Friday, 27 February 2015

Interview with Michael Gibney, author of The Three Thorns

We are pleased to be joined by Michael Gibney, author of The Three Thorns: The Brotherhood and the Sheild! Here's a little bit about this new MG fantasy!

Publication date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Tantrum Books/Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Michael Gibney

Three brothers born to a once powerful King were abandoned at birth and cast out into the old world as orphans - alone and unaware of the other's existence or their royal heritage.
In the new world, by order of the false King, three of the most lethal assassins are sent to kill the children before they come of age and avenge their father’s throne.
But when the brothers find one another, Benjamin, Tommy and Sebastian must resist the temptation of magic and power if they are to defeat the unspeakable evil that has threatened them since birth.

The Three Thorns is book one in an exciting children’s fantasy series called The Brotherhood and the Shield from debut author Michael Gibney.


Hi, Michael! Welcome to We Do Write. Tell our readers a bit about THE BROTHERHOOD AND THE SHEILD: THE THREE THORNS.

Three princes born to a powerful fallen King have been abandoned at birth and cast out into the old world known as “Earth.” By order of the current false King, three of the new world’s most lethal assassins have been unleashed to kill the orphans before they come of age to avenge their Father’s throne. Following the search, a lone protector is sent to retrieve the Brotherhood back to the new world. No one knows where the children are, and they have no knowledge of one another. But all is set to change when Benjamin, Tommy and Sebastian join together to face an unspeakable evil and the temptations of magical powers. The Three Thorns is book one in this exciting children’s fantasy series.

The Brotherhood and the Shield series is in the same category of such beloved children’s books as C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Without giving too much away, The Brotherhood and the Shield tells the story of a group of orphans growing up in a borstal home in London at the turn of the 20th Century. The series centers around three main characters - Benjamin Brannon, Sebastian Cain and Tommy Joel and their progression from childhood to adulthood.

In The Three Thorns, the orphans struggle to survive in tough upbringings before terrestrial forces call upon them for help from a world beyond their own, which offers answers to their past. They discover this new world called Abasin that has been overrun by a false king who has ruined most of what was good and magical about it and are landed with the burden to put things right due to a birthright each share.

The characters form a Brotherhood together and are helped by many of Abasin's last survivors, most of them magical creatures. Through their journey to rid the new world from evil, the Brotherhood meets friends and foes. Some set out to protect and train them into warriors, while others are on a mission to hunt them down and kill them.

Not all things are what they appear to be in the story of The Brotherhood and the Shield.

How did the idea of the story come to you?

The whole subject of abandonment narrowed this particular book for a younger audience, but as I got to book 3, The Lost Prince, it progressed into something else. It became both a children’s series of struggle and victory and an adult book of reflection and loss. Some of my main characters have been based on real people I have met. 

The less central characters I created myself. But I got the initial idea from a friend who lost his parents at a very young age and I felt like writing a book for people like him and using this sense of loss and abandonment but giving such characters superpowers to compensate for that loss, that maybe it would give some comfort to such readers. 

A lot of the second book deals with one particular character that I believe most readers will relate to. His initial character in The Three Thorns is that of a loveable heroic underdog but his character changes later in the story.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A bit of both. I don’t believe in making a story up as it comes to me because my nature is always to pre-plan and be cautious of decisions I make, both in writing and in life. I have a great deal of foresight, which I use my story and its structure and continuity, however when a great idea comes to me out of left field, I utilize it and incorporate into the story where best suited. I also do not believe in ignoring a potentially amazing concept just because it wasn’t planned. Sometimes the most genius ideas don’t come from us planning anything. I believe they’re given as a gift we sort of download from a higher source or frequency beyond ourselves.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Having the motivation as all writers but mostly when I’m writing, it flows naturally for me. I’m lucky. My biggest challenge is having the mental energy. Using so much brainpower and exercising a muscle like the brain can take its toll on the human body’s energy levels. So having no coffee is the hardest part of writing for me, personally.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Coffee or a strong cup of British tea and a selection of favorite classical film scores playing in the background to get me in the zone.

What are you reading right now?

Stephen King’s Carrie and Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

The gift of flight. I feel this superpower was best executed in the movie Chronicle. This is taken for granted with most comic book characters, but if you think about it, if one could fly in reality, it would be pretty incredible. I’ve always wanted to be able to fly. I think nothing would compare to such an experience, hence why I included it in The Brotherhood and the Shield sequels.  

What's the weirdest thing you've googled?

The Paranormal. Both stories and testimonies.
Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ... writing in my head. 

Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

The God of Jacob for giving me the opportunities and talents to create such a daring series as this. My Grandfather for passing down the gift of literature and the ability to write it. My parents who have supported me the most with my career in writing. My agents Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris of Liza Royce Agency, for believing in this book and pushing it all the way. Tina Sims for being the first person in the Literary industry who saw my potential as a writer and saw the vision in The Three Thorns novel. My editor Jennifer Rees for taking a chance on my debut novel and for doing an amazing job at editing it. My Publisher and everyone at Tantrum Books who have been working hard to promote and get The Three Thorns into the hands of every child and adult fan of the fantasy genre. And to my loyal friend, supporter and advocate, Film Composer, Music Producer and Songwriter, Van Dyke Parks.


Michael Gibney began working in restaurants at the age of sixteen and assumed his first sous chef position at twenty-two. He ascended to executive sous chef at Tavern on the Green, where he managed an eighty-person staff. He has worked in the kitchens of Morgans Hotel Group, 10 Downing in Manhattan, and Governor in Brooklyn’s DUMBO, among many others. Over the course of his career, he has had the opportunity to work alongside cooks and chefs from many of the nation’s best restaurants, including Alinea, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, Bouley, Ducasse, Corton, wd~50, and Momofuku.

In addition to his experience in the food service industry, Gibney also holds a BFA in painting from Pratt Institute and an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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Excerpt of Hunted by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki


Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing Chapter 2 of
Hunted (Sinners #2) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
presented by Month9Books!

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

HUNTED is the electrifying sequel to the bestselling debut BRANDED, A Sinners Series, by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki. 
It’s been three months since the revolt against the Commander’s fifty-year-old regime failed. Under a new ruler, things were supposed to change. Get better. But can anyone really be trusted? 
Lexi and Cole soon find out, as life takes an unexpected turn for the worse.
In this ever-changing world, you must hunt or be hunted. Lives will be lost. Dreams will be crushed. Fears will be realized. Secrets will be exposed. 
When Cole is once again faced with losing Lexi at the hands of a monster, one encounter will change everything. 
Connect with BRANDED fans on Instagram at:
add to goodreads

Title: Hunted (Sinners #2)
Publication date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Available for Pre-order:



You can read Chapter Two HERE!
Happy Reading and Enjoy!


Abi and Missy 2
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.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumbler

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
The book will be sent upon the titles release.


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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Book Feature: Love Sucks by Sage Collins

For those who haven't heard, Musa Publishing is closing its virtual doors. A fellow author has a book published with Musa, and as a last stitch effort, I'm doing a shout out for her. It's only available until the end of the week, and you can get it for a dollar! Pretty sweet deal, right? I read Love Sucks a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. Take a look, and be sure to grab it while you can.

Mailee is about to answer the age-old question: "How much love would a love sucker suck if a love sucker fell in love?"
Mailee's greatest wish is to be an ordinary teenage girl, but thanks to one stupid demon gene she consumes love from any human she touches. The only person she can touch is her best friend Eric, a hot lust-drainer. Except for slight hand-brushes to keep from starving, she avoids humans.
Until she meets Logan, a diabetic and the first human who could understand Mailee's diet angst. She grows closer to him, but each touch risks his love for her.  If she wants a normal relationship, she'll have to become human. But the only way requires her to free and be infected by demons representing the Seven Deadly Sins. Sloth? Pride? No problem. But when wrath-infected Mailee punches the cheerleader who's making eyes at Eric, she realizes getting through the sins might cost too much.
Like Eric. Because if she turns human, he'll be the only one she can't touch.
Buy it here

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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Interview with Steve Bryant

Today we're chatting with author Steve Bryant as part of the blog tour for Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show.

Steve Bryant is a new novelist, but a veteran author of books of card tricks. He founded The Little Egypt Gazettea 40+ page monthly internet magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction; and he frequently contributes biographical cover articles to the country’s two leading magic journalsRecent articles were about the séance at Hollywood’s Magic Castle and about Jack White’s Dr. Blood’s Zombie Show.

Hi, Steve! Welcome to We Do WriteTell our readers a bit about LUCAS MACKENZIE AND THE LONDON MIDNIGHT GHOST SHOW.

Spoiler alert: Lucas is a ghost, and so are all his friends.
Emerging from years of postmortem amnesia, Lucas Mackenzie comes to realize that he is dead and his family is alive, and he yearns to get in touch with them. But Lucas is a ghost in the company of a traveling midnight theater ghost show, and contact with the living is against the rules.

Lucas keeps his attempts at contact a secret as he and his fellow phantoms hobnob with the celebrated dead at Forest Lawn, party in abandoned funeral homes, watch movies outdoors in cemeteries, vacation at Lily Dale, bowl in all-night bowling alleys, and frighten teenagers in old theaters on Saturday nights.

Can Lucas keep the show going despite dwindling audiences and a dedicated ghost hunter? Can he capture the heart of the incomparable Columbine, the show’s enchanting fifteen-year-old psychic? Can he find his way back to his once-forgotten family? I dare you to read long, long into the night, to the final act, when the London Midnight Ghost Show plays in Lucas’s former home town, to surprising and afterlife-altering consequences.

How did the idea of the story come to you?

When I was 12, I read a magazine article about Robert A. Nelson, who supplied magicians (and scam artists) the books and apparatus with which to perform séances and midnight ghost shows. I’ve been in love with this dark side of magic ever since. Later, the loss of a child got me thinking about what it would be like to be a child ghost, cut off from family. I put the two ideas together, and the book and its title are the result.

Cool! Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mostly a plotter. I try to adhere to the Syd Field Screenplay three-act paradigm. Outlining is critical.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Getting started. Committing. It’s a big block of time, and you want to make certain the project is worthwhile before beginning.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Resources. You would think that you could sit at a pristine computer and google anything you needed, but I don’t work that way.  I find myself surrounded by fiction that inspires me, nonfiction background info, magazines, grammar books such as The Transitive Vampire and The New Well-Tempered Sentence, books on writing and character development, dictionaries, note cards, notebooks, and whatnot. You can tell how deep I am into a project by the stacks of crap that surround me.

What are you reading right now?

I am re-reading a P.G. Wodehouse novel (French Leave). A month ago I would have said MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Immortality would be nice. We are knee deep in grandkids right now, and what a treat it would be to not only watch them grow up, but their kids too, and their kids, on and on.  There would be time to read all the novels I’ve not yet read, to go back and learn all the physics I failed to learn properly in college, to master the hard sleight-of-hand moves with cards that still elude me.

What's the weirdest thing you've googled?

Hmm. How to get a cardinal out of my garage? How to remove super glue from counter tops?

Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ... 

Practicing card tricks. I’ve been an amateur magician since I was seven and have an enormous library of hardback magic books, mostly on sleight of hand with cards. I love to attend magic conventions and socialize with other magicians, or to attend the Magic Castle in Hollywood. I’ve run a monthly web page since 1995 that has made me well known in the magic community, and I write for the major magazines in the field. Beyond magic, I still enjoy reading and movies, and lately watching British mystery series on TV with my wife.

Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

I owe so much to my agent, Anna Olswanger; my publisher, Georgia McBride; my editor, Jackie Morse Kessler; and my publicist, Jaime Arnold. Even if I had nothing to do with these ladies, I would be most impressed by their accomplishments.
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Monday, 23 February 2015

Book Blitz: Apollo Academy

Today we are happy to take part in the book blitz for The Apollo Academy by Kimberly P. Chase.

The Apollo Academy by Kimberly P. Chase
(The Apollo Academy #1)
Published by: Harlequin
Publication date: February 22nd 2015
Genres: New Adult, Science Fiction


Take off with this dynamic, thrill-seeking, sexy New Adult Science Fiction series debut. Welcome to the exclusive Apollo Academy, where Aurora is about to discover that achieving her dream is only the first step towards her future.

As the heiress to Titon Technologies, eighteen-year-old Aurora Titon can have whatever she wants—clothes, expensive gadgets, anything money can buy. But all she really wants is to escape her pampered, paparazzi-infested life for the stars. Becoming the first female pilot to train as an astronaut for the exclusive Apollo Academy is exactly the chance for which she has been waiting.
Flying is everything she ever dreamed, her best friend also got into the Academy, and the paparazzi is banned from campus. Everything would be perfect, but for her unreciprocated crush on a fellow student, the sexy astronaut bent on making her life hell, and the fact that someone keeps trying to kill her.

The most important education doesn’t happen in the classroom…

Early Praise:
"I am obsessed with this book! Suspenseful, sexy, and just a great read!" - Cora Carmack, New York Times Bestselling author of LOSING IT.

“Exquisite worldbuilding, thrilling suspense, and a sexy flight instructor! Chase’s exciting debut novel is one you don’t want to miss.” - K.A.Tucker, Author of Ten Tiny Breaths and One Tiny Lie

Kimberly P. Chase holds a Bachelor's Degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, which basically means she's kind of a geek and loves flying airplanes. Naturally, her books tend to include aviation, hot flight instructors, aviator glasses, and—let's not forget—kissing! When Kimberly's not writing or reading, she's hanging out with her husband, five-year-old son, and two dogs in Charleston, SC.

Author links:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Friday, 20 February 2015

Prologue Reveal: Nobody's Goddess by Amy McNulty!


Welcome to this week's M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we will be unveiling the prologue for
Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1) by Amy McNulty
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Nobody's Goddess
In a village of masked men, each loves only one woman and must follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.
Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.
add to goodreads
Title: Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Amy McNulty

When I had real friends, I was the long-lost queen of the elves.
A warrior queen who hitched up her skirt and wielded a blade. Who held her retainers in thrall. Until they left me for their goddesses.
Love. A curse that snatches friends away.
One day, when only two of my retainers remained, the old crone who lived on the northern outskirts of the village was our prey. It was twenty points if you spotted her. Fifty points if you got her to look at you. A hundred points if she started screaming at you.
You won for life if you got close enough to touch her.
“Noll, please don’t do this,” whispered Jurij from behind the wooden kitten mask covering his face. Really, his mother still put him in kitten masks, even though eleven was too old for a boy to be wearing kittens and bunnies. Especially ones that looked likely to get eaten for breakfast by as much as a weasel.
“Shut up, I want to see this!” cried Darwyn. Never a kitten, Darwyn always wore a wolf mask. Yet behind the nasty tooth-bearing wolf grin—one of my father’s better masks—he was very much a fraidycat.
Darwyn shoved Jurij aside so he could crouch behind the bush that was our threadbare cover. Jurij nearly toppled over, but I caught him and set him gently upright. Sometimes I didn’t know if Jurij realized who was supposed to be serving whom. Queens shouldn’t have to keep retainers from falling.
“Quiet, both of you.” I scanned the horizon. Nothing. All was still against the northern mountains save for the old crone’s musty shack with its weakly smoking chimney. The edges of my skirt had grazed the dusty road behind us, and I hitched it up some more so my mother wouldn’t notice later. If she didn’t want me to get the blasted thing dirty, she should have let me wear Jurij’s trousers, like I had been that morning. That got me a rap on the back of the head with a wooden spoon, a common occurrence when I was queen. It made me look too much like a boy, she scolded, and that would cause a panic.
“Are you going or not?” Darwyn was not one for patience.
“If you’re so eager, why don’t you go?” I snapped back.
Darwyn shook his wolf-head. “Oh, no, not me.”
I grinned. “That’s because you’re scared.”
Darwyn’s muffled voice grew louder. He stood beside me and puffed out his chest. “I am not! I’ve been in the commune.”
I poked toward his chest with Elgar, my trusty elf-blade. “Liar! You have not.”
Darwyn jumped back, evading my blow. “I have too! My uncle lives there!” He swatted his hand at Elgar. “Get that stick away from me.”
“It’s not a stick!” Darwyn never believed me when I said that Elgar was the blade of a warrior. It just happened to resemble a tree branch.
Jurij’s quiet voice entered the fray. “Your uncle lives there? That’s awful.” I was afraid he might cry and the tears would get caught up in the black material that covered his eyes. I didn’t want him to drown behind the wooden kitty face. He’d vanish into thin air like everyone else did when they died, and then we’d be staring down at Jurij’s clothes and the little kitten mask on the ground, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from giggling. Some death for a warrior.
Darwyn shrugged and ran a hand over his elbow. “He moved in there before I was born. I think a weaver lady was his goddess. It’s not so strange. Didn’t your aunt send her man there, Jurij?”
Jurij was sniffling. Sniffling. He tried to rub at his nose, but every time he moved the back of his hand up to his face, it just clunked against the button that represented the kitten’s nose.
I sighed and patted Jurij on the back. “A queen’s retainer must never cry, Jurij.”
Darwyn laughed. “Are you still playing that? You’re no queen, Noll!”
I stopped patting Jurij and balled my hands into fists. “Be quiet, Darwyn! You used to play it, too!”
Darwyn put two fingers over his wolf-mask mouth, a gesture we had long ago decided would stand for the boys sticking out their tongues. Although Darwyn was the only one who ever did it as of late. “Like I’d want to do what some girl tells me! Girls aren’t even blessed by love!”
“Of course they are!” It was my turn to put the two fingers over my mouth. I had a tongue, but a traitorous retainer like Darwyn wasn’t worthy of the effort it took to stick it out. “Just wait until you find your goddess, and then we’ll see! If she turns out to be me, I’ll make sure you rot away in the commune with the rest of the unloved men.”
Darwyn lunged forward and tackled me. My head dragged against the bush before it hit the ground, but it still hurt; I could feel the swelling underneath the tangled knots in my hair. Elgar snapped as I tried to get a grip on my attacker. I kicked and shoved him, and for a moment, I won the upper hand and rolled on top of him, almost punching him in the face. Remembering the mask, I settled for giving him a good smack in the side, but then he kicked upward and caught me in the chest, sending me backward.
“Stop!” pleaded Jurij. He was standing between us now, the little timid kitten watching first one friend and then the other, like we were a dangling string in motion.
“Stay out of this!” Darwyn jumped to his feet and pointed at me. “She thinks she’s so high and mighty, and she’s not even someone’s goddess yet!”
“I’m only twelve, idiot! How many goddesses are younger than thirteen?” A few, but not many. I scrambled to my feet and sent my tongue out at him. It felt good knowing he couldn’t do the same to me, after all. My head ached. I didn’t want him to see the tears forming in my eyes, though, so I ground my teeth once I drew my tongue inward.
“Yeah, well, it’ll be horrible for whoever finds the goddess in you!” Darwyn made to lunge at me again, but this time Jurij shoved both his hands at Darwyn’s chest to stop him.
“Just stop,” commanded Jurij. Finally. That was a good retainer.
My eyes wandered to the old crone’s cottage. No sign of her. How could she fail to hear the epic struggle outside her door? Maybe she wasn’t real. Maybe just seeing her was worth twenty points after all.
“Get out of my way, you baby!” shouted Darwyn. “So what happens if I pull off your mask when your queen is looking, huh? Will you die?”
His greedy fingers reached toward Jurij’s wooden animal face. Even from behind, I could see the mask tip dangerously to one side, the strap holding it tightly against Jurij’s dark curls shifting. The strap broke free, flying up over his head.
My mouth opened to scream. My hands reached up to cover my eyes. My eyelids strained to close, but it felt as if the moment had slowed and I could never save him in time. Such simple things. Close your eyes. Cover your eyes. Scream.
A dark, dirty shawl went flying onto the bush that we had ruined during our fight.
I came back to life. My head and Darwyn’s wolf mask spun toward the source of the sound. As my head turned, I saw—even though I knew better than to look—Jurij crumple to the ground, clinging both arms across his face desperately because his life depended on it.
“Your eyes better be closed, girl!” The old crone bellowed. Her own eyes were squeezed together.
I jumped and shut my eyes tightly.
“Hold that shawl tightly over your face, boy, until you can wear your mask properly!” screamed the old crone. “Off with you both, boys! Now! Off with you!”
I heard Jurij and Darwyn scrambling, the rustle of the bush and the stomps of their boots as they fled, panting. I thought I heard a scream—not from Jurij, but from Darwyn. He was the real fraidycat. An old crone was no match for the elf queen’s retainers. But the queen herself was far braver. So I told myself over and over in my head.
When the last of their footsteps faded away, and I was sure that Jurij was safe from my stare, I looked.
Eyes. Huge, bulbous, dark brown eyes. Staring directly into mine.
The crone’s face was so close I could smell the shriveled decay from her mouth. She grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me. “What were you thinking? You held that boy’s life in your hands! Yet you stood there like a fool, just starin’ as his mask came off.”
My heart beat faster, and I gasped for more air, but I wanted to avoid inhaling her stench. “I’m sorry, Ingrith,” I mumbled. I thought if I used her real name, if I let her lecture me like all the other adults, it would help me break free from her grasp. I twisted and pulled, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch her. I had this notion that if I touched her, my fingers would decay.
“Sorry is just a word. Sorry changes nothing.”
“Let me go.” I could still feel her dirty nails on my skin.
“You watch yourself, girl.”
“Let me go!”
The crone’s lips grew tight and puckered. Her fingers relaxed ever so slightly. “You children don’t realize. The lord is watching. Always watching—”
I knew what she was going to say, the words so familiar to me that I knew them as well as if they were my own. “And he will not abide villagers who forget the first goddess’s teachings.” The sentence seemed to loosen the crone’s fingers. She opened her mouth to speak, but I broke free and ran.
My eyes fell to the grass below my feet as I cut across the fields to get away from the monster. On the borders of the eastern woods was a lone cottage, home of Gideon the woodcarver, a warm and comfortable place so much fuller of life than the shack I left behind me. When I was near the woods, I could look up freely since the trees blocked the eastern mountains from view. But until I got closer …
“Noll! Wait up!”
My eyes snapped upward on instinct. I saw the upper boughs of the trees and almost screamed, my gaze falling back to the grass beneath my feet. I stopped running and let the gentle rustlings of footsteps behind me catch up.
“Jurij, please.” I sighed and turned around to face him, my eyes still on the grass and the pair of small dark boots that covered his feet. Somehow he managed to step delicately through the grass, not disturbing a single one of the lilies that covered the hilltops. “Don’t scare me like that. I almost looked at the castle.”
The toe of Jurij’s boot dug a little into the dirt. “Oh. Sorry.”
“Is your mask on?”
The boot stopped moving, and the tip of a black shawl dropped into my view. “Oh. Yeah.”
I shook my head and raised my eyes. There was no need to fear looking up to the west. In the distance, the mountains that encircled our village soared far beyond the western fields of crops. I liked the mountains. From the north, the south, and the west, they embraced our village with their jagged peaks. In the south, they watched over our fields of livestock. In the north, they towered above a quarry for copper and stone. And in the east, they led home and to the woods. But no girl or woman could ever look up when facing the east. Like the faces of men and boys before their Returnings, just a glance at the castle that lay beyond the woods against the eastern mountains spelled doom. The earth would shake and threaten to consume whoever broke the commandment not to look.
It made walking home a bit of a pain, to say the least.
“Tell me something important like that before you sneak up on me.”
Jurij’s kitten mask was once again tight against his face, if askew. The strap was a bit tangled in his dark curls and the pointed tip of one of his ears. “Right. Sorry.”
He held out the broken pieces of Elgar wrapped in the dirty black shawl. He seemed very retainer-like. I liked that. “I went to give this back to the—the lady. She wasn’t there, but you left Elgar.”
I snatched the pieces from Jurij’s hands. “You went back to the shack? What were you going to say? ‘Sorry we were spying on you pretending you were a monster, thanks for the dirty old rag?’”
“No.” Jurij crumpled up the shawl and tucked it under his belt. A long trail of black cloth tumbled out immediately, making Jurij look like he had on half a skirt.
I laughed. “Where’s Darwyn?”
Of course. I found out later that Darwyn had whined straight to his mother that “nasty old Noll” almost knocked his mask off. It was a great way to get noticed when you had countless brothers and a smitten mother and father standing between you and any form of attention. But it didn’t have the intended effect on me. I was used to lectures, and besides, there was something more important bothering me by then.
I picked up my feet to carry me back home.
Jurij skipped forward to join me. One of his boots stumbled as we left the grasses behind and hit the dirt path. “What happened with you and the crone?”
I gripped the pieces of Elgar tighter in my fist. “Nothing.” I stopped, relieved that we’d finally gotten close enough to the woods that I could face forward. I put an arm on Jurij’s shoulder to stop him. “But I touched her.” Or she touched me. “That means I win forever.”
The kitten face cocked a little sideways. “You always win.”
“Of course. I’m the queen.” I tucked the broken pieces of Elgar into my apron sash. Elgar was more of a title, bestowed on an endless number of worthy sticks, but in those days I wouldn’t have admitted that to Jurij. “Come on. I’ll give you a head start. Race you to the cavern!”
“The cavern? But it’s—”
“Too late! Your head start’s over!” I kicked my feet up and ran as if that was all my legs knew how to do. The cool breeze slapping across my face felt lovely as it flew inside my nostrils and mouth. I rushed past my home, not bothering to look inside the open door.
“Stop! Stop! Noll, you stop this instant!”
The words were something that could easily come out of a mother’s mouth, but Mother had a little more patience than that. And her voice didn’t sound like a fragile little bird chirping at the sun’s rising. “Noll!”
I was just an arm’s length from the start of the trees, but I stopped, clutching the sharp pain that kicked me in the side.
“Oh dear!” Elfriede walked out of our house, the needle and thread she was no doubt using to embroider some useless pattern on one of the aprons still pinched between two fingers. My sister was a little less than a year older than me, but to my parents’ delight (and disappointment with me), she was a hundred times more responsible.
“Boy, your mask!” Elfriede never did learn any of my friends’ names. Not that I could tell her Roslyn from her Marden, either. One giggling, delicate bird was much like another.
She walked up to Jurij, who had just caught up behind me. She covered her eyes with her needle-less hand, but I could see her peeking between her fingers. I didn’t think that would actually protect him if the situation were as dire as she seemed to think.
“It’s crooked.” Elfriede’s voice was hoarse, almost trembling. I rolled my eyes.
Jurij patted his head with both hands until he found the bit of the strap stuck on one of his ears. He pulled it down and twisted the mask until it lined up evenly.
I could hear Elfriede’s sigh of relief from where I was standing. She let her fingers fall from her face. “Thank the goddess.” She considered Jurij for a moment. “There’s a little tear in your strap.”
Without asking, she closed the distance between them and began sewing the small tear even as the mask sat on his head. From how tall she stood above him, she might have been ten years older instead of only two.
I walked back toward them, letting my hands fall. “Don’t you think that’s a little stupid? What if the mask slips while you’re doing that?”
Elfriede’s cheeks darkened and she yanked the needle up, pulling her instrument free of the thread and tucking the extra bit into the mask strap. She stood back and glared at me. “Don’t you talk to me about being stupid, Noll. All that running isn’t safe when you’re with boys. Look how his mask was moving.”
His mask had moved for even more dangerous reasons than a little run, but I knew better than to tell tattletale Elfriede that. “How would you know what’s safe when you’re with boys? You’re already thirteen, and no one has found the goddess in you!” Darwyn’s taunt was worth reusing, especially since I knew my sister would be more upset about it than I ever was.
Elfriede bit her lip. “Go ahead and kill your friends, then, for all I care!” The bird wasn’t so beautiful and fragile where I was concerned.
She retreated into the house and slammed the door behind her. I wrapped my hand around Jurij’s arm, pulling him eastward. “Come on. Let’s go. There’re bound to be more monsters in the cavern.”
Jurij didn’t give beneath my pull. He wouldn’t move.
I knew right then, somewhere in my mind, what had happened. But I was twelve. And Jurij was my last real friend. I knew he’d leave me one day like the others, but on some level, I didn’t really believe it yet.
Jurij stood stock still, even as I wrenched my arm harder and harder to get him to move.
“Oh for—Jurij!” I yelled, dropping my hands from his arm in frustration. “Ugh. I wish I was your goddess just so I could get you to obey me. Even if that means I’d have to put up with all that—yuck—smooching.” I shivered at the thought.
At last Jurij moved, if only to lift his other arm, to run his fingers across the strap that Elfriede had mended. She was gone from my sight, but Jurij would never see another.
It struck them all. Sometime around Jurij’s age, the boys’ voices cracked, shifting from high to deep and back again in a matter of a few words. They went from little wooden-faced animals always shorter than you to young men on their way to towering over you. And one day, at one moment, at some age, earlier for some and later for others, they looked at a girl they’d probably seen thousands of times before and simply ceased to be. At least, they weren’t who I knew them to be ever again.
And as with so many of my friends before Jurij, in that moment all other girls ceased to matter. I was nothing to him now, an afterthought, a shadow, a memory.
Not him.
My dearest, my most special friend of all, now doomed to live or die by the choice of the fragile little bird who’d stopped to mend his strap.

Amy McNulty
Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently spends her days alternatively writing on business and marketing topics and primarily crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.
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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Excerpt: Cut Here by Azzurra Nox

Today we are excited to share an excerpt from CUT HERE, a new YA Paranormal/Urban Fantasy novel by Azzurra Nox! But first, let me just say WHAT A GORGEOUS COVER! Okay, now that that's been said, here's a little about the book.

By Azzurra Nox
Release Date: 02/13/15
YA Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Lena Martin's idyllic world shatters the night her mother dies due to a hit and run
accident. Two years later, her dad relocates her from Italy to Los Angeles to help her put behind the time spent in a psychiatric ward following her mother's death. But the move only proves to be a fatal mistake. Shortly after her arrival, the classmates of her new private school begin to commit suicide under mysterious circumstances after reading a cult book called Cut Here.

Determined to unravel the mystery behind the suicides, she bands together with loner Jonathan Russe and outcast Hope Peters to figure out exactly what is happening, not realizing that this places them under a dangerous radar. During this same time, Lena falls for a mysterious and attractive guy named Michael, who is as equally disarming as he's dangerous.

As her attraction grows, so does the body count at St. Lucy Academy. Soon, Lena needs to decide whether to stay away from the guy she's falling for, or to trust him. Is Michael behind the suicides, or is he the key that can unlock the mystery that can stop the bloodshed? Deceptions run high and Lena soon learns that nothing is what it seems.



Bethany had pulled her bob into a tiny tight bun. She positioned herself in the center of the room, avoiding her reflection and waited for her cue to begin. Her mother rummaged through sheets of music before she began to play the intro of the dance.

The steps came automatic, without much thought. Her legs and arms moved with a mind of their own, as she did pirouettes around the room. She had been dancing for eleven years, and her limbs knew exactly how to move without any technical errors. Bethany knew that her dancing was impeccable. Error-free. Perfectly flawless. What had her losing out the lead for many recitals was her lack of emotion. She concealed her feelings so well that even whilst dancing no one could understand what her character was emoting.

Bethany continued her graceful dance, the music flowing into her, as she responded to every note. The tortured tune took her back to her stay in Florence, when she spent her days reading books on folklore and listening to all the sad, sad songs that reminded her of home.

One time she found herself walking the streets of the city near dusk. She crossed the Old Bridge, looking over the stone medieval majesty and gazed at the Arno River. Florence was said to be a magical city and she believed it. Everything about it breathed a sense of enchantment. The doctors had told her mother her body was very weak. She was too underweight. At sixty-six pounds she was at risk of heart failure and respiratory problems. Her body felt exhausted. Every step she took was an excruciating effort. But she knew that she had to cross the bridge at that exact hour. Her hands clutching a little bottle as she inhaled the Autumn air. That's when she collapsed to the ground, and the world dropped dead.

“Are you all right?”

The music had stopped. Bethany was jerked back to the present.

“Why did you stop?” she questioned her mother.

“Honey, your foot....” her mother stood up from the piano, and approached her.

She looked down to see that the white en pointe slipper was soaked in red. A bloody trail sketched the macabre dance on the floor.

“It's no big deal,” she shrugged it off. For a seasoned dancer, seeing a little blood never alarmed her. 

She should've felt the pain, but after many years of abusing her feet all she had was scar tissue and unhealed fractured bones. In a matter of moments she swiftly untied the silk ribbons and pulled her foot out of the slipper. It was bloody. A cracked nail. Multiple blisters around her toes. Something caught her eye. A strange black thing protruded from the side of her foot had caused the bleeding. She pulled it out without even wincing, as her mother gasped. Her heart was still, and the world dropped dead.


Born in Catania, Sicily, she has led a nomadic life since birth. She has lived in various European cities and Cuba, and currently resides in the Los Angeles area. Always an avid reader and writer from a young age, she loved entertaining her friends with ghost stories. She loves horror movies, cats, and a good rock show. She dislikes Mondays and chick-flicks. CUT HERE, her debut paranormal urban fantasy was inspired by a nightmare the writer had a few years ago. Some of her favourite authors include Anne Rice, Oscar Wilde, Chuck Palahniuk, and Isabella Santacroce.


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