Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Reveal @Month9Books & Giveaway - Triumph of Chaos by Jen McConnel


Today Jen McConnel and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for TRIUMPH OF CHAOS the final book in the Red Magic Series, which releases March 8, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to win the complete eBook series!!


A quick note from the author:

I can’t tell you how bittersweet it is to see the cover for Triumph of Chaos. In a few weeks, the Red Magic series will be entirely in your hands, and while it’s hard to let these characters go, I’m thrilled that you’ll be able to follow Darlena as her journey culminates in Triumph. The cover is a perfect way to wrap up this trilogy, and I hope you love it (and the story!) as much as I do. Red Magic has been a part of my life for five years, and of all the characters I’ve created, Darlena feels the most familiar, the most real to me. I can’t wait for the last installment of her story to be out in the world!

On to the reveal! 



Title: TRIUMPH OF CHAOS
Author: Jen McConnel
Pub. Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

After the disaster in Europe, Darlena’s starting to get desperate. She knows the only way to defeat Hecate and the other crazy Red Gods is by banding together with other Witches, but is it any wonder she has a hard time trusting them?

With Izzy’s support, Darlena begins making fragile strides toward repairing the mess she made, but she just can’t catch a break. As chaos runs rampant around her, Darlena begins to think that things would be better if she’d never become a Red Witch in the first place. But there’s no way to change the past…is there?


The final book in the Red Magic series brings Darlena face to face with impossible odds, and a terrifying choice.


Exclusive Excerpt
Chapter one
For months, I thought I’d killed my best friend.
Now I sort of wish I had.
What kind of person does that make me? Justin had once told me that I’d go crazy if I tried to decide who should live or die, but I kept thinking that if I’d been able to make that kind of choice in the first place, none of this would have happened. If Rochelle had really died on that rooftop last fall, then the world wouldn’t be falling apart, and I wouldn’t be to blame.
Sometimes, it sucks to be a Witch.
I used to scoff at people who preached about the end of the world, but ever since Marcus, I hadn’t been able to laugh off the sandwich-board crazies popping up everywhere. Maybe it would have been funny if I didn’t know the truth.
The world was ending. Or at least it would be if I couldn’t stop it.
Sulking, I followed my parents into our favorite breakfast place. They didn’t seem to notice the group of people standing on the corner holding signs that promised the end was nigh.
“Phew,” Mom said, pulling off her light-blue cardigan. “Summer will be here before we know it!”
A waitress bustled over, handing out menus and smiling at us. “Feels to me like summer’s already started!”
“Weather like this is exactly why people need to pay attention to global warming. I’ll have a sweet tea, and the breakfast special,” my dad added, settling back into his chair without glancing at the menu.
The waitress scribbled on a notepad. “I don’t know about all that, but eighty degrees in March is odd, even for North Carolina!”
Mom nodded, shooting a look in my direction. “We just have to stay cool and try not to think about what July will be like.”
After the waitress had taken our orders and moved on, I leaned forward. “You don’t think this heat has anything to do with … ” I gestured helplessly.
Mom shook her head. “Not something we should talk about here.”
Dad snorted, and I heard him mutter, “Not something we should talk about, period.”
My stomach clenched, and I stared at my hands, trying to pretend I hadn’t heard him. Ever since I got back from Scotland in January, my parents had kept me at arm’s length. Well, not Mom as much, but even she was more reserved than usual. My father seemed to want to pretend that I didn’t exist.
I had thought I’d only been away for a month, but the trip had actually taken over a year. I’d ended up in the Celtic Underworld, and time runs differently in Underworlds; I should have remembered that. While I’d been there, Rochelle had glamoured herself and pretended to be me. My parents said they believed I was who I said I was, but there was an edge to our relationship that hadn’t been there before.
It probably didn’t help that I had participated in what had become the biggest nuclear disaster in the history of the world.
Mom and Dad are both Green Witches, hippie-dippie earth-loving types, and they seemed to take it personally that their daughter had so thoughtlessly damaged the earth. To be fair, I had thought what Marcus and I did could be fixed, but that’s beside the point. My parents seemed to think the fact that I had messed with nuclear power at all was an intentional act of rebellion. It made talking to them nearly impossible, but I kept trying. Whether they liked it or not, I needed their help to fix the mess I’d made of things.
“So,” I began, forcing myself to sound cheerful, “what are you guys going to do this weekend?”
Dad muttered something about saving the world, but Mom shot him a dark look. “I might work in the garden.” She hesitated. “Did you want to help?”
Before I could answer, Dad butted in. “Lena doesn’t exactly have a green thumb.”
His words stung, but he was right—my gift seemed to be destruction, not growth. I tried to shrug it off. “I can help, if you want.”
Mom smiled, and for a moment, I could almost forget about everything that had happened, but by the time the food came, the familiar knot was back in my stomach, and I picked at my pancakes without enthusiasm. It had been hard for me to eat ever since Marcus died.
Marcus had been another Red Witch, like me. He was a little older than me and hard as granite. He’d been trained by his patron, the goddess Cerridwyn, and she had shown him how to use his magic by subjecting him to countless battles and acts of brutality. I’d never known anyone as powerful or frightening, and I had killed him.
Well, not directly. I released this crazy god of chaos, Loki, and Loki was the one who instigated Marcus’s death. But it still felt like the guilt rested solely on my shoulders: if I hadn’t listened to any of the Red gods, maybe Marcus would still be alive, and then I could figure out if I hated him or was in love with him. Yeah, I’m not messed up at all, I thought sourly.
“How’s breakfast?” Mom interrupted my thoughts, staring pointedly at my plate.
I looked down, surprised. I had eaten everything in front of me, and it even looked like I’d licked the plate clean. I didn’t remember taking a single bite. “Um. Good,” I lied. “What about you?”
She shrugged. “The toast was a bit dry, but the omelet was good.”
I nodded, struggling to make small talk. Before I could think of anything else to say, someone cranked up the volume on the TV suspended over the doorway.
“Europe is still in a state of chaos as leaders scramble to secure the countryside of France. Meanwhile, the president is preparing for a visit to Germany to discuss nuclear energy. It is assumed that he will push for stricter safety regulations.” The reporter read the teleprompter with no emotion, clearly unaware of the effect his words were having on my family.
Dad slurped his sweet tea loudly. “I thought you said you were working on it.”
I shrugged, but I felt my hands starting to shake. “I’m trying. There’s not a lot I can do, remember? It’s not my territory.” If I didn’t get a grip on myself, I knew I’d light up like a sparkler in a minute.
“You should have thought of that before.”
“Richard.” My mom’s voice was low with warning. “This is not the place.”
He glared at me. “Fine. But she needs to think about the consequences of her actions.”
I met his gaze, furious. “Believe me. That’s all I’ve been doing lately.” A burst of Red energy crackled on my skin, and I gritted my teeth, pulling the power back inside.
Dad snorted, oblivious, and Mom flagged down the waitress for the bill. When my arms stopped sparking, I stood up and headed for the door. Neither of them asked where I was going, but I didn’t care.
I marched up to the apocalyptic group, still chanting on the corner. “Give me one,” I said, sticking my hand out for a flier.
An older man with gray hair and a sagging chin frowned at me. “There isn’t much time left.” He handed me a flier solemnly. “Repent now, before it’s too late.”
“It’s already too late.” I pretended not to notice the fearful look he shot me as I sat down on the curb, skimming the paper. It was the same old religious drivel, talking about Armageddon and God. According to this group, the only way to escape the coming end times was to give up worldly goods and join them in their quest to spread the truth.
I crumpled the flier in disgust. It had been foolish of me to expect Nons to have a solution, but I couldn’t stop hoping that they might know more than they let on. Evidently, that group didn’t. What am I going to do? Resisting the urge to bury my head in my hands and sob, I slapped the hot pavement underneath me instead. Cracks shot through the sidewalk, like ice, and someone in the little group on the corner shrieked. Good. You should be afraid. I glared at them, and one by one they picked up their signs and crossed the street.
When my parents finally walked by me, I stood without a word and followed them to our Subaru parked at the curb. The seatbelt buckle burned my fingers, but I barely noticed. The heat was miserable, but something about it made me feel powerful, too. I almost laughed at that thought. Powerful and destructive. Red magic was linked to fire, something I’d learned firsthand after meeting Loki. It’s no wonder the hot weather is winding me up. I glanced up at the front seat, wondering if I should tell my parents how close to exploding I’d come that morning, but then I shook my head.
We drove home in silence, even though I knew the storm would have to break sometime.
A few blocks from our house, my phone buzzed insistently in my pocket, and I looked at the screen. My throat clenched. Justin. My ex had been trying to get me to sit down and talk with him ever since I came back, but I hadn’t felt up to it. I didn’t know what to say to him about Loki and Rochelle, and I couldn’t even imagine telling him about Marcus. So, yeah, I met the other Red Witch, and we sort of made out, but now he’s dead, so we can get back to normal, right? Still, talking to him would be a break from not talking to my parents. Anything was better than that.
“Mom,” I leaned forward, tapping her on the shoulder, “could you drop me off at Justin’s house?”
She hesitated, glancing at Dad, but he didn’t act like he’d heard my question. Finally, Mom nodded. “I suppose. But be home in time for dinner.” Her eyes flicked quickly to the rearview mirror, and I heard her unspoken thought: sooner or later, we’d have to deal with all this.
“Thanks.” I hopped out of the car as soon as we pulled up in front of Justin’s house. He only lived a few blocks away from us; I could have just walked over once we got home. But for some reason, now that I’d decided to see him, I couldn’t wait a minute longer.
He was sitting on the sidewalk in front of his house. His shoulders looked a little wider, and maybe his hair was shorter than I remembered, but nothing else about Justin had really changed. He was still the first boy I’d ever loved, and the poor guy had been the recipient of my disastrous attempts at love magic twice. And he’d spent a year with the fake me. My stomach clenched.
I had no idea what had happened between him and Rochelle while I was gone, but I had a feeling whatever it was would be more than I could handle. That was only one of the reasons I had been avoiding him: the whole Marcus situation had been holding me back, too. I tried to push the other Red Witch out of my head when I saw Justin.
He stood up and smiled his heart-melting smile, and just like that, it was like I’d never been gone. Without thinking, I threw my arms around his neck. He embraced me, and it felt good to just stand there, safe in his familiar arms. Tingles raced up my spine, and I shivered in pleasure. It wasn’t the same electric shock I’d gotten whenever I touched Marcus, but I still leaned into his body, enjoying the sensation.
“That’s quite a hello.” He chuckled, letting me go, and I tugged on the bottom of my T-shirt, not meeting his eyes. Maybe I still wasn’t ready to be around him.
I cleared my throat, preparing to tell him everything. “I’ve been gone a long time.”
He nodded. “I know.”
Startled by his serious tone, I looked at him closely. “What do you know?”
Instead of answering, he silently opened the front door. He led me up to his bedroom, and then warded the door behind us. “I know that you were gone for over a year.”
If I had been sitting down, I would have fallen off the chair. Instead, I lowered myself shakily to perch on the corner of his desk. “How long have you known?”
“Lena, come on. Do you really think I can’t tell the difference between the real you and a glamour?”
I blushed, thinking about the glamour Aphrodite had taught me to weave. Justin had been fooled by that for a few days, but there was no way I was going to bring that up. “My parents didn’t know.”
He shrugged. “They probably expect you to be different all the time. We’re teenagers, right?”
I laughed weakly. “So you knew this whole time. But I thought—” I broke off, remembering something Mom had said over the phone while I’d been gone.
“I kept hanging out with her. I mean you. I didn’t know who it was, and I didn’t want to do anything to make your parents suspicious. But nothing happened.” He spread his palms wide. “I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.”
So you got back together with the fake me, but you didn’t do anything? I looked at him, wanting desperately to believe what he said. “It was Rochelle.”
He stared at me as if I’d slapped him. “I thought she was dead.”
“So did I. But I didn’t kill her, I guess, and she glamoured herself to look like me to take revenge.” I forced a laugh, trying not to imagine Rochelle making out with Justin. “I’m actually surprised she didn’t hurt you. She’s always hated you, you know.”
His brown eyes were full of concern. “How did you get rid of her?”
“My friend Izzy helped me.” I kept my words short, hoping he wouldn’t ask me any questions about Izzy. Talking about her would lead to talking about Marcus, and I wasn’t sure I could do that yet.
Justin closed his eyes, pressing his fingertips to his forehead in concentration. “How has she gained so much power? Black magic is strong, but this is ridiculous.”
I took a deep a breath. We’d gotten there quicker than I’d hoped, but I couldn’t lie to him. I could never lie to Justin, but that didn’t mean I had to tell him everything. I measured my words carefully. “Another Red died, and Rochelle took his place.”
Justin opened his mouth, and I shook my head.
“It’s complicated. But Rochelle is a Red Witch now.” I took a deep breath. “And it’s even worse than that. While I was gone, I found out what Hecate wants.”
I told Justin what I could, haltingly, doing my best to leave out Marcus while telling him about Hecate’s plan to remake the world. Finally, with shaking hands, I told him about Loki.
“So now the worst of the Red gods is free again, and between him and Hecate, the world could end at any time.” I swallowed the lump in my throat and tried to sound matter-of-fact. “Rochelle controls a third of the world, and if you’ve been watching the news, this hasn’t been a good few months for Europe.” I held up my hands helplessly. “I just don’t know how to stop any of it.”
Justin didn’t say anything for a minute. I watched him nervously, waiting for the cold glances and accusations that I’d gotten used to from my parents, but he didn’t tell me I was a monster. He studied me, and then he sat down on his desk chair and reached for my hands. Smoothly, he pulled me into his lap, one arm circling me firmly for support, and I leaned against him, surprised at how easy it was to be so close. “You said your friend Izzy helped you stop Rochelle. So maybe it’s a question of working together.”
I nodded, relieved that he wasn’t asking any questions yet, and I tried to think straight. It wasn’t easy with his breath tickling my ear. “Did you know that there are six types of magic?”
He looked at me as if I’d grown wings. “There’s White, Black, and Green. And of course, Red.” He squeezed me gently when he said that, and my heart began to speed up.
I shook my head, trying to focus. “For some reason, when magic came to America, part of it was left behind. There’s also Blue and Yellow; my friend Izzy is a Blue Witch.”
Justin paused for a moment, digesting what I’d said. “Why wouldn’t they teach us that?” He rested his chin on my shoulder, and I shivered at the contact.
“I don’t know.” I wanted to lose myself in the simple sensation of being pressed against Justin, but finally I leaned away from him, still perched on his knees. “I have a lot of questions, and I don’t know where to start. But the important thing is the six magics. Together, they’re balanced. Green is earth magic, Blue controls water, Yellow is for air, and Red is for fire. And White and Black are the balance of spirit.” I twisted around, watching his face. “If we can balance the paths, maybe all six together is more powerful than any Red Witch.”
“Or the Red gods.” Justin spoke without inflection, and I watched him nervously.
“If we could form a group, a Coven—”
He stood up abruptly, dropping me onto the chair. “What kind of crap did you get into over there?”
I hopped out of the chair, clenching my fists. “It isn’t crap! I met a Coven there, and Izzy and I think that might be our only option.” I could feel the swirl of Red energy pulsing through my hands, but I struggled to control it.
His lips parted in surprise. “Covens are things in horror movies, Darlena! And besides, how could Witches of such different paths work together? It would all turn into chaos.”
“No,” I said tightly. “This is our only chance to stop chaos.”
He shook his head. “Look, I want to help you. You know that.” His eyes searched mine. “But you’ve changed since you came back. I can’t,” he paused, taking a deep breath, “I can’t tell what it is, but it’s as if you’re somebody else.” He stared at me for a long moment. “Maybe I just got used to the way Rochelle felt.”
I reeled as if he’d slapped me. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
He held up his hands quickly. “You were gone for over a year. I knew that she wasn’t you, but I still spent a lot of time with her. I got used to the way her energy felt. Yours feels—well, it isn’t the way I remember it.”
I glared at him, fighting the urge to kiss him and show him I was exactly the girl he remembered. Instead, I gritted my teeth. “People change. That’s part of life.”
Justin shook his head. “But are you sure you’ve changed for the good?”





About Jen:

Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller (where she won the people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”).

She is also a former reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), and a proud member of SCBWI, NCWN, and SCWW.

A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. She's a graduate of Western Michigan University, and she also earned her MS in Library Science at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

When she isn't crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches writing composition at a community college. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.

Follow Jen on Twitter @Jen_McConnel, and visit www.jenmcconnel.com to learn more.



Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads




Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive the all 3 Red Magic eBooks. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Two for Thursday! #T4T @Month9Books & Giveaway - Anthologies: Two and Twenty Dark Tales & Very Superstitious



Welcome to this week’s Two for Thursday! #T4T presented by Month9books/Tantrum Books!
Today, we will be showcasing two titles that will tickle your fancy, and we’ll share what readers have to say about these titles! You just might find your next read!

This week, #T4T presents to you:


Title: Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes
Author: Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Shannon Delany, Max Scialdone, Karen Mahoney, Lisa Mantchev, Georgia McBride, C. Lee McKenzie, Gretchen McNeil, K.M. Walton, Suzanne Young, Michelle Zink, Leigh Fallon, Angie Frazier, Jessie Harrell, Nancy Holder, Heidi R. Kling, Suzanne Lazear, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg ,Leah Cypess. Forward by Francisco X. Stork.
Pub. Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 340
Formats: Paperback, eBook

In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.

WHAT READER’S ARE SAYING:

"As a whole this is an inspired and enjoyable nibbler for those days leading up to Halloween. If you love dark retellings, especially when they involve murderous fiends there's more than one here that will leave a wicked gleam in your eye."~ Rhi Reading

"Twenty-two authors. Twenty-two stories. Twenty-two rhymes. This is an anthology of twenty-two Mother Goose Rhymes that will have you shuddering in your reading nook, crying in public and looking over your shoulder during the day. These are not the silly rhymes that you used to sing as a child or watch on Barney. These are creepy tales with no happy endings (or bittersweet at the most). From fantasy to paranormal, twenty-two authors dive into the dark side of Mother Goose rhymes."~ Dark Faerie Tales

" The stories in this anthology are dark & sometimes twisted retellings of nursery rhymes we all remember from childhood. The stories are wonderful, not one leaves you bored. This is a book I will definitely purchase a physical copy of. It is perfect for the YA readers right now who crave worlds with a supernatural twist. The variety of this collection is great; each author takes a completely different approach in their re-telling.."~ Little Miss Trainwreck


Title: Very Superstitious: Myths, Legends and Tales of Superstition
Author: Shannon Delany, Pab Sungenis, Stephanie Kuehnert, Jennifer Knight, Mari Mancusi, Michelle E. Reed, Jackie Morse Kessler, Dianne K. Salerni. Edited by Georgia McBride.
Pub. Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 297
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

As told by some of today's most admired young adult authors—and a few newbies—this charity anthology boasts stories that will make readers scream, laugh, and tremble with fear, and all for a good cause! Proceeds from the sale of the first 5,000 copies will be donated to the SPCA International. Based on stories long-told by the campfire, superstitions passed down through the generations, creatures who exist in legend, literature, and film, and those myths that raise the hairs on the back of our necks, these tales are sure keep readers up late at night with lamps lit and covers over their heads. 


WHAT READER’S ARE SAYING:

"A collection of spook-licious tales that will taunt, and in a few cases, tickle the fear bone in any reader. "~ Author S.A Larsen

“VERY SUPERSTITIOUS is a fine anthology for fantasy readers looking for something slightly creepy for Halloween reading.” ~In Bed With Books

“A timely collection for a good cause, with some delightful surprises, full of myths and superstitions, and a vast array of stories that will make you laugh, cry and think.~  Books Bones & Buffy




Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive an eBook of TWO AND TWENTY DARK TALES & VERY SUPERSTITIOUS. International!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Review @michaelpcash - Monsterland by Michael Phillip Cash




Monsterland
by Michael Phillip Cash

Goodreads blurb:  Welcome to Monsterland – the scariest place on Earth. All guests can interact with real vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by an actual werewolf on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.

Wyatt Baldwin, a high school student and life-long movie buff is staring bleakly at a future of flipping burgers. Due to a fortuitous circumstance, Wyatt and his friends are invited to the star-studded opening of Monsterland. In a theme park full of real vampires, werewolves and zombies, what could possibly go wrong?


About the Author:  Born and raised on Long Island, Michael has always had a fascination with horror writing and found footage films. He wanted to incorporate both with his debut novel, Brood X. Earning a degree in English and an MBA, he has worked various jobs before settling into being a full-time author. He currently resides on Long Island with his wife and children.

Connect with Michael:

My Thoughts - 5 out of 5 Unicorns - I loved it!!!

***Received a copy of the ebook for an honest review

The cover is what drew my attention to the book.  So I read the blurb, I was intrigued.

This is my first time reading a book by this author.  I do not believe this is a series.  I was intrigued from the blurb even though I do not usually read horror.  I guess to me this would be light horror because I’d definitely read something like this again.  I’m not one who likes to be scared to death.  I also love that this was paranormal, so this probably contributed to my loving this book.

I like that this also had some lesson learning for the young adults who read it.  Morals and thinking for yourself are important things to read and think about.  I also love the sense of family and sticking by your friends.  I will definitely check out more of the book by this author for anything that peeks my interest :)

I think I will definitely need to add this book to my classroom library because I think it would appeal to some of the high school level reluctant readers especially the boys.  I highly recommend this book to readers of paranormal books who are okay with it leaning towards horror.

Interested in reading???

~ Amazon ~ AmazonUK ~ B&N

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review @authorsara - The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire by Sara Humphreys (Dead in the City #4)




The Good, The Bad, and
The Vampire
Dead in the City #4
by Sara Humphreys

Goodreads blurb:  Beloved author Sara Humphreys' acclaimed paranormal romance series continues with sweltering attraction between two vampires who have all the time in the world to satisfy their desires...

He wants eternity?
Dakota Shelton is a vampire cowboy with a penchant for cinnamon lollipops and Johnny Cash. Though highly skilled and deadly dangerous to his enemies, he's still a Texas good ol' boy at heart. And he has that heart set on wooing Trixie LaRoux-the most badass punk rock chick in town-the old-fashioned way.

Over her undead body...
Trixie is tough as nails and sharp as a silver stake-the last thing she wants is a man to sit on a porch and not grow old with. So it'll take going to hell and back fighting a new threat to vampires before she admits Dakota's courtship makes her blood hum. Turns out chivalry's not dead after all.

Praise for The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire....
"Sara Humphreys combines vampire and cowboy into a devastatingly sexy hero! The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire is a compelling, pulse-pounding, titillating adventure that grabs you from the first page, tosses you down, and steals your breath. Humphreys is a must-read in the paranormal genre!"--NYT Bestselling Author, Rebecca Zanetti


About the Author:  Sara has been a lover of both the paranormal and romance novels for years. Her sci-fi/fantasy/romance obsession began years ago with the TV Series STAR TREK and an enormous crush on Captain Kirk. That sci-fi obsession soon evolved into the love of all types of fantasy/paranormal; vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and of course shape shifters.

Sara is married to her college sweetheart, Will. They live in New York with their 4 boys. For a full list of Sara's books and series reading order, please visit 
HERE.

Connect with Sara:

My Thoughts - 5 out of 5 Unicorns - I loved it!!!

***Received a copy of the ebook for an honest review via Netgalley

The cover is hot, and it definitely fits in with the rest of the series.

This is the 4th book in the series.  As soon as I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it because I loved book 3.  This book is for adults only due to the steamy content.

I loved reading this book.  I hated that it took me so long, but life was interfering with my enjoyment of this book.  I wanted to sit down and read it straight through without stopping.  I loved how spunky Trixie is and how much she has overcome.  Of course, Dakota is the sexy southern cowboy and had my heart from the start.  Their journey together was packed with actions and surprises.  I love when a book grabs my attention and doesn’t let go. 

Sara does a fantastic job creating her magical world where you never know what will happen next.  I love this world and can’t wait to be immersed in it again!  I hope to get book 1 and 2 and read them soon!

I highly recommend this series to any paranormal fan because it is an awesome series filled with supernatural creatures!

Interested in reading???
~ Amazon ~ AmazonUK ~ B&N ~


See my review of Never Cry Werewolf (Book 3)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Reveal @Month9Books & Giveaway - There Once Were Stars by Melanie McFarlane


Today Melanie McFarlane and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THERE ONCE WERE STARS, which releases April 26, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:

I have anticipated this moment for months—the moment I would be able to share my cover with all of you! When I first laid eyes on the cover for THERE ONCE WERE STARS I was immediately drawn to the stars and how they are escaping their glass prison. In my novel, the main character, Natalia Greyes, is also locked in a glass prison: her home, Dome 1618. During Nat’s childhood the stars became more visible in the sky, after being blocked by darkness for decades after the Cleansing Wars. Like the stars, Nat is a symbol of change as she transforms from a na├»ve youth into a strong teen, who searches for her place in her tiny world of Dome 1618, and dreams of escaping to the outside one day. But my favorite detail of all is the grass and how cool and inviting it is in contrast to the hard sheen of the glass jar. It can be seen as a symbol of how mankind can never capture or truly duplicate the beauty of nature, or the wonder of life itself.

Don’t forget to check out my trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuTOuBPX11k


On to the reveal! 



Title: THERE ONCE WERE STARS
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Pub. Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it:  Goodreads


Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?




Exclusive Excerpt
Chapter One
I stretch my arms across my bed, running my fingers along the same sheets I’ve had since I was a child. The stiffness was beaten out of them long ago, but they still carry the memory of my mother carefully stitching the first tear back together when I was seven. The tiny x’s remind me of her long fingers, moving the needle back and forth with the same care as when she worked with samples in her laboratory.
I trace the row stitches, squeezing my eyes shut as I make a wish; it is my eighteenth birthday, after all. But when I open them, the same scene shows from my bedroom window that always does—the grid of our dome. Nothing changes. It doesn’t matter how many birthday wishes are made; I always wake up trapped inside the dome. The grid of thick glass and steel arcs far above our apartment, stretching to where the great Axis, a tower of government offices, meets the peak of our home—Dome 1618.
I crawl out of bed and let my gaze trail down the Axis to the rooftops of the other apartment buildings, row upon row of housing for blue-collar workers. Closer to the Axis are townhouses of the business owners, hidden from the rest of us, but that’s not where I long to be. My eyes drift to the base of the dome, far away from my window where the Outer Forest lies, my only saving grace. It’s forbidden to hike among the trees, but sometimes rules need to be broken.
“Natalia!” Grandmother’s piercing voice comes from the other side of my bedroom door. “Get up. You’re wasting the day away.”
The clock on my dresser reads eight o’clock in the morning. Seriously? It’s been nine years since I moved in with my grandparents, and saying Grandmother and I have differing opinions barely touches the surface. Her rules are sometimes worse than those of the Order, who police the dome. With any luck, I’ll be assigned my own apartment soon and can finally restart my life, again.
I run my brush through my long brown hair, although by the time I go outside it will look unruly once again. It’s my curse; I have thick hair like my mother, with waves that look more like oddly-placed kinks, unlike the smooth-flowing locks worn by some of the other girls at my school. But I won’t have to go back to the Learning Institute again. Today I’m an adult.
My jeans are on the floor where I left them last night, and I manage to find a clean T-shirt in my drawer. Both have the same tiny stitches as my sheets, covering up the wear and tear over the years, but I sewed these back together myself. Grandmother is firm on the fact that if I don’t take care of what I have, I don’t get a replacement. There’s no point in arguing when her opinions are as deep as the wrinkles on her face, and honestly, it’s hard to tell which she has more of. Before I leave my room, I grab my mother’s notebook. It’s filled with her sketches and work notes on different projects she was involved in. But my favorites are the tiny notes, squeezed in the margins, excerpt of her personal thoughts, hopes, and dreams. The biggest of these was to move her family outside the dome.
“I know you were out last night,” Grandmother says, eyeing me suspiciously between the milk and dry toast as I slip into my seat at the table.
“Must we have this conversation every morning?” Grandfather speaks up.
“You know the ramifications!” Grandmother shrills, and he shrinks in his chair. “Do you want to let her stroll around at night past curfew? One day she won’t come home, and then we will be questioned.” Grandmother redirects her attention to me. “What are you doing out there that’s important enough to risk everything? Haven’t I warned you? If the Order catches you, you will wish you had listened to me.”
“That’s my problem.” I fold my arms across my chest. She always makes me back down with her words. If I’m going to be an adult, I need to learn how to take a stand.
“If your parents could only see you now,” she says unsympathetically. “They would wonder how they got a daughter so determined to get herself detained. You know what they do with little girls who don’t follow the rules.”
“Yes,” I say through gritted teeth. She’s given these lectures many times. Girls who don’t follow the rules are sent back to the Learning Institute for retraining, where they come out all prim and proper, ready to take their place as functional citizens of the dome. I’m not going back there; I know how to stay under the radar.
“Come on, now.” Grandfather finally steps in. “It’s Nat’s birthday.”
“Yes.” Her tone softens. “You’re eighteen now. Hurry and eat; we got you a little something.”
I gobble down the toast, stale as it is, but fresh food is not something that our dome has had in a long time. Since the accident that caused my parents’ death, the Order stopped all excursions for scientific research, completely cutting off the outside world. Prior to this, there were plenty of rations from the farms due to uncontaminated seeds the expedition teams found, along with new plant life for supplementing the crops. But those stockpiles have slowly depleted.
When I finish breakfast, I look at my grandparents in anticipation. Grandfather’s face is beaming, and though Grandmother looks like she is trying to be serious, I can see a small sparkle in her eyes as she hands me a tiny green box with a little purple bow. The bow is smooth, made from fabric nicer than anything I own. I gently untie it, and put the silky strand safely in my pocket, before opening the box to see what is inside.
A silver, heart-shaped locket sits on top of fine tissue paper, so delicate I don’t dare touch it in case it rips. An image of two hands holding a smaller heart is engraved into the center of the locket. This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen—I’ve never owned jewelry of my own. My hands are shaking so bad I almost drop the box.
“Careful!” Grandmother’s voice snaps me from my awe. She grabs the box from me, and it takes all my inner strength to let it go.
She removes the necklace from the box and opens the locket, holding it out to me. Inside, is a photo of my parents on their wedding day. Photos are luxuries. I only own one other— a photo of me with my parents when I turned three—and it stays safe on my nightstand. But this locket—I can take it with me anywhere. I hold up my hair, allowing Grandmother to secure it around my neck, then grasp the tiny keepsake in my hand. I will cherish it forever.
“I’m going to show this to Jak and Xara,” I say, leaving the table.
“Don’t forget, you have to report to work today.” Grandmother reminds me.
“But it’s Saturday.” I groan.
“You’re eighteen now,” she says, her eyes vacant of the compassion they held only seconds ago. “Your time to contribute to the dome begins today. Plus, any experience is good to have if you want to be a scientist one day, like your parents.”
“I don’t see how cleaning toilets at the Axis will do me any good in the future,” I complain. “And I never said I want to be a scientist.”
“You’ll find where you’re meant to be.” Grandfather smiles. “Understanding everything from the bottom-up will help you make a better decision about what you want to do to make your contribution.”
I sigh as I lace up my sneakers, now feeling the pressure of the future. I have no idea what I want to do today, let alone the rest of my life. But it definitely does not involve cleaning up after those in the Axis. I wave good-bye as I leave the apartment, but only Grandfather waves back. My number one fan; he always tries to keep the peace between Grandmother and I. But no matter how close we are, I still have to lie about where I’m really going. No one can know about my secret place.
Outside, I stretch my arms up toward the top of the dome. The sun shines through the dust covered glass of the dome, with sections of blue sky showing here and there. I sneak around the back of our apartment building, and begin my stealthy weave through alleyways. I have hours before my first shift starts at the Axis. Hours to spend somewhere the Order can’t find me.
When I reach the Outer Forest, I sneak in a break in the fence and move between the trunks of trees, inhaling the last of the old world. The rich combination of musk and earth fills my lungs as I run as fast as I can from the fence. Running is one of the few things that make me feel free. When I reach my destination, I’m out of breath, but exactly where I belong—a hidden clearing at the edge of the dome.
I crawl inside a hollowed-out tree I’ve claimed as my own. How did the Order miss this lone tree, dying amidst the perfection of the Outer Forest? It should have been torn down long ago, to make room for larger, healthier, oxygen bearing trees. Decay doesn’t coincide with the Order’s pursuit for perfection and efficiency, but it’s ideal for me: hidden, empty, and alone. I accept this tree’s imperfections and it offers me solace.
I clutch my locket again, this time removing it from my neck so I can look inside. A twinge of pain prickles my throat as my parents’ faces stare back at me. They look so happy and in love. I remember that about them. The in love part. I haven’t thought about people in love for so long.
I lean back, holding the locket against my chest, intent on enjoying the morning sun. Unfortunately, the heat of the sun doesn’t penetrate the cold glass of the dome, but something about that glowing orb in those blue skies makes me feel better. Mom wrote in her notebook about the first time she felt the sun on her skin: warm and, bright, as if it gave her a new life with its rays, just like it did to the world, after the Cleansing Wars. I close my eyes, imagining myself bathed in sunlight, and finally give in to the peace of the forest.
I wake up, feeling something sharp poking my side. I can’t believe I drifted off. My hand shoots behind me, to find the source of the pain. My mother’s notebook is jutting awkwardly from my back pocket. I stand up to tuck it back in, and my gaze slips above a line of bushes growing wildly along the base of the dome. At the same time, something flashes above them, and my breath catches in my throat. My reflection stares back at me from the glass, revealing my locket shining in the sunlight. Relax, Dacie, it’s only you. A nervous laugh escapes my throat, as I finish putting the notebook away.
Another light flashes, but this time it’s in the distance, on the other side of the glass. I lean forward, focusing on the light, and see a shadow move on the other side. My entire body goes rigid, and my heart beat thunders in my ears. No one could be out there—unless—could it be an Infected? No, that’s impossible. They were all killed by the Cleansing War—everything was. If the nukes didn’t kill them, the nuclear fallout afterward would have.
Something moves again—closer this time. A gasp escapes my lips, as a shudder rips through my body. That’s when I see it—the faint outline of a person standing in the open. He’s camouflaged by a layer of dust, blending him into the barren landscape that surrounds the dome. The figure’s shadow stretches across the ground, reaching toward me.
I rub my eyes, as if something in them could be making me see the figure, but when I open them I’m startled to see the figure again, only now there are two. One stays farther back, toward the rockier land, silhouetted against the foothills in the distance. The other stands a short distance from the dome. My heart skips a beat—they’re both human, and they’re both staring in my direction.



About Melanie: 
Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, Melanie McFarlane jumps in with both hands on her keyboard. Thought she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie has focused her powers on her two upcoming YA novels: THERE ONCE WERE STARS and SUMMONER RISING.













Giveaway Details:


1 winner will receive the FIRST eGalley of THERE ONCE WERE STARS. International.

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Also Melanie is giving away swag enter that giveaway too!

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Two for Thursday! #T4T @Month9Books & Giveaway - Dead Jed series by Scott Craven


Welcome to this week’s Two for Thursday! #T4T presented by Month9books/Tantrum Books! And surprise this week we have 3 titles for you!
Today, we will be showcasing three titles that will tickle your fancy, and we’ll share what readers have to say about these titles!
You just might find your next read!

This week, #T4T presents to you:
   


Title: Dead Jed: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie
Author: Scott Craven
Pub. Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Pages: 214
Formats: Paperback, eBook, audiobook
Dead Jed is Shaun of the Dead meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Jed's not your typical junior high geek. He is, to use the politically-correct term, cardiovascularly-challenged. And while his parents have attempted to shield him from the implications of being 'different' for as long as they could (Jed was 8 and at a friend's sister's birthday party when he blew his lips off onto the cake in front of everyone, finally prompting the “Big Talk” from his parents and an emergency SuperGlue repair by his dad), 7th grade at Pine Hollow Middle School as a target of Robbie the supreme school bully and his pack of moronic toadies is rapidly becoming unbearable.

From being stuffed in a filled trash can as “dead meat” and into a trophy case as the bully's “prize,” to literally having his hand pulled off in the boys' room (Jed's always losing body parts. Luckily, a good stapler and some duct tape and he's back in the action) and a cigarette put in it and try to frame him for the recent reports of smoking in the school, Jed's had enough and is ready to plan his revenge. Besides, it's awesome what you can do when you're already dead!

Title: Dead Jed 2: Dawn of the Jed
Author: Scott Craven
Publication date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Pages: 266
Formats: Paperback, eBook, audiobook

As the fall semester ends and kids head home on for winter break, Jed and his parents gather for the annual exchanging of gift lists. Once again, Jed asks for a dog, leading to a heated argument and a firm "no." But when Jed spots a stray, he chases it until the dog darts into the street where it is struck and killed by a car. Grief stricken by what he's done, Jed cradles the dead dog in his arms. Soon, ooze from the dog mixes with tear drops from Jed, creating Tread the zombie dog. Finally getting his wish, Jed must convince his parents to let him keep the undead dog. But a zombie dog turns out to be the least of Jed's issues. Seems some parents don't want Jed attending school with their kids. Enter the mysterious NZN Network. They've been distributing anti-zombie propaganda in an effort to get Jed expelled. But Jed wonders if the creation of Tread has caused his relationship with Luke to sour. And why, just as he seems to need them the most, his best friends have abandoned him? Could they have bought in to the anti-zombie way of thinking? Was creating Tread a mistake Jed will live to regret? When Tread goes missing, and with his very existence at stake, Jed must rely on his instincts, team up with an old nemesis an fight for his right to have just as miserable a middle school existence as any other student - undead or alive. 

Title: Dead Jed 3: Return of the Jed
Author: Scott Craven
Publication date: December 15, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Pages: 266
Formats: Paperback, eBook, audiobook

With seventh grade behind him, Jed jumps at the opportunity to spend the summer in Mexico with his dad. But there's just one catch: Luke and Tread get to tag along.

In Mexico, fitting inmight be easier than Jed imagined, with Holidays such as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Here, a rising 8th grade zombie boy and his zombie dog won't draw that much attention.

But then Tread unwittingly sets off Mexico’s Chupacabra Defense Network and Jed accidentally collides with a bus. So much for blending in. The unusual pair catch the eye of a professional wrestler, who challenges Jed to a fight!

Their antics manage to capture the attention of a doctor whose knowledge of the undead causes Jed to question his very existence. Is this the answer Jed's been hoping for since his parents sat him down for the "you're a zombie" talk? Jed may have finally found a way to be normal, but at what cost?

Dead Jed: Return of the Jed is book 3 in Scott Craven's humorous and heartwarming series about surviving middle school, fitting in, and embracing one's differences - even if you are a zombie.

Praise for the Dead Jed Series:
“Hilarious adventures of a zombie teen who navigates the jungle known as middle school, this is one story that will resonate with readers.”  —YA Books Central

"If you know a middle-grader who loves to laugh or sometimes feels out of place and needs some reassurance to be true to him/herself, this series is a must.."~ Dorothy Dreyer author of the Reaper’s Rite Series.

WHAT READER’S ARE SAYING:

" Like its predecessor Dead Jed, Dead Jed 2: Dawn of the Jed is an incredibly cute and fun read! Aimed at middle graders, it’s filled with child-sized humor, puns, and adventure."~ Books 4 Tomorrow

" This story is a light fun read which will have you laughing in seconds. It is unique and quirky, where Zombie triumphs over evil. GO ZOMBIES! Wahoo!"~Once Upon A Moonlight Review







My love of zombie movies arrived long before my love for writing. I was 10 when I saw a girl about the same age sink her teeth into her father, a scene that hooked me on “Night of the Living Dead” and one the genre as a whole. I would embrace writing much later, but it has had a much more lasting impact. After graduating from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, I packed the back of my Datsun B-210 and headed to Colorado, relying on the $600 my parents gave me as I walked out the door (“We don’t think this is the smartest move,” my father said as he handed me the cash, “but we’ll always be there for you.”) Over the next 35 years as a newspaper reporter, I would cover sports, crime, courts, travel and much more. I’ve spent nearly 30 of those years in Phoenix, and am now a features reporter at The Arizona Republic. My 18-year-old son Bryson has turned out to be a pretty cool kid, even though he dislikes reading and writing. When it comes time for him to find his own path, I may not think it’s the smartest move, but I will always be there for him.


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



Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

 Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive the complete eBook set of the Dead Jed Books. International!


   

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Reveal @Month9Books & Giveaway - Ashes in the Sky by Jennifer M. Eaton


Today Jennifer M. Eaton and Month9Books are revealing the first chapter for ASHES IN THE SKY, which releases March 15, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:
Hello alien fans!

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

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

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

Alien Kisses!
Jennifer M. Eaton


Title: ASHES IN THE SKY
Author: Jennifer M. Eaton
Pub. Date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&NGoodreads
After inadvertently saving the world, eighteen-year-old Jessica Martinez is ready to put adventure behind her and settle back into the familiar routine of high school.

Though when she's offered an opportunity to photograph the inside of an alien space ship, Jess jumps at the chance. After all, she'd be crazy to turn something like that down, right?

Spending time with David on the ship has definite advantages and the two seem to pick up right where they left off. But when Jess discovers a plot to sabotage David's efforts to establish a new home for his people on another planet, neither David's advanced tech nor Jess's smarts will be able to save them.



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


Exclusive Excerpt
1
Dad’s brow creased. “You don’t have to do this, Jess. We can turn around now and go home.”
His fingers rapped on the limousine’s armrest as we pulled up to the entrance of my normally quiet school. Outside, police officers and several uniformed security guards held advancing reporters and camera crews on the sidewalks.
“Relax, Major,” Elaine said, across from me. She pulled out a compact and touched up her lipstick. “Two months after single-handedly saving the world from an alien invasion, Earth’s teenage savior returns to finish high school.” She snapped the case shut. “This is the public interest story of the year.”
Dad’s nose flared. “Yes, she’s supposed to be going to school, but you’ve made it a media circus. Why’d you have to schedule a press conference in the auditorium?”
She slipped her lipstick back into her designer purse. “They would have been here anyway. The best way to calm a stalking fox is to invite him in for tea.”
“Tea? I’ll give you tea.”
I held up my hand. “Dad … ” I didn’t have to finish. I never did. Their arguments were always the same. Father protects daughter, while the publicist pushes media exposure as far as she can legally get away with—and me stuck in between.
Elaine wasn’t all that bad, as far as publicists went. Not that I’d known any other publicists, but she’d been by my side since my very first press conference, and the hundred or so more over the past two months. She could be pushy, but she understood the power of a pint of Death By Chocolate ice cream at the end of a long day, which totally earned her brownie points in my book.
Dad’s gaze returned to me. “We just got back. Do you really need to do another press conference?” The deep lines around his eyes added to the weight of my own exhaustion.
I shifted in my seat, my hands clammy against the leather interior. “If we go home, they’ll just show up here again tomorrow. Let’s get this over with. Maybe then things can get back to normal.” I grabbed his hand. “I can do this.”
Dad pressed his lips together. Of course, he knew I could do it. But knowing and wanting me to answer another set of invasive questions were two different things, and I loved every stubborn inch of him for it.
Elaine fluffed my hair and adjusted the collar of my shirt. “Show time.” She knocked twice on the window, and the Secret Service agent outside opened the door for her. She glided through the crowd with a practiced grace.
Camera-palooza erupted outside. Dang, there weren’t this many photographers when I met the president.
Dad stepped out before me, an imposing figure in his combat uniform. Having an over-protective father did have its advantages. No one was getting by this bodyguard. No one.
I closed my eyes and clutched the charm on my necklace. My mother’s strength seeped into me, giving me courage. You’ll be fine, I heard her whisper. You’re my strong little girl. Always have been.
“I’ll try, Mom.” I opened my eyes and shuddered. You would think I’d be used to the feeding frenzy by now. This was the longest fifteen minutes of fame ever.
Steadying myself on the limo door, I stood.
“Jess, look over here.” Flash.
“Miss Martinez, how does it feel to be back at school?” Flash.
“Jessica, to your right.” Flash. Flash.
The faces and camera lenses blurred. My mind filled with the phantom sounds of alien weapons. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply to ward off memories of blinding lights and screaming voices.
It was over. The aliens had left, and I was alive. We were all still alive.
The Secret Service closed in around us as Dad placed his hand on my back, guiding me to the front entrance. With a well-rehearsed smile, I made my way forward, hoping to avoid a repeat of tabloid-gate when the worst-of-the-worst photos of me turned up on the cover of the National Daily.
Dad moved beside me as we stepped over the threshold. I slipped my fingers into his hand and squeezed. One more press conference. Just one more. I could do this.
We made our way through a throng of reporters, students, parents, and teachers to the auditorium. Hundreds of voices jumbled into one chaotic roar rebounding off the lockers.
A microphone appeared in front of my face. “Ms. Martinez, how did you—”
Dad pulled me to his chest as two Secret Service agents pounced on the guy. The reporter and the agents sunk back into the crowd, disappearing like a stone thrown into water.
“There will be question and answer time after the presentation,” Elaine called as we passed through the auditorium’s stage door.
I exhaled, rubbing my arms. That had to be the worst crowd ever.
Dad circled the area behind the curtains and checked the cracks and crevices backstage. The Secret Service agents had long since given up on trying to convince him that the government pre-secured all of my speaking engagements. I used to joke about their paranoia, until someone actually found a bomb. Those guys in ugly suits quickly became my best friends.
“Did you practice your speech?” Elaine asked.
I raised an eyebrow. “No.” You’d think she’d stop asking me that. I hadn’t memorized one yet. Why would I start now?
I pulled aside the curtain and scoped out the auditorium. A sea of smiling, wide-eyed faces filled the room. Camera crews and reporters intermingled with the student body.
Going back to high school was supposed to help me get my life back.
This fiasco was not getting my life back. But maybe if I answered everyone’s questions now, they wouldn’t keep asking later.
Hey, a girl could dream.
Elaine patted my shoulder before heading out past the curtains. Her heels clopped across the wooden stage as she passed a huge poster of National Geographic’s “The Night the World Stood Still: Special Edition.”
Steven Callup’s cover photo was one of those shots every aspiring photographer dreamed of catching: perfect lighting, engaging subject, active backdrop, and undeniable emotional tone. I wasn’t drooling over this masterpiece, though; because the photograph featured me.
The flames over my shoulder were in crisp focus and flawlessly mirrored in my dark hair. The mottled hues of a fresh sunrise blended perfectly with the devastation in the background. And my God, the expression on Dad’s face as we embraced … the love in his eyes.
That night would haunt me forever. Something incredible had happened, and it had nothing to do with an alien invasion. That cover immortalized the moment for the world to see: a year after my mother’s death, my father finally opened up and started to feel again.
I released the curtain, ready to face my peers, knowing that no one gave a rat’s ass about me or my dad.
They only wanted to know more about David.
I mean, I totally got it. An alien guy crash lands on Earth and has to escape before his people wipe out humanity. Heck, I’d be interested, too. But the clincher was that David changed his people’s minds because of me. I was the heroine in the story of the millennia, whether I liked it or not.
I cringed, thinking of how many people had contacted me for the movie rights. Ashes in the Sky, they wanted to call it. What kind of idiotic title was that? Ridiculous, all of it. The world almost ended right in front of me. I didn’t need to see it again on a big screen.
As Elaine announced my name, and the audience applauded, I wondered if anything would ever be as it was before David’s people arrived.
I took my place behind the microphone and squinted into the harsh auditorium lighting. I’d been in that audience dozens of times, but never on stage. The faces looking back at me were familiar, but distant. Awestruck.
This place was my school. My safe haven. Having the media here was wrong.
I gritted my teeth and gripped the sides of the lectern. This assembly would be the absolute last time I talked about what happened to me in public. Ever.
A mop of perky, blond curls caught my attention from the third row. My BFF Maggie beamed as she gave me a thumbs-up. Part of me relaxed, knowing I had a friend near.
Maggs was the only other person who’d known about David before the Army started chasing us. She even risked her own rear-end helping us escape. She’d talked her way out of a grounding from her father, the general, thank goodness. Damn, he must have been ticked when he found out what she’d done.
Taking one last breath to steady myself, I edged closer to the mic. “You’d have to be dead not to know what happened two months ago. So I’m just going to open it up to questions.”
Hundreds of hands shot into the air.
One of the moderators handed a microphone to a bubbly girl with a blond ponytail. “Is it true that the alien looked just like Jared Linden?”
And, it starts.
“Yes. David mimicked an advertisement and looked just like Jared Linden’s character in that movie Fire in the Woods.”
Okay, that was only half of it. The truth was far too embarrassing. David pulled Jared Linden’s features from my mind. He didn’t look exactly like Jared. Just the hotter parts. The rest was an amalgamation of other cute guys he’d yanked out of my brain. There was no way I would admit to that, though.
A tall kid in a black band tee stood. “So what really happened out there? They were going to annihilate us. How’d you get them to change their minds?”
I cleared my throat. A flash of David’s smile and the warmth of his touch sent a shiver down my spine. “Luck was totally in our favor. If David’s plane hadn’t crashed, we never would have met. It didn’t take long before he realized the human race was worth saving.”
A teacher handed a microphone to a girl wearing glasses. “How long will it take them to terraform Mars?”
Ugh. I tried to think of David’s new home like Seattle or Los Angeles, but it wasn’t. It was Mars. As in: not Earth. Talk about your long distance romance.
“I have no idea how long it will take them to make Mars livable. I do know that they are running short on supplies, so I’m hoping it will happen pretty quickly.”
A girl in a cheerleader uniform flagged down the lady with the microphone. “Everyone says you and the alien were doing it. Inquiring minds want to know. Was he any good?”
Camera flashes singed my eyes as a teacher tried to pull the mic away from the girl.
“No,” a reporter shouted. “Let’s hear the answer.”
The audience murmured, shifting like hyenas waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting foal. Beside the stage, Dad’s face became an unnatural shade of crimson.
Crap.
“Well?” the cheerleader asked.
I wiped the sweat from my palms, remembering the shockwave that raged through me when David’s lips covered mine. The tabloids had reduced our relationship to supermarket trash, and Rah-Rah Girl probably wouldn’t know a real emotional connection if it bit her.
David and I shared something so deeply intimate it transcended everything. No one could possibly understand. I wasn’t even sure I understood. All I knew was that I was in love, and I’d probably never see him again.
I blinked, realizing the room had gone quiet, awaiting my answer about doing it.
My hands fisted, but I forced a smile and rustled up the rote response Elaine had prepared for me. “I heard that rumor, too, but David and I were only friends.” A sickly gash sliced through my heart. The thought of living the rest of my life with him on another planet was akin to living in the desert without water.
Was he out there somewhere, longing for me as much as I yearned for him?
My stomach fluttered. I hated how people’s stupid questions dredged up feelings I’d worked hard to suppress. I had to get off that podium.
A kid in the back stood. “How does it feel to know that six million people died while you were out there hugging dear old dad?” He pointed over my shoulder to the huge magazine cover behind me. “How does it feel to know the death count is still rising?”
It was? “Umm—”
“When did you know they were hostile?” someone else shouted.
My heart thumped against my ribcage. “I, uh—”
A reporter snatched the microphone. “Do you honestly believe they won’t come back and finish us off?”
The rumble of voices intensified. Cameras flashed as dozens of voices drowned one another out. So much for school being my safe haven.
Elaine gripped my shoulder and pulled me from the dais. “Thank you,” she said. “That’s all the questions we have time for today.”
She scooted me past the curtains, Dad following close behind. The volume in the auditorium escalated. “I’m sorry,” she said. “We should’ve been ready for that. Next time—”
“There’s not going to be a next time.” I thrust my chin in the air. “That was my last public appearance. I’m already behind in school, and I need to graduate this year. I just want to get back to my classes and put this all behind me.”
She grinned in that syrupy way adults do when they are about to condescend your butt. “We’ll talk about this later, honey.”
Dad’s gaze seared through her before he offered me a nod of approval.
No, Elaine. We would definitely not be talking about this later.




Corporate Team Leader by day, and Ranting Writer by night. Jennifer M. Eaton calls the East Coast of the USA home, where she lives with her husband, three energetic boys, and a pepped up poodle.

Jennifer hosts an informational blog “A Reference of Writing Rants for Writers (or Learn from My Mistakes)” aimed at helping all writers be the best they can be.

Beyond writing and motivating others, she also enjoys teaching her dog to jump through hoops—literally.

Jennifer’s perfect day includes long hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the fire with a great book; but her greatest joy is using her over-active imagination constructively… creating new worlds for everyone to enjoy.

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