Night Latch – Chapter One

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It’s launch day for NIGHT LATCH, a new adult urban fantasy full of dangerous quests, supernatural dangers, and loads of good-natured snark. I had loads of fun writing this one and can’t wait to share it with you!

REMINDER: There’s a giveaway contest running through Oct. 8th for those who order the book. More info on that after the excerpt – otherwise go HERE.

Sam Alvarez doesn’t just open locks. He’s the key.

Living in Bellemer, Iowa, Sam leads a typical small-town life. When he’s not looking after his Nana or dealing with his mother’s expectations, he runs a one-man locksmith company. Unlike regular locksmiths, he can open anything with a touch and a wish, but Sam keeps that secret to himself. No reason to alarm the neighbors, after all. And if he sometimes feels an indefinable pull to do more with his life, well, that’s probably just indigestion.

Then one day, an unsettlingly beautiful out-of-towner asks for Sam’s help to open a door. Only one problem: The job’s in a graveyard. And the client? Turns out she’s Death.

Maybe that’s two problems.

When Sam unlocks more than he intended and demons come out to play, he discovers he’s far more than a locksmith with a hidden quirk. Now, he needs to figure out who he is and what he’s been called to do before darker forces close the door on him for good.

***

CHAPTER ONE:

IT WOULD happen any minute now.

The clock on my phone wouldn’t rewind or fast forward no matter how much I stared at it. I would just have to endure what came next.

The walls of Clover Mall echoed with its standard orchestra of early evening shoppers and the intermittent screech of hungry toddler. Almost five-o’clock on a Friday afternoon and time, once again, to steel myself for the inevitable encounter. There was always a chance I’d get lucky this go around. Maybe a massive sink hole would suddenly swallow the town of Bellemer, Iowa and spare me from this weekly ritual. Was it selfish to wish myself and 2,500 innocent bystanders out of existence to avoid an awkward situation?

I shook my head at myself, slouching a bit on the stool propping me up behind the counters of the kiosk. My contract with Clover Mall stipulated someone had to man the center lane space I rented for at least ten hours during the business week. A chronic procrastinator, I wound up doing all of them on the last possible day. Which Mr. Upland knew. Ah, the land mines of owning a small business no one tells you about.

And there he was now. Right on schedule and headed this way. The man had punctuality even German transit operators would admire. He waved cheerfully to shoppers and store owners, exchanging pleasantries with a few. A man in his late-fifties, he became the town celebrity when he won the national lottery jackpot five years ago. Two hundred million. He spent some time in New York but came back home and poured money into Bellemer’s failing economy. He fixed up the schools, the roads, built a museum, a new movie theater with awesome stadium seating, and yes, constructed this fabulous strip mall just off the main highway. He was a great guy. We all loved him.

And he wanted me to date his daughter.

I slouched a bit more and tried to appear engrossed in the ninety-nine-cent comic book I’d rummaged out of the bins at the dollar store. There was no escaping this though.

“Sam, my boy!” Mr. Upland boomed as he leaned his forearms against the counter and gave me an earnest smile. “Big plans for the weekend?”

I lowered the comic and smiled back. “Not really. Work, the usual. What about you?”

Mr. Upland shook his head in exasperation. “You work too much, kid. Business going okay? I could make some inquiries for you with a few companies.”

With a town our size, hardly anyone locked their doors even at night, but there were only three certified locksmiths in operation within thirty miles. Supply and demand, baby. Sam Alvarez, Locksmith Co., LLC was doing fine. Or fine enough for my ambitions.

Better to not say that out loud. He’d only insist on helping me then—which was kind, but wrong knowing the motivation. Not to mention, I didn’t like drawing too much attention to myself. Most locksmiths needed their tools to open locks. Unlike me.

“I appreciate that, sir, but I prefer to make my own way.”

“You’re a stand-up guy, Sam. Hard worker.” His gaze took on a proud twinkle and I tried to avoid direct eye contact. Here it came. “Why don’t you come have dinner with Anna and me at the house tomorrow night? Heidi’s home from college.”

Heidi was a great girl. We went to high school together. She was fun, kind, and had a pair of brown eyes that warmed your soul like hot cocoa in December. She was also a lot smarter than me and her vision for the future after Cornell University didn’t include living out her life in Bellemer, no matter how many improvements her dad made to it. I had no plans to go anywhere. Mr. Upland’s strategy to dangle me as a love interest who’d convince her to move back home for good—probably within a few miles of her parents—wasn’t going to work out.

But she was their only daughter and try as I might each week, I just couldn’t bring myself to fully crush the man’s dream.

“Maybe next week, Mr. Upland. I’m pretty busy this weekend.”

Disappointment dimmed the smile in his eyes. He tapped the counter top and shrugged good naturedly. “All right then. Have a good weekend, Sam. Don’t overwork yourself, hear?”

“You too, sir.”

He turned away, which would’ve been a great moment to shove my face back into the comic book and keep my mouth shut. He moved off, a slight slump to his shoulders.

And it got to me.

“Tell Heidi I said hello, will you?”

He looked back, the twinkle returning. “Absolutely, Sam. Hey, you know she has the Skype on her laptop. Maybe you two could catch up on there.”

“Uh, definitely. Next time I’m online, I’ll send her a message.”

“Good man.” He shot a pair of finger-pistols at me and sauntered off with a lighter step.

I was almost never online. Heidi knew that and would get the message. Besides, from what I’d heard, she was dating a guy on the university football team, a Rhodes scholar and a native New Yorker.

Me? Well, I was hardly the stuff of romance novels. Thanks to my free weights and my evening runs I hadn’t gone into complete Cheeto decline in the three years since graduation. The combined heritage of my parents had given me the height of a Scandinavian with the dark hair and burnished skin of a Colombian mestizo. But girls were looking for someone with ambition, someone who wanted to get out of this town and make something of themselves. One look and it was obvious that wasn’t me.

I lacked inspiration and they all knew it.

Staring blankly at my comic book and mulling over this cheerful thought, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I glanced up to find a young woman standing at the counter. Watching me.

I didn’t hear or see her walk up. She’d simply materialized.

“Sorry, I hadn’t, uh—” I bent down to pick up my fallen book and convince my fists to unclench. Jeez, it was just a customer. Pull it together. I stood and made another try for professionalism. “How can I…?”

Of course, professionalism became more difficult when I focused enough to look at her. Long hair fell in a sheet of black silk down her shoulders with eyes like blue ice set into pale gold skin. She was not from Bellemer. I’d have remembered her. She was beautiful and unsettling at the same time, like watching the skies go dark as a storm rolled in from the east.

I cleared my throat. “How can I help you?”

“You open doors.”

As was my custom around stunning women, my fumbled response was peppered with undeserving bravado.

“Mm-hmm, that’s me. Sam the door opening man.” Dear God, no wonder I hadn’t been on a date in months.

She did not react with the typical pity laugh to which I’d grown unwillingly accustomed. In fact, she didn’t react at all. She did not blink, lean, tap, or shuffle her feet. She didn’t even lay her hands on the counter the way everyone did.

She was just…still.

“I need you to open a door,” she said finally.

“Definitely. Sure. I can do that. I’m available.” Ugh, no. Somebody hit me.

“Not now. Tonight.”

“Okay.” No, it wasn’t. I didn’t do calls at night. “What time?”

“When the moon is high.”

“So, what is that, like, eight o’clock?”

She gave a nod. “That is acceptable. You will find me again at Sunny Oak Hills.”

I turned to my pad and pencil at the register behind me to jot down the information.

“Sunny Oak. That sounds familiar but I don’t think I know it. I’ll need your name and the address.”

But when I turned back, she was gone.

***

Available on Amazon & Kindle Unlimited

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway Contest!!

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The cover reveal for my new urban fantasy novel, NIGHT LATCH is here!!!!!!

Check out the spectacular cover art Seedlings Design Studio created for the book, including an original illustration of the novel’s main character. I am out of my mind ecstatic about it!!

What’s the story between this gorgeous cover about? I’m glad you asked:

Sam Alvarez doesn’t just open locks. He’s the key.

Living in Bellemer, Iowa, Sam leads a typical small-town life. When he’s not looking after his Nana or dealing with his mother’s expectations, he runs a one-man locksmith company. Unlike regular locksmiths, he can open anything with a touch and a wish, but Sam keeps that secret to himself. No reason to alarm the neighbors, after all. And if he sometimes feels an indefinable pull to do more with his life, well, that’s probably just indigestion.

Then one day, an unsettlingly beautiful out-of-towner asks for Sam’s help to open a door. Only one problem: The job’s in a graveyard. And the client? Turns out she’s Death.

Maybe that’s two problems.

When Sam unlocks more than he intended and demons come out to play, he discovers he’s far more than a locksmith with a hidden quirk. Now, he needs to figure out who he is and what he’s been called to do before darker forces close the door on him for good. 

RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 1st

***

Yes, you saw that release date correctly. NIGHT LATCH will be out in the world in no time at all and to celebrate I’ve set up an awesome giveaway contest. This is open internationally!

Preorder/order the book by October 8th for a chance to win…

– Fingerless Reading/Writing Gloves showcasing Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (From Storiarts)

– An adorable keychain with the words “Once Upon A Time…”

– A gorgeous writing journal from Barnes & Noble

– A postcard from the imagined city: Bellemer, Iowa – Sam’s hometown

P L U S

** A $25 Amazon Gift Card **

HOW TO ENTER:

1. Pre-order/Order the book on Amazon by October 8th (Tuesday)

2. Fill out the Google Form with your details*

And that’s it!!

*Hold on to your proof-of-purchase! The winner drawn will need to email a copy of their receipt to receive the prize (Can be a photo/scan/screenshot).

There’s no limit to how many times you can enter. If you buy three copies, make a note of that in the form and you’ll be entered three times. AND, I’ll send you big hugs for buying so many ♥♥♥

NOTE: I will accept entries until 11:59pm CST on October 8th, 2019. Again, this is open internationally.

Notification will be sent to the winner on Oct. 9, the day after the giveaway ends.

HUGE 99¢ Fantasy Book Sale!!

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Some may or may not have heard of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (or SPFBO) hosted annually at bestselling author Mark Lawrence’s siteThe short version: It’s an amazing competition for indie authors where bloggers highlight great stories out there that can get lost in the mountainous shuffle of online books.

The rules are simple: The book must be available to buy; it must be self-published and novel-length; and the story must be in the fantasy genre.

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What does this have to do with huge sale?

This year I’m participating in SPFBO with my May release Beneath Cruel Fathoms and over 120 of us contestants got together to give you an unbelievable discount on over 100 books — All fantasy sub-genres included!

All books are priced at just $0.99 but only until August 20th!!

To have a look and pick up some reads CLICK HERE to go to the sale page. Everything has been organized into the fantasy sub-genres for easy shopping.

Don’t miss out! Head over there before the sale ends!

FBBAnner4

Cover Reveal & Fairytale Giveaway!

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Good friend and author Intisar Khanani’s book Thorn is set to release in March of 2020 and I’m super excited to give you a look at the new cover!!

I LOVE IT SO MUUUUCH! And the story is just as beautiful as the art. A Grimm-inspired fairytale retelling of The Goose Girl, this world is full of intrigue, magic, and a princess faced with a choice between two very different paths.

Official Synopsis:

A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own.

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl. 

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

The Pre-order is available HERE

Add to Goodreads HERE

***

Now, about that G I V E A W A Y

In celebration of the cover reveal, the author has set up a FAIRYTALE GIVEAWAY with some seriously awesome swag. The prize pack includes:

  • A snowy owl enamel pin
  • A gorgeous quill pen set
  • A “Fairy Dust” candle
  • And a goose feather watercolor painting made by the author on a page from the book
  • PLUS a US $25 Gift Card to a book retailer of your choice.

The prize pack is U.S. only, but there’s also a $25 gift card for those who are outside of the US. Entry is done the same way for both.

HOW TO ENTER:

A Rafflecopter page has been set up to enter in the giveaway which ENDS ON JULY 18TH (next week Thursday!!) so hurry over there now!!

Once again:

The Pre-order is available HERE

Add to Goodreads HERE

This is a truly beautiful story, everyone. If you love fantasy, this is definitely a book you want to get your hands on.

Check out an excerpt below:

At the far end of the corral I spot the white. He watches me, head raised, bright eyes alert. My heart aches for him.

“I don’t know how I’m going to free you,” I say, resting my hand on the wooden rail. Tonight there’ll be a guard posted, and even now the kitchen staff pass the door at intervals, just enough of a presence that I dare not let him out. “Valka’s the sort that will send you to the knacker when she realizes she can’t ride you. I wish you’d gotten away when you could.”

“I chose to stay, princess,” he replies, his voice deep and gentle.

My mouth drops open. What? “Did you—did you just speak?”

The horse seems mildly gratified by my shock. “Yes,” he says.

I can see his mouth move, though his lips don’t quite shape the word that rings in my ears. He’s speaking, out loud, shaping sounds a horse’s mouth has no ability to make.

“But how?”

“I expect that should be obvious.”

I press my hand against the top of my head, as if I might thereby straighten my thoughts. Nothing makes any sense at all, except, perhaps: “Magic?”

He dips his head, for all the world as if he were a courtier.

“Are you cursed?” I demand, letting go of my head to catch the rail between us.

“No,” he says, his voice lightening with amusement. “Not at all. It is my nature to be able to speak. I merely prefer not to flaunt it before your kind.”

Beneath Cruel Fathoms – Chapter One

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Today is RELEASE DAY for Beneath Cruel Fathoms!!

This was one of the harder books I’ve written. It took longer than expected to finish, required loads of research, and dealt with a topic that is very personal to me. Beginning to end, it threw a lot of surprises into my path and had me scratching my head going, “Well. That was unexpected.” I had an outline, people. I swear.

And today, I sent it out into the world. Phew, where’s that glass of wine? 😉

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After a violent storm destroys her ship, Isaura Johansdottir knows better than to hope she’ll be rescued from Eisland’s vast Failock Sea. Adrift and alone, her plans to start over lost, it’s a tragic conclusion after the disastrous end of her marriage—until she’s saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk, a creature long believed extinct. In repayment for her life, Leonel enlists her help to investigate the Failock’s mysterious and deadly plague of squalls. When Isaura discovers Eisland’s ruthless new Lord commands the storms, her life will be in more danger on land than it ever was at sea.

As guardian of the Fathoms, Leonel must find the cause of unnatural storms ravaging the tidal currents and destroying the sea life. There are rumors of dark magic stirring in the Orom Abyss, the resting place of old, vanquished gods who tried to submerge the land millennia ago. Yet without proof, no one in King Ægir’s court will listen to him. And if it’s discovered he broke the Blue Laws to save a shipwrecked landweller, he might not survive the consequences.

As storms spread, Leonel and Isaura uncover secrets as forbidden as the bond that grows between them. Betrayal lurks in the restless sea, and when ancient powers lay siege to Eisland’s coast, the truth may be drowned along with everything else.

***

CHAPTER ONE:

The Failock Sea spoke gently.

From within her quarters aboard the Visundr, Isaura listened to the steady ritual of nighttime waves brushing against the hull and the relative quiet of the ship. Most of the men would be in their bunks by now, leaving the night crew to man the cargo freighter until dawn. If she wanted to go out there, this was the moment.

As had been her routine each evening, Isaura cracked open her cabin door to listen. The sea breeze streamed in like a visitor she’d been ignoring, ruffling the strands of blonde hair that had escaped the hood of her cloak. Hearing nothing more than the murmur of sailors and the creak of ropes, Isaura stole out from her cabin for the breath of fresh air she’d been longing for all day. This was the only time she could be sure Captain Wendelsson had retired to his bunk and would be unavailable to herd her back inside like some vulnerable lamb wandering away from the flock.

When she’d negotiated her passage aboard his ship, she had agreed to obey his rules while on board. She just hadn’t expected one of them to be so outrageous. Her ability to accede to his edict that a single and unchaperoned woman should not traipse about the deck had expired within a day of this two-week journey from Dinark to Eisland. Isaura made other arrangements to secure her freedom of movement—even an unaccompanied woman was entitled to air, wasn’t she?—and sailors taking the night shift were more than happy to exchange their silence for the services of a healer. She had only just finished her apprenticeship, but natural talent and five years learning from renowned healer Hekla Larsdottir inspired their confidence where her twenty-five years might not.

The wheelman, Gunnar, sighted her as she stepped onto the deck. He shot a quick look toward the entrance to the crew cabins and then beckoned her over with a toothy smile.

“I’d hoped you might come out. Watch your step now. Kristofer’s been decorating the wood from his watch,” he nodded toward the crow’s nest at the top of the mast he stood beside then gestured at deck boards. Even in the dim light of the lantern secured beside the wheel, Isaura made out the chunky splatters speckling the area.

She stepped carefully around them, wrinkling her nose. “Is he sick?”

“Ate something what didn’t agree with him.”

“Like the cheese I told him he’s allergic to?”

“Aye,” he chuckled, swiping wisps of his frothy red hair out of his wind-worn face. “Said he couldn’t believe the gods would be cruel enough to cleave him from his favorite food. He sent a few coins over the side in appeal to Ægir and supped on both cheese and faith.”

And idiocy. Isaura dug into the satchel slung across her shoulder. “What did he think the Lord of the Ocean could do to alleviate a dairy allergy? That’s not exactly His domain.”

Gunnar shrugged. “A sailor knows better than to pray to other gods whilst crossing the Sea King’s territory, especially with the temper of this year’s storm season.”

That was true enough. Several ships had gone down in recent months. Even in the midst of sorting through the wreckage of her life, the news of them had reached Isaura’s ears. No survivors, only bits and pieces of debris scattered across the white-capped waves. Not all storms were spun by the gods of Aegirheim, but even the oldest sailors couldn’t recall when the sea had been as treacherous as this.

Isaura had planned to wait for a calmer season before leaving the greater isle of Dinark for Eisland. After that day at the market though, drowning by sea sounded preferable to drowning by sorrow. Now that she was out here, remembering those accounts turned her gaze skyward with a nervous pang.

She needn’t have worried. The night sky twinkled quietly above, the breeze a steady puff against the sails, and although she could not see the slide and shift of the waves, they whispered an untroubled hiss from the darkness. All was well.

A low call came from the crow’s nest. The flicker of the distant torch high above outlined the silhouette of someone leaning over the railing of the basket.

“Keep your voice down lest you want the captain to come out,” Gunnar called back in the same lowered tone, cupping his hands around his mouth. He turned back to her. “I don’t suppose you have something in your miracle bag to stop that fool boy from painting the ship more than he has? We’ll be up swabbing the deck till midday as it is.”

Isaura grimaced sympathetically and retrieved the tonic she’d been looking for from her satchel. “Two draughts now and two at sunrise,” she instructed. “That should settle the digestive upset.”

Gunnar took the clay flask and set it in the canvas sack sitting on a loop of rope at the base of the mast. With a quick whistle, he signaled with his hands—two fingers, then two fingers again—before sending the sack upward on the pulley. When it arrived, the silhouette dipped down to retrieve it, then signaled something back.

“He sends his thanks,” Gunner told her.

“It’s my pleasure.”

“Do you mean to head to your spot, miss, or have you inhaled enough of the perfume Kristofer provided us down here?”

That had been her intention, but the night was cooler than she’d expected, her fingers already stiff since she’s forgotten to bring her gloves. Still, the quiet of her cabin made her chest feel tight and her thoughts deafening. She usually slept better after she spent time in the night air with the Failock’s song filling her head.

“I think I’ll take in the view a few minutes before heading in.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what is it you look at from the prow? Not much to see in the dark.”

It was hard to explain why the absence of a view comforted her. For some reason, she liked the inability to see ahead. No reason to worry about what might happen if you didn’t know it was there. Then again, being blind to things hadn’t spared her from any heartbreak.

“It helps me clear my head,” she told Gunnar.

The wheelman nodded, as if that made perfect sense. “Not too long, if you please. Captain’s been checking in on us at odd times and I’d rather he didn’t decide his night crew needs a flogging for insubordination.”

She gaped. “Would he really do that?”

“He’s in a mood this trip.”

“Because of me,” she sighed in exasperation. “What is Wendelsson’s displeasure with me? I paid him well and haven’t gotten in anyone’s way.”

“Captain’s not used to passengers, this being a cargo ship. And, well,” Gunnar offered a slight smile that gentled the blunt words that came next, “might be he resents not having a choice in the matter, what with you mentioning your father’s name.”

“I never gave him my father’s name. Only mine.”

“Johansdottir, you told him, on your way to Eisland to see your father. There’s but one Johan living there, and no man, even a captain, would refuse to bring home the daughter of a celebrated knight such as he, retired or not. As I’m sure you knew, miss, smart as you are.”

She didn’t try to argue it. He was right. In a week’s time, a passenger liner could’ve taken her, but she hadn’t wanted to wait. She couldn’t bear another seven days. If she were honest, she had more or less bullied her way aboard, forcing the captain to make adjustments, including, though she’d argued it unnecessary, giving up his cabin to ensure she slept secure and separate from the crew.

Isaura stared at her boots. “I never meant to be a nuisance.”

“Not to worry, miss. We’ve had a merry time watching the captain bluster and stomp,” Gunnar replied, all smirk. “Haven’t had a ship’s healer in a few voyages neither, which has been fine indeed.”

She smiled and patted his shoulder. “You’re a kind man, Gunnar.”

“Might be that I am. Just don’t mention it to Kristofer. When I tell him I mean to toss him overboard if he so much as looks at cheese again, I want him to believe it.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” she laughed as she stepped away. “I won’t stay out here long.”

The wind had picked up, blustery and damp. Isaura pulled her cloak tighter around herself, grateful she’d remembered to put on that second pair of woolen stockings under her layered skirts. The darkness greeted her as she reached the prow and braced her forearms against the railing. The shredded sigh of waves splitting against the Visundr’s nose echoed from the inky black.

Isaura stared into the absent horizon. Tonight, it gave no comfort, the initial pleasure of the open air blowing away like the gusts skimming past her cheeks. Six months ago, she would not have believed she’d be traveling home to Eisland, or that she’d even think of the rural isle of her childhood as home again. Dinark, the kingdom’s Great Isle and glittering capital, had become home to her. Love and her studies had made it so, even in five short years. Hekla, her mentor and friend, had filled her days with purpose and learning, while Jan’s loving arms met her in their little home each evening.

Isaura’s thumb rubbed at the indent on her finger where her wedding band had rested. She wondered if Jan had retrieved the ring from the floorboards after she’d chucked it at him, if he’d dredged up more emotion than that infuriating calm he had used to tell her it was over.

“Isaura, aren’t you tired of pretending?”

It didn’t matter, she informed the wounded, bitter pit lodged in her guts. That life was gone. That love, too, was over, no matter how much passion Jan had professed at the beginning. A lesson in managing expectations, really. Why had she thought he would still love her after learning she was broken?

With difficulty, she pushed the thought of him aside. Better to think ahead to the reunion waiting for her on Eisland, and her father’s enthusiastic letter of reply when she’d written to say she was coming. For a visit. Shame had kept her from telling him of her failed marriage or asking to move back to the family farm as she had no home to return to in Dinark. He would take her in, blessed as she was with the best of fathers, but her need for it, at her age, was humiliating.

Maybe it was better not to think of this either.

Instead, her hand went to the silver broach on the collar of her dress, a farewell gift from Hekla. Isaura had gone slightly faint at the sight of her mentor pinning the Helm of Awe there. The eight spiked tridents tipped with onyx gems radiated out from a central point, a symbol of both protection and strength.

“But I’ve only just completed my studies,” she’d argued. “I haven’t earned the healer’s sigil yet.”

Hekla had brushed aside her hands, ivory braids swaying as she shook her head. “Then do so,” she told her and pulled her into a tight embrace. “One day, and not far off, your skill will surpass mine. May it remind you of your worth and that not all love is fickle.”

Love and friendship. Shame and heartache. Endings and beginnings. Such was the storm of Isaura’s thoughts that she didn’t notice the pungent scent of rain until she turned to go back to her cabin and glanced upward. The stars had disappeared.

A jagged bolt of lightning ripped across the sky and illuminated a monstrous spiral of clouds. She gasped. The clouds hung so low they almost snagged on the mast. Kristofer’s warning cry went up from the crow’s nest.

“Typhoon!”

The word sent a jolt of confounded terror through her. A typhoon? That wasn’t possible. Typhoons occurred in warmer climates, far south of the kingdom’s chilly northern isles. Another crackling blaze of lightning fractured the sky and sent an avalanche of rain plummeting down, soaking her through in an instant.

The crew swarmed onto the deck, appearing as if out of the rain itself, rushing to take down the sails and secure anything loose. She spotted Captain Wendelsson with them. His bellowed orders threaded the rising wail of the storm, though Isaura couldn’t make them out. Thunder roared. Waves slammed against the hull and she gripped the railing with both hands to keep from being thrown from her feet. She caught a glimpse of three men grappling with the spinning wheel at the helm before someone seized her arm.

Her startled shout was lost to the wind. Gunnar stood beside her, his red hair gone black where it plastered to his brow. He shouted something she didn’t hear. She followed when he tugged her away from the railing. His sea legs far sturdier than hers on the lurching deck, he guided them between the chaos of men toward the quarterdeck and the ladder that led to the crew cabins. There, he paused.

“Get below,” he had to shout in her ear for her to catch any of his words. “Lock yourself in quarters and find something to hold on to.”

She nodded with a glance toward the crew. Her eye landed on Captain Wendelsson. The expression on his face was frighteningly neutral, like a man concealing all emotion lest he give away the truth of his thoughts. She’d seen Hekla wear the same one around dying patients.

Fear squeezed her heart. She needed to let Gunnar get back to the wheel, but couldn’t stop herself from asking, “Is the ship going to make it?”

Gunnar was less skilled at hiding his thoughts, his eyes wide with alarm. “Storm feels wrong. Unnatural to come up like this.” He shook his head. “If we have to abandon ship, the life rafts are on the starboard—”

The hairs on the nape of her neck rose and Gunnar whirled around. A spear of lightning dropped from the swollen sky. It impaled the main mast, a needle of white flame. The wood cracked like a cannon shot, splintering as it snapped in half. The thrashing outline of Kristofer where he tumbled from the crow’s nest followed the sails as they fell into the sea.

The ship pitched down sharply, hurling Isaura and Gunnar away from the ladder. She lost sight of him. A wall of seawater muscled over the railing. It swept her off her feet, thrusting her up a deck turned vertical. Then the ship righted, the water rushing back and taking her with it. She skidded across the deck, arms flailing for purchase in the utter darkness. Before she could find it, she bashed into something. Hard. The impact jarred her back and almost knocked her senseless. Distantly, she was aware of rolling, of crashing through the railing and falling.

It felt like forever, a suspended moment without beginning or end—until she plunged into the frigid shock of the sea. Icy cold raked her body and brought her back to herself. Waves swarmed her, shoved her down, sideways, up. Seawater filled her mouth. Panic filled her belly. Her skirts tentacled her legs in heavy fabric while the Failock tossed her around like a toy. She fought with all the desperate fervor of trapped prey, thrashing, gasping for tiny sips of air before the waves pushed her head under. When her arm bumped against an object, one her body recognized as something other than the liquid iron of the sea, she grasped it. Her fingers closed around the slanted rim. A skiff? One of the life rafts? The rescue it offered sent relief and terror and dread through her all at once. It could save her. It could be torn away.

Isaura didn’t know how she held on to it with her numb fingers. Didn’t know how she managed to clamber into its narrow shell without capsizing it, but she did. She lay on her back, gripping either side while the rain battered her face and the waves punished her injured back. She held on all night. She held on until the scream of the wind quieted, until the shear and crest of the waves gentled, and the sky bled with the colors of dawn. She survived. She wept for it and for the souls who had drowned with the noble Visundr. Gunnar, Kristofer, and all the others.

It wasn’t until the end of the following day that she realized it would have been better if she’d drowned along with them.

***

Available on Amazon & Kindle Unlimited

Add it to Goodreads

Norse Ocean Mythology & FREE Stuff

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We’re about a month away from the release date of Beneath Cruel Fathoms, the first book in The Bitter Sea Trilogy based on Norse ocean mythology.

What’s this book about?

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After a violent storm destroys her ship, Isaura Johansdottir knows better than to hope she’ll be rescued from Eisland’s vast Failock Sea. Adrift and alone, her plans to start over lost, it’s a tragic conclusion after the disastrous end of her marriage—until she’s saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk, a creature long believed extinct. In repayment for her life, Leonel enlists her help to investigate the Failock’s mysterious and deadly plague of squalls. When Isaura discovers Eisland’s ruthless new Lord commands the storms, her life will be in more danger on land than it ever was at sea.

As guardian of the Fathoms, Leonel must find the cause of unnatural storms ravaging the tidal currents and destroying the sea life. There are rumors of dark magic stirring in the Orom Abyss, the resting place of old, vanquished gods who tried to submerge the land millennia ago. Yet without proof, no one in King Ægir’s court will listen to him. And if it’s discovered he broke the Blue Laws to save a shipwrecked landweller, he might not survive the consequences.

As storms spread, Leonel and Isaura uncover secrets as forbidden as the bond that grows between them. Betrayal lurks in the restless sea, and when ancient powers lay siege to Eisland’s coast, the truth may be drowned along with everything else.

***

I’m so excited to get this book into your hands that I wanted to do something fun for those who pre-order their copy.

This is open internationally.

EVERYONE who pre-orders the book before MAY 17th will receive…

1. A New Adult Urban Fantasy e-Novella

Sam Alvarez doesn’t just open locks. He’s the key.

Living in Bellemer, Iowa, Sam leads a typical small-town life. Along with looking after his Nana, and dealing with his mother’s expectations, he runs a one-man locksmith company. Unlike regular locksmiths, he can open anything with a touch and a wish, but Sam keeps that secret to himself. No reason to alarm the neighbors, after all. And if he sometimes feels an indefinable pull to do more with his life, well, that’s probably just indigestion.

Then one day, an unsettlingly beautiful out-of-towner asks for Sam’s help to open a door. Hey, who says good things can’t happen to nice guys from the Midwest? Only one problem: The job’s in a graveyard.

And the door she wants opened is far from typical.

**The novella is a complete story and a sneak peek to a new urban fantasy duology. Book one is planned to release this October. More details to come toward the end of summer.

 

2. An Ocean-Fantasy adult coloring book

This is a 12-page coloring book full of vintage illustrations from stories like “The Forsaken Merman” and “The Little Mermaid”. It’s formatted to print out from a home computer on regular 8.5″ x 11″ paper. It also includes teaser quotes from Beneath Cruel Fathoms that aren’t released anywhere else.

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Once the campaign is over…

TEN randomly selected runner-up winners will also receive:

One exclusive 5″ x 7″ art print of Isaura and Leonel, the two main characters from the novel.

Untitled design

 

And ONE randomly drawn Grand-Prize winner will receive all of above prizes along with…

1. A Kindle Fire 7 Tablet (7″ Display, 8 GB, in Black)

2. A handmade glow-in-the-dark mermaid bookmark from Papillon

“The Mermaid Bookmark glows in the dark on both sides, the tail is a beautiful clear Indigo Blue and a little seashell is suspended at the bookmark that is glowing too!”

3. And a signed paperback copy of the book

How to enter:

1. Pre-order the book on Amazon before May 17, 2019

2. Email the proof-of-purchase to FineFablesPress@gmail.com, Subject: BCF Preorder Campaign (Can be a photo/scan/screenshot of your receipt)

3. Fill out the Google Form with your details

And that’s it!!

Note: The novella and the coloring book, both of which are digital and will be emailed, are guaranteed to everyone who submits a valid entry. These prizes are sent out every Monday to the email address you provide on the Google Form. Ten winners will be drawn for the exclusive book art and one winner will win the grand prize.

Notification will be sent to the winners on release day, 5/17/19.

I will accept entries until 11:59pm CST on 5/16/19. Again, this is open internationally.

Pre-Release Giveaway – Urban Fantasy!

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Fellow author and good friend A. C. Spahn has an awesome new urban fantasy series coming out called Arcane Artisans. For the first book, Enchantress Undercover, she’s put together an amazing pre-order giveaway that you don’t want to miss!
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All you have to do is:
– Pre-Order the book before March 18th (it’s only 99¢ right now!)

– Send a quick e-mail with your details and a copy of your e-Receipt.

It’s as simple as that.

Everyone who pre-orders gets the Tier 3 prize and is in the running for the bigger prizes – just for pre-ordering the book!

I got my hands on an early ARC and really enjoyed it. Magic, mayhem, and crafts, it was awesome!

Head over to the giveaway page for a look at the prizes

Or just pre-order your copy right now!

Book Synopsis:

Adrienne Morales is a hunted woman.

Stalked by Voids—people immune to magic—and pursued by a deadly past, Adrienne wants nothing more than to avoid spells and sorcery. Her powers as an enchantress make that impossible. Every few days she must release the magic gathering around her, or it’ll steal her sanity. The only way to stay alive is to practice her magic in secret, hiding enchantments in works of art she sells in her craft store.

When a firebreathing psychopath controlled by enchantment tries to burn down her store, Adrienne unleashes her powers to stop him. Unfortunately her battle has a witness—Adrienne’s handsome business partner. Turns out he’s a Void, and sworn to a Union that executes rogue magic users. Worse, the firebreather isn’t the only victim to pop up around San Francisco. Someone is using magic to create monsters and destroy minds, and the Void Union wants them dead.

Now Adrienne must capture the rogue enchanter before they ruin more innocent lives, and before the Voids punish her for the rogue’s crimes. But Voids aren’t the worst thing chasing her. Every enchantment she crafts makes it more likely her past will track her down. And if it does, madness will be the kindest fate awaiting her.

*** To read some fun excerpts from the book click HERE ***
ACA. C. Spahn is the author of the Endurance series and the Arcane Artisans series. Her shorter works have been published by Daily Science Fiction, Star*Line, Outposts of Beyond, Disturbed Digest, and others.

She wanted to be an interstellar starship captain when she grew up. Since nobody was hiring, she became a writer instead. She enjoys martial arts, vegetarian cooking, and debating the physics of fictional technologies. When not commanding imaginary starships, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and feline overlord.

Connect with A. C. Spahn via:

Movie Review: What We Do in the Shadows

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Tired of all the Christmas movies and holiday specials blasted at us this time of year? Are you pleased for those who love this season’s happy-happy entertainment options but are kind of done with all the nog and jingles and required enthusiasm?

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Check out Kate’s awesome book for more of her amazing art & adages

If you’re hankering for something a little darker, a little raunchier, and unexpectedly hilarious, then folks, look no further. This is the movie for you:

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This one came out in 2014 so I’m a little late to the party, but wow did I enjoy it! Filmed as a mocumentary, the movie is about three vampire roommates living in the U.K.. They’re depicted with the traditional vampire strengths and weaknesses – sun burns them, they can turn into bats, they drink blood (obviously) – but it also shows the day-to-day issues that are all too human – arguing over the household chores, cleaning up the carnage from last night’s dinner, figuring out how to “blend in” with regular humans when they go out at night, etc. It’s all completely ridiculous and the movie plays off its own absurdity to perfection. Running time is just 1 hour 27 minutes, but it doesn’t seem too short. More importantly, it never seems too long, ending on just the right note. I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you need a good laugh!

Best of all, not a Christmas prince in sight:)

If you’d like a taste, here are the first six minutes:

Spotlight: On the Brink: A Dystopian Anthology

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One world. 12 possible futures. Pre-order your copy of this limited edition collection of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction for only 99¢!

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Mikhaeyla Kopievsky, Alison Ingleby, Michael W. Huard, et al.

From the ashes of the world that was, a new dystopia will emerge…

Join our gritty heroines and courageous heroes as they battle for freedom. Their societies are divided by politics and technology, devastated by war, climate change, toxins, and plague.

Fighting for the future will mean conquering their pasts, but not everyone is who they seem. In these futuristic worlds, every day is a fight for survival.

Discover 12 page-turning stories from bestselling and award-winning dystopian authors that will leave you shocked, fascinated, and entertained.

Will hope prevail? Or is the darkness just too strong?

Publication Date: 3 January 2018. Available for pre-order for $0.99!

Or add it to Goodreads today!

excerpt

From “Revelation: A Divided Elements origin story”, Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

ONE

It is easy to hate the flashy opulence of the apartments in Precinct 4. Their white bricks seem too pure under the brown Otpor sun, their large balconies and windows ostentatious in flaunting their riverside views. Still, Lira’s gaze lingers on them. She doesn’t have much of an imagination – Earth Elementals are bred to be useful, not creative – but it doesn’t take an Air Elemental’s mind to picture herself living in one of them. It’s not imagination that makes it easy, but desire; simple, pure, burning desire for something she doesn’t have, will never have, but wants nonetheless.

Slowly, she lowers her gaze from the upper-level apartments and turns back to the streetscape beyond. While the riverside apartments no doubt hold lucrative treasures to lift, they are too well-protected – by nearby Infrastructure Protectors, by patrolling Peacekeepers, and by the scores of Elementals that swell in the nearby streets and laneways. The better option is the row of apartments six blocks to the east.

Adjusting her backpack straps and hefting the weight into a more comfortable position, Lira heads south instead. She doesn’t need to case the apartments in nearby Precinct 12; she has been stealing from them since she was a Trainee. And besides, it is too early to return – she has already chanced her arm by hitting the apartments three times in the last week.

She will return to them in a few week’s time. Now, she needs to collect.

***

The narrow bridge over the Syn River leads Lira to the maze of streets and laneways in Precinct 5. The early morning sun seems hotter here, heating the oppressive concrete and steel and amplifying the stench of the nearby canals. She scrubs at the sweat pricking her brow, pushes up the sleeves of her grease-stained shirt and picks up her pace. Ahead, the streets splinter into a smaller maze of alleys and arcades, reminding her of the cracks that creep across the plaster ceiling of her apartment.

“You’re late.”

The voice murmurs to her from the shadows of an empty arcade. Lira slows her pace and steps inside. Yvgeny stands at the far end against the service door of an abandoned nutrient store, his fingers tapping against his thighs in that way of his when he’s anxious or frustrated or both. Yvgeny shares her love of the money, but his nerves don’t handle the risks as well.

Despite his weak constitution, his greedy eyes light up like wallscreens when he sees the next-gen, fully optimised glass screen she pulls from her polyprop satchel.

He reaches for it, but she pulls it back.

“Nuh-uh. I want to renegotiate our deal.”

“No renegotiation,” he says, gaze still firmly pinned to the screen. “We agreed on a two-day wage equivalent.”

Lira pulls the screen in tighter, tucking it under her arm. “For a second-gen, two terabyte model. This demands more respect. And by respect, I mean money.”

“Three-day wage equivalent,” he says, folding his arms.

“Five-day,” she counters.

He scowls, eyes twitching to the laneway beyond. His nerves are getting the better of him; these trade sessions are usually over by now  – every extra minute increases the chances of getting caught. If she were an Air Elemental, Lira would almost see him calculating the probability, weighing up the risk variables and offsetting them against the profits that were destined for his own account. But, as an Earth Elemental, all she sees are his greedy eyes and twitchy hands.

“Fine,” he says, reaching again for the device.

This time she relents, letting him pull the glass screen to his chest.

“But, I want more,” he continues. “If you can get me more, I’ll pay six-day equivalent.”

It is a better offer than she had hoped for. She nods slowly, not trusting her mouth to contain her enthusiasm. Earth Elementals are terrible liars  – all raw honesty with no grasp of subtlety or manipulation. She needn’t have worried  – Water Elementals, with their blinkered, microscopic focus and disinterest in all things social, are just as bad at reading emotional cues.

“Good,” Yvgeny says, stashing the screen away in his own satchel. “Meet me back here next week. And don’t be late.”

END EXCERPT

Pre-Order your copy for 99¢ on Amazon or add it to Goodreads!

about author

MIKHAEYLA KOPIEVSKY is an independent speculative fiction author who loves writing about complex and flawed characters in stories that explore philosophy, sociology and politics. She holds degrees in International Relations, Journalism, and Environmental Science.  A former counter-terrorism advisor, she has travelled to and worked in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Mikhaeyla lives in the Hunter Valley, Australia, with her husband and son. Revelation is the first origin story released in her Divided Elements series. Resistance (Book 1) and Rebellion (Book 2) are available now. Revolution (Book 3) is in development and expected for release in 2019.

You can follow Mikhaeyla on Bookbub or sign up to her author updates newsletter for exclusive content and giveaways.

 

 

Failsafe Fan Box ~ Epilepsy Awareness

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Back in May I published Failsafe, a YA SciFi novel featuring a main character who lives with epilepsy. The book itself was dedicated to the Epilepsy Foundation, an amazing organization whose mission…“is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.”

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November is Epilepsy Awareness month. To show support for this organization’s important work and in honor of Failsafe’s heroine, I partnered with awesome vendors to create a Failsafe Fan Box.

ALL PROFITS – 100% of them – are going to the Epilepsy Foundation.

The fan box is loaded with goodies, including:

fanbox

Pic by Lili at Utopia State of Mind (utopia-state-of-mind.com)

– A signed copy of the book

– An exclusive book sleeve

– A 6×9 double-sided character art print

– “Open Sky” – an exclusive candle tailored to a scene in the book
by FlickTheWick

– Two magnetic bookmarks of Failsafe’s main characters
by Dreamy&Co

– Custom-made “Alarm Red” druzy earrings

The box is available for international shipping too.

To have a look at the individual items, head over to the Etsy shop I set up.

You can also see a blogger’s unboxing on her YouTube channel.(URL: https://youtu.be/pi7IWhKQqnE)

If you’ve never purchased something on Etsy, they are a secure site where you can check out as a guest (no registration required) with multiple payment methods, including PayPal (which also has a guest option).

I made a limited number of these boxes because of overhead and the work involved in packing/shipping. Once they sell out, I literally can’t make more.

I’m a little over halfway through my stock and to my goal! I hope you’ll consider helping me to make a difference by raising funds for this truly worthy organization – and get some quality bookish swag in return! Again, 100% of profits are going to the Epilepsy Foundation, so if you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift, this is the one!

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