her history had disappeared. Her regal manner and piercing blue eyes—the sort that’d make a gutless gobshite piss his pants—set her apart from the rest of the Elders. She now set those sights on me.

“Prince Liam, please stand. It is our unanimous decision that the Royal Empath House of O’Connor will now be led by you, Prince Liam Joseph O’Connor-Whelan, on this day, the
sixth of June, in the year 2015.” Flashes from the camera punctuated every other word, and spots began to form in front of my eyes. “You have proven your worth to lead your clan by exhibiting the strength of your empath skills to the satisfaction of the presiding group and by extension, the Council of Ministers.”

Brennan rattled on about allegiances and legal mandates, all of which bore down on me like the weight of history, dry and inescapable, yet … a bit liberating. Now we could stop our search and stay in Ireland—better of two evils and all that. I could make that happen now.

An explosion of clapping hands, and thumps on my back from a relieved-looking William, forced me to plaster a smile on my face.

Mum hurried over with open arms. “Darling! We’re so happy for you.” Da and my older brother Ciarán, a non-empath, followed, both decked out in a suit and tie. After her hug and kiss and Da’s pat on my back, they congratulated William on his effort and made room for the Elders to come around with their well-wishing. Ciarán smirked and punched my shoulder. The strobe-light effect of the flashes had me squinting.

Elder Santiago from Spain shook my hand. He sported a thick mustache and proudly wore his Catalonian flag pin on his lapel. He’d been wooing our clan for support in Catalonia’s bid for secession from Spain. Ciarán had thought it a good cause to be getting behind—especially if we beat another royal clan from doing so first. We had several holdings in Barcelona, after all. Now that it was my call to be making, a hasty decision didn’t seem wise. Santiago always had the look about him of a tapas dish drowning in olive oil.

He sidled closer. “Your strength is most impressive. And at the age of eighteen too. It is not hard to believe you will be the next soulmated empath, in truth. Some have doubts though, eh?”

He wants to discuss this now?

Da pointed to his own temple, stabbing at an unruly black curl. “No need for doubts. If I’ve seen it, it’s as good as true.”

I resisted rolling my eyes. Admitting I had my own doubts about Da’s visions wouldn’t be wise. “Time will tell, yeah?” No point kissing Elder arse.

The other Elders came one by one, congratulating me and posing for photos. Brennan was last. The crowd dispersed enough to give us a bubble of privacy. She tipped her head back and studied my face.

Without being able to read her blocked emotions, her body language was all I had to go on. A smile like before tugged at her lips.

I leaned in. “So were you toying with me earlier?” My bold question would either be living up to the liberties given to the heads of the four remaining Irish royal houses, or it’d be taken as the yipping of a whelp learning to growl. I hoped for the former and straightened up just in case.

“The test need only be as strong as the weakest candidate.” She curved her gloved hand around the crook of my elbow and turned me to face the patio. “Come now. Walk me outside.”

Leading an Elder outside for a private conversation wasn’t as nerve-racking as I’d thought. With her hand resting on my arm, she exuded an unexpected grandmotherly warmth. The stone patio ran the length of the building on this side of our manor home. It overlooked the meadows of our property—now mine—and with the cloudless days we’d had of late, the scent of heated earth surrounded us. I inhaled deeply. Definitely better here than returning to the States.

The few who lingered outside turned and meandered back to the study once they spotted us. Elder Brennan patted my arm, then released it, flattening her palms upon the balustrade, her ever-present white gloves in sharp contrast to the weathered stone.

Her gaze floated over the view. “It seems you are to have a very interesting future ahead of you.”

“Possibly.”

Her features relaxed with another one of her enigmatic smiles. “When will you be returning to America?”

“I’m thinking to stay here,” I said.

A disapproving frown appeared, and she tapped a sole finger on the stone.

How the hell was this any of her bloody business? I forced my expression to remain neutral and unclenched the hands I’d not realized I’d fisted. If only Da had kept his mouth shut over the years.

“Choices are a funny thing, Prince Liam. We often treat them as black and white, but rarely are they.”

I pocketed my hands. What was I meant to say? Yes, Zen Master Brennan.

A breeze picked up and coaxed a few strands of her silver hair across her cheek. She tilted her face into the wind and closed her eyes. “You should return to your search.” She turned and pinned me with a stare.

“What? Why? Are you trying to boot me from Ireland? Away from the estate? Is something happening you’re hiding from me?”

She held up her hand. “The demesne will be in capable hands. Go now. Enjoy your celebration. Congratulations and happy eighteenth birthday.” With a nod, she summoned two of her gendarmes, who came to her side and escorted her down the patio.

Mum must have been watching because she rushed outside. “What did she want?” Her concerned gaze scanned my face as if to get a read on my emotions, but as usual, I had them blocked.

I rolled my shoulders and took a breath. “She wants us to go back to the States.”

Her mouth opened and closed.

I knew that look. “Just say it, Mum.”

“Your father had another vision during the night.”

I snorted. “Where now? Alaska?”

“Liam, you used to believe—”

“Do you think we’ll be seeing some actual igloos? We could even go to the North Pole and watch the ice cap melt—”

“What harm could one more year—?”

“Have you tried whale blubber, Mum? I hear it’s a right treat.”

An elderly couple came out onto the patio. With a huff, Mum crossed her arms and broadcast her emotions as clearly as any mother’s scowl would convey. Waves of her irritation registered in my mind like seaweed washing in and wrapping around my toes. I moved a few steps away and leaned over the balustrade, resting my forearms on the sunbaked stone. A good fifty yards out, a hare popped up to scan its surroundings and then chased a second one into the shrubbery.

After a few moments, Mum joined me. “We know this isn’t easy, Liam, but we’re doing it for you. We’ve sacrificed so much. Please understand.”

I ground my back teeth and straightened. So much for making it happen my way. “Fine. One more year.”

I stormed back into the study so the signing could begin, passing by several girls in long glittering dresses, tittering behind their fingers. No doubt my pain-in-the-arse brother had arranged for them to be here.

If the Elders knew about our search, so did the rest of the empath community. Speculation would be flowing like whiskey tonight, but it didn’t change the fact we’d not be finding our target in Ireland.

Want to read more? Shaila has chapter 2 on her website

 

As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever- after, Shaila’s younger self would finish reading Cinderella and fling her copy across the room because it didn’t mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night.
She enjoys traveling, craft beer, and teas, and loves reading books—especially in cozy window seats. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red
light or connecting with other readers online at: http://www.shailapatelauthor.com
 
Find Shaila:

 

Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive an eGalley of
SOULMATED. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cover Reveal + Giveaway of SACRIFICE by Cindy Pon

 
 
Today Cindy Pon and Month9Books are revealing the cover for SACRIFICE, book 2 in the Serpentine Series! Which releases September 27, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to win a paperback copy of book 1, Serpentine!!
 
Here’s a message from the author.
 
I am so excited to share the Sacrifice cover with readers! I didn’t think it was possible, but I love it even more than my gorgeous Serpentine cover. My second novel is always about dealing with consequences of what happened in the first book. Skybright was on a journey to discover the truth of her origins and identity in Serpentine, and I believe she truly comes into her own in Sacrifice. I love the prominent featuring of her crimson tail, and the tension and energy this cover conveys—it reflects the novel so well. I hope you enjoy Sacrifice!
 
On to the reveal! 
 
 
 
 
Title: SACRIFICE
(Serpentine, Book 2)
Author: Cindy Pon
Pub. Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, Hardcover,  & eBook
Find it: Amazon| B&N| TBD|Goodreads
 
Sacrifice, the sequel to Serpentine, plunges Skybright into the terrifying underworld where demons are bred and whisks her up to the magnificent Mountain of Heavenly Peace where the gods dwell.
 
Stone is stripped of his immortal status and told to close hell’s breach, which mysteriously remains open, threatening mortals.
 
Zhen Ni, Skybright’s former mistress and friend, has been wed to the strange and brutish Master Hou, and finds herself trapped in an opulent but empty manor. When she discovers half-eaten corpses beneath the estate, she realizes that Master Hou is not all that he seems.
 
As Skybright works to free Zhen Ni with the aid of Kai Sen and Stone, they begin to understand that what is at risk is more far-reaching then they could ever have fathomed.
 


 
 
Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy,Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA.The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Her first published short story is featured in Diverse Energies,a multicultural YA dystopian anthology from Tu Books (October 2012). Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website.

Where you can find Cindy: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr | Instagram


 
 
Giveaway Details:
2 winners will receive a paperback of
SERPENTINE, US Only.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

#Cover Reveal + #Giveaway of SCEPTER OF FIRE by Vicki L. Weavil

Today Vicki L. Weavil and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for SCEPTER OF FIRE, a companion novel in the CROWN OF ICE Series! Which releases October 18, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!
 
Here’s a message from the author.
 
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” SCEPTER OF FIRE is a companion book to CROWN OF ICE, my retelling of “The Snow Queen.” It takes place a few years later, in the midst of an invasion by a power-mad foreign emperor, and includes most of the characters from CROWN OF ICE.
 
However the protagonist in SCEPTER OF FIRE is someone new—17yo Varna Lund, an ugly duckling among swans, who’s certain her destiny lies in taking on the mantle of village healer after the death of her aged mentor. But when a young soldier enlists her aid to care for his injured friend, Varna and her sister, Gerda, are catapulted into the war that has engulfed their country. Forced to flee enemy troops with her sister and the two soldiers, Varna must also evade her mentor, Sten Rask—revealed to be a powerful mage seeking the enchanted mirror hidden by a former Snow Queen.
 
To protect the mirror, and their country, Varna, Gerda, and the soldiers join forces with a sorceress, an enchanted reindeer, a brilliant scholar, and a young woman traveling with a wolf. But Varna faces a terrible temptation. Promised beauty and power by the devilishly handsome Rask, she must choose—achieve her own desires, or protect a society that has never embraced her.
The Cover:
I love how this cover matches the cover of CROWN OF ICE, and yet is different enough to set the books apart. Both feature striking young women, but whereas CROWN is glazed with icy blue tones, SCEPTER is saturated with reds, golds and other fiery hues. If you look closely, you
can even see flames reflected in the girl’s eyes—very appropriate for a book that deals with sorcerers who wield fire. Although the cover model is not an “ugly duckling,” she does accurately reflect the protagonist during one portion of the book, which I will not reveal at this point due to “spoilers”! 

 

Title: SCEPTER
OF FIRE
Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Pub. Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon| B&N| TBD|Goodreads
Sharp as pine needles, and twice as bitter, seventeen-year-old Varna Lund’s determined to become a healer. At least patients don’t care about her looks, unlike the young men who spurn her for eighteen-year-old Gerda or even her younger sisters. An ugly duckling among swans, Varna hopes to bury her passionate nature in useful work.
Her healing skills are put to the test when Varna encounters Erik Stahl, a young soldier who’s deserted the battlefield to carry his injured friend, Anders Nygaard, to safety. Varna, enlisting the aid of Gerda, cares for Anders in secret.
But a brutal betrayal catapults the four young people into life on the run, where Varna discovers her old mentor is actually a powerful wizard. Seeking the enchanted mirror hidden by a former  Snow Queen, the wizard hopes to use Gerda as a pawn in his plan to aid the invading emperor.
Other forces ally against the wizard, including an auburn-haired sorceress, an enchanted reindeer, a brilliant scholar, and a young woman traveling with a wolf. Along with the soldiers and Gerda, they vow to prevent the mirror from falling into enemy hands. But tempted with promises of beauty and power from her now devilishly handsome mentor, Varna must choose between her own desires and the good of a society that’s never embraced her.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”, SCEPTER OF FIRE is a companion book to CROWN OF ICE.

 

 

Vicki L. Weavil was raised in a farming community in Virginia, where her life was shaped by a wonderful family, the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and an
obsession with reading. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from the University of
Virginia, a Masters in Library Science from Indiana University, and a Masters
in Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After
working as a librarian at the NY Public Library at Lincoln Center, and the
Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) in NYC, she
is currently the Director for Library Services at the University of North
Carolina School of the Arts.
Vicki loves good writing in any genre, and has been known to read seven books in as many days. She enjoys travel, gardening, and the arts. Vicki lives in North Carolina
with her husband and some very spoiled cats. A member of SCBWI, Vicki is represented by Fran Black at Literary Counsel, NY, NY.
Where you can find Vicki: Website| Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads| Tumblr

 
1 winner will receive an eBook of CROWN OF ICE & an eGalley of SCEPTER OF FIRE (when available), International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cover Reveal & Chapter One Reveal + #Giveaway of un/FAIR by Steven Harper

Today Steven Harper and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for un/FAIR which releases September 6, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!
Here’s a quick introduction from the author.
When the doctor said my son Aran was autistic, my world turned upside-down.  I spent
years playing special games with him to help him understand the world better.  But in the process, I learned to understand him.  While I struggled to pull him into our world, he quietly pulled me into his.  This book came out of that.
People always ask authors–including me–why I got a certain scene on the cover or why I didn’t put a particular character on the front.  The truth is, authors almost never draw the book covers.  We get a picture of it by email, and it’s always a surprise, like getting an early
birthday present.  Sometimes the present is a wool sweater you want to wad into a ball and stuff under the bed.  Sometimes the present is a toy you didn’t know you wanted until you got it.  The cover for un/FAIR was the latter.  Ryan looks very much like I imagined him in my head, and the salamanders creeping down the top make it clear this isn’t a happy fairy book.  The artist even snuck in a reference to the Fibonacci sequence!  I loved getting this one.
On to the reveal! 

 Title: un/FAIR

Author: Steven Harper
Pub. Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD | Goodreads
It’s difficult enough to live in the neighborhood “freakazoid” house.  It’s even more difficult when you’re autistic and neither your family nor best friend really understands you.  So when Ryan November wakes up on his eleventh birthday with the unexpected ability to see the future, he braces himself for trouble.  But even his newfound power doesn’t anticipate that the fair folk–undines, salamanders, gnomes, and sylphs–want him dead, dead, dead.  Ryan races to defend himself and his family against unrelenting danger from the fairy realm so he can uncover the truth about his family history–and himself.  Except as Ryan’s power grows, the more enticing the fairy realm becomes, forcing him to choose between order and chaos, power and family.  And for an autistic boy, such choices are never cut and dry.
 
Excerpt

Un/FAIRPART I

CHAPTER ONE

Ryan November woke up on his eleventh birthday and knew he’d be able to see the future by breakfast. He rolled over. His clock said 6:56, so he couldn’t get up for four more minutes. That was all right. He didn’t mind waiting.

Not until he saw the string.

The string was made of liquid silver and lay piled in the exact center of a perfect square of May sunshine on his bedroom floor. It gleamed where the sunlight struck it. Ryan stared. He had never seen it before. The messy string looked out of place in the perfectly neat room. In Ryan’s room, every piece of clothing hung in the closet or lay folded in a dresser drawer. Every book sat in alphabetical order on the shelf. Every toy and video game stood arranged in rows more orderly than troops of soldiers. The squiggle of silver string on the floor made Ryan’s head itch on the inside, where he couldn’t scratch. He wanted to pick the string up and put it away.

The clock stopped him. The little red numbers read 6:57 now — three more minutes to go, even though he wanted to examine the string very badly.

Maybe he could find a way around the problem. Automatically, Ryan ran a flowchart in his mind. If he had written it down, it would have looked like this:

[See Figure 1.]

The chart put him at “Stay in bed,” so he lay there, trying not to scratch his head or squirm with suspense, until at last the numbers flicked to 8:00. Ryan pushed the blankets aside and hurried over to pick up the string, still squiggled across the floor. The moment he touched it, the string moved on its own. It jumped into his hand like a little snake. He felt a cold, tingly sensation, and the string was gone. Instead, there was a perfect circle of raised skin around the palm of his left hand.

“Wow,” Ryan said.

Ryan liked circles. He liked their symmetry, the way you couldn’t tell where they started or ended, the way every part was like every other part. He traced the circle with his finger and smiled. He could have a circle with him wherever he went. Then, because Saturday was a brown day, he put on brown cargo pants, a brown shirt, and brown socks before pulling on his shoes and heading for the stairs. Ryan had red-blond hair that he tried to keep combed but always got away from him, a thin sprinkling of freckles that thickened in the summer, and somber eyes that his best friend Alison always described as “blue pools of inexactitude,” which bugged Ryan because he didn’t know what it meant. At the last second, Ryan remembered to grab his cell phone from his dresser. The circle had almost made him forget. There were already two text messages on the screen:

Happy Shared B-Day, R!!

And

Happy day kiddo!

He texted back, his thumbs jumping across the keypad like precise, tiny frogs:

Happy Shared Birthday to you, too, Alison!

and
Thanks, Mom.

Ryan never felt quite right abbreviating, so he didn’t. Then he traced the circle on his hand one more time and tromped downstairs.

There were fourteen wooden steps leading down to the kitchen. Each one had nine wooden pegs pounded in a straight line across the front edge, and Ryan automatically counted them all at a glance. 126 pegs, just like yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. He liked the number 126. The digits added up to nine, which was also the number of pegs in each step. The number 126 was a good number to start the day with. He jumped over step number twelve. Ryan didn’t like the number twelve. It was divisible by too many other numbers — itself, six, four, three, two, and one. That was half the numbers between one and twelve. Ryan always felt like twelve would keep dividing itself until it vanished entirely, and he didn’t want to step on a stair that might disappear.

Ryan rounded the turn in the staircase and emerged in the kitchen. It was big and airy, and right now it smelled like butter and hot batter. Aunt Zara was on breakfast duty this morning, and today she had settled on pancakes, Ryan’s favorite. Ryan quietly took his usual place on the bench that ran down the long wooden table. Everything in the Cottage was wood — walls, floor, cupboards, ceiling. Wood hinges held the doors on, and wood latches held them shut. Raw exposed beams ran up to support the roof, and the shingles were made of flat wood. The entire house was held together with wooden pegs. Ryan’s dad boasted that not one scrap of steel held the house together. Instead, the builders had used copper and plastic and ceramic. Ryan liked this. Metals like iron and steel felt heavy and harsh and made his stomach queasy.

“My, my. Happy birthday, Ryan,” Aunt Zara said, and put a plate of pancakes in front of him. Ryan tensed a little. Food you could count had to come in even numbers. Mom always remembered this when she cooked, but Aunt Zara sometimes forgot, and it could turn a simple meal into a disaster. Quickly he counted. Two pancakes, two pieces of sausage. Ryan sighed with relief. It would be bad to get the wrong number of pancakes on his birthday.

Ryan glanced up at Aunt Zara. She favored blue blouses and long skirts that flowed together like waterfalls. She wore her blond hair loose around her shoulders except for two blue barrettes that kept her bangs out of her face. She had a long nose and a wide mouth. At the moment, she was smiling with her teeth showing. Her voice had an upbeat tone to it, and she moved like her body was relaxed. Ryan added these things up and decided Aunt Zara was happy. The appropriate response, Ryan had learned, was a smile. So he smiled. Then he remembered that she had just given him something — his breakfast. It meant he had to say something.

“Thank you,” he said slowly, and tensed slightly, wondering if he had gotten it wrong. It seemed like he got it wrong a lot.

“You’re welcome.” Aunt Zara tried to pat his shoulder, but Ryan ducked away. “Sorry, sweetie. I forget.”

Ryan didn’t like it when people touched him. It felt beyond weird to feel their skin sliding over his in ways he couldn’t control. And a hug felt like being suffocated in wet blankets. When he was little, he had screamed and hit. Now he ducked and dodged.

Aunt Zara headed back for the stove. Ryan was turning to his pancakes, silver fork poised, when his world flickered for a second. Everything grew brighter, as if someone had doubled the sunlight, and he heard a knock. A dark-haired girl poked her head through the screen door and said, “Is he still eating breakfast?” and her voice had a strange, ghostly quality to it. Then the extra light vanished and everything snapped back to normal. Ryan realized no time had passed at all.

A knock came, and a dark-haired girl poked her head through the screen door. “Is he still eating breakfast?” Ryan stopped eating to stare. He had just seen this happen twice.

“Come in, Alison,” Aunt Zara sang out. “You’re just in time for pancakes.”

Alison Ferrier stalked through the door and angled across the kitchen to the table, her skinny legs and sharp elbows flopping carelessly in all directions. Even her ponytail looked sharp. Ryan watched her, caught in an awful fascination. One day she was going to puncture something; he was sure of it. Alison was Ryan’s best — his only — friend, and she lived in a tiny trailer in the woods with three sisters and two brothers and one mother (making seven people total, and seven was a prime number). Like him, she was turning eleven today (another prime number, and if you added one and one, you got two). It took two people to be friends, and two was the only even prime number. Ryan liked that.

Alison folded herself onto the bench beside him. “Two pancakes, two sausages,” she said, looking at his plate. “Will it bug you if I have three and three?”

“No,” Ryan said. “That plate over there” — he pointed — “has one pancake on it, so that makes everything Fibonacci.” He said the word the Italian way: feeb-oh-NAH-chee.

“Fibonacci?”

“You know. Zero and one make one, then one and one make two, two and one make three.”

“Oh, right. Cool.”

“My, my. Doesn’t your family feed you?” Aunt Zara asked, setting a plate down in front of her.

“Nope,” Alison said, her mouth already full, and Ryan couldn’t tell if this was a lie or not. He thought about asking, then decided not to and ate more pancakes instead.

“Today is our birthday,” Ryan said. “May first.”

“Yep.” Alison grinned, showing a big mouthful of smooshed-up Fibonacci pancake. Ryan laughed. “Where’s everyone else?”

“I don’t know,” Ryan said.

“Your dad went down to the lake for some early fishing,” Aunt Zara said from the stove. “Aunt Ysabeth and your mother are wrapping birthday presents. So stay out of your mother’s bedroom, Ryan, if you don’t mind.”

There was another flick. The world brightened again, and this time Aunt Zara dropped a spatula. It clattered on the stove. Alison spilled her milk, creating a chaotic mess that rushed over the table and dripped into Ryan’s lap.

The world flicked back to normal. Aunt Zara dropped her spatula. It clattered on the stove. Alison reached for her milk glass. Ryan flinched at the upcoming mess. Chaos was the worst. It hurt his stomach and made his head feel like it was going to explode. So he reached out with his own hand and slapped hers down, pinning it to the table.

 

 
Steven Harper/Piziks is the author of multiple fantasy and science fiction novels written for adults, notably the Clockwork Empire and Silent Empire series for Roc as Steven Harper and movie novelizations and tie ins for Pocket Books as Steven Piziks (IDENTITY, THE EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING, GHOST WHISPERER: THE PLAUGE ROOM).  He’s also the father of an autistic son. 

 

 
Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eGalley of un/FAIR.
International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#Cover Reveal + #Giveaway of THE PALADINS by Julie Reece

Today Julie Reece and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE PALADINS, book 2 in THE ARTISANS Series which releases May 3, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley and a eBook of THE ARTISANS!!
Here’s a message from the author.

Book covers are tricky things. My respect for cover artists has grown exponentially after entering the world of publishing. I learned the challenge of a good cover artist is to hint at the story beneath using a single image. They must create a picture that suggests to perspective readers what lies within those hundreds of pages—using nothing more than
specific font and a few square inches of graphic design. It seems impossible, yet most of us agree that art evokes emotion. And when I saw my cover, I was overwhelmed.
The Paladins is dark. And this cover is dark. The story is a Gothic tale, mysterious and eerie. And while parts of this world are beautiful, beauty is often deceptive. You’re never quite sure if something lurks in the shadows, where the path you tread is leading, or even if what you
see is real … until it’s too late. For me, the cover encompasses all those story elements. I hope you like it as much as I do.
On to the reveal! 
 
 
Title: THE PALADINS (The Artisans #2)
Author: Julie Reece
Pub. Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
The Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives…or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?
Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.
The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts. 
 
In case you missed it here’s the redesigned cover for THE ARTISANS!
 
 
Title: THE ARTISANS
Author: Julie Reece
Pub. Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 300
Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads
 
They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad’s drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can’t imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
Excerpt


PrologueThe Before

Cole

It’s been four years since I planted the fireworks in Gideon Maddox’s locker that burned a third of his face.

Four years since his father took revenge, trapping me with a spell that kept me prisoner in The Void.

Three months since the magic found me again.

Two months since my parents put me in therapy.

One day since my parents left for Paris on a month long business tour.

This morning, a mysterious girl no one else can see beckoned again from The Void.

Tonight, I’m standing on the balcony of my parent’s palatial home, buying an airline ticket back to the states—back to Maddox mansion—the heart of my nightmares.

People say the more things change the more they stay the same. I hate them for being right. I lived with the monsters in my prison until I thought I might go mad. Repentant of my past, I made peace with my fate, my eternity. Until the day I was freed, because a stranger had the courage to help.

This time someone needs me.

How can I doom a girl to a fate I barely escaped?

There’s only one answer.

I can’t.

Chapter One

Cole

A bottle-green fly hums, rubbing his tiny legs together as though he’s plotting something. The insect seems a dirty ornament on the shiny desk nameplate he sits upon. Gold on gold, the engraved letters read Navin Cahvan M.D. This is the third psychiatrist I’ve met in as many weeks. Part of my mother’s plan to fix me. Jumpy nerves, insomnia, nightmares about demons when I finally do fall sleep—these are her justifications. Everyone tries to shrink me like a cheap T-shirt in the dryer.

The tawny-skinned man across the desk folds his knotted fingers over his belly and stares. Dark eyes track my movements beneath two bushy white eyebrows. “Mr. Wynter?”

Right. He asked a question. The fly hums again, wings fluttering against his hairy back. My head pounds, my clothes scratch, eyes burn, and my ears are raw with the smallest sounds echoing deep inside.

When Dr. Cahvan shifts, the leather seat groans in protest. “I can help you. But you must tell me the truth.”

All I hear is Jack Nicholson screaming the line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”

“Trust me, Cole. Tell me your secret thoughts.”

Trust you? Sure. I tell you what happened and you lock me away forever on meds that keep me drooling, while I play dominoes with people who see giant, pink rabbits. No thanks.

He leans forward. His fingers thread together as his hands rest on the desktop. He taps his thumbs together. “I assure you this is a safe place. I call it … the circle of trust.”

Give me a break. You want me to tell you how I was a mean, dangerous kid. Confess that because I tormented a crippled boy, his father used a magic camera to trap me in an alternate universe as punishment. Explain how I lived a half-life in the Maddox mansion for four years until Raven Weathersby rescued me. About how much I miss her and think about going back someday … Maybe I am insane.
“Let’s discuss something else.”

I find his suggestion amusing since I’ve barely said ten words in the past hour, and our time is almost up.
The good doctor shifts again. “Instead of talking about the past, why not speak of the present. How are you adjusting to life at home? I understand your parents had a welcome home party when you first arrived. How did that go?”

How do you think? “Swell.” I would have preferred stuffing my hand in a high-speed blender. A hundred people that I hadn’t seen since I was fifteen—and couldn’t care less to see again—showed up to shake my hand and recite all they’d ever read about amnesia, the lie Gideon made up to cover my absence. “I really just need some space.”

“And you got your wish, did you not? I understand your parents left town yesterday. How does being alone again so soon make you feel?”

Incredibly pissed. “They’ve always been busy people. I’m used to them traveling.” But I wasn’t. I thought with all the time apart, my parents might want to stick around a while. Be a family. Nope. Since appearances mean everything, they threw a party right away to show their friends and colleagues how fine I was. The powerful and highly regarded Mr. and Mrs. Wynter pulled out all the stops to prove their love for their long lost son: fine wine, catered dinner, china, crystal, even a string quartet. Yet, my father couldn’t keep the disappointment from his face any more than my mother could drown her misery in vodka.

Perhaps to appease their consciences, my folks hooked me up with doctors and provided for my physical needs before bailing. But a new car and an obscenely padded bank account wasn’t what I needed. So easily brushed aside again, I couldn’t help but wonder if parts of them were relieved when I’d disappeared four years ago.

Dr. Cahvan’s eyes narrow. “So, you remember your life up until your trip to the States?”

“Yes.” I’m lying about my amnesia. I know it. He knows it. So do my parents, but it’s too late to come up with a better story … like being the victim of a cult brainwashing or joining a psychedelic commune. I drank a different brand of Kool-Aid in Sales Hollow, South Carolina, and I can never tell a soul.

The fly zings to the window. I flinch as the buzzing is magnified ten times in my head. It takes all my will not to jump up and smash the bug against the glass. The doctor watches me with sharp eyes trained to interpret body language. I hold his gaze, though my skin breaks out in a sweat. A sudden wind rattles the panes, and I startle.

Cahvan’s mouth crimps at the corners. “Rather breezy today,” he says, glancing out the window at the quiet, blue sky.

Who cares about the weather? I have to give the old guy something before I start whining about magic spells, heightened senses, or worse: how my daddy never loved me.

I blow out a breath. “Look, some things seem familiar, others are confusing. I don’t need a doctor. I need time.” I only meant to throw him a bone so he’d have something to report when my parents call, but my body heats as I talk. Anger, resentment, and fear all claw their way up my throat and charge out of my mouth before I can stop them. “Time I can’t get back where I finish school, date hot girls, and grow up like normal kids do. I’m trying. Doing the best I can, but what I don’t need is to sit in rooms with smug strangers who are paid to dissect my brain over things I can’t explain, and neither of us will ever understand!” I drag my fingers through my shaggy hair. “That time is gone. I’m pissed off, and I guess I’ll be pissed off until I’m not anymore.”

Dr. Cahvan rubs his jaw. “That’s very interesting, Cole.”

My laugh is harsh. Not that any of this is funny. “Is it?”

“Yes. Thank you for your honesty today.” His bushy eyebrows push together. “Thank you for entering the circle of trust and allowing me to help you. Please see my secretary on your way out and make another appointment for next week.”

Seriously? I stand and head for the door. Oh, I’ll see your secretary, all right. I’ll nod as I walk right past her. He didn’t help me. No one can. There are a lot of things I need. But touchy-feely therapy with Doctor Eyebrows isn’t one of them.

***

After the awkward “circle of trust” episode, I can’t decide what to do with myself. I don’t want to be around people, but I don’t want to go home to an empty house either, so I wind up in the rambling cemetery a couple miles from our house.

I like it here and come pretty often just to think. Crumbling grave markers bear witness to France’s rich history, even with the chiseled dates worn and fading with time. Moss, ivy, and ancient trees lend beauty and peace to a place that soothes my soul. I’m not trying to be morbid. I never kept company with the dead. We were the undead, in a non-sparkly kind of way.

I’m not stupid enough to think I’ll discover the meaning of life. I’m just trying to find meaning in mine.

After surviving a half-death, I’ve been given a second chance. Trouble is, I don’t know what to do with it.
The sun is too hot on my back. No sooner does the thought cross my mind, when a friendly breeze tousles my hair like an old friend. I pull my cell from my pocket and stare at Raven’s number. She said to call her anytime, and I do. Gideon said to call her if I wanted my arse kicked. Typical. He’s still that insecure kid deep down. Still trying to prove himself, as he tries to control everyone and everything within his reach, just like his old man taught him.

Should have known something was wrong when I first got the invitation to visit Gideon in America all those years ago. My parents were so happy Maddox Senior wasn’t pressing charges; they actually thought the gesture was an attempt at friendship. Of course, Mum and Dad sent me packing complete with an olive branch in my mouth. That gesture of goodwill got my picture taken and a trip to The Void with a bunch of vengeful old guys from the early nineteen hundreds and a hot blond with twisted taste in men. We spent our days trying to escape that hell. The labyrinth’s ghouls, the surreal existence of consciousness without a physical body, and the constant pain of regret all earmarked a life that wasn’t.

Until her.

My fingers comb the grass at my sides. I close my eyes and feel the day’s warmth on my face, the wind threading through my thin tee. I may look like a freak, but I can’t stop touching everything around me. While I was gone, I missed the sensation of air in my lungs, the taste of coffee, the sweet sensation of a kiss …

My thumb starts dialing Rae’s number.

Cole …

Shite. Here we go again.

Come to me, Cole …

I wonder if I sounded this creepy to Raven when I begged for her help.

Veins at my temples pulse. Leaves shake and laugh in the breeze, the echo reverberating in my head. “Who are you? What do you want with me?” I want to stand, but my limbs weigh a hundred pounds each. My lungs deflate under the crushing pressure, and I struggle to breathe.

The scenery of oaks and elms surrounding the cemetery blur into a muddy gray-green wall, and I know what’s happening. Gravestones push up from the ground like gnashing teeth and recede again until the ground transforms into a smooth, stone floor. The world of pedestrians, car horns, and singing birds around the graveyard fade to a quiet worse than death. My body rejects the idea of gravity. The weightlessness of being sucked back into The Void again invades my person like a virus, spreading into my muscles and bones, my very essence.

I will the door of my mind closed to shut out the transformation. I place a mental shield before the magic so it won’t consume me, but magic has a will of its own. It snakes under the imaginary door I’ve erected in my head, enveloping me. I thrash, but it’s useless. My soundless screaming and mind-withering despair only seems to feed The Void’s strength.

When I open my eyes, the cemetery is gone. I shift on a cold, damp floor, taking in my new surroundings. I’ve seen this place before, several times. The space is a circular stone room with two tall, skinny windows allowing diffused light inside. A bed sits across from me. Downy quilts worn and faded with use cover the straw mattress. On the wall, a huge, gilt-framed mirror reflects the room where a pretty blond sits in a hardback chair. Watching me.

I’m familiar with strange, but not with sad, soul-eating eyes like hers.

When she rises, I feel like I should thank her, because light from the window shows her curves through an ultra-thin nightdress. The sight chokes my airflow for a whole different reason.

ThinkofRaventhinkofRaventhinkofRaven.

I’m so not thinking of Raven. For all my faults, I’m not the cheating type, but I am a guy, and this girl is seriously fit! I want to touch her in the worst way, but I swallow instead. Attempting to be a gentleman, I lift my gaze and focus on the far wall, yet somehow—because I’m still a guy—I end up watching the way her hair hangs in white blond waves to her thighs. Her rosebud mouth opens slightly. Pleading eyes, more silver than blue, threaten to pull me under and drown me. None of this helps curb my impulse to reach for her.

Then I think about how she brought me here against my will, and that helps tamp down the hormones.

Cole.

What do you want?

Can’t you guess?

I can. I pleaded with Raven for the same help not too long ago. Inside The Void, I thought I’d met everyone. The ones that Maddox had imprisoned, and the indigenous inhabitants of the labyrinth. I hadn’t known there were any others.

The drip-drop of a leaky faucet is the only sound as I gather my thoughts. “Who are you? Where are you? I don’t understand what’s happening. Where is this place? Did Gideon put you here?” I rattle off my questions not pausing for a response.

She doesn’t answer. Maybe she can’t.

Wind picks up, whooshing through the hollow room, though the windows are shut. The sound grows, as though someone dropped a microphone in a washing machine. I grit my teeth against the noise. My mind squeezes in the pressurized vacuum.

Cole … She extends a thin, white hand.

I remember Raven. How she fell to her knees on the floor of the mill house when we first met. Pain rips into my psyche, claws at my sanity. The same way I’m sure it did hers.

“I’m sorry. Forgive me, Raven. I didn’t know.”

… My name is Rosamond …

Stone walls smear and fade, the beautiful girl along with them. I can’t breathe. Then, the faint outline of tree tops bleed back into view.

… Rosamond Bryer …

My panting rivals an overheated Saint Bernard. Grass pokes my palms. Rough bark scrapes my spine through my T-shirt. Any trace of the castle turret is erased as the same decrepit cemetery I know solidifies, and the garden is as it was before.

Almost …

I’m leaning against an old tree, yet my cell and sunglasses still lie next to the rose bushes where I was sitting, almost twenty feet away. I have no memory of moving. How did I get way over here?

Both hands plow through my hair with my exhale. What the bloody hell just happened? Am I imagining this? A nightmare left over from the reality of my imprisonment. Or is the girl real? Trapped like I was and waiting for someone with the courage to free her.

Is that someone me? I’ve been a lot of things, but brave isn’t one of them. To help her means going back to the mansion.

No. I definitely do not need this shite. I’m starting over, leaving that life behind. Yet, the haunted expression on the girl’s face tugs at me. Something about her seems familiar. I’m gutted over how she reached for me. Raven doubted, too, but not for long. If the blond is real, then she’s really in trouble. And if she’s really in trouble, what, if anything, are you prepared to do about it, Cole Wynter?

 

As a child, Julie’s summers were about horseback riding and fishing, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not
all. She struggled with multiple learning disabilities, and spent much of her
time gazing out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of
one very nice teacher) she fought dyslexia for her right to read and won.
Afterward, she invented stories where powerful heroines kicked bad-guy butt to win thehearts charismatic heroes. And then she wrote one down…
Writing ever since, Julie weaves southern gothic, contemporary, fantasy, and young adult  romances. She enjoys sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. Her writing is proof a dream and some hard work can overcome any obstacle.

Where you can find Julie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive an eBook of THE
ARTISANS and an eGalley of THE PALADINS. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway