Posted in News

NOBODY’S PAWN Release Day! (The End of The Never Veil Series)

NOBODY’S PAWN Is Out in the Wild!

Men can love, but they can also hate. Noll knows too well that the men in her village have adjusted poorly to the freedom of their hearts, but she hopes to bring peace back to her community. With the lord’s return, Noll feels confident that together, they can work to settle down the villagers, but in his rebirth, he remembers only one thing about her: that she caused the curse that tortured him for a millennium in the first place.

Determined to start anew, Noll must accept that, romantically, she and the lord are better without one another, but she’ll need his help to uncover what’s really behind all of the suffering in her village. Escorted to a land beyond the mountains, Noll uncovers the truth about her village and the strange occurrences in which she’s had a hand. When someone who loves her discovers the same things and betrays her, Noll feels powerless to stop her village’s fate. By learning to forgive and seek forgiveness, Noll finally understands true love of a free heart—along with true sacrifice.

It’s important that Kobo and Nook readers act fast, as the book will only be available for the foreseeable future on these platforms for about a week! Why? Learn more below! But first, a LONG look back at the evolution of this series.

It’s bittersweet to see The Never Veil Series come to an end. The seedlings of Noll’s story began 13 years ago in 2003 when, determined to make my life-long dream of being a published author come true, I decided to actually put words to paper (or digital screen) and try to get it done. I was a sporadic writer at best, and I could never quite get a handle on the story I had in mind. I knew one thing, though–I wanted to write a fantasy story with a willful heroine and a Byronic hero, my homage to my favorite film of all time, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. By 2012, it was a ridiculous 129,000 words and only “halfway” finished in my mind. I didn’t have the drive or the follow-through to plot a full story. Then I read The Hunger Games trilogy (late, I know) and fell madly in love with the series. I hadn’t felt that way since Harry Potter. I wanted so badly to try again–to be an “author” for real, to write stories like those I loved.

One night, shortly after I finished Mockingjay, I thought about my meandering, endless story and how I could make it shorter and make it work. I thought about the elements I loved the most–the stubborn heroine, the moody hero hiding himself behind a veil, and the two of them forced to co-habitate in his castle–and how I could make a more compelling story out of them. I was in a dystopian mood (this was long before “dystopian fatigue” set in), and I wondered why more dystopians weren’t set in medieval-like settings instead of always grim futures. It hit me that maybe the lord shouldn’t be the only one in town forced to cover his face–maybe every man in town should. Maybe, in a reversal of popular dystopians where women are forced to marry men and have their children, men should be forced to fall in love and be subjected to women’s whims. Maybe, then, Noll (then called Feilia!) wasn’t the only “special snowflake” in town. Maybe all the women were loved like a special snowflake–maybe every woman was a goddess. (Of course, in the end, Noll was still far more of a special snowflake than the average goddess after all.)

I set aside my favorite scenes from that meandering draft and wrote like mad for nine days. “It won’t take me long,” I figured, thinking I could salvage more from that draft than I eventually could. It was a light work week for me and somehow I managed to write 50,000 words in those nine days, although I had trouble sleeping and eating–I had to keep writing. I changed those few scenes I was able to salvage and added an additional 5000 from that draft. 5000 words out of 129,000. But still, those words I wrote so long ago made it into NOBODY’S GODDESS today. (I remember actually playing the chess game way back in like 2005 to see if it could work out the way I wrote it did!) When I was finished, I had The Veiled Man’s Goddess, my first completed manuscript and the first book I could ever try to get published.

It was a long, crazy road after that. Eventually, through countless edits and revisions, the book grew from a too-short 55,000 words to a just-right 85,000. I got an agent, who was amazingly enthused about my work and made me think there might be a day when I could share Noll with the rest of the YA community and hold my book baby in my hands. I plotted out the two sequels shortly after I signed, so eager to work on them, I even wrote three sample chapters of NOBODY’S LADY. (Then called something dull like Behind the Veil.) But there was no guarantee anyone would buy the book, so there was no point in writing the sequels, as much as I wanted to. Every time a publisher expressed interest, I got my hopes up! Several “big 5” publishers shared kind words and one even asked for a revision. (Several others were not impressed, naturally!) Ultimately, the revision notes didn’t feel like the right direction for my story, but I tried rewriting it anyhow, feeling traditional publication within reach and eager to get there. In the end, that editor passed, as did many, many others.

We decided to go the indie route by 2013, which led to finding the book’s first publisher and to finding many of you, my readers! That opportunity raised my spirits and gave me hope. My book babies would get published and I had the go-ahead to finish Noll’s story! I wrote both NOBODY’S LADY and NOBODY’S PAWN in 2014, struggling more with the smaller second installment than the longer third. All three books were written by the time the newly-renamed NOBODY’S GODDESS was published in 2015 and I was finally able to share my strange little story with so many readers. So many reacted so positively, I was overwhelmed! I know there are a lot of people who hated Noll, my poor main character (I love her, stubborn or not!), but I hope a number of them stuck with the series all the way through, as it’s been so much fun to have her grow as a person and mature. Look up reactions to Labyrinth‘s Sarah, who loosely inspired her, and you’ll find they’re much the same! I just feel that Noll is a flawed person who seems stubborn and selfish to a fault–but she lives in a world where that’s one honest reaction to everything going on around her, especially in a young adult. She learns how to be more selfless over time, just as the lord learns to correct his faults.

Things have changed. My agent and I parted ways (although I still think he’s amazing and helpful), as did my first publisher and I. I found a new publishing home at Patchwork Press, which has offered to take on more of my book babies and gives me a level of control I don’t find outside of co-op publishing. I don’t know if I’ll ever find an agent or get that close to “traditional publishing” again, but I’ve decided that’s okay. When I tried for traditional, I was faced with the prospect of shelving NOBODY’S GODDESS and writing something new to be my YA debut. I really didn’t want that because I really believed in this story. If that means I’ll be an indie author from now on, then that’s fine with me–because being an indie author let me find a way to keep my stories from gathering digital dust on my hard drive. It’s let me make my dream a reality. And it’s let me share those dreams with you. I hope you’ll stick with me and check out the other worlds and stories I still have to share with you.

The Never Veil Series on Kindle Unlimited and New Paperbacks!

NOBODY’S GODDESS and NOBODY’S LADY are now available on Kindle Unlimited, which means that for one low monthly subscription fee, you can read both books and countless others for free! If you’re already read them, please spread the word to your friends and family with Unlimited access!

NOBODY’S GODDESS: https://www.amazon.com/Nobodys-Goddess-Never-Veil-Book-ebook/dp/B01LWYA52V/

NOBODY’S LADY: https://www.amazon.com/Nobodys-Lady-Never-Veil-Book-ebook/dp/B01LWMT7E6/

The books have gained even more readers by becoming available via this subscription service, so I’ve decided to keep the entire series there for the foreseeable future. That means the e-books won’t be available on any other platform besides Amazon. However, I realize a number of fans first found the books on Kobo and Barnes & Noble, so I want to give them a chance to pick up NOBODY’S PAWN before I pull the book from these outlets and offer NOBODY’S PAWN via Kindle Unlimited as well. If you’re an Unlimited reader, hang on a few more weeks and you can read the third book for free with your subscription.

For those of you who love the new covers, thank you! I love them, too. *-* I’m happy to report the paperbacks for all three are available as well! They’re the same height and width as the old versions, although the new formatting makes them a tiny bit thicker. However, if you already own the old versions and you only want the third book, which is available for the first time, they shouldn’t look wrong together on your shelf!

NOBODY’S GODDESS Paperback New Cover: https://www.amazon.com/Nobodys-Goddess-Never-Veil-1/dp/1927940680/
NOBODY’S LADY Paperback New Cover: https://www.amazon.com/Nobodys-Lady-Never-Veil-2/dp/1927940699/
NOBODY’S PAWN Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Nobodys-Pawn-Never-Veil-3/dp/1927940702/

Remember, these new editions include bonus material, such as a scene written from the lord’s point of view, and previews of my other work. Look for them at other retailers such as CreateSpace and Barnes & Noble as well–or even ask your local bookstore to order them!

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Posted in News, Writing

JOSIE’S COAT’s Book (Novelette) Birthday!

It seems like I just had a book birthday. (I did, actually. FALL FAR FROM THE TREE came out this past Tuesday!) Today, JOSIE’S COAT, my YA sci-fi novelette, releases!

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Read for free on Kindle Unlimited or buy for only 99 cents!

A woman with shoulder bones as sharp as an eagle’s talons—bones almost protruding from her skin—opens her mouth as wide as it’ll go, impossibly wide, consuming the pill that takes both of her arms to cradle. The nourishment makes her thin stomach pop out like she’s pregnant with a child so large it’ll burst through her stomach. She swallows slowly and licks her lips. Her eyes search around hungrily for more.

That dream again.
Josie is skilled at her job as an “unfortunate” who inhabits the bodies of her clients to perform their work while they sleep, but her coworkers’ cruel jealousy over her success leads to her enslavement and the loss of her dream-worker status. A YA sci-fi reimagining of the tale of Jacob’s favorite son Joseph, his dreams, and his famous coat.

A novelette by the author of The Never Veil Series and Fall Far from the Tree.

It’s a short read, but I hope you’ll find it interesting! It was inspired by my love for the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

 

Posted in News

Enter to win a huge Amazon gift card!

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Click on a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win $220 to spend on books!

Fourteen YA authors, including myself, are sponsoring this giveaway for your chance to win a $220 Amazon e-gift card to restock your bookshelves this fall.

Participating authors include:

Melanie McFarlane

Suzanne VanRooyen

Dorothy Dreyer

J. Keller Ford

Joshua David Bellin

Jullie Reece

Nicole Conway

Stephanie Scott

Amy McNulty

Tobie Easton

Elisa Dane

Jennifer Anne Davis

Jennifer M. Eaton

Jennifer Bardsley

***Click on a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter!***



Fine Print:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Time Period: Begins on 09/08/2016 at 12:00 AM (Eastern Time (US & Canada)) and ends on 09/22/2016 at 12:00 AM (Eastern Time (US & Canada)). Eligibility: Open to legal residents of USA and Canada who are Must be 13 years old to enter or older. Winner Selection: The winner of the giveaway will be selected in a random drawing from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Promotion Period. The random drawing will be conducted by 48 hours by Sponsor or its designated representatives, whose decisions are final. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible Entries received. Winner will be notified by email at the email address provided in the Entry Information on or about 48 hours after the random drawing.

Posted in News, Writing

FALL FAR FROM THE TREE’s Book Birthday!

It’s September 6th already, which means it’s the book birthday for my new YA dark fantasy, FALL FAR FROM THE TREE!

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Buy on Barnes & Noble

Add on Goodreads

Terror. Callousness. Denial. Rebellion. How the four teenage children of leaders in the duchy and the neighboring empire of Hanaobi choose to adapt to their nefarious parents’ whims is a matter of survival.

Rohesia, daughter of the duke, spends her days hunting “outsiders,” fugitives who’ve snuck onto her father’s island duchy. That she lives when even children who resemble her are subject to death hardens her heart to tackle the task.

Fastello is the son of the “king” of the raiders who steal from the rich and share with the poor. When aristocrats die in the raids, Fastello questions what his peoples’ increasingly wicked methods of survival have cost them.

An orphan raised by a convent of mothers, Cateline can think of no higher aim in life than to serve her religion, even if it means turning a blind eye to the suffering of other orphans under the mothers’ care.

Kojiro, new heir to the Hanaobi empire, must avenge his people against the “barbarians” who live in the duchy, terrified the empress, his own mother, might rather see him die than succeed.

When the paths of these four young adults cross, they must rely on one another for survival—but the love of even a malevolent guardian is hard to leave behind.

Advance praise:

“An original story, with vivid details told in alternating chapters… There was drama, action, intense moments and soul searching and new friendships born.” ~Sheri W., Juniper Grove

“Intense and brutal and just a whirlwind of a ride… Watching them slowly come to terms with the fact that their own morals might not actually align with those of the people who raised them makes for a wonderfully compelling story.” ~Daiz

“It is so easy to read that this book can be read in one sitting. It’s impossible not to like this book after reading it.” ~Alex the Shadow Girl

Big Announcement!

My newsletter readers got this news a little early, but I’m excited to announce that FALL FAR FROM THE TREE is getting an audiobook with narration from the talented Viva Becker! I was worried a book with 4 POVs wouldn’t work as a single-narrator audiobook, but she does such an amazing job breathing life into each character. We’re aiming for a December or January release. I’ll keep you posted!

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Posted in News

Pre-order FALL FAR FROM THE TREE today!

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The FALL FAR FROM THE TREE e-book is now available for pre-order on Amazon and Kobo! (Barnes & Noble will also sell a copy, but no pre-order is available.) Watch for the paperback pre-order within the next month or so.

Available 9/6/2016!

Click here for Amazon

Click here for Kobo

Terror. Callousness. Denial. Rebellion. How the four teenage children of leaders in the duchy and the neighboring empire of Hanaobi choose to adapt to their nefarious parents’ whims is a matter of survival.

Rohesia, daughter of the duke, spends her days hunting “outsiders,” fugitives who’ve snuck onto her father’s island duchy. That she lives when even children who resemble her are subject to death hardens her heart to tackle the task.

Fastello is the son of the “king” of the raiders who steal from the rich and share with the poor. When aristocrats die in the raids, Fastello questions what his peoples’ increasingly wicked methods of survival have cost them.

An orphan raised by a convent of mothers, Cateline can think of no higher aim in life than to serve her religion, even if it means turning a blind eye to the suffering of other orphans under the mothers’ care.

Kojiro, new heir to the Hanaobi empire, must avenge his people against the “barbarians” who live in the duchy, terrified the empress, his own mother, might rather see him die than succeed.

When the paths of these four young adults cross, they must rely on one another for survival—but the love of even a malevolent guardian is hard to leave behind.

Add on Goodreads

Posted in News

NOBODY’S GODDESS is only 99¢!


NOBODY’S GODDESS is only 99¢ for a limited time! It’s available on Kindle, Nook and Kobo at that price. If you’ve already enjoyed it (thank you~), please consider buying one as a gift for a friend! (Kobo sells internationally at that price, I’m pretty sure, but unfortunately, it looks like the price is exclusive to the U.S. for Kindle and Nook.)

This is the first time this book has been on sale for so cheap! With the release of the second book in The Never Veil Series in less than a week, there’s never been a better time to see what my YA romantic fantasy series is all about.

Posted in News

BY THE MORNING LIGHT Cover Reveal!

If you haven’t read Melissa Giorgio‘s The Fading Dusk, you really should! Not only is it full of magic and adventure, but the sequel is coming out this summer.

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…But this post isn’t about the sequel. It’s about a surprise novella in the Smoke and Mirrors series, one that’s both a perfect introduction to the world for new fans and a must-read for people who already love the world and its characters. (Although it’s largely about new characters!)

Today is the cover reveal for Melissa’s upcoming novella, By the Morning Light! It’s simply beautiful!! Add it to your Goodreads list today!

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For Claudette and Emile Borde, living in the city of Ayres and working on their parents’ farm has never been enough. Influenced by stories of the past, in which magic was real and the dragons still lived, the siblings have always dreamed of leaving their city behind and embarking on their own adventures. But as squires training to become full-fledged knights, they must renounce magic, for it was magic that nearly tore the world apart during the old wars.

When the carnival comes to the city, Claudette meets Aeonia, and the two become fast friends. But Aeonia is no simple girl playing at fortune telling—she can wield magic, and it’s both breathtaking and volatile. Torn between upholding her duty as a squire and keeping a secret for her friend, Claudette must decide where her loyalties lie. Is this the adventure she’s always craved, or is she dooming her city and her loved ones by remaining silent?

Posted in News

NOBODY’S LADY Cover Reveal! Blog Tour Sign-Ups!

The NOBODY’S LADY cover is here at last! Designed by KimGDesign, like the first cover in the series, NOBODY’S LADY reflects a less glamorous time in Noll’s life. After the events of the first novel and a disastrous meeting with the lord, Noll wants nothing more than to live a quiet, uneventful life, but her fellow villagers have other plans. Men are learning what freedom is like for the first time, and they’re not happy about how things used to be.

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Plus, you can read the first chapter (at the end of the post), which picks up IMMEDIATELY where NOBODY’S GODDESS ended! There are SPOILERS for the first book right from the very first page, so be sure to check out NOBODY’S GODDESS first (sample here or here) if you haven’t read it already.

Add NOBODY’S LADY to your Goodreads to-read list and preorder the paperback on Amazon or at The Book Depository. More outlets and an ebook preorder should be available soon.

The Book Tour and ARCs

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Chapter by Chapter is once again hosting my Never Veil book tour and is seeking bloggers to post interviews, guest posts or reviews of NOBODY’S LADY from April 11th through the 22nd. This is one way to maybe get your hands on a (digital) ARC! If you haven’t read the first book yet, you can still request to review the sequel, and you may be provided with a digital copy of the first book for review as well. (I don’t choose the hosts, but I hope you are all picked!) Click here to sign up!

Month9Books is also offering digital ARCs to those who want to review but don’t want to participate in the tour or who aren’t selected for the tour. Click here to sign up! There are a lot of other Spring Month9Books title up for grabs there, too.

Chapter One

When I thought I understood real friendship, I was a long-lost queen. When I discovered there was so much more to my life than love and hate, that those around me were just pawns in a game whose rules I’d unwittingly put in place, I discovered I was a long-forgotten goddess. But goddess or not, powerless or powerful, my feet were taking me someplace I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. What did I hope to find? Did I truly believe I could hear him call me—that he’d want to call me? Yes, I did. I wanted to see him again. I wanted to hope, even if I wasn’t sure I was allowed. If I deserved to. I headed down the familiar dirt path beneath the lattice of trees overhead, pausing beside the bush with a partially snapped stem that jutted outward like a broken limb. The one that pointed to the secret cavern.

Only, it’s not much of a secret anymore, is it?

My feet picked themselves up. Glowing pools would never again tempt me.

I reached the black, towering fortress that had for so long shaken and screamed at the power of my glance.

For the first time in this lifetime, I stared up at it, and nothing moved. My legs, unused to such steady footing while in the sight of the lord’s castle, twitched in anticipation of a fall that never came.

There was no need. My feet dragged me forward.

At the grand wooden door, I raised a fist to knock.

But I stopped. I felt like if I touched it, the entire castle might crumble. It had done so once before. Not at my touch exactly. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was responsible for whatever destruction I’d find in this place. But that was presumptuous of me. He was strong-willed, and he wouldn’t crumble at the prospect of freedom. If anything, he’d be triumphant over it.

You can’t stop now. I pulled my sleeves over my wrists and propped both elbows against the door, pushing until it gave way.

The darkness inside the foyer tried to deceive me into thinking night had fallen. The stream of light that trickled from the familiar crack in the garden door called the darkness a liar.

I gripped the small iron handles, the material of my sleeves guarding the cold metal from my touch, and pulled.

My touch had come to the garden before me.

The rose bushes that surrounded the enclosed circular area were torn, ripped, trodden, and plucked. The blooms lay withered, scattered and turned to dust, their once-white petals a sickly shade of yellowish brown, smooth blooms turned coarse and wrinkled.

The fountain at the center no longer trickled with water. Its shallow pool was stagnant, piles of brown festering in mildewing green liquid. Dotted amongst the brown was pallid stone rubble. The tears of the weeping elf child statue, which belonged at the top of the fountain, had ceased at last. But the gash across its face told me the child’s tears had not been staunched by joy. I wondered if Ailill had had it carved to represent the pain I’d inflicted on him as a child. And I wondered if now he could no longer bear to remind himself of what I’d done.

I hadn’t done this. But I felt as if I had. If Ailill had gone on a rampage after he came back to the castle, it was because of what I’d done to him. Everything I touched turned sour. I yanked and pulled, trying to draw my hands further into my sleeves, but there wasn’t enough material to cover them entirely.

“Well, what a surprise.” I gazed into the shadow beside the doorway. How could I have not seen? The stone table was occupied. The place where I’d sat alone for hours, days, and months was littered with crumpled and decaying leaves, branches, and petals, obscuring the scars left by a dagger or knife striking time and time again across its surface. The matching bench that once nestled on the opposite side was toppled over, leaving only dark imprints in the dirt.

“A pity you could not make yourself at home here when you were welcome.”

My breath caught in my throat.

The man at the table was clad entirely in black, as I knew he would be. The full-length jacket had been swapped for a jerkin, but I could see the embossing of roses hadn’t been discarded in the exchange. He wore dark leather gloves, the fingers of which were crossed like the wings of a bird in flight. His pale elbows rested on the table amongst the leaves and branches and thorns. He wore the hat I was used to seeing him wear, a dark, pointed top resting on a wide brim. Its black metal band caught a ray of the sunlight almost imperceptibly. But I noticed. I always did.

His face was entirely uncovered. Those large and dark eyes, locked on me, demanded my attention. They were the same eyes of the boy I’d left alone to face my curse—not so long ago from my point of view. He was more frightened then, but there was no mistaking the hurt in those eyes both then and now.

“You are not welcome here, Olivière.”

His words sliced daggers through my stomach.

“I … I thought I heard you call me.”

He cocked his head to the side, his brown eyes moving askance. “You heard me call you?”

“Yes … ” I realized how foolish it sounded. I was a fool to come. Why had I let myself fall for that sound again, for my name whispered on the wind? Why was I so certain it was he who’d said my name?

He smiled, not kindly. “And where, pray tell, have you been lurking? Under a rose bush? Behind the garden door? Or do those rounded female ears possess a far greater sense of hearing than my jagged male ones?”

I brushed the tips of my ears self-consciously. Elric had been so fascinated by them, by what he saw as a mutilation. This lord—Ailill—wasn’t like that. He’d touched them once, as a child. He’d tried to heal them, thinking they were meant to be pointed.

The boy with a heart was the man sitting there before me. Even after all we’d been through, he’d still done me a kindness by healing my mother. “No, I just thought—”

“No, you did not think, or you would not have come.”

I clenched my jaw. My tongue was threatening to spew the vile anger that had gotten us into this mess to begin with.

He sighed and crossed his arms across his chest. “I gave explicit instructions that I not be disturbed.” He leaned back against the wall behind him, his chin jutting outward slightly.

I wiped my sweaty fingertips on my skirt. I wouldn’t let the rest of my hands out from the insides of my sleeves. The sweat had already soaked through them. “I needed to thank you.”

He scoffed. “Thank me for what? For your prolonged captivity, or for not murdering both your mother and your lover when I had the chance?”

So you admit you took Jurij to punish me? You admit they were both in danger in your “care”? Quickly, I had to clench my jaw to keep down the words that threatened to spill over. He’s not who I thought he was. He wouldn’t have harmed them.

I loosened the muscles in my jaw one hair’s breadth at a time.

“For healing me when you were a child. For accepting me into your castle instead of putting me to death for trespassing in it. For … For forgiving me for cursing you, even though you were innocent.” My voice was quiet, but I was determined to make it grow louder. “For saving my mother’s life.”

He waved one hand lazily in the air. “Unfinished projects irk me.”

“But you didn’t have to.”

A shrug. “The magic was nearly entirely spent on the churl anyway.”

“I beg your pardon?”

He leaned forward and placed both palms across the rotted forest remnants on the table. “My apologies,” he said, his lips curled into a sneer. “I simply meant that I wasted years and years and let the magic wither from my body to save a person of no consequence. You may thank me for that if you like. I would rather not be reminded of it.”

How odd it was to see the face I’d imagined come to life. The mocking, the condescending—it was all there. I just hadn’t known the canvas before.

And what a strange and beautiful canvas it was. That creamy peach skin, the brownish tint of his shoulder-length tresses. He was so much paler than any person I had ever seen. Save for the specters.

Despite the paleness, part of me felt I wasn’t wrong to have mistaken one brother for another. Elric had been dark-skinned, but they seemed almost like reflections of the same person; they shared the same brows, the same lips, and even eyes of a similar shape if not color. Perhaps the face before me was a bit gaunter, the nose a bit longer. It was easier to focus on the differences. Thinking of the similarities made me want to punch the face in front of me all the more—and that would undermine everything I had set out to do when I made my way to him. I wanted to see if you were really restored to life. Say it. I wanted to know if you really forgave me. Say it. I wanted to know why I … Why I feel this way about you, why I keep thinking about you, when I used to be unable to stand the sight of you. Say it, Noll! I dug my nails into my palm and shook the thoughts from my head. He’d called my mother a “churl.” I couldn’t just tell him everything I was thinking. “Have you no sense of empathy?”

“What a coincidence that you should mention that. I am sending Ailill to the village with an edict. He can escort

you there.” “Ailill?” But aren’t you him? Could I have been mistaken? Oh, goddess, help me, why do I do this to myself? Why do I think I know everything?

He waved his hand, and one of the specters appeared beside me from the foyer.

The specters. There were about a hundred of them in the castle. Pale as snow in skin and hair with red, burning eyes. Mute servants who seemed to anticipate the lord’s every command. Only now I knew who they really were.

Oh. “You call him by your own name?” I asked.

He raised an eyebrow. “I call them all by my name. They are me, remember?”

His icy stare sent another invisible dagger through my stomach. “Yes, but—”

“A shame you never cared to ask my name when you were my guest,” he said. “I have a feeling things might have turned out much differently—for all of us.”

“You knew what would happen! Why didn’t you warn me?” I had to squeeze my fists and teeth together to stop myself from screaming. This wasn’t going at all like I had hoped. But what had I hoped? What could I have possibly expected? I thought I’d be forgiven. I thought that Ailill and I might start over, that we could be friends, perhaps even … What a fool I’ve been.

Ailill turned slightly, his attention suddenly absorbed in a single white petal that remained on a half-trodden bush beside him. “I was not entirely in control of my emotions,” he said, “as you may well know.”

“I tried to give you a way out!” My jaw wouldn’t stay shut.

Ailill laughed and reached over to pluck the petal from its thorns. “Remind me exactly when that was? Perhaps between condemning me to an eternal life of solitude and wretchedness and providing yourself with a way to feel less guilty about the whole affair? And then you just popped right back to the present, I suppose, skipping over those endless years in a matter of moments.” He crushed the petal in his hand.

“A way to let myself feel less guilty?” He wasn’t entirely wrong. But it wasn’t as if he had done nothing wrong.

Ailill bolted upright, slamming the fist that gripped the petal against the twigs and grass on the table. “Your last words to me were entirely for your own benefit, as well you know!”

If, after your own Returning, you can find it in your heart to forgive me, the last of the men whose blood runs with his own power will free all men bound by my curse.

“How is wishing to break the curse on the village for my benefit?”

“Perhaps because the curse was your doing? Perhaps because you only wanted the curse broken to free your lover from it in the first place?”

“Stop calling Jurij my ‘lover.’ He’s not—”

“And you did free him with those words. You knew I would forgive you.”

“How could I have known? I didn’t think it possible you’d forgive me, not after all we’ve been through.”

“You knew because you knew I wanted to be free myself. That I would do anything—even forgive you for half a moment—to earn that freedom.” His voice grew quieter. “You never wanted anything from me, not really. I was just a pawn in your game, a way to free the other men in your village, a way to punish the men from mine.”

I fought back what I couldn’t believe was threatening to spring to my eyes. No tears, not in front of him.

“The men of the old village deserved everything they got,” I spat at last, knowing full well that wasn’t the whole story.

Ailill scoffed and put both hands on his hips, his arms akimbo. Oh, how I tired of that pose. The crushed petal remained on the table. Its bright white added a bit of life to the decay.

“There were plenty of young boys not yet corrupted,” he said. “And some that might have never been.” He took a deep breath. “But, of course, you are not entirely to blame. I blame myself every day for ever taking a childish interest in you. That should not have counted as love.”

I swallowed. Of course. Before the curse of the village had broken, a woman had absolute power over the one man who loved or yearned for her. When I visited the past through the pool in the secret cavern, I discovered a horde of lusty men who knew nothing of love but were overcome with desire. Since so many had lusted for any female who walked before them, and I had carried the power from my own version of the village with me, it had been child’s play to control the men. But why had that power extended to Ailill? He had only been a boy then, broken, near silent—and kindhearted. He couldn’t have regarded me with more than a simple crush on an older sisterly figure, but it had been enough.

“But you did forgive me.” Why couldn’t I stop the words from flowing?

Ailill shook his head and let a weary smile spread across his features. “Forgive you? I could never forgive you. No more than I could forgive myself for daring to think, if just for a moment, that I … ” He stopped.

I shook my head. “The curse wouldn’t have been broken. The men in the village wouldn’t now be walking around without masks. Nor you without your veil. If you hadn’t forgiven me.”

Ailill tilted his head slightly. His dark eyes searched mine, perhaps for some answer he thought could be found there. “I would still need the veil even now?” he asked, his voice quiet. “Are you certain?”

Removing the veil before the curse was broken would have required the Returning, a ritual in which I freely and earnestly bestowed my heart and affection to him. It would have never happened, not with the man I knew at the time to be mine. So yes, he would still need the veil to survive the gaze of women. I was sure of it. He’d been arrogant, erratic, and even cruel. Perhaps not so much as Elric, Ailill’s even more volatile older brother, the one who wound up with a mob of angry, murderous women in his castle and a gouge through his heart. But even so.

It was my turn to cross my arms and sneer. “I said you could break the curse after your own Returning, and I specified that you didn’t need my affection to have a Returning. All you needed to do was crawl out of whatever abyss I’d sent you to.” I shifted uncomfortably in place. “And I suppose I should be grateful—for my mother’s sake—that you did.”

Ailill waved a hand at the specter beside me and brushed aside a pile of clippings on the table to reveal a hand-written letter. It was yellowed and a tad soggy. “Yes, well, the endless droning that made up your curse gets a bit foggy in my mind—assuming it even made sense in your mind to begin with. I am afraid I lack the ability to retain exact memories of an event that took place a hundred lifetimes ago when I was but a scarred child terrified of the monster before him.” He looked up to face me as the specter retrieved the letter from his extended hand. “But I suppose it was not all that long ago for the monster, was it?” He turned again to the table, shuffling brush about aimlessly. “Take her with you to the market,” he said.

The specter made to grab my arm as he passed. I slipped out of his reach only to back into another specter who had appeared quick as lightning from the foyer. He grabbed one arm, and the first specter seized the other.

“Let go of me!” I shouted as they began to drag me away.

The specters didn’t pause, as they once would have.

“Stop!” called Ailill from behind me. The specters did as they were told.

Ailill spoke. “I forgot to inform you that my retainers lost all desire to follow your orders when I did.” He waved his fingers in the air. “Carry on.”

I struggled against the grip the specters had on my arms. Again. He has me under his thumb again. “I can walk by myself!” I screamed as my toes slid awkwardly against the dark foyer floor. “I don’t need to go to the market!”

A black carriage awaited us outside the castle doorway. A third specter opened the carriage door, and my captors heaved me up into the seat like a sack of grain. The one with the letter slid in and took the seat across from me. He stared vacantly at the top of the seat behind me.

I leaned forward, whipping my hand out to stop the carriage door as one of the specters moved to close it. I didn’t care what I touched in the castle anymore. Let the whole thing crumble.

A black-gloved hand covered mine. I jumped back. Ailill stuck his head inside the carriage. His face stopped right before mine, the brim of his hat practically shading me under it. The sight of his face so close to mine, unveiled and painted with disdain, caused a thunderous racing of my heart. It was as if I’d just run the length of the entire village.

“You kept your hair short,” he said. He reached his free hand toward it, then pulled back.

I’d once let the bushy mess of black hair grow as long as it wanted, but once I cropped it closely to my scalp, I found it easier to deal with. “There hasn’t been enough time for it to grow, anyway. Not for me.”

He snorted. “Of course. But it makes me remember you as you were, long ago. When you cursed me and every man whether he deserved it or not.” He leaned back a bit, putting more space between our faces. “I think you will be most interested in going with my servants to the market,” he said. “But there will be no need to thank me in person afterward. I would rather not see you again.” His eyes drifted upwards, thoughtfully. “In fact, remind the villagers that I am closed to all audiences. My servants will be out there to see that my edict is obeyed.”

Before I could speak, he leaned back and let my hand fall from his. He reached around the door to close it.

“Wait—”

And slammed it in my face.

Posted in News, Uncategorized

The Nobody’s Lady Blurb Revealed!

I’m excited to reveal the blurb for book 2 in the Never Veil Series, NOBODY’S LADY! It’s a tad spoilery if you have yet to read book 1, so proceed with caution if you care about spoilers:

For the first time in a thousand years, the men in Noll’s village possess the freedom to love whom they will. In order to give each man the chance to fully explore his feelings, the lord of the village decrees all marriages null and void until both spouses declare their love for one another and their desire to wed again. What many women think will be a simple matter becomes a source of village-wide tension as most men decide to leave their families and responsibilities behind.

Rejected by the lord and ashamed of her part in the village’s history, Noll withdraws from her family and lives life as an independent woodcarver. This changes when her sister accuses her of hiding her former husband Jurij from her—and when Jurij eventually does ask to move in. Determined not to make the same mistakes, Noll decides to support her male friends through their new emotional experiences, but she’s soon caught up in a darker plot than she ever dared imagine possible from the men she thought she knew so well. And the lord for whom she still has feelings may be hiding the most frightening truth of them all.

What do you think? Some readers have asked me HOW Noll’s story could continue, but believe me, there’s plenty more to go! You can’t pre-order NOBODY’S LADY yet, but you can add it to your Goodreads to-read list.

Posted in News

Gyre and Scions and Men Cover Reveal!

CR Banner

Today’s the day for a dual cover reveal: OF SCIONS AND MEN by Courtney Sloan and GYRE by Jessica Gunn! Both books are in the New Adult category and are being published by Curiosity Quills Press.

Here’s a bit about each book:

OF SCIONS AND MEN by Courtney Sloan (February 22nd, 2016)

Geopolitical babysitting while arresting preternatural killers, it’s just the daily grind for Scion Rowan Brady. Brash and sarcastic, Rowan has sold her life, her career and her very blood to the controlling paranormal ruling class of America, all to make sure her kid brother can eat. Now she uses her powers as a scion to kick the ass of any preternatural creature idiotic enough to break the rules and prey upon humanity without a license. All it costs her is her freedom and a pint or two per week to her new Master.

But juggling her job and duties becomes even tougher when she is tasked with keeping a contingency of diplomats from Canada from getting gnawed on. However, negotiations for an International Blood Exchange are interrupted when bodies start showing up.

Now Rowan must rely on her talent and wit to defend the society she despises to save the lives she’s sworn to protect. But as she stumbles into the truth, she chances becoming a target of not only these killers, but of her own government. With shifters, ghosts, vampires and psychics all watching her, can she stop the killings before she is silenced?

ADD OF SCIONS AND MEN TO GOODREADS HERE

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GYRE by Jessica Gunn (February 1st, 2016)

Trevor couldn’t believe his eyes when Chelsea teleported onto SeaSatellite5. The miracle is Trevor’s absolute worst nightmare. Chelsea is Atlantean, which would be fine if Trevor’s family weren’t Lemurian—enemies of Atlantis.

Then SeaSatellite5 uncovers Atlantean ruins and stumbles into the crosshairs of an ancient war. The Lemurians want the artifacts inside the ruins, and Trevor’s the only one onboard who recognizes the relics for what they really are: Link Pieces, tools used by ancient civilizations to wage their time-travel war.

Chelsea and Trevor must brave the gyre of lies surrounding them. If they can’t, Atlantis will be destroyed forever.

ADD GYRE TO GOODREADS HERE

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Are you ready to see the covers?

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Here we go!

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GYRE & OSAM

PRE-ORDER GYRE HERE!

PRE-ORDER OF SCIONS AND MEN HERE!

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ABOUT COURTNEY SLOAN

Courtney SloanA New Orleans native, Courtney Sloan relocated to the hills of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina. There she lives with her husband and fellow author, J.P. Sloan, their son and their crazy German Shepherd pup. Adding to her writing life, Courtney is also a professor at the local college and enjoys learning a world of new ideas from her students as she teaches them about writing and communicating. Courtney’s New Orleans upbringing has left her with a love for the macabre and a flare for the next to normal. She writes speculative fiction with a variety of horror and sass mixed in for flavor.

She loves taking the world of politics that haunts us now, and adding the supernatural to create a gumbo of thrills to keep you up at night. A self-proclaimed lover of way too many fandoms, Courtney also loves crafting. From blankets to jams to stories, it’s always better homemade.

Author Links: Twitter | Website

ABOUT JESSICA GUNN

1951de5Jessica Gunn is a New Adult author and avid science-fiction and fantasy fan. Her favorite stories are those that transport the reader to other, more exciting worlds. When not working or writing, she can be found binge-watching Firefly and Stargate, or feeding her fascination of the ancient world’s many mysteries. Jessica also holds a degree in Anthropology.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Website