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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Excerpt: The Councillor by E. J. Beaton

The Councillor
by E. J. Beaton
March 2, 2021
Publisher: DAW
Genre: dark fantasy, swords and sorcery
448 pages
This Machiavellian fantasy follows a scholar's quest to choose the next ruler of her nation amidst lies, conspiracy, and assassination

When the death of Iron Queen Sarelin Brey fractures the realm of Elira, Lysande Prior, the palace scholar and the queen’s closest friend, is appointed Councillor. Publically, Lysande must choose the next monarch from amongst the city-rulers vying for the throne. Privately, she seeks to discover which ruler murdered the queen, suspecting the use of magic.

Resourceful, analytical, and quiet, Lysande appears to embody the motto she was raised with: everything in its place. Yet while she hides her drug addiction from her new associates, she cannot hide her growing interest in power. She becomes locked in a game of strategy with the city-rulers – especially the erudite prince Luca Fontaine, who seems to shift between ally and rival.

Further from home, an old enemy is stirring: the magic-wielding White Queen is on the move again, and her alliance with a traitor among the royal milieu poses a danger not just to the peace of the realm, but to the survival of everything that Lysande cares about.

In a world where the low-born keep their heads down, Lysande must learn to fight an enemy who wears many guises… even as she wages her own battle between ambition and restraint.
Editorial Reviews
Praise for The Councillor

“A sharp and insightful look at power and privilege in a m agical world, and what happens when people who’ve historically had neither find themselves in possession of both.”—Anna Stephens, author of the Godblind trilogy
“A gripping tale of intrigue and politics and power, set in a beautifully-drawn world of shifting alliances and morally grey characters. Intelligent, nuanced, and compelling.” —H. G. Parry, author of The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heap

“A tense intrigue of unknown loyalties, political machinations, and secret magic, The Councillor explores ambition, addiction, and the consequences of power. A powerful and intelligent debut from a writer to watch.” —Sam Hawke, author of City of Lies

“The Councillor is elegant, intricate, and utterly engaging! A beautifully written and intelligent debut novel.” —Rowenna Miller, author of the Unraveled Kingdom series

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
One
The shape of a crown stood out in the emerald wax of the seal, and Lysande glanced at it once before looking away, staring at anything but that envelope. She raised her vial and drank. Gold tinged the room, spreading from the corners, glossing the piles of manuscripts and slipping across the bedsheets; she felt it transmute her insides, moving from her chest to her abdomen. The clink of glass dripped luster, and through it all, she struggled against a surging wish to let the effects spread and spread.

"Signore Prior!"

Calm settled upon her. The vial felt newly cool, as if it truly had been purified; as if it had never contained a spoonful of chimera scale, nor any ingredients that might mix and, if swiftly consumed, permeate the bloodstream. She did not need to think about the composition of the drug. She certainly did not need to think about the envelope.

"If you please, Signore Prior, the queen would see you."

The ball of emotion in her chest had begun to soften. How easy it would be to let it dissolve, under the same force that had gilded her vision. The old chant repeated in her mind: restrain, constrain, subdue.

When the messenger shouted through the door again, she pushed against her ease and forced her fingers to trade the vial for an empty basin. Slowly, she withdrew a small piece of hardened resin from her desk drawer and watched the surface of the stone glitter in the candlelight. After staring at it for a long time, she drew a swift breath and placed the night-quartz on her tongue. The reaction worked through her, and she bent over and retched; her hands gripped the edges of the basin until everything was expurgated. In the middle of the blue liquid, her own eyes shone, and she glimpsed something that was almost desperation.

Words drifted through the door. As Lysande threw on a pair of trousers, she anchored herself to the messenger's phrase: the queen would see you.

Gathering her keys, she put on her best doublet, a thick garment in the royal green, with only a smattering of ink-spots. She took the envelope with the emerald seal from her desk and paused, staring at it for a long time, turning it over in her fingers before slipping it into her pocket.

The physicians were leaving the royal suite as she arrived, carrying baskets of tools; only Surrick lingered in the corridor, wiping her hands on her robe. She nodded to Lysande, who nodded back slowly.

Lysande turned away from the chief physician and approached the suite. Her stomach swirled, but she kept her back straight and her hands from trembling.

Through the antechamber, trying not to look at the points of the swords in the brackets, she kept up a stiff gait. In the bedchamber, she threw up a hand to shield her eyes. Sunlight embossed the shelves on the wall. She watched an aureole form around a silver chalice, illuminating the words Sarelin Brey-Unifier, Warrior, Conqueror-the Hand that Held Back the White Tide and Saved Elira. Lysande shook her head and, after a moment, ran her finger over the edge of the envelope in her pocket.

"Sarelin?" Her voice resounded in the chamber.

She walked to the bed. The robe on the sheets drew her gaze, mottled with blood.

"Sarelin? Are you awake?"

"I hope so," a woman's voice said. "If this is the next life, it's lacking a bottle of red."

She felt the weight of Sarelin's presence, even before a figure emerged from behind the dressing-screen. Lysande was certain that the queen had not only chosen this position to show off the daggers at her left hip, nor the sword at her right, for at this angle, sunbeams struck the dent in her armor, turning it into a gleaming scar.

"Thank Cognita!" Lysande said.

"You can thank those damned physicians." Sarelin strode over and clapped her on the shoulder until her teeth knocked. "If they don't stop hectoring me, I'll tip the ghastly potion down their throats."

"Armor after an injury, though? Is that your wisest idea?"

"Surrick says I'm healed enough for it."

"And did you perhaps order Surrick to tell you that?" Lysande said.

"You want to watch that you're not too clever before breakfast. You can't enjoy a tart if you're full of a retort." As Sarelin clanked over to her table and poured herself a goblet of vivantica, Lysande noted the absence of a flush in her cheeks. The queen was not the wan figure she had been a few days ago when two women in armor carried her into the palace, shouting about a panther attack, but she still looked drawn, Lysande thought: too drawn by far.

She tested the words she had planned in her head.

"Ugh." Sarelin eyed the rose-pink liquid, swirling it in the cup. "Here, Trichard, Trichard!" A ball of golden fur leaped up from one of the chairs into Sarelin's hand. "You did a good job finding this little fellow."

"Call it an investment in the realm." Lysande tried to conjure a smile, hoping it would not crack.

"He lives up to his namesake." Sarelin tickled the tiny monkey. "Father could never shut his mouth, either."

The monkey chattered, as if on cue. It took a sip of the medicine and smacked its lips, and the two women laughed as one, Lysande's smile softening.

"Surrick's been bleating at me since I woke, telling me to use your little taster every time I drink. Claims your monkey can sniff out poison in seconds." Sarelin gave the animal another stroke. "Maybe she's got a point. With the whole realm thinking I'm about to collapse, there's some who'd like me to collapse faster."

Some moments arrived like a break in a song: pauses between beats that were not prearranged but opened up of their own accord, when the musicians drew breath. Lysande was looking at Sarelin, and then, in the space between words, she was aware of everything that she had agonized over since the hunt returned: all the possibilities, suspicions, and doubts, culminating in last night's reading. Sentences needled her mind.

She should at least say something. A hint about the panther. The animal was not the problem, but as for the associations that her research had thrown up . . . there was a certain name that you did not say, if you were wise, and Lysande was already bargaining with herself. When Sarelin was well enough to bark a greeting at the guards; when Sarelin was slamming the door of her suite and making the swords trembling in their brackets; when the queen's cheeks were flushed, then, she would bring up the possibility that the panther's attack had not been a coincidence.

Sarelin downed the goblet of vivantica in one go, shuddering, and reached underneath one of the platters. "I know it's late, but take this as the second half as your gift-day present."

"Sarelin, you cannot-"

"How dare you tell a queen what she cannot do?" Sarelin thrust a box under Lysande's nose, her face half-split with a smile.

Lysande opened the lid. The feather dazzled her eyes. Every barb was star-bright; the stem shone, painted gold and whittled to a point. She lifted the quill out of the box.

The first half of the present had been a gold dagger, presented a week ago, on the day that marked twenty-two years since she was found. She had never understood how the silverbloods expected her to celebrate that day, as if her childhood were a play with a magnificent ending. The problem with nobles was that they could not imagine a genre aside from heroic drama. What kind of story was it if your parents had abandoned you in a carpenter's shop during the war, a naked child in a room of blazing wood-tragicomedy? Or farce?

But the dagger. That was worth celebrating. Sarelin's present had carved straw enemies in the target range. Lysande turned her gaze to the quill now. Squinting, she made out her own face in the surface of the feather. The frown and the straggling mane of hair glimmered in reflection; she really should have combed her hair this morning, but at least the glinting, deathstruck lock was hidden beneath the other strands.

"You're spoiling me," she said.

"It's an exchange. You're going to copy out the news of my recovery."

"Ah. Of course I am."

"Anyway . . . there's no better scholar. Haven't I said it enough times? You're the girl who translated the Silver Songs, Lys. The girl with the quill."

Those were the same words Sarelin had spoken the day she had visited the schoolroom of the orphanage, the day that she had questioned each child about the history of Elira. I'll take the girl with the quill, she had said. Lysande swallowed. She placed the quill back in its hollow. In the pit of her stomach, unsaid things circled around and around and kicked, and every warning she had rehearsed in the last two days strained to get out.

"And you're taking care of the envelope for me," Sarelin said slowly, holding Lysande's gaze. "That deserves a reward."

It would not help, to run her hand over the envelope again. It would not aid her one jot to take it out and gaze at it-if overthinking could have made her feel confident, she would already be a worriless scholar. Lysande hugged Sarelin, her fingers interlacing behind the silver breastplate. There were too many chalices and plates on the wall, she thought; too many gleaming things from which her own countenance could gaze back.

She left the target range in the quiet before dusk. Once the door to her chamber was shut, she removed the jar from her drawer, unscrewed the lid, and dipped the spoon in, taking care not to let her hand tremble as she tipped a spoonful of shredded scale into the vial. Blue. Still the same stock, the same hue shining; maybe in a year or so, the smugglers would source their product from different chimera remains. Then she would be spooning out purple scale, or green. The properties of a long-dead beast were likely to transmogrify . . . with each different stock, new risks blossomed . . . ChariceÕs warnings repeated themselves to her, but she could smell the scale wafting up in dozens of different notes.

Spiced wine, grass after heavy rain, and the scent of old books when the covers had begun to wear; sometimes, like today, the chimera scale smelled of the things she enjoyed. At other times, she caught the scent of things she had tried to forget, like the rotten wood of the floorboards at the orphanage, and pipe-smoke: a thick tang from a particular herb which she had breathed all too recently.

Lysande held the vial over the fireplace until the heat nipped at her fingers. She poured the shredded scale into the goblet, tipped in a spoon of sugar from a jar on her desk, then added two spoons of water from another goblet.

The mixture began to fizz. It shivered and melted, leaving behind a liquid the color of lake water in the early morning, and Lysande drank until the goblet was half-empty. Her heartbeat began to hammer with the force of an angry blacksmith, but she ignored it; if she had pressed a hand to her forehead, she knew that she would have felt a fiery swathe of skin. Her stomach writhed. She told herself to push through the symptoms, one by one; to hold on to the thought of the reward. The calm spread through her next: it might not be pleasure that coursed through her veins, exactly, but she could see everything without frustration. The world around her, from the papers on her desk to the light streaming through the window and the wood of the bedposts-it all felt golden. The worries within her melted away and a purity imposed itself onto the room.

Had she really been thinking about the panther all afternoon? Had she truly been considering telling Sarelin what she had discovered, weighing it against the risk of the queen storming through the palace, forgoing medicine and rest? Had she really been imagining the way that rage dug trenches on Sarelin's brow-the way that Sarelin's voice smoked with fury when she swore revenge on one particular woman?

She tilted the goblet. Another drop of the concoction landed on her tongue. The hammer-blows of her heartbeat began to land faster and faster.

How familiar the practice of avoidance could be, and how sweet. There would be no need for night-quartz this time. She took the new quill from its box and traced a few shapes in the air, snaking the tip around.

Her hand flew over the pages of her notes, tracing tables of siege campaigns and checking officers' names sprinkled in brown ink. It was easy to forget about her distress when she was unearthing details, picking out the fine points from the stories and records that immersed her in another time. The tasks had changed, slowly. In her early years in the palace, she had compiled and translated as much of the realm's political history as she could, leafing through fat manuscripts in the queen's private library that had promised tales of assassinations, old stories of chimera attacks, and newer, mud-spattered accounts of rebellions. She had summarized trade deals, cross-referencing them with foreign alliances, noting whether they were achieved with arms or ink. Only when she had felt confident enough in her knowledge of history had she begun to search for patterns, analyzing the strategies that Elira's queens and kings had used against invaders, and classifying the tactics that city-rulers had employed to defend or expand their territory. It had taken many false starts with a quill before she had written the first words of her own treatise, the title pricked out boldly in rare violet ink: An Ideal Queen.

Today, she could not write for long. No matter what approach she tried to take, the prose came out in ungainly lumps. Sarelin's confident smile appeared in her mind, undercutting every sentence.

She opened her map-book, turning to the pages at the back. After surveying the diagrams of the White War for a moment, she touched the golden quill to the paper.

The final battle came out quickly; the Mud Field bloomed with legions and captains on her page, the Pyrrhan clash appearing on the White Army's left flank and the archers on the right. She covered the field with thin lines, marking the movements of the battalions.

There remained one thing to add, after the White Queen's advance: Sarelin's last charge. Her quill hovered above the page. Somehow, she could not touch it to the map.--This text refers to the hardcover edition.

About the Author

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E. J. Beaton is the author of the fantasy novel The Councillor. She has previously published a poetry collection, Unbroken Circle (Melbourne Poets Union), and has been shortlisted for the ACU Prize for Poetry and the Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize. She studied literature and writing at university, and her PhD thesis included analysis of Machiavellian politics in Shakespearean drama and fantasy literature. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.--This text refers to the audioCD edition.

Book Review: Calculated Risks (InCryptid Book 10) by Seanan McGuire

Calculated Risks (InCryptid Book 10)
by Seanan McGuire
February 23, 2021
Publisher: DAW
ASIN: 0756411815 ISBN: 9780756411817
Just when Sarah Zellaby, adopted Price cousin and telepathic ambush predator, thought that things couldn't get worse, she's had to go and prove herself wrong. After being kidnapped and manipulated by her birth family, she has undergone a transformation called an instar, reaching back to her Apocritic origins to metamorphize. While externally the same, she is internally much more powerful, and much more difficult to control.

Even by herself. After years of denial, the fact that she will always be a cuckoo has become impossible to deny.

Now stranded in another dimension with a handful of allies who seem to have no idea who she is--including her cousin Annie and her maybe-boyfriend Artie, both of whom have forgotten their relationship--and a bunch of cuckoos with good reason to want her dead, Sarah must figure out not only how to contend with her situation, but with the new realities of her future. What is she now? Who is she now? Is that person someone she can live with?

And when all is said and done, will she be able to get the people she loves, whether or not they've forgotten her, safely home?


Sara becomes stranded in another dimension, with her cousins Annie and cuckoo Mark, the man she loves, Artie, along with some human students and cuckoo children. The adult cuckoos are stripped of who they are, leaving only the hunger like zombies. Sara may have not only survived an instar she was meant to be stripped of all, but it may also have upped her telepathic abilities. Now, she must figure out this new world, avoid unknown dangers along with the zombie adult cuckoos. A
nd get everyone back to their dimension, and survive whatever dangers there may be here and any zombie adult cuckoos. 

Seanan McGuire has done it again with another great fantasy with a science fiction mix about the cryptologist Price family. Her characters and their world are like comfort food for me, enjoyable reading, and this novel isn’t any different. You don’t have to be a mind reader to see that!

I gave Calculated Risks (InCryptid Book 10) 4 ½ dimensional traveling sheep.






Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
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Seanan McGuire is a California-based author with a strong penchant for travel and can regularly be found just about any place capable of supporting human life (as well as a few places that probably aren't). Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer; Rosemary and Rue, was named one of the Top 20 Paranormal Fantasy Novels of the Past Decade; and her novel Feed, written under the name Mira Grant, was named as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2010. She also won a Hugo for her podcast, and is the first person to be nominated for fivHugo Awards in a single year.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Blooming in Motion: Coloring book by Amber Barbee Pickens + giveaway from Publishers Weekly

Blooming in Motion Coloring Book
by Amber Barbee Pickens
January 11, 2021
98 pages
Genre: Dance, Black & African American History, Coloring Books for Grown-Ups
Blooming in Motion is a coloring book celebrating Black history through the performing art of dance. The original illustrations by Amber Barbee Pickens honor trailblazing dance legends by paying tribute to the sacrifice, perseverance, fearlessness, discipline and eternal resilience demonstrated throughout their life journeys.

Dance and flowers are creatively combined to express motion and demonstrate a complete picture of celebration.


About the Author:
"I feel free when I dance, it's an escape and a way of praise — I dance as a testimony of God’s grace — it's my release,”

Amber Barbee Pickens is a dancer, choreographer, director, actress, author, illustrator, and designer. Raised in Dallas, Texas, Amber attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where she was honored by the Texas Commission on the Arts as a Young Master of the Arts. She also studied dance at Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles and Alvin Ailey School in New York. At an early age, Amber was encouraged by her teachers to always give homage to the ones that paved the way. As a student at The Juilliard School, she sought more representation and spent many hours at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts learning more about legendary dancers such as Alvin Ailey, Eartha Kitt, the Nicholas Brothers and Josephine Baker. Amber was inspired and dedicated her career to uplifting and preserving the heritage of African Americans/Blacks in the arts.

Throughout the quarantine, Amber has focused on creating her coloring book, Blooming in Motion, that celebrates black history in the arts, while also promoting creativity. It features twenty historic black dancers in original illustrations by Amber along with short bios. Amber was very inspired by the saying, “Give those you admire flowers while you can" so each trailblazer is accompanied by unique illustrations of flowers. Her goal is to also uplift black culture and representation in the arts. Since her early years in dance, Amber always yearned for more knowledge about black history in the dance world. Blooming in Motion Coloring Book provides the services of education, and a portion of art therapy, along with other health benefits. Please visit www.bloominginmotion.com to learn more and pre-order your copy. Blooming in Motion's release date is February 2,2021.

GIVEAWAY
Publishers Weekly is holding a giveaway for a print copy of Blooming in Motion. 
*You can also find printable pages.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Queen of Thieves: Coloring Book (A Fractured Fairy Tale Retelling) by C.J. Kavanaugh + giveaway

Queen of Thieves: Coloring Book (A Fractured Fairy Tale Retelling)
by C.J. Kavanaugh (Author), Dragon Realm Press (Illustrator)
February 16, 2021
26 pages
Genre: Fantasy Coloring Book
A companion book to the YA fractured fairytale retelling Queen of Thieves.

If saving your family meant becoming your nightmare, could you do it?

Everyone knows Yaksah, The King of Thieves, is not to be trifled with. His swiftness and stealth are legendary. Nothing valuable is safe from his nimble, sticky fingers.

But the King and the city of Vymn aren't all they appear. Yaksah has a secret... and Ahd, a simple woodcutter, could expose it to the world. Keeping it though gives Ahd an upper hand over Yaksah like no one's ever had. It may save his life… or destroy them both.



About the Author

C.J. has spent most of her life telling stories. She was captivated by the written word at the age of seven, when she read her first Magic Tree House book, and has ventured to countless far off places since. She loves to travel and explore new cultures. When she's not writing or dreaming of new book ideas, you can usually find her helping other authors polish their works as a freelance editor--and singing while doing so. Broadway musicals are her soul-food, something her mother and sister know well. She constantly blasts the newest soundtrack through the halls of their Missouri home, much to the chagrin of her very sassy and spoiled cat.

Giveaway
$25 Amazon
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TV Show Review: WandaVision (Season 1: Episode 8)

WandaVision (Season 1: Episode 8)
Jan 15, 2021
Executive Producers: Jac Schaeffer, Kevin Feige
Starring: Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Teyonah Parris
Episodes: 8
Genre: Action & Adventure
Based on: Scarlet Witch; by Stan Lee; Jack Kirby;
TV Network: Disney+
 “Previously On...” is the eighth episode of the American television miniseries WandaVision, based on the Marvel Comics characters Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch and Vision. 

Wanda embarks on a troubling journey revisiting her past for insight into her present and future.

Break out the tissues, folks, because Wandavision is gonna break your heart.

This week's episode is finally showing us what happened to Wanda after the events of Endgame, and the answers aren’t pretty. Wanda is forced to face reality via a therapy-like session conducted by big bad Agatha Harkness. While Wanda is forced to revisit the painful events in her past, Agatha is fishing for information on how Wanda could manipulate such a large area with the people in it. By the end of the episode, we have some answers and more questions. 

This is also the first episode that doesn’t feature Vision in the present. He only appears through flashbacks. In fact, the episode is primarily carried by Elizabeth Olsen and Kathryn Hahn, both of whom I enjoyed watching on screen. Hahn does a fantastic job with her character, and this episode showcases her talent and ability to play off of Olsen's Wanda. Agatha feels powerful and confident in her ability to "control" Wanda, all while dragging her through the worst moments of her life. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Olsen just breaks my heart in this episode. Even before the first flashback begins, you just know it's not going to be pretty. From the day her parents were killed, to the days after her brother was killed, to right after Wanda was brought back (after Endgame) only to remember that Vision was dead, Wanda's been through so much heartache. Olsen brought that fragility and brokenness to the character. I defy anyone not to shed a tear or two while watching this episode.

Curiously though, in the flashbacks of Wanda's life, you only ever see Pietro as a child. There are no pictures of him, no scenes where you see maybe a newspaper clipping with his picture in the background. Nothing. 

The episode also showed Hayward's true colors. He's a liar; he set Wanda up to suit his own agenda, and the consequences of that could end up being disastrous. For Wanda mostly. 

It's taken 8 episodes for this one, and in my opinion, it's the best in the series. So far. The final episode is coming up, and I'm curious to see if it will tie everything together or just leave everything open for the next MCU movie.

Rating: 4.5 



Adria Reyes

Annie Anderson's playlist for her vampire thriller Dead & Gone (Grave Talker #2) + giveaway


Annie Anderson's playlist for her vampire thriller
Dead & Gone (Grave Talker #2)



Dead and Gone (Grave Talker Book 2)
by Annie Anderson 
February 23, 2021
196 pages
There are few things worse than being on the Arcane Bureau of Investigation’s naughty list.

To keep herself out of hot water, Darby Adler has made a deal with the devil—using her skills as a grave talker to help the ABI solve some very cold cases.

But there is something mighty amiss in this task—especially when quite a few of these cases lead Darby right back to her hometown of Haunted Peak and the secrets buried there.


Books 1 and 3


About the Author:
Website-FB-TwitterAnnie Anderson is a military wife and United States Air Force veteran. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she is a southern girl at heart, but has lived all over the US and abroad. As soon as the military stops moving her family around, she'll settle on a state, but for now she enjoys being a nomad with her husband, two daughters, an old man of a dog, and a young pup that makes life... interesting.

GIVEAWAY

The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince (Heirs of Magic #1) by Jeffe Kennedy + giveaway

The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince (Heirs of Magic #1) 
by Jeffe Kennedy
January 25th, 2021
278 pages
Follows The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon in the UNDER A WINTER SKY fantasy holiday anthology.

A Legacy of Honor

Crown Prince Astar has only ever wanted to do the right thing: be a credit to his late-father’s legacy, live up to his duties as heir to the High Throne of the Thirteen Kingdoms, and cleave to the principles of honor and integrity that give his life structure—and that contain the ferocious grizzly bear inside. Nowhere in those guiding principles is there room for the fierce-hearted, wildly free-spirited, and dizzyingly beautiful shapeshifter, Zephyr. Still, even though they’ve been friends most of their lives, Astar is able to keep Zephyr safely at arm’s length. He’s already received a list of potential princess brides who will make a suitable queen, and Zephyr is not on it.

A Longtime Obsession

Zeph has wanted the gorgeous, charming, and too-good-for-his-own-good Astar for as long as she can remember. Not that her longing for him—and his perfectly sculpted and muscular body—has stopped her from enjoying any number of lovers. Astar might be honorably (and foolishly) intent on remaining chaste until marriage, but Zeph is Tala and they have no such rules. Still, she loves Astar—as a friend—and she wants him to at least taste life before he chains himself to a wife he didn’t choose. There’s no harm in him having a bit of fun with her. But the man remains stubbornly elusive, staving off all of her advances with infuriatingly noble refusals.

A Quest to Save the World

But things change when a new terror threatens the Thirteen Kingdoms. Following prophecy, Astar and Zeph—along with a mismatched group of shapeshifter, warrior, and sorceress friends—go on a quest to stop a magic rift before it grows beyond anyone’s ability to stop. Thrust together with Zephyr, Astar finds himself increasingly unable to resist her seductive invitations. And, in the face of life and death battles with lethal monsters, he begins to lose sight of why having her, just once, is such a terrible idea…


About the Author:
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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. 

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

GIVEAWAY
A digital copy (mobi or epub) of the anthology Under a Winter Sky, which contains the prequel novella of this book. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

WTF-ery? (What the Flockery) with urban fantasy author Raine Reiter + giveaway

Urban Fantasy Author Raine Reiter shares some things about her that will make you say...
1. I babysat Icelandic sheep at my friend’s farm. Odin, the young male, wouldn’t stop crying so I sang to him all afternoon.

2. My first job was in a radioactive laundry washing hazard suits. I got very good at turning rubber gloves right-side out.

3. I bumped into Brooke Shields at the hairdresser. She almost knocked me down.

4. In London, I stayed in a Hackney squat and a four-story mansion on the Bishops Avenue. Our Hampstead neighbor was the Sultan of Brunei. I spent five years in the UK.

5. While working in NYC in the 1980s, I walked through the Twin Towers lower shopping area. Suddenly, I saw a bright flash, flames, and heard screaming. I passed out. When I came to, everything was back to normal. A vision? I don’t know, but nothing like that ever happened again.

My dark contemporary fantasy, Takakush is available on Amazon. http://tiny.cc/TakakushNovel.

Takakush: Genus Magic #1
by Raine Reiter
January 25th, 2021
286 pages
Genre: Mature YA/ NA/ Urban (Dark) FantasyWhen Professor Elena Lukas returns to her cozy Pacific Northwest hometown with a broken heart, she’s plunged back into the fate she tried to escape. Like her mother and grandmother before her, Elena must now dedicate her life to a powerful ancient Lithuanian goddess. Although she is prepared to live as a priestess hiding in a contemporary tourist town, she arrives to find that a series of so-called animal attacks have terrorized her forest.

With the help of a handsome detective from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Elena uses her expertise in invasive and endangered species to identify that these are no normal animal attacks. The woods are stalked by a dark, mystical creature bent on ravaging the area in an attempt to quell its insatiable hunger. When her little sister goes missing, Elena realizes that the beast can only be vanquished if she is brave enough to face it in-person, embrace her identity as a high priestess, and expose her powers to the man she is growing feelings for.

Raine Reiter weaves together an empowered, female-centered narrative with rich descriptions of nature and an ever-present sense of mystery. Her vivid, flowing prose takes readers of dark fantasy into a world that looks and feels real, while still evoking the enticing paranormal creativity shared by authors such as Richelle Mead and Kat Richardson.



EXCERPT
Regana – Home
Regana stood between the two worlds, watching her sleeping body. When did I become so old?
The wrinkled face, spun-sugar mop, and gnarled fingers in Real-Time bore little resemblance to her divine avatar in the Penumbra. Marks of time mean nothing. She chuckled.
Lithe and nimble as a sprite, Regana kicked off from the boundary and floated through the between, sorting threads of possibility as she passed.

“Goddess of the Crossroads, why draw me here?” She waited for an answer.

Thick fibers of probability whirled and pulsed with light around her, while others faded into implausibility and blinked out.

Soon, her temper frayed. Braiding destinies and untangling misfortunes amused Regana, but her fatigued human body in Real-Time called for rest. “Show me the blasted job and let me get out,” Regana said. “Lady of thresholds, doors, and portals, your priestess readies to serve you.” Her cry echoed through the Penumbra. “What must I do?”

A scarlet rope, thick as an anaconda, whipped out of the tangle and garroted her waist. Hot, near burning, it reeked of dark magic and death.

“See.” The voice hit her like a hammer, and a kaleidoscope of images overwhelmed her mind’s eye. “Be present,” ordered her goddess.
Galahad - McCleary, WA

Across the field, wind stirred the chimes, bells, and bamboo noisemakers hanging from the eaves of the main house. 

Galahad dozed in the pasture with an ancient horse blanket covering him.

Frost on the grass and pasture fence resembled snowfall. A freezing fog surged along the paddock, encircling his legs.

He woke. Something was different, unfamiliar. It wasn’t fear, it was curiosity.

With drowsy eyes, he surveyed the tree line. His nostrils flared, sampling the air. There. Hiding beneath the aroma of evergreens, a sickly-sweet stench. A predator.

The old warrior’s heart sped as he readied for a fight. At sixteen hands, he was massive and courageous. Last spring, he ran off a pack of coyotes come to snatch a newborn kid.

Galahad snorted and shook his mane. The frigid air transformed his breath into plumes of steam. He pawed the earth, kicking up divots of soil.

The wind ceased. The chimes quieted. 
It struck Galahad, mounting him from behind and wrapping its limbs around Galahad’s belly. The horse arched his back as incisors sank into his neck.

Claws raked his abdomen and up his flanks, scoring slashes through the blanket into his hide. The metallic tang of his blood joined the beast’s stench.

Galahad’s hind legs kicked into his attacker’s midsection, but it only embedded its fangs deeper. Blood spurted from the wound.

The embrace tightened. He bucked, rearing and struggling for footing. The attacker threw Galahad to the ground and remounted.
The stallion screamed.

Teeth ripped flesh from Galahad’s throat, severing his jugular. His sight darkened, and his blood melted the frosted grass. Passing through and away, the horse saw the blackness clinging to his murderer.

The malignant thread released, and Regana’s vision ended. In the mundane world, her eyelids flew open, her heart hammering in her chest.

“Blood-red magic rings the waxing moon.” Her voice croaked with the remains of sleep. “Medžioklė begins.”

About the Author

Raine cavorts in the wilds of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula with her dog, Luke, and writes Northwest Gothic. Her first novel Takakush will be published on Amazon in January 2021. This is the first book in the series.



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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Interview with Sci-Fi authors Beauregard M. Neville & Cole Neville + giveaway


Q&A with Beauregard

Where were you born/grew up?
I was born in Rocksprings Wyoming. Was moved to Utah within days so I never lived in my birth town. Grew up in various parts of Utah from Provo to Brigham City. I consider Brigham City my home since I lived there the longest and that’s where I was living when I graduated from High School and my parents live there still.

What are you passionate about these days?
Besides my writing and finishing the Black Winter series, I’m passionate about my family. I have 3 boys, ages 9, 7, and 4 with a fourth child on the way. Nothing brings me more joy than spending time with them and seeing them grow. Being a father is the greatest blessing and experience a man can have.

How do you find time to write as a parent?
It’s challenging. I rarely do the things I enjoy when I can be home with my wife and kids and spend time with them. I get most of my writing done when they are at school and work or even late at night when they are sleeping.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was in the 8th grade. This is when I really started to write stories down in my notebook at school. By the time I was a senior in high school I knew that writing novels was something I wanted to do.

What inspired you to write this book?
Truthfully it was a number of things. My family loves all sorts of story formats, whether it be a movie, book or even a video game. When I first started writing the book for the first time in January of 2009, I had a very basic idea. A soldier and his Siberian Husky in a mountain, snowy setting. The more I wrote the more I would take inspiration from many stories I had previously seen or read, and even a couple video games that I had recently played. For starters, the idea of a government facility deep in a mountain I got from Gears of War. The dog with the soldier I got from the cover of Fallout 3. I really didn’t what the story was then. Just small details from other things that I really liked. It took a couple years from that point before Cole and I knew how the first book would really end. Once we had the complete story for Black Winter, the rest of the story was easy.

How did you come up with the title for Black Winter?
The title didn’t come until several years after we first started working on it. Not until after the story was complete. Originally, Alec Winter was actually Alec Ryker. But as the story was ending, I really like the idea of having the title of the book have a double meaning. So that’s when we decided to change Alec’s last name to Winter. You have this never-ending winter along with a soldier who’s name is Winter and they sort of battle each other throughout the series. The true meaning of the name of the book though you will have to discover as you read the series.

If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to play the lead?
Originally that was an easy answer. Henry Cavill. I actually had to do a screenplay as an assignment in college that was a lot of fun. Part of the assignment was casting real actors for the roles in the movie. I picked Cavill as Alec Winter because of Cavill’s size and hair color. The only issue was his eye color which was an easy fix with contacts or even CGI. Now that many of the actors that I cast for the characters are all older it would be a little more difficult to pick new ones. I’m looking forward to fans of the book to come up with their own ideas though.

Are any of your characters based off of real people or did they come entirely from your imagination?
A little bit of both. There are a few characters in the book that are completely based off of real people in terms of their names, and others in terms of how I perceived them as people. Two of my friends have their full names in the book, because of how unique their names are. The character in the book are criminals though so they are very different than the people they are based on. There are other characters in the book that are a complete likeness, only their names are different. For some of those characters they are people that I despised, so I made them into characters that the readers would despise as well. Alec Winter is completely from imagination, but the way he interacts with his dog and his overall voice and how he talks is based off of me. He talks like me and loves his dog as much as I do.

What are your top 10 favorite books or Authors?
My favorite books are the Eragon books by Christopher Paolini. I’ve read the entire series about ten times and it never gets old for me. In fact, some of my inspiration for the relationship between two characters in Black Winter comes from that series. You’ll have to discover what I’m talking about by reading the book. I don’t want to give any spoilers. I also really loved the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It’s a very long series, but the writing is incredible. I don’t know that I’ll read it again, because of its length, but I’m glad I read it and I would definitely recommend it along with Eragon.

What is your favorite genre to read?
Oddly enough, Black Winter is a Science Fiction novel, but I don’t actually read much of that genre. I prefer fantasy as you can see with my two favorite authors and book series.

Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise?
Both. I like it to be quiet, but most of the time I like to listen to music when I write. Different songs help me to feel the mood of a scene I’m trying to write. If it’s really distracting noise though I can’t concentrate. Like if my kids are yelling and fighting, I won’t be able to focus. I could easily sit in front of the tv and write though.

The final thing I’d like to say answers several questions. Writing is very time consuming and requires a lot of dedication. Black Winter took 12 years from start to publication. Mostly the reason why it took so long was due to life getting in the way, writers block or just simply procrastination. The sequels will definitely come out much faster than the first, but mostly they will because we know what the story is. We know exactly where the characters will be at the end of the story and how they will get there. So getting there will be less of a challenge. Plus, now that Black Winter is officially out there for the world to see, the desire to complete the series for everyone that reads it gives me the motivation I need to sit down and put in the time to write the rest of the books.

Q&A with Cole

How did you become an author?
My path to becoming an author is a little unique. Growing up I loved reading but I hated writing. As I got older I realised not only was I good at writing, I actually started enjoying it. I started working with Beau on his book by helping him with different ideas throughout Black Winter. Finally after years it had turned into as much mine as it was his and I couldn’t be more grateful to share that with Beau.

Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at once?
Both. We wrote Black Winter before writing any of the sequels. But as we got deeper into the story we slowly wrote the beginning and end for all of the books. We found that by figuring out different directions we wanted to go with the sequels helped add things into Black Winter.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
I am a big gamer so once everyone has gone to bed I enjoy starting up my PC and gaming. I have always enjoyed video games but right now I love playing Warzone. I also enjoy sitting down on the couch with my wife and watching a tv show.

What are your top 10 favorite books?
Top 10 books are a little hard so I will go with my top book series. My favorite book series would have to be Eragon/The Inheritance Cycle. Eragon was the first book that really got me into reading, I also love everything that involves dragons so that helped as well. My second favorite book series is Harry Potter. Harry Potter was a book series that really helped me escape from reality at times when I was a kid and even sometimes still to this day. My third favorite book series is The Ranger’s Apprentice.

Black Winter
by Beauregard M. NeVille & Cole NeVille
October 21, 2020
302 pages
Genre: SciFi Fantasy
In the near future the planet is covered in snow. Nobody knows why. A group of people are living inside a military facility that was designed to be self sustaining and can last forever. So long as the food doesn't run out. Captain Alec Winter is among the people trying to survive and they will all be tested with the arrival of two strangers and something lurking in the shadows of the storm. Alec will have the fight for his life and everyone that he cares about. He just has to avoid becoming the very thing that threatens everyone's survival.

Excerpt
“Hang in there, Al,” says Brian as he kneels down next to my father. Strangely, the underwater muffled sound disappears and everything sounds clear.

“He’s losing a lot of blood. We need to get him back to the compound now,” my father says with a shaky voice.

“We can take him back on a sled. I’ll take him back on one with me,” Brian replies without hesitation. “I can get him there fast.”

“Emily, you can ride back with Rider. I’ll...” Emily interrupts my father at the same time I shake my head. “No! I’ll ride with you or on the same sled as Alec,”
(Chapter 7, Pg 140)

About the Authors
Beauregard M NeVille
I was born in Rocksprings Wyoming, but grew up in various parts of Utah, from Provo to Brigham City. By the time I was in 4th grade was when I moved to Brigham and stayed there until after high school and I left to pursue my own life. I’ve always had a love for writing and knew it was what I wanted to do. I also love sports, played most of them throughout school and still try and play basketball when I can. I love the outdoors, going hiking and camping and would spend every day on a lake if I could. I love my family. My wife Amanda is a wonderful, hardworking mother that still manages to be in school, work as a teacher and still provides time for our children. I have three amazing boys, Kaden, Ryder and Maverick. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing them grow and getting to have fun with them. I love dogs and my Dog Mya was my inspiration for the dog in Black Winter. I owe everything I have to my parents for teaching me hard work and the value of a family. I’m forever grateful for the blessings in my life and I look forward to what the future will bring to me and my family.

Cole NeVille
I was born in Brigham City, Utah. I have lived in several states but Utah is my home. Reading and writing has always been a big part of my life. I used reading to escape from a lot of things when I was growing up. I also have played sports my whole life. I grew up playing football and basketball, and still play basketball whenever I can. I love everything outdoors whether it is hiking, camping, golfing, or fishing. Being able to get out into the wildlife and smell the fresh air is something my wife Sarah and I love to share together. We both love dogs and love our dog Kumba.

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