AUTHOR INTERVIEW: JOSHUA DAVID BELLIN, SURVIVAL COLONY 9

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today, I am fortunate to have Joshua David Bellin, author of Survival Colony 9, on the blog with me to reveal some of his deep, dark writing secrets. He’s also going to talk with us about his newest book. Josh kindly provided me with a review copy of Survival Colony 9. I have to admit, this is one of the most compelling books I’ve read this year. I’ll have my review featured on Friday. Now, here’s Joshua David Bellin:


1. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m in my mid to late forties (oh, okay, I’m forty-nine!), and I teach English at a college in Pittsburgh, PA. I’m married with two children, a teenage girl and a pre-teen boy. I’ve published a number of academic books and articles, but Survival Colony 9 is my debut novel!

2. How did you get interested in writing? When did you first start writing?

I can’t really remember a time I didn’t love to write. I’ve kept some very old books I wrote (and illustrated) when I was around five years old, and I also have the first page of a novel I started (but couldn’t finish) when I was eight. I completed my first novel—a fantasy in the Tolkien tradition—when I was sixteen, and my next—a Young Adult story about friendship and death—when I was eighteen. So for forty-plus years, I’ve been a writer, even if it’s only now that I’ve become a published novelist.

3. Is there any particular genre that you love more than the others? Why is that?

I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy the best. This goes way back to when I was a kid, watching films like Star Wars, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and reading books like The Hobbit. Probably my continued love for these genres reflects the fact that I’ve never grown up—I still collect action figures and build Lego models with my son. But at a deeper level, I suppose I love fantasy and science fiction because I’m a dreamer, someone who believes there’s always more to life than meets the eye. All literature is about wishes and dreams, but speculative fiction taps into the human desire for transcendence more than any other.

4. Where did you get the idea for Survival Colony 9? What was hardest about writing this book?

Years and years ago, when I was in my teens, I jotted down ideas for novels that I never ended up having the time or the perseverance to complete. In one of them, there was a teenage narrator who suffered from memory loss and who was pursued by some evil force. That was the germ of Survival Colony 9, but I didn’t realize it until several years ago, when I woke from a dream that involved a small group of people in camouflage uniforms—a survival colony—traveling across a desert wasteland. My brain put that character into that setting, and Survival Colony 9 was born. The hardest thing for me at that point was figuring out how the world had become the way I saw it in my dream, and how my protagonist’s memory loss connected to his experiences in that world.

5. How is this story original for the genre?

I’d say it’s original in a couple ways. For one, it mingles a variety of genres: you’ll find elements of sci-fi, mystery, thriller, family drama, and horror in Survival Colony 9. That probably comes out of the fact that as a reader, I’m never satisfied with books that stick too closely to genre conventions. Which brings me to the other utterly unique aspect of the story: the monsters. I created monstrous antagonists called the Skaldi, creatures that consume and mimic human hosts. They’re unlike anything you’ll ever read about, and (if I do say so myself) they’re scary as hell. But don’t take my word for it—lots of readers have said the same thing!

6. Tell about your favorite character in the book. What are his/her strengths and weaknesses?

I love my main character, Querry Genn, a fourteen-year-old who suffers from traumatic memory loss. He tries really hard to fit into his survival colony, which can be a strength in the sense that he’s loyal and reliable, but also a weakness in that he has to learn to think critically and act on his own. One of the adult characters who helps him develop is my other favorite, Aleka, the colony’s second-in-command. She’s a very reserved person, hard to get close to, but with incredible strength and concern for others. Some male authors struggle to do justice to female characters, but I feel that creating well-rounded, believable female characters has always been a strength of mine. In fact, when I was in college, one of my writing teachers commented that I was “good on women—I mean, on imagining them!”

7. Do you have a favorite quote from the book you’d like to share with us?

Survival Colony 9 has a lot to do with memory and forgetting: not only Querry’s personal memory loss, but the troubled memories people have of the past world, which was swept away by war and environmental catastrophe. So there’s one point where Korah, a sixteen-year-old girl in the colony, says to Querry, “You’re lucky. My mom always tells me I have to remember. But sometimes all I want to do is forget.” She’s talking about how hard it is to free yourself from traumatic events, how they can shape—or misshape—a person for years to come. I think that line’s at the heart of the book, emphasizing how complex and painful it can be to remember the past.

8. How do you keep minute character details such as eye color, height, and other small details straight? Do you keep a binder or is there some other writer’s secret you’d like to share with us?

I don’t know if this counts as a secret, but my trick for keeping these details straight is to use them in a way that matters. In other words, I don’t simply assign someone a particular eye or hair color for the heck of it—I make sure that physical features and other details are relevant to the character or to the plot. Aleka, for example, has gray eyes, which Querry often likens to the moon or to stone, and those comparisons tell us something about her as a person, both her distance and her strength. As long as character traits are pertinent to the story, it’s not a challenge to keep them straight.

9. Do you have a certain writing schedule that you try to follow?

I wish! Lots of writers will tell you it’s important to write every day, but I find that’s just not practical with a full-time job and a family. I used to feel guilty about not writing every day, but now I just relax and write when I can. Mostly that means Fridays (when I don’t teach), summers, and over winter break. And I’m usually best around mid-morning to early afternoon—before then, my brain hasn’t woken up yet, and after then, everyone’s home from school or work or camp and it’s family time!

10. What are your personal hobbies/interests (besides writing)?

I’m a huge movie buff (one of the books I wrote before I turned to fiction has to do with monster movies), and fortunately my children are too, so we watch a lot of movies together. I also love to read, mostly YA, sci-fi, and fantasy. And I’m deeply invested in the environment, both as a person who enjoys the outdoors and as an activist working to preserve the natural world for future generations.

11. What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

I’ve completed a sequel to Survival Colony 9 titled Scavenger of Souls. It takes Querry into different parts of his world, with new challenges and antagonists and stakes, and with lots of revelations about his own and his people’s past. I’m also wrapping up a final book in the series, with the working title Skaldi City. After that, though it’ll be hard to leave Querry behind, I’m planning a YA alt-history about John Brown and the events leading up to the Civil War. Lots of research, but also lots of room for my imagination to run wild!

12. Do you like hearing from your fans? If so, how can they reach you?

I love to hear from fans, and I make it a practice to respond to every one! The best way to reach me is via my website, www.joshudavidbellin.com. From there, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, my blog, and other places around the web.

Quick fire round:
If you would, please answer these questions as quickly as possible, without giving them a lot of thought. I want the first thought that pops into your head. This is an 18+ site, so first thoughts really are okay.


1. Spring or fall? Definitely fall—it’s my favorite season!
2. Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla
3. Favorite food? Pizza (from Aiello’s Pizzeria in Pittsburgh)
4. Favorite movie; or at least a favorite recently? King Kong (1933 original)
5. Favorite TV show; or at least recent favorite, if you don’t have an all-time favorite? Either Northern Exposure or Seinfeld
6. Champagne/beer/wine or other beverage? Just soda, thanks!
7. Cat or dog? Cat
8. Depending on your sex, pick one: boxer/brief or lace/silk? Boxer
9. Vampire or zombie? Vampire (as long as they’re scary and not sexy)
10. Coffee or tea? Neither—except the occasional cup of tea at a Chinese restaurant

If you’d like to follow Joshua David Bellin, here is his contact information:
www.joshuadavidbellin.com
Twitter: @TheYAGuy
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joshuadavidbellin
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7393959.Joshua_David_Bellin


Thank you, Joshua for visiting with us today! Readers, feel free to ask Joshua any questions you might have. Or, leave him some author love. Please check back on Friday for my review of Survival Colony 9.

FROM DEITIES BY MARY TING: COVER REVEAL W/GIVEAWAY

Mary Ting is such a wonderful author. Her creativity knows no bounds. I’ve been waiting to see the cover the second book in her wonderful Descendent Prophecies series. Now, it’s finally time to share the cover with the world. Are you ready to see it??


FROM DEITIES by Mary Ting
Descendant Prophecies #2


A mysterious stranger enters Skylar’s inner circle, throwing her life out of balance. As secrets are revealed, she learns of the New Olympus, a dwelling for the descendants of the Gods. The Grand family must work together with these descendants to discover the key to their rescue from the clutches of the evil vultures of Hades, whose numbers are growing. As the threat increases, Skylar must learn to control her newfound powers before it’s too late.





_________________________________________________________________

About Mary



Mary Ting resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.

Website † Facebook † GoodReads † Twitter

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Giveaway

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DANGEROUS BOYS BY ABIGAIL HAAS: HAPPY RELEASE DAY

Today is the release day for Abigail Haas’ newest work, Dangerous Boys. Many of you became avid fans with Dangerous Girls and have been awaited this release with bated breath. Well, wait no longer. Enjoy!



Out Now!

August 14th, 2014

Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas


Three teens venture into the abandoned lake house one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense?

Or murder? 

Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…

Purchase Now!

Amazon: amzn.to/1wrph3u

iBooks: bit.ly/1mS0PXB


Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1AYM77B
 
Early Praise

Dangerous Boys is a taut, compelling thriller balanced on the razor’s edge of suspense. I could not put it down, and could not stop grinning wickedly as I raced through the pages.” — Leah Raeder, USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable

“Abigail Hass is a master at her craft! This is a special book and a special author. This is the kind of storytelling and writing that stick with you no matter how much time passes.” — The Book Geek Blog

“As with Dangerous Girls, the closing left me with a huge, admittedly rather twisted smile on my face. I don’t know how Haas manages to turn me into such a gleefully evil creature.” — Dahlia Adler, blogger.

“Dangerous Boys was an intense, psychological read which was full of suspense and drama,…Abigail Haas has a way of writing books which reel you in and keep you there, hooked and addicted until the very last page.” — Goodreads.com

About Abigail Haas

Abigail Haas has written two adult novels and four young adult contemporary novels under the name Abby McDonald. Dangerous Girls is her first young adult thriller. She grew up in Sussex, England, and studied Politics, Philosophy & Economics at Oxford University. She lives in Los Angeles.

SOMETHING FOREVER BY MARY CLARKE/MARY TING

I hope your Tuesday is going beautifully. I thought I’d start your day by sending a bit of a teaser your way from Something Forever. This is Mary Clarke/Mary Ting’s soon-to-be released work. I hope you enjoy this tiny taste of what’s to come:

Something Forever by M. Clarke
Series: Something Great #3
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 25th, 2014

A heated moment.

Desperate decision.

Life altering choices.

Max and Jenna are forced to test their relationship. Will they be able to embrace the challenges life throws their way?

Secrets can ruin the foundation of a relationship. Will Matthew choose to withhold vital information from Becky that could consume her with doubt about their future?

When it comes to love, Something Great can turn into Something Wonderful, but can it be Something Forever?




Other books in the series:

 

Purchase Something Great:

Purchase Something Wonderful:

________________________________________________________________

Teaser


________________________________________________________________



Mary Ting resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.


Website † Facebook † GoodReads † Twitter † Instagram † Pinterest 



DANGEROUS BOYS BY ABIGAIL HASS: OH SWEET, SWEET TEASERS

While we count down the days until the release of Dangerous Boys, I have some luscious teasers to taunt you….


From the critically-acclaimed author of DANGEROUS GIRLS comes a new dark, twisted thriller…


“It all comes down to this: Oliver, Ethan, and I.”

Three teens venture into an abandoned lake house one night. Hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding. The other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense?


Or murder?


Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece the story together - a story of jealousy, twisted passion and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful faces.


Release date: August 14th


Preorder:

Amazon amzn.to/1wrph3u
iBooks bit.ly/1mS0PXB
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dangerous-Boys-Abigail-Haas/dp/1471119165/

Early praise:

"Dangerous Boys is a taut, compelling thriller balanced on the razor’s edge of suspense. I could not put it down, and could not stop grinning wickedly as I raced through the pages." — Leah Raeder, USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable


“Abigail Hass is a master at her craft! This is a special book and a special author. This is the kind of storytelling and writing that stick with you no matter how much time passes.” — The Book Geek Blog

"As with Dangerous Girls, the closing left me with a huge, admittedly rather twisted smile on my face. I don’t know how Haas manages to turn me into such a gleefully evil creature." — Dahlia Adler, blogger.


“Dangerous Boys was an intense, psychological read which was full of suspense and drama,…Abigail Haas has a way of writing books which reel you in and keep you there, hooked and addicted until the very last page.” — Goodreads.com


Get ready to taste the adventure….DANGEROUS BOYS

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR MELISSA MCPHAIL W/COVER REVEAL AND GIVEAWAY

Today, I’m very excited to have Melissa McPhail, a wonderful writer of fantasies and the amazing creator of Cephrael’s Hand. She’s agreed to answer some questions for us as we celebrate the new cover reveal for that book.

I know as a reader, I’ve often wondered about the writer’s input and personal philosophy about the importance of a good cover to book sales.

I’ve heard of people who literally buy a book based only on its cover.
Melissa is going to talk about the new cover in relation to her series, as well as about what we might expect in the future. Take it away, Melissa!

1. How important do you think cover art is to selling your books?

I think cover art is essential to book sales. A well-crafted cover will tell the reader in which genre the book is classified, represent in some way the story’s theme, and give an overall impression of the world. Fantasy book covers are vital to presenting a sense and feeling of the world. In many cases, the cover is the only visual representation a reader gets.
And of course, we all know that a book cover done well will catch a potential reader’s attention. It’s your best and sometimes only chance to make that memorable first impression.

2. For self-published and small house published authors, what do think is important to remember when deciding on the final cover for your work?

I stand firmly on the side advocating book covers that support the central themes of the story they contain. For literary fiction, you can get away with more creative (or minimalist) covers that don’t have much to do with the story itself but are artful and visually compelling.

But for fantasy and other genre fiction, covers should capture a particular feeling that’s prevalent in the story (loneliness, peril, mystery, love, longing…) and give the reader some sense of the world.

No matter your genre, ensure your cover communicates the things you need and want it to communicate, and don’t settle for anything less. The cover is your first communication to a potential reader. Make sure the communication you want is what gets across to them.

3. Who did you choose to use for cover art, and why? What was your process for deciding on who to use?

With the original covers for Cephrael’s Hand and The Dagger of Adendigaeth, I used an independent digital artist, Kentaro Kanamoto, to create the artwork, and then I designed the covers around the artwork.
The new covers were produced by Damonza.com. I really liked their approach to cover design and was attracted to them originally when I saw a cover they produced for another independent author. They ask for a lot of information about the story and its central themes up front, and then they get busy creating. They worked with me through a number of revisions until I was happy with the covers.

4. How does the new cover better relate to the book and its characters?

It was important to me to ensure that the new covers give a sense of the world as well as some of the story’s key thematic elements. All three of the new book covers give a visual representation of more themes that are central to their part of the story.

Cephrael’s Hand is the name of a constellation that features prominently in book one, so of course those stars are represented on the cover.
Patterning is the name of the magic system in the world, and some representation of Patterning is included on all of my new covers.

For the cover of Cephrael’s Hand, the most central character in the story is working a pattern. This was important to me, as I feel having that image there helps establish a visual concept of Patterning for the reader early on in the series. The new Cephrael’s Hand cover also gives a sense of the time period and setting of the story.

5. Can we expect similar covers for the rest of the series?

Yes. I decided to rebrand the entire series with new covers. Having all of the books similarly branded as part of the same series is important for continuity and will help readers from becoming confused. The covers also help establish a growing concept of the world as the story grows.

Interestingly, I debated rebranding the earlier books, since ideally once your readers are heading into the second or third books, they’re already committed to your series. It brooked the question if book covers were still that important later in a series. But as I looked at this topic, I saw that you never know at what point a reader will come across your books. Too, it isn’t always the first book that grabs their attention. So great covers are a must for every book.

6. Speaking of the series, when will books 2 and 3 be available?

Book two, The Dagger of Adendigaeth, was released in 2012, and book three, Paths of Alir, will be available in October 2014.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Good luck with your series; I know I’ll be reading it.

Are you ready for the reveal of the new Cephrael’s Hand cover? Because here it is! Take a good, long look. Does it do a good job conveying the fantasy genre? Is it a book you’d be attracted to in the store? Does it make you want to learn more?

Thank you for helping us celebrate! If you’d like to see the new covers for books 2 and 3 in the series stop by www.MelissaMcPhail.com, and check them out.


Guess what else? The author is offering a special giveaway as part of this grand event. Check out the Rafflecopter form below (it’s also available at www.novelpublicity.com/cephrael-cover-reveal/) to find out how you can win a Kindle Fire. Hooray!


Oh, and don’t miss learning more about Cephrael’s Hand and where you can pick up a copy—that’s below too.

“All things are composed of patterns…” And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:

In Alorin… three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor’s brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D’Lacourte’s mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he’ll have to find him.


In the kingdom of Dannym… the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord.


In the Nadori desert…tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them. Honor-bound to serve the First Lord in return for his life, Trell continues on his appointed path, yet each day unveils new and stranger secrets that eventually call into question everything he knows.


Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever awesome eBooks are sold!


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GET BRANDED (SINNERS #1) - PLUS GIVEAWAY

GET BRANDED with Branded (Sinners #1) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki: I’ve read this wonderful book by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki (review to be featured soon) and enjoyed it immensely. It is creative, with very interesting and terrifying world-building.

Get-Branded-banner

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.

Branded-Cover

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.

add to goodreads

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

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.

Two.

Three.

Four.

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.

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

[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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Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

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meaganspooner:

Years ago, when I first started blogging about writing and my hopes of one day getting published, I ran my first book giveaway to celebrate my birthday. Now, July 5th is the day I set aside to thank you guys for reading my books, for listening to me ramble on Twitter and Tumblr, and for just generally being awesome, book-loving, YA-reading rockstars. You guys are the best birthday present a girl could ask for.

To celebrate I’m giving away ALL of my books, including an early ARC of This Shattered World, plus swag, across five different winners, open internationally*. I’ll be drawing one of the four basic prize winners each Saturday leading up to the final grand prize drawing from the entire pool of entrants on July 31. The first drawing is TONIGHT, so jump on it sooner rather than later!

FOUR BASIC PRIZES: Your choice of any one of the above books signed and personalized, plus signed swag. (ARC of This Shattered World, poster, and custom These Broken Stars necklace are only available for the grand prize.)

ONE GRAND PRIZE: EVERYTHING pictured above! All signed/personalized however you want them. 

HOW TO ENTER:

  • Newsletter (+5): Enter by subscribing to the newsletter I share with amiekaufman. Each entry here is worth five points in the drawings. (If you already subscribe, you’ve already automatically got these points in the drawing!)
  • Twitter (+1): Retweet this tweet. (Can do this once a day for more points!)
  • Tumblr (+1): Reblog this post. (Can do this once a day for more points!) 

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COVET BOOK BLAST AND GIVEAWAY


Covets have all the sexiness, emotion, and happily ever after that readers have come to expect and love from Entangled. They are firmly grounded in the contemporary world, but each novel brings in supernatural twists, breaking the contemporary and paranormal rules, alike. To find out more about their titles, chat with authors, participate in special events, and to find out what books you’ll be coveting next, visit the Entangled website, follow them on Twitter, LIKE their Facebook page, and join the Book Club.


Today I’m happy to be featuring Covet’s July releases:



So I Married A Werewolf by Kristen Miller

Special $0.99 Introductory Price!

Carter Griffin, enforcing officer for the Seattle Wolf Pack, has been offered the promotion of his dreams…if he can find a wife to prove he’s over his playboy ways. But Carter’s already been there, done that. Faith Hamilton needs money to put her younger brother through college. Okay, and she totally wants Carter, her sexy next-door neighbor, to look at her as more than a friend. It’s too bad size 12 and plain isn’t his type. At all. When the two friends strike a deal to help one another out, will it spark a love neither anticipated?





Forbidden Kiss by Shannon Leigh

Special $0.99 Introductory Price!

Rom Montgomery seeks the unobtainable: forgiveness. He wanders across continents and through time searching for salvation and the means to right an ancient wrong. To gain the respect and position she’s desired in the academic world, Jule Casale hopes to discover the unknown artist behind a masterpiece of Renaissance art. When Jule comes knocking on Rom’s door, it’s the closest he’s ever come to finally finding redemption. The closer he draws to correcting his past mistakes, the more his secrets threaten to destroy the woman who might hold the key to his future.