Friday, August 29, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Artisans by Julie Reece and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

The Artisans by Julie Reece

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

The Artisans

They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old RAVEN WEATHERSBY gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.
To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.
Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad's drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.
But Raven's stepdad's drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she's ever known out of jail, or worse.
Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries' clothing line, signing over her creative rights.
Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can't imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.
But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
The Artisans is a delectably rich, layered and dark YA Southern Gothic inspired by Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont's classic Beauty and the Beast.
"The Artisans has all the elements I love - spooky intrigue, strong friendships, and a romantic tension to be savored." ~ Wendy Higgins, New York Times bestselling author of the Sweet Evil trilogy.

add to goodreads
Title: The Artisans
Publication date: May 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Julie Reece


Julie Reece

Born in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.
I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.
Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.
Then I thought I’d write one down…
Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!

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

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
(Winners will receive their book on release day)


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Place Ideas Come From~

Hush Puppy started years ago as a correspondence course assignment consisting of just three chapters and an outline. I like to think of that book as an ode to my childhood, growing up in the South with the ever present racial and social divides between people. You’d think these things would be dead and buried in the past, but you still see them every day on the news.  I originally set Hush Puppy in the 1980’s to be more like the world I knew, but an agent asked me “Does it have to be in the past?” The answer was no, because racism and discrimination are still happening today.

More and more, I find myself mining fiction ideas from what I see going on in the world around me. In my upcoming novel, Vessel, I wondered about modern e-books. What if all our written knowledge became digital in the future and we suddenly lost it all? What would life be like without books?? Kind of a terrifying thought.

A lot of my ideas come from themes that strike me as especially poignant in my own life. Themes in Hush Puppy include accepting yourself for who you are, as well as accepting others, and resisting the temptation to try to change others.

My current work in progress (title is still kind of a secret) has themes of doing the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt and not letting that hand get the better of us. It’s also about following your bliss, no matter how hard that might be. A lot of kids out there (and adults) are not “living the dream” as defined by popular media. I write because I want those kids to know they aren’t alone, that lots of us aren’t living in a pop culture wonderland either. Life can be hard. It can also be very beautiful. Those beautiful moments are what make the hard times worth it and they are the inspiration for my stories. Enjoy~

Monday, August 25, 2014

~Avian Blog Tour (The Dragonride​r Chronicles #2) by Nicole Conway~

Come along as author Nicole Conway interviews her character Javid Broadfeather~

and don't miss the GIVEAWAY at the bottom!

He’s insanely brave, a terrible dancer, and the dragonrider who might just save two kingdoms from ruin—meet the mysterious Jaevid Broadfeather!

Hello and welcome, Jaevid! I understand this is your first interview. Can you tell us why you have been so reluctant to make a public appearance?

“To be honest, I’m not very good at public speaking. I grew up trying my best to remain unnoticed because any attention I received was the pretty much always the negative kind. It’s only been recently that I’ve found courage to step into the spotlight regardless of what people think of me.”

You’ve certainly come a long way. Do you have any advice for others who may be dealing with some bullying or discrimination?

“I’m not sure this counts as advice, but I know the point when things started to change for me was when I began to realize that the things other people hated about me were things I couldn’t change. They hated me just because they didn’t understand who I was or where I’d come from. But I am who I am, and those differences that set me apart from everyone else aren’t my weaknesses anymore. It can be the same for you, too. What makes you different doesn’t have to be something you’re ashamed of—in fact, it can be your greatest strength.”

 That’s such an inspiring testimony! So, what’s it like to have a dragon so closely bonded with you?

“It can be the most amazing thing in the world, as long as he’s not hungry. Mavrik has been there for me during some really rough times. I tell people all the time—he’s not mount, he’s my friend. But sharing thoughts with him when he’s thinking about chomping into a deer or a cow is something I could do without.”

Yikes! That would be a pretty nasty image. Speaking of tough times, though, we heard this year’s battle scenario is supposed to be the hardest part of your training. Are you feeling confident about it?

 “As confident as I can be. I’ve made it through some tough scrapes and close calls before. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as everyone says.”

 Can you tell us anything about what you might expect to happen?

“Well, I know they’ll be testing our resolve in interrogation training. Supposedly they beat you up pretty badly, you know, to make sure you aren’t going to crack under pressure. That’s nothing new for me, though. I get beat up all the time! Then they force you to test your survival skills in the jungle. That’ll be extra difficult since this jungle is supposed to have a lot of dangerous wildlife from Luntharda.”

 That sounds tough. Do you think everyone is up to that challenge?

 “We’ve all gotten the same training. My instructor, Lieutenant Jace Rordin, tells me that morale is everything and these things are decided when we take our first step. If you have the wrong mindset, you’re doomed before you ever get started. Felix gets cocky sometimes, but he’s usually strong enough to back it up. Lyon? Well, he’s more of a follower. Hopefully he won’t get led into any more trouble.”

 We can only hope, right? Well, we’re all dying to know about the upcoming annual officer’s ball. Do you have a special lady in mind you’d like to see there?

 “Uh . . . well, sort of. I guess so. Yes. But I’m not very good with girls. Felix has tried to teach me to be charming, but he says I’m too nice and I usually get so nervous that I do or say something embarrassing. It’s like girls have some kind of secret code, and I don’t understand any of it. Sometimes they tell me I’m handsome, but I can never tell if they’re joking or not.”

 Aww, I’m sure they’re being serious. So has becoming a dragonrider been everything you hoped it would be?

“I didn’t know what to expect when I started this journey. I never dreamed of being a dragonrider—I thought stuff like that was out of my reach. But being there now, and working so hard for this goal, has shown me that having a direction is the most important thing a man can have. It defines you, and it’s taught me to expect more from myself. So yes, I guess it has been everything I hoped. It’s been more than that, because now I have a chance at a future filled with pride rather than hiding in shame.”

Only last question, just because we’re all curious to learn more about who you really are behind the helmet. Once all this training is over, and the dust has finally settled, what will be your new goal to strive for?

 “I haven’t really thought that far. Right now, things are just a daily struggle to survive the next phase of training. But if I have to answer, I guess I look forward to having a family of my own. I’d like to get married, and I’d like to be a father. Maybe that sounds weird, but almost dying on a regular basis tends to shift your perspective on what’s important in life.”


Title: Avian (The Dragonrider Chronicles #2)

Publication date: August 26, 2014

Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.

Author: Nicole Conway

What kind of power is lurking inside him?

After a year of training to become a dragonrider, Jaevid Broadfeather has been sent home to rest during a three-month interlude. But when he returns to find the king drake has chosen Beckah Derrick as his new rider, Jaevid realizes something big is about to happen. Every fiber of his being is pushed to the breaking point as Jaevid battles through his avian year, preparing for the final graduation test of the battle scenario. But there is more standing in his way than a few pushups and fancy sword moves.

Jaevid must face a new fear as he is tormented by a gruesome nightmare of a mysterious gray elf warrior murdering the royal family of Maldobar. It seems obvious to him that this is some kind of message about how the war started long ago—until Felix assures him the king is very much alive. With his strange powers growing stronger by the day, and that violent dream replaying in his mind every night, Jaevid no longer wonders if he will pass his avian year or not . . . he wonders if he will even survive it.

The truth will soon be set loose.


Nicole is the author of the children’s fantasy series, THE DRAGONRIDER CHRONICLES, about a young boy’s journey into manhood as he trains to become a dragonrider. She has completed the first two books in the series, and is now working on the third and final book.

Originally from a small town in North Alabama, Nicole moves frequently due to her husband’s career as a pilot for the United States Air Force. She received a B.A. in English with a concentration in Classics from Auburn University, and will soon attend graduate school.

She has previously worked as a freelance and graphic artist for promotional companies, but has now embraced writing as a full-time occupation.

Nicole enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She also loves watching children’s movies and collecting books. She lives at home with her husband, two cats, and dog.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Link to Goodreads:

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | TBD | IndieBound | iBooks

Giveaway Information: Winner will be drawn September 26, 2014

· Four (4) winners will receive a digital copy of Avian by Nicole Conway (INT)

· One (1) winner will receive a digital copy of Avian by Nicole Conway AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card or B&N Gift Card – Winner’s Choice (INT)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

We don't just need diverse books, we need to market them too

Whether we all know it, diverse books are all around us. Many of us have been saying it for years. Some have only started to notice. There are authors and/or books who've been present for decades, and there are books and authors who make waves for themselves in our present.
When and however you've come to the conclusion, you've noticed that lack of representation in books is evident. The lack of people of color, the lack of characters whom are queer or with disabilities. It's disturbing just how little books with main characters who aren't white, able bodied, cis-gendered and/or queer are released in comparison to those that are not.
What's more disturbing is the lack of marketing books that highlight diversity in a positive light. Granted, marketing does not by any means guarantee sales. For the most part, no miracle amount of promotion can "guarantee" to generate sales. But often, authors of color, and authors who write diversely, do not receive strong marketing.
Authors who write any book can tell you, publishing companies nowadays expect a bit of marketing from the author themselves. But when a diverse book fails to generate sales, it's often blamed that it's because it's a diverse book.
We don't just need diverse books. We need smarter campaigns and marketing plans for diverse books as well.
Diverse Book Tours was founded by Sasha Beatty, book blogger of So Bookishly. She approached book bloggers interested in promoting diversity in books, and with everything we've learned book blogging about diversity on our blog Twinja Book Reviews, we were practically shoe-in's to be co-founders.
We all have different experiences and ideas on why we came to the conclusion there needed to be a virtual blog tour company.
From the words of Libertad: That trip to the bookstore and the dangers of "othering"
It's always an interesting trip to the bookstore near my house. I just happen to live directly downtown in the smack of the Yale area in Connecticut. Sure there's a Starbucks at every corner, restaurants of different ethnicities in walking distance, and I don't think I could go six seconds without seeing someone who is not the same race as me as I journey to the Yale bookstore to scope out new releases.
I love looking at books. I love admiring interesting covers, reading blurbs, and checking out the tables with the new releases.
But there's just one discrepancy. Much of the time I check out books, I walk away more frustrated than I started. Sometimes I'll see eight books with the same cover or blurb. Cute, virginal, Mary-sue archetype, in a pretty flowing dress, who just happens to be white, straight, cis-gendered and for the most part able bodied. I can't assume she is nuero typical, as it is a disability you cant see. But all I see are girls in pretty dresses. Women is a great start, but women should not just be a definition for white.
Books at major and indie bookstores sell more books when a cover is facing forward, but it takes more space to turn them this way, and books with main characters of color are often the ones they omit from the selling floor.
How are we supposed to know that books with diversity on the cover can sell, when they're not allowed the opportunities to do so?
Diversity shouldn't be something that has to be hidden. It should not have to be backdropped to push along the story of a main character whom is a "default."
Representation shouldn't just matter to those who are not being represented. It is a necessity that should be in books. It should be a necessity in life, but books are a great way to start. It doesn't surprise me that many do not see it as an issue, but representation should exist to eradicate this idea of "Othering", or an idea, that anyone different from you is an "other" and therefore not normal.
This is an idea we have to challenge. But we first need to realize there is a problem in the first place about the lack of marketing for diverse books.
From the words from Guinevere: Sales is great, but awareness is better
I'll be upfront. My words will be the most boring out of the three, but it'll be the most obtuse. They may be words that don't effect you now, but when you give yourself time with them, you'll make your opinion of them yourself.
When was the last time you saw a Science Fiction author of color interviewed on television? When was the last time you saw an fantasy author with a disability on television? How many queer/Quiltbag stories make your to-read lists? When was the last time you read a character with a religion different from your own?
Hopefully your answer was similar or in the realms of my own answer: Yesterday. If it wasn't, well....when was the last time you consciously thought "have I read a narrative that I related to, that wasn't exactly the same as my own?"
For people with disabilities, it's nearly all the time. For people of color, it may be on the fence. People who identify with being queer, it's probably more times than you read your own narrative. The issue with this is, for the most part, people who come from marginalized groups have been reading and relating outside there own narratives for years, if not all their lives.
I myself, had never read a novel from the perspective of an Afro-Latina until last year. I turned 29 a week ago. You do the math. But somehow in 28 years, I managed to always enjoy reading. My head never exploded because a character wasn't Afro-Cuban. Ultimately, it was rather damaging to have no Afro-Latino role models in books looking back. But I found I didn't lack representation as far as my race went, as the 90's was much kinder to black women than it's ever been.
At the risk at sounding sarcastic, eyes don't bleed when you diversify the narrative you read from. But ideas might change. Your critical thinking might. Your ability to connect with people might. And by golly gee, you just might learn it reflects the world you already live in.
It's not enough to want diversity in books. It should be a need, a necessity, a given. But books are no where without leg work. Without word of mouth. Without reviews. Without those willing to promote them. Without those willing to read them. You have to be willing to tell EVERYONE. And when you've told everyone, you have to be willing to tell them again.
Promoting diverse books is more than just sales. Sales are great. Sales are amazing. But ultimately nothing can guarantee sales, not even a book tour company. But awareness is. Awareness is more than just sales. Awareness is knowing that these books exist. Where to find them. Where and how to purchase them. Who's read and loved them. Who's read and disliked them. Books can't move if people arent aware of them.
Our audience is small, but we also have an audience who would be most likely to be open to a diverse book. There are plenty of marketing options out there. Ones who've been around longer, and may promise more than we can. But there are little to no options specifically for those who write diversely. That needs to change.
From the words from Sasha: Why I started Diverse Book Tours
All around the world, people are looking to read books that are a breath of fresh air, that are unique, and that include characters who have a different perspective and background than readers themselves. If the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is any indication whatsoever, then we’re well on our way. However, it’s sometimes difficult for readers to find these books in the first place.
I started Diverse Book Tours because I wanted to not only promote the types of books that I seek out and love, but because I want to help facilitate connecting readers with these diverse books and authors in a fun, engaging way. I also wanted to help authors reach a wider audience online so that they can gain an online presence and receive recognition for the hard work they do writing diversity. With the help of my awesome team and partners, and the wonderful bloggers who have signed on to read, review, and promote these books, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to show the book community that diverse books are amazing, are exciting, and are here to stay!
We're also offering tons of prizes for the launch of our tour company for those who sign up as Tour Hosts!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Remember when I planted gladious?

They survived!  And bloomed. Aren't they gorgeous??

It just occurred to me that gardening is a little bit like writing. You plant the seeds (or bulbs in this case) and you water them, you nurture them, weed them, wait on them. You hope and wait and fertilize and finally, something beautiful emerges!

Come back tomorrow and see what emerges on the blog tomorrow ;)'s a secret....

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cover Reveal: Horror Business by Ryan Craig Bradford and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

Horror Business by Ryan Craig Bradford

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


Armed with a passion for classic B-grade horror movies, a script co-written by his twin brother, and a wicked crush on his death-obsessed neighbor; hardcore horror fan Jason Nightshade must finish his student film.
But his plans are derailed when the children of suburban Silver Creek start disappearing – his twin brother among them. Battling a possessed video camera, a crazy zombie dog, a monstrous bully, and a frighteningly broken down family life, Jason embarks on a mission to find his lost brother so the two can write an ending for his story.
As any horror fan knows, saving the day won't be easy, as Jason finds himself forced to face the real world where death isn't just a splash of fake blood on a camera lens.

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Title: Horror Business
Publication date: February 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Ryan Craig Bradford

Ryan grew up in Park City, Utah. His fiction has appeared in Quarterly West, Paper Darts, Vice, Monkeybicycle and [PANK]. He currently lives in San Diego where he acts as Creative Director for the nonprofit literary arts organization So Say We All. He’s the co-editor of the anthology Last Night on Earth and founder of the literary horror journal, Black Candies.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
(Winners will receive their book on release day)


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hush Puppy play list

I don't usually start writing fiction with music in mind or even with music on. I find music with words is too distracting for first drafting for me. It's usually after I write a rough draft that I come across music that fits the story.  Here's the play list for Hush Puppy. Have a listen.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops just evokes the South to me in such a funky, soulful way. I love it. Especially Snowden's Jig, which is almost ominous. I could easily see it leading up to the climatic scene of the book.

Linkin Park may seem like a strange choice, but they have some really beautiful voices when they aren't screaming, trust me. Their lyrics really seem to speak to what it's like to be poor and disrespected, striving for something more in life. Maybe getting it and maybe not.

And Stay by Rhianna and Mikky Ekko is just plain beautiful. Just like in Hush Puppy, the romance goes in circles, there's hesitation and deep affection. It's just the sort of confusing, crazy in love story as Corrine and Jaime have.

If you haven't read Hush Puppy yet, here's a link to it on Southern Literary Review. Check it out~

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cover Reveal: Dead Jed 2: Dawn of the Jed by Scott Craven and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

Dead Jed 2: Dawn of the Jed by Scott Craven

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


After a tumultuous first semester in seventh grade, Jed Rivers returns triumphant or so he thinks. After embracing his undeadness to put his archenemy Robbie in his place, the thirteen-year-old zombie thought he’d have a much easier time surviving the second semester relatively intact. That was before he came across the antizombie propaganda published by the mysterious NZN Network, a group trying to push Hollywood stereotypes as the truth. Through fear-mongering and outright lies, the NZN Network will stop at nothing to get Jed expelled.
Jed s attempts to blend in get even more difficult when news spreads that he’s created a zombie dog. And it’s no rumor. Jed shocks even himself when, after seeing a dog get hit by a car, he brings the dog back to life or at least to undeadness when some of his ooze slips into the dog s wounds. The good news is that Jed always wanted a faithful canine companion. The bad news is that the creation of Tread (so called for the mark on his ribcage) unnerves Jed s best friend Luke. Luke abandons Jed, who then learns Luke has been feeding the NZN Network inside information.
Determined to unmask those behind NZN, Jed gets his opportunity at the end of the school year during Pine Hollow s annual Science Fair. When the NZN s experiment goes horribly awry, Jed has a chance to show people that being undead isn’t always a bad thing.

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Title: DEAD JED 2
Publication date: December 2, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Scott Craven

Scott Craven

Proud graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, has one son who will turn 18 in March 2013, now a features writer for The Arizona Republic.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
(Winners will receive their book on release day)


Friday, August 1, 2014

GET BRANDED with Branded (Sinners #1) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki – Giveaway

Welcome to the GET BRANDED promo for
Branded (Sinners #1)
by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post.


Fifty years ago The Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society.
To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line.
Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home.
Constant darkness.
Brutal and savage violence.
Excruciating pain.
Every day is a fight for survival.
But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the Hole.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

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Branded (Sinners #1) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Publisher: Month9Books


I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams. The rope chafes as I loop it around my neck. I pull down, making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough. My legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down my back. Death and I glare at each other through my tears. I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the foyer outlined with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. No happy memories here. I’m ready to go. On the count of three. I inhale, preparing myself for the finality of it all. Dropping my hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the last precious gift my father gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his face forces me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now. A door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance. My thoughts already muddled, I stand waiting with the rope hanging around my neck. Voices I don’t recognize creep through the walls. Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever. I tug on the noose and pull it back over my head. Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a large group of armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation ensues, and my neighbors point toward my family’s home. It hits me. I’ve been accused and they’re here to arrest me. My father would want me to run, and in that split second, I decide to listen to his voice within me. Flinging myself forward in fear, I scramble up the marble staircase and into my brother’s old bedroom. The door is partially covered, but it exists. Pushing his dresser aside, my fingers claw at the opening. Breathing hard, I lodge myself against it. Nothing. I step back and kick it with all my strength. The wood splinters open, and my foot gets caught. I wrench it backward, scraping my calf, but adrenaline pushes me forward. The voices at the front door shout my name. On hands and knees, I squeeze through the jagged opening. My brother left through this passage, and now it’s my escape too. Cobwebs entangle my face, hands, and hair. At the end, I feel for the knob, twisting it clockwise. It swings open, creaking from disuse. I sprint into the hallway and smash through the large fire escape doors at the end. A burst of cool air strikes me in the face as I jump down the ladder. Reaching the fifth floor, I knock on a friend’s window. The lights flicker on, and I see the curtains move, but no one answers. I bang on the window harder. “Let me in! Please!” I say, but the lights darken. They know I’ve been accused and refuse to help me. Fear and adrenaline rush through my veins as I keep running, knocking on more windows along the way. No one has mercy. They all know what happens to sinners. Another flight of stairs passes in a blur when I hear the guards’ heavy footfalls from above. I can’t hide, but I don’t want to go without trying. Help me, Daddy. I need your strength now. My previous desolation evolves into a will to survive. I have to keep running, but I tremble and gasp for air. I steel my nerves and force my body to keep moving. In a matter of minutes, my legs cramp and my chest burns. I plunge to the ground, scraping my knee and elbow. A moan escapes from my chest. Gotta keep going. “Stop!” Their voices bounce off the buildings. “Lexi Hamilton, surrender yourself,” they command. They’re gaining on me. I resist the urge to glance back, running into what I assume is an alley. I’m far from our high-rise in High Society as I plunge into a poorer section of the city where the streets all look the same and the darkness prevents me from recognizing anything. I’m lost. My first instinct is to leap into a dumpster, but I retain enough sense to stay still. I crouch and peek around it, watching them dash by. The abhorrent smell leaves me vomiting until nothing remains in my stomach. Desperation overtakes me, as I know my retching was anything but silent. My last few seconds tick away before they find me. Everyone knows about their special means of tracking sinners. I push myself to my feet and look left, right, and left again. Their batons click against their black leather belts, and their boots stomp the cement on both sides of me. I shrink into myself. Their heavy steps mock my fear, growing closer and closer until I know I’m trapped. Never did I imagine they’d come for me. Never did I imagine all those nights I heard them dragging someone else away that I’d join them. “You’re a sinner,” they say. “Time to leave.” I stand defiant. I refuse to bend or break before them, even as I shiver with fear. “There’s no reason to make this difficult. The more you cooperate, the smoother this will be for everyone,” a guard says. I cringe into the blackness along the wall. I’m innocent, but they won’t believe me or care. The next instant, my face slams into the pavement as one guard plants a knee in my back and another handcuffs me. A warm liquid trails into my mouth. Blood. Their fingers grip my arms like steel traps as they peel me off the cement. The tops of my shoes scrape along the ground as I’m dragged behind them until they discard me into the back of a black vehicle. The doors slam in unison with one guard stationed on each side of me, my shoulders digging into their arms. Swallowing hard, I stare ahead to avoid their eyes. My dignity is all I have left. The handcuffs dig into my wrists, so I clasp them together hard behind me and press my back into the seat, unwilling to admit how much it hurts. Did they need so many guards to capture me? I’m not carrying any weapons, nor do I own any. I don’t even know self-defense. High Society frowns on activities like that. The driver jerks the vehicle around and I try to keep my bearings, but it’s dark and the scenery changes too fast. Hours pass, and the air grows warmer, more humid the farther we drive. The landscape mutates from city to rolling hills. They don’t bother blindfolding me because they escort all the sinners to the same place—the Hole. Twenty-foot cement walls encase the chaos within. There’s no way out and no way in unless they transport you. They say the Hole is a prison with no rules. We learned about it last year in twelfth grade. To the outside, I’m filth now. I’ll never be allowed to return to the life I knew. No one ever does. “All sinners go through a transformation,” one of the guards says to me. His smirk infuriates me. “I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of stories.” I don’t respond. I don’t want to think about the things I’ve been told. “You won’t last too long, though. Young girls like you get eaten alive.” He pulls a strand of my hair up to his face. Get your hands off me, you pig. I want to lash out, but resist. The punishment for disobeying authority is severe, and I’m not positioned to defy him. They’re the Guards of the Commander. They’re chosen from a young age and trained in combat. They keep the order of society by using violent methods of intimidation. No one befriends a guard. Relationships with them are forbidden inside the Hole. Few have seen the Commander. His identity stays under lock and key. His own paranoia and desire to stay pure drove him to live this way. He controls our depraved society and believes sinners make the human race unforgivable. His power is a crushing fist, rendering all beneath him helpless. So much so, even family members turn on each other when an accusation surfaces. Just an accusation. No trial, no evidence, nothing but an accusation. I lose myself in thoughts of my father. “Never show fear, Lexi,” my father said to me before he was taken. “They’ll use it against you.” His compassionate eyes filled with warning as he commanded me to be strong. That was many years ago, but I remember it clearly. My father. My rock. The one person in my life who provided unconditional love. “Get out,” the guard says while pulling me to my feet. The vehicle stops, and I’m jerked back to reality. The doors slide open and the two guards lift me up and out into the night. A windowless cement building looms in front of us, looking barren in the darkness. The coolness of the air sends a shiver up my spine. This is really happening. I’ve been labeled a sinner. My lip starts to quiver, but I bite it before anyone sees. They shove me in line, and I realize I’m not alone. Women and men stand with faces frozen white with fear. Some are hardened criminals; others, like me, are innocent. A guard grabs my finger, pricks it, and dabs my blood on a tiny microchip. I follow the man in front of me into the next room where we’re lined up facing the wall. Glancing right, I see one of the men crying. “I didn’t mean to hit the guard. I swear it!” he pleads. I turn my head when I see a guard whip out his baton. The thumping sounds of his beating unnerve me. “Spread your legs,” one of the guards says icily. They remove my outer layers and their hands roam up and down my body. What do they think I can possibly be hiding? I press my head into the wall, trying to block out what they’re doing to me. “MOVE!” a guard commands. So I shuffle across the room, trying to cover up. One.
Five of us sit in the holding room. A woman clings to a man sitting next to her. She grips his arm and I can see the whitening of her knuckles. Her eyes meet mine and then she quickly turns away. He’s bent over his hands, defeated. “I’m not the criminal they say I am,” he whispers. His voice breaks. One by one, they pull people into the next room, forcing the rest of us to wonder what torture we’ll endure. I hear screaming from somewhere inside. An agonizing amount of time passes. I lean my head back and try to imagine a place far away. The door opens. “Lexi Hamilton.” A guard escorts me out of the room, and I don’t have time to look back. The first thing I see is a large photo of a regal-looking man on the wall. His frame is wide and he has cobalt blue eyes and a shock of black hair. He’s handsome, middle-aged, and wears the uniform of the Commander. My jaw drops open. It can’t be… Then the door slams closed. I feel their strong arms pick me up and place me on a table. It’s cold and my skin sticks to it slightly, like wet fingers on an ice cube. They exit in procession, and I lie on the table with a doctor standing over me. His hands are busy as he speaks. “Don’t move. This will only take a few minutes. It’s time for you to be branded.” A wet cloth that smells like rubbing alcohol is used to clean my skin. Then he places a metal collar around my neck. Click. Click. Click. The collar locks into place, and I struggle to breathe. The doctor loosens it some as I focus on the painted black words above me.
The Seven Deadly Sins:
Lust — Blue Gluttony — Orange Greed — Yellow Sloth — Black Wrath — Red Envy — Green Pride — Purple
“Memorize it. Might keep you alive longer if you know who to stay away from.” He opens my mouth, placing a bit inside. “Bite this.” Within seconds, the collar heats from hot to scorching. The smell of flesh sizzling makes my head spin. I bite down so hard a tooth cracks. “GRRRRRRRRR,” escapes from deep within my chest. Just when I’m about to pass out, the temperature drops, and the doctor loosens the collar. He removes it and sits me up. Excruciating pain rips through me, and I’m on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown. Focus. Don’t pass out. Stainless steel counters and boring white walls press in on me. And that large, gilded photo stares at me like it’s watching. A guard laughs at me from an observation room above and yells, “Blue. It’s a great color for a pretty young thing like yourself.” His eyes dance with suggestion. The others meander around like it’s business as usual. I finally find my voice and turn to the doctor. “Are you going to give me clothes?” A burning pain spreads like fire up from my neck to my jaw, making me wince. He shrugs and points to a set of folded grey scrubs on a chair. I cover myself as much as I can and scurry sideways. Grabbing my clothes and pulling the shirt over my head, I try to avoid the raw meat around my throat. I quickly knot the cord of my pants around my waist and slide my feet into the hospital-issue slippers as the doctor observes. He hands me a bag labeled with my name. “Nothing is allowed through the door but what we’ve given you,” he says. I hide my right hand behind me, hoping no one notices. A guard scans my body and opens his fist. “Give it to me.” His eyes turn to slits. “Don’t make me rip off your finger.” He crouches down and I turn to stone. I don’t know what to do, so I beg. “My father gave this to me. Please, let me keep it.” I smash my eyes shut and think of the moment my father handed the golden ring to me. “It was my mother’s ring,” he’d said. “She’s the strongest woman I ever knew.” With tears in his eyes, he reached for my hand and said, “Lexi, you’re exactly like her. She’d want you to wear this. No matter how this world changes, you can survive.” I turned the gold band over in my palm and read the engraving.
You can overcome anything… short of death.
“You’re going to take the one thing that matters the most to me?” I say, glaring into the guard’s emotionless eyes. “Isn’t it enough taking my life, dignity, and respect?” A hard blow falls upon my back. As I fall, my hands shoot out to stop me from smashing into the wall in front of me. The guard bends down and grabs my chin with his meaty fist. “Look at me,” he commands. I look up and he smiles with arrogance. “What the hell?” He staggers a step backward. “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with your eyes?” “Nothing,” I respond, confused. “What color are they?” “Turquoise.” I glower at him. “Interesting,” he says, regaining his composure. “Now those’ll get you in trouble.” Reality slaps me across the face. I have my father’s eyes. They can't take them from me. I twist the ring off my finger and drop it in his hand. “Take the damn ring,” I say. I walk to the door. He swipes a card and the massive door slides open to the outside. “You have to wear your hair back at all times, so everyone knows what you are.” He hands me a tie, so I pull my frizzy hair away from my face and secure it into a ponytail. My neck burns and itches as my hand traces the scabs that have already begun to form. Squinting ahead in the darkness, I almost run into a guard standing on the sidewalk. “Watch where you’re going,” he says, shoving me backward. His stiff figure stands tall and I cringe at the sharpness of his voice. “Cole, this is your new assignment, Lexi Hamilton. See to it she feels welcome in her new home.” The guard departs with a salute. “Let’s move,” Cole says. I take two steps and collapse, my knees giving out. The unforgiving pavement reopens the scrapes from earlier and I struggle to stand. A powerful arm snatches me up, and I see his face for the first time.

[caption id="attachment_14078" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Courtesy of authors' website Courtesy of authors' website[/caption]
Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

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Here I go again~

It's August. Another month with 31 days,beginning and ending on a weekend. The other thing about August is it's my last month of summer without a lot of the familial obligations that come along with the school year. Why is this important? Because I was so inspired by JuNoWriMo (the 50,000 words in a month challenge) I've decided to do it again in August.

I've spent July outlining several books and settled on one to start writing. The working title is Crawdad. I know, I know! I haven't even typed up the entire book I wrote in June, but that can wait till winter. Editing can be done in short bursts, a bit here, a bit there. I've found I rather like writing a first draft in a focused, short timeframe. I'm not exactly sure if the result is any good, but I know it's far easier to fix a rough draft than a blank page. I figure if I can get another draft knocked out now, I can spend the school year fixing them and have something ready for submission next spring.

So here I go! Deep breath! Diving into my next story starting today. I may not blog much for the next month. I'm so far behind on my Goodreads reading goal I'll never catch up. But never mind all that! I gotta write! ~See you in September~