Type X Cover Reveal

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TYPE X (Project W. A. R. Volume II) by M. A. Phipps
Releasing: August 2016
Publisher: CHBB Publishing
Editor: Catherine Stovall of CLS Editing
Cover Designer: Christian Bentulan of Covers by Christian

Add it to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30626391-type-x

Catch up with the first book in the trilogy today!

ULTRAXENOPIA (Project W. A. R. Volume I): http://smarturl.it/Ultraxenopia
Watch the BOOK TRAILER here: https://youtu.be/9j9sxPRdLjQ

 

ARC’s Available for Dark Dreams and Dead Things

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I can’t believe it. Book 2 in my Dead Things Series, Dark Dreams and Dead Things is finally, finally finished. I’m so excited and I cannot wait to share it with all of you. The book is set to release on July 15th, 2016 and we are currently recruiting for my launch team. Spaces are limited and priority is being given to reviewers of Book 1, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things as well as my Facebook Street Team, Martina’s Deadlings but spaces are still available. If you haven’t read Book 1, a copy can be provided for you prior to the release of Book 2.

Click here to sign up for my the Launch Team

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Synopsis:

17-year-old November Lonergan spent her whole life feeling like an outsider; like she was different. She was right. She’s a reaper like her mother; like her two cousins, Kai and Tristin. The supernatural world believes they are part of a prophecy to save them from an evil known as the Grove. Ember just wants to survive high school and fix the fallout from bringing back her friend.

Old enemies are lurking; waiting for their opportunity to strike but the pack has a new problem. A group of legendary hunters has resurfaced, threatening the reapers and anybody who stands with them. They are making good on their threats too; attacking those closest to the pack.

Their only hope of defeating the Legionaries involves trusting a stranger to perform a dangerous spell to advance Ember and her cousin’s powers. But Ember has a secret; a secret she can’t tell the pack. One that leaves the pack vulnerable.

An attack on pack allies, leaves one member of the group injured and another missing, along with a mysterious girl named Evangeline who may play a bigger part in this than any of them realize. As the Legionaries are closing in, the pack must trust their enemies, enter hostile territories, and play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a psychopath. Their entire plan lynches on a dangerous bargain, but rescuing one member of the pack could mean losing another in their place…possibly forever.

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funerals

Pre-Order Dark Dreams and Dead Things Today

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Release: July 15th, 2016

Synopsis:

17-year-old November Lonergan spent her whole life feeling like an outsider; like she was different. She was right. She’s a reaper like her mother; like her two cousins, Kai and Tristin. The supernatural world believes they are part of a prophecy to save them from an evil known as the Grove. Ember just wants to survive high school and fix the fallout from bringing back her friend.

Old enemies are lurking; waiting for their opportunity to strike but the pack has a new problem. A group of legendary hunters has resurfaced, threatening the reapers and anybody who stands with them. They are making good on their threats too; attacking those closest to the pack.

Their only hope of defeating the Legionaries involves trusting a stranger to perform a dangerous spell to advance Ember and her cousin’s powers. But Ember has a secret; a secret she can’t tell the pack. One that leaves the pack vulnerable.

An attack on pack allies, leaves one member of the group injured and another missing, along with a mysterious girl named Evangeline who may play a bigger part in this than any of them realize. As the Legionaries are closing in, the pack must trust their enemies, enter hostile territories, and play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a psychopath. Their entire plan lynches on a dangerous bargain, but rescuing one member of the pack could mean losing another in their place…possibly forever.

funerals

Excerpt
Chapter 1
Ember

“It would appear you owe me a new body, Luv.”

November Lonergan stared at the ghost of her dead boyfriend and contemplated how truly screwed up her life had become. Somehow, despite everything, Mace was there, standing in her window, fading in and out like a television with a bad signal. Of course he was.

He flickered, image strengthening as she got closer. There was still blood on his torn t-shirt but his silver hair looked cleaner than the last time she’d seen him. The symbols she’d painted on his skin were gone but the of scars layered across his torso remained. His dark brows were smudges over luminous silver eyes. He was beautiful even in death.

She opened her mouth to say something but realized there was nothing at all suitable for this occasion. She’d already endured a blood ritual, two deaths, a knife fight and a resurrection; she didn’t know if she could handle anything else today. Her magic didn’t agree, it stretched and purred at Mace’s presence, reaching out for his power. Even death hadn’t severed their magic’s connection it seemed. She didn’t give in to the temptation to move closer.

The heat of her magic and a bone deep exhaustion had her swaying on her feet. He moved towards her before seeming to remember he was of little use in his present condition. “You don’t look very well. Maybe you should sit down.”

Ember nodded, not so much sitting as collapsing onto her pale pink bedspread. “Or you could lie down.” She heard Mace mutter. She yawned so hard her jaw cracked. She was still fully clothed but undressing seemed as impossible as climbing a mountain. She wiggled her toes. She needed to take her shoes off. She made a halfhearted attempt. “When did my feet get so far away?”

He glanced at her feet. “They appear to be in the same place as always.” He walked back towards the window. “While you’re just lying about perhaps you could enlighten me on how exactly you plan to fix this disaster?”

Ember blinked up at him. Funny how quickly his affections turned. “An hour ago it was ‘do what you have to do, Luv. I could have loved you’ now it’s hurry up and fix this?”

He chuckled at her terrible impression of his accent. “I was trying to be noble and romantic in my final moments of existence. Now that I still exist, I think we’ve wasted enough time on sentiment.”
“Having your soul back obviously hasn’t made you a better person.”

“Did you think it would? I told you not to romanticize me. My soul was tarnished long before I gave it away.” Even as a glitchy apparition, she could see the moment her words sunk in. “Did you say my soul?”

He hadn’t realized what him appearing in her room meant. “Didn’t you wonder why you’re still here?”

“Certainly, but that wasn’t the answer I expected. How?”

Ember yawned again, eyelids drooping. “Can’t we talk about it tomorrow? I’m so tired.”

He gaped at her. “Seriously? You tell me I have a soul and now you want to go to sleep?”

“Yes. I’m tired. I’ve had a rather rough day.”

“Really? Did a witch force you to cut open your own stomach and create a mural with your own entrails? No? Then I win.”

Ember was too tired to play. “Drama queen.”

There was a long pause before he said. “You might consider a shower. You are still covered in blood. My blood specifically. Quite a lot actually.”

Ember groaned, looking down at herself with effort. She was pretty gross. She was so tired though. “If you weren’t a ghost I’d force you to carry me.”

There was a low chuckle. “Inviting me to shower with you? I’m sure that would go over quite well with the little alpha.”

Ember thought about the alpha werewolf currently downstairs cleaning the kitchen. After the night they’d all had, she doubted Isa would be concerning herself with such mundane things as teenage hormones. Could the wolves hear her talking to Mace? Could they hear Mace? See him? Did they think she was in here talking to herself? Could she only see him because she was a reaper? She had so many questions.
She rolled to her feet, grabbing her things and keeping her thoughts to herself. She hurried to the bathroom and locked the door. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and froze. He wasn’t lying. She was covered in blood, and not just his blood. Her bright orange curls were a tangled sweaty mess matted together with blood and who knows what else. There were dark smudges under her eyes, making her already pale skin look chalky under the soft white lights. Her violet eyes glowed–actually, glowed–like the wolves did mid shift. That was new. Had they been glowing since the ritual or was Mace’s presence sending her magic into hyper-drive?

She flipped the water on and stripped down, not even waiting for the water to heat up before stepping beneath the spray. She realized almost immediately her mistake. She muffled a scream, bouncing from one foot to the other under the frigid water, relaxing only when steam finally began to rise.

“So, tell me; how did I get back my soul?”

Ember gasped, slipping and yelping as her back hit the cold tiles. She stuck her head around the curtain. “There is a reason these doors lock.”

His smile was disarming. “There isn’t a lock in the world that would keep me away from you, Luv.”

She rolled her eyes, righting the navy and white shower curtain, absently wondering how much he could see in those white stripes. “That is like the most stalkery thing you’ve ever said to me and you rank really high on the creepy-lurker-stalker-guy meter.”

There was another throaty laugh. “I am starting to think this power has gone to your head. Five hours ago you were weeping at my side like a war widow.”

Her mouth fell open. She yanked the curtain back enough to level a glare at him. “Five hours ago, I thought I’d never see you again. Five hours ago, I thought I needed you. Five hours ago, I hadn’t known you’d been playing me the entire time. Remember? You’re the parasite and I’m the host. You needed me. You lied to me this whole time.”

He shrugged, incredulous. “Of course, I lied. I could hardly tell you the truth. You would have booted me into the abyss, which you ended up doing anyway, I might add.”

She made a noise of disgust. This was Mace with a soul. “I’m such an idiot.” She said, more to herself than him. He tilted his head, a hint of something behind his eyes, regret maybe? She didn’t give in, letting the curtain drop back into place, determined to ignore him.

She scrubbed herself quickly, alarmed at how little it bothered her to have this conversation with him while she was naked.

“I didn’t lie about my feelings for you, Luv; if that means anything?”

“Hah.” Like she was going to believe anything he said now.

“I’m serious. If you believe nothing else. Believe I meant what I said.”

“You said you could love me. If you’d been capable. Well, apparently you were capable this whole time. So I don’t even know what to do with your half-assed confession of love.”

Why was she even talking about this? Maybe it was the shower curtain. It was like a confessional. It was so much easier to talk to somebody when you didn’t have to look at them.

“Half-assed?” He said, “I sacrificed myself so that our dear friend, Quinn, could have my body.”

Ember choked on her laugh. “Oh, please. You were kidnapped and tied to a chair with a gaping abdominal wound. It’s not like you volunteered for the job.” Ember’s eyes dropped to her feet, shuddering at the blood spiraling towards the drain.

Mace wasn’t done being offended. “Well, that hardly matters. Quinn’s soul is safely housed in my body and I’m…here? So you could at least tell me how this all came to be.”

Ember rolled her eyes. He was impossible. “Not that you deserve any sort of explanation but Ms. Josephine says I restored your soul the night we met in the cemetery.”

He was quiet for so long she caved and, yet again, pulled the curtain back enough to ensure he was still there. He stared at nothing, jaw slack. “I’ve had my soul the whole time?”

“Yep.” She couldn’t help but feel a bit smug about how wrecked he looked.

“You’re sure?”

She slathered conditioner into her hair. “That’s what Josephine thinks.”

“The swamp witch?”

“Oh, that’s right. You were dead. Josephine the swamp witch isn’t a witch at all. Well, maybe she’s a witch but she’s also an Oracle, because those are apparently a thing too. Oh, and Miller, my boss from the funeral home is actually Josephine’s brother and she’s had him, like, watching me this whole time and Donovan is her grandson.”

He sounded awed as he said, “Good Lord, how long have I been dead? I’ve clearly missed a lot.”

“You have no idea. Allister tried to kill me but Quinn saved me by stabbing Allister but as Allister was dying he forced Quinn to absorb his magic.”

“The human killed his own father to save you? I didn’t think he had it in him.”

“Former human.” She corrected. “Besides, Allister isn’t dead.”

“What? What do you mean? You just said Quinn killed him.”

She hesitated before saying, “I revived him.”

“Revived or resurrected?” Mace asked, leery.

“What’s the difference?” Ember asked, deliberately avoiding answering.

“Reviving is CPR, resurrecting is bringing a soul back across the veil. Stop being evasive, Luv.”

“Fine, I resurrected him.”

“With a spell?”

“No” she said, tone casual. “With my hands.”

She could hear his forced exhalation. “This is all very astonishing, even in our circle.”

Her heart did a strange skip at the word ‘our’. She was pathetic. She snagged the towel and wrapped it around herself.

“Why would they go to all this trouble to orchestrate this elaborate plan?”

She yanked the curtain open and stared at him. His eyes roamed her body, starting at her toes and working their way up. He grinned at her petulant expression. “Sorry, Luv. I’m dead, not blind. I’ve never been so jealous of a piece of cotton.”

She rolled her eyes. “Move, please.”

“Why? You can just walk right through me.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “I encourage it, in fact.”

When she didn’t take the bait he moved, following her back into her bedroom. “You didn’t answer my questions. So, what are you to two witches? Or a witch and an oracle?”

“They have a crazy theory.”

“Which is…?” he prompted in exasperation.

“They believe that Tristin, Kai and I are descendants of some ancient triple goddess.”

“The Morrigan?” Mace said, sounding like the breath had been punched from his lungs.

Ember narrowed her eyes. “Yes, exactly. They say there is some sort of prophecy. It’s insane. They are both insane.”

He watched her for a moment as she wriggled into her t-shirt and sleep shorts without revealing anything. She towel-dried her curls.

“I suppose it makes sense.”

“Nothing about this situation makes sense.” She told him, slipping between the sheets with a moan that bordered on obscene. She didn’t know what sex felt like but she bet it wasn’t as good as cold Egyptian cotton with a 700 thread count. She flipped her light off, amused as his spirit gave off a faint glow allowing her to see his annoyed expression.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

“We’ve had this conversation. Going to sleep.”

“You can’t. We have to figure this out.”

Tomorrow.”

“What if I’m not here tomorrow?” He asked quietly.

Ember’s eyes jerked open, pulse tripping. She hadn’t thought about that. Could he cross over? Would he want that? He’d been immortal for a very long time. “You mean what if you cross over? Could you? Is that something you’d want?”

He sounded sick when he said, “To be tortured for all eternity in the pits of hell? No, Luv, I’ll pass, thank you. Besides, soul or no, sluagh can’t cross over into the spirit world.”

“So why do you look so worried?”

“Because there are things far worse.”

“Worse than hell?”

“Aye. I told you before, nobody gets away with the things I did.”

“We’ll figure something out.” She said without thinking. Why was she still trying to help him? He really wasn’t her problem. All those squishy sad feelings she’d had after he was gone were quickly turning to something else. She didn’t know what to call it but it felt like it was burning a hole through her chest.
She reached out; her hand brushing his. Her magic shocked through her, causing them both to suck in a breath.

Again, that same spooked look. It made her shiver. What the hell could scare Mace?

“But we have to figure this out tonight.”

She wanted to tell him not to worry but she felt drugged, eyelids so heavy. “Tomorrow. I promise.”

“Ember.” Her name sounded like a plea but she was too far gone.

Tomorrow.” She mumbled, already falling into sleep.

Chapter 2

Mace

Mace floated in a sea of pain, blind. He was suspended upside down, metal shackles biting so deep trails of blood rolled along his skin. His arms were pinned behind his back, tight enough that his left shoulder hung detached from its socket; it burned and throbbed along with the monotonous pounding in his head.

He could take physical pain. It was the one constant in his life; his oldest friend. But there was something else, the smell; a pungent shock of vervain and patchouli combined with the dank smell of rot and sickness. Finn. Panic shot through him, knife sharp and paralyzing. There’s no way it could be him. It was just some trick; a sense memory toying with him, drawing him back so easily. It mocked the measures he’d taken to cut away that part of his life. He was grateful he couldn’t see. But it didn’t stop his brain from filling in the blanks, betraying him again.

It had been the scent that scared him then too, all those years ago. Not the various instruments of torture laid along the battered and scarred wooden tables. Not the figures lurking in hooded cloaks. The smell. London on a good day smelled of filth and sickness but that place, that room they’d taken him too…it had wreaked of blood and sweat and something else, something acrid and so thick it sat heavy on his tongue, making him afraid to breathe…afraid to inhale something so evil.

He’d looked to Finn, standing in the doorway, smart in his finely cut evening coat, hat in hand as if he was leaving for a ball instead of leaving him to the mercies of witches. Everything about Finn was sharp, from the knife blade of his cheekbones and the sharp slope of his nose to the way his eyebrows slashed over wide eyes. The only exception was his mouth, generous lips which smiled far too easily but never quite reached those dead blue eyes.

Finn couldn’t really mean to leave him with these…monsters. As always, Finn’s face split into that charming smile, likely meant it to reassure him. It didn’t. The trepidation had already set in like some sickness that had found its way into his core. He couldn’t do this. He just couldn’t.

A boy almost his age shuffled into the room, grubby, half-starved and bleeding through the rough brown shift he wore, bare feet shackled at the ankles. The boy wasn’t the witches intended sacrifice but an apprentice. He was their servant now, but someday he’d be one of them.

There was another like him. A…sacrifice. She hung suspended from the ankles, naked. She stared unblinking at him, mouth slack and cheeks hollow. If not for the way her chest rose and fell he’d have thought her dead. How long had she been like that? Was that what they had planned for him?

One of the hooded figures floated towards him, pushing back their cowl to reveal black and silver hair and a craggy, lined face. She stared at him like he was meat. He flinched as she pulled an athame from her belt. She chuckled at his unease, slicing through the expensive fabric of his shirt. She hissed in surprise when she revealed the scars beneath. “What have you done to the boy? You claimed he was untouched.”

Finn laughed loud and Mace tried without success to quell the chill that shot through him. “Drusilla, please, do you think me a monster? This boy is like my own flesh and blood. He came to me with those scars. I assure you these aren’t from any ritual.” He seemed to rethink himself. “Well, not any magical ritual. I promise, he’ll do quite nicely for your purpose.”

She let the knife blade dance over the scar above his heart. “What say you, boy? Are you to bleed for me?”

He swallowed hard, teeth clacking together as his insides shook. He looked to Finn. “Take me back to the brothel. Please. I won’t complain.”

The woman laughed heartily, revealing rotted teeth and foul breath. “Hmm, you’re right. He’ll do nicely. I can already smell his fear. And he’s Fae? You’re sure?”

“Have I ever misled you?”

She shrugged. Seemingly satisfied with Finn’s answer, she turned her attention back to him. She dragged the knife lower against his belly, leaning close, whisper almost seductive as she taunted him. “A butcher once told me an animal’s meat tastes sweeter if it is bled slowly. They say the fear and the pain improves its flavor. Do you think that’s true, boy?” Mace’s body was rigid; mouth dry. He didn’t dare move or speak. Was Finn leaving him here to die? “Do you think it holds true for your kind as well?”

Finn’s voice echoed against crumbling walls. “Drusilla,” he admonished. “Go easy. I promise his blood is pure and if now is any indication he will be sufficiently frightened. But you aren’t my only patron. You know my rules.” He waved his hand. “Give me a moment, please?”

She made a noise of displeasure but turned her attention to the others. The boy in the brown robe returned with something in a basket, hidden beneath a blanket. Whatever it was, flailed causing the blanket to jump. It made a terrible racket, it’s whines high-pitched and jarring fraying his already jagged nerves. He didn’t know if it was human or animal and he didn’t wish to know. He wanted naught to do with any of this. This was wrong. He’d made a terrible mistake.

Finn gave him a resigned look, wiping away his tears with his thumbs. “Balthazar, you can do this. You were born to do this. Your blood is valuable and your pain is necessary. We’ve talked of this, haven’t we?” His fingers traced a scar at his ribs. His eyes went soft. “You’ve endured far worse than this. They’ve given their word. You aren’t the sacrifice. They only want your blood. You can do that.”

Only his blood. That wasn’t true. They wanted his fear. They wanted his pain. This was what he was good for. This is what he was good at. He looked at the others gathered. The girl. The girl who hung so still, eyes vacant. She would be the one who died tonight. He couldn’t imagine what sorcery they’d used to keep her so docile. Another strange wail pierced the air from the basket, pulling his eyes from the girl. Or maybe she wasn’t. He’d thought his grandfather was the devil but this…this was something else entirely.

Another of the coven approached, hidden beneath dark robes. They ran a gnarled hand across the layers of scar tissue marring his chest, voice crackled as dry leaves. “So many scars for one so young. Perhaps you’ve used this one too often, Finnian.”

Finn chuckled. “I’ve not used him at all. He came to me like this. As I assured Drusilla, you are his first ritual.” Finn stroked his cheek. “Up until now I’ve found other uses for his…talents.”

Mace had learned long ago not to flinch away from an unwanted touch. The witches laugh was raw to his ears and he closed his eyes as she ran her fingers over him like she had a claim. “Aye, he is fair, to be sure. With this one in your stable it is no wonder half the ton is on your leash.”

Then he seemed momentarily forgotten as the two spoke of business; of Finn’s brothel, his gaming hells. As they spoke, the others scurried about, making the necessary arrangements. This was happening. Finn was going to leave him there, chained and naked like that girl. He was going to leave him to be bled like livestock.

As this new woman spoke to Finn, her hands roamed his skin. She would sometimes stop, inhaling deeply. She petted him not to sooth but because she found his terror intoxicating. His tears flowed but they paid him no mind.

Then the first woman returned–Drusilla–and his heart seized as she produced a wicked spiked object, turning to him with a smile. “Finn, it’s time for you to take your leave.”

Finn’s eyes lingered on his face; before he swept a kiss across his forehead. He looked to the women. “You’ll deliver him home, won’t you? The streets of London aren’t safe these days. There’s a ripper on the loose.”

Her smile was cold. “I’ll never understand your attachment to these…creatures, Finn.”

Finn’s easy smile fell away, eyes sharp. “No exceptions, Drusilla.”

She smiled tightly. “Of course. Let’s get started.”

A sharp slap to Mace’s face brought him back, back to whatever nightmare this was. He shook away the thoughts of Finn, of London. Of his human life. If this was what having a soul meant, he would rid himself of it at the first possible opportunity.

Information filtered in as his brain came back online. He wanted to speak but found he couldn’t, his mouth was sawdust, breathing painful. He was upside down. That wasn’t a memory. He blinked sweat from his eyes, trying to make sense of shapes in the hazy swirl of shadows and light.

His world rocked on its axis as a violent shove sent him swinging, stomach lurching as pain exploded in his shoulder and behind his eyes. His brain bounced around in his skull, untethered. There was something wrong with his vision and the incessant pounding in his head was probably to blame. He squeezed his useless eyes shut, trying to assemble the fractured pieces of his memory. Had it truly taken his enemies only hours to find him.

He wanted to laugh. This was his own fault. He’d been sure Ember would be the end of him almost the moment he laid eyes on her…and he was right. He should be furious but, instead, he thought of how relieved she’d looked when she’d seen him standing there in her bedroom. Even covered in his blood she’d looked beautiful. When she didn’t fight her magic, she was electric; eyes glowing, skin luminous, hair as wild as the power coursing through her. He clung to the idea of her; her smile, her eye rolling, anything to distract from the terror climbing up his stomach and lodging in his throat.

“It hurts, doesn’t it?” A raspy voice whispered behind him, harsh and mocking, impossible to identify. He picked up a faint trace of an accent, less pronounced than his own. The pounding in his skull increased almost drowning out his assailant’s words.

“You hear it, don’t you? Your human heart. That tedious drumming you can’t escape? After years of perfect silence, it’s like a too loud clock tick-tick-ticking away until you want to cut it from your chest.”

Human? Hardly. Even with a soul he wasn’t human. A soul didn’t negate the fae blood that had made it possible for him to become sluagh; it didn’t take away his need to feed on the souls of

others. Or did it? Despite the impossibility of their words, he couldn’t escape the pain of the very fragile, human body currently housing his soul. If this was even real. He swallowed hard before testing his ability to speak once again.

“No, Luv,” They mocked. “Don’t bother trying to speak. The spell won’t allow it.” The hazy ghost of a figure paced nearby. Mace closed his eyes, trying to note anything that would give him a clue to their identity. “I’ve waited too long for this and that sharp tongue of yours won’t take this from me.”

Their voice gave away nothing. He could only pick up on the musky scent of stagnant water. They could be male or female; monster or witch. His senses were exactly as they’d implied…human. This couldn’t be real.

The figure dropped next to him, suddenly so close Mace flinched away, sending a lightning bolt of pain through his shoulder. This close, there was no missing their scent; cloying, sweet and familiar somehow.

A soft hand swept across his cheek. “Did you really think you’d never pay for your sins?” Long, delicate fingers pushed damp hair off his forehead. “Did you think I wouldn’t find a way? I’ve waited for so long, Balthazar. Longer than you could ever imagine.”

Balthazar. The hairs along his arms raised, a shiver running through him despite the perspiration rolling along his spine. His new human heart jackhammered in his chest, forcing blood to his already throbbing head until he was sure it would explode. Nobody called him Balthazar.

Balthazar belonged to another life. He was Mace; just Mace. He’d tell them so if he could just speak. He clenched his jaw, forcing himself to think. He had expected he may one day have to atone for the things he’d done as sluagh. But Balthazar? No.

He’d rid himself of that life; of the conscience and cowardice weighing him down. His insides shook with the effort of pushing away the helplessness threatening to overwhelm him. This would not be how he made amends, at the hands of somebody who knew him from a life he no longer claimed. Give him the victims whose lives he’d drained, let them do what they wished. He’d accept all that and more.

He swallowed convulsively. He needed to think logically. This couldn’t be somebody from his old life. His grandfather’s deranged accusations had caused a bit of mass hysteria in their quiet township but not because of any real mystical entity. His life before he’d become sluagh had been torturous but only because he fell victim to a religious zealot with delusions of piety not because of any supernatural entity. He’d known nobody with ties to magic.

None but his own mother. And Finn. He blinked the thought from his mind as quickly as it came, as if thinking of him might summon him from whatever dark recesses he’d disappeared into all those years ago. Thinking of Finn was like lighting a fuse on a powder keg of memories that might demolish him.

“Shut up.” They growled. “I can practically hear you thinking.” It taunted. “That’s your problem, Balthazar. Everything is always about you; you stupid, selfish boy.” He felt them stand, heard the shifting of their feet over concrete. “You’ll get your answers when I’m ready and not a moment before. Not until I’ve had my fun. And this is going to be fun. I’ve been practicing. So patient. Any pain you’ve experienced will pale in comparison to what I have in store for you. I’m going to wrench every bit of agony I can from you. I’m going to make you beg. I’m going to make you bleed.” They promised.

Mace believed them.

Light flooded his already abused eyes. When it spoke again, their voice was calm, almost giddy. “It’s morning now. Your beloved necromancer is probably just waking to find you gone. What will she think when she discovers you missing? Will she think that you’ve lied to her again? Betrayed her again? Do you think she’ll blame herself for being so terribly stupid? Of course she will.” Mace’s heartrate shot up and his captor huffed out a menacing laugh. “Oh, don’t you worry. We promised you we’d take care of her.” Again they dropped down next to him, that not unpleasant scent flooding his senses. “Do you remember that? Just before I watched her rip your soul from your body? Did you recognize me then? Do you recognize me now?” They stood again, movements erratic, frenetic. “No matter.”

Whoever this was, they hated him. He tried to imagine who it could be but nobody came to mind, nobody but Finn and he was long gone.

“I meant it, Balthazar. I’m going to take such good care of her. You can’t imagine the things I’ve planned for her. Do you think she even realizes the chaos she’s capable of?”

No. Ember had no idea what she was capable of. Even with everything that happened, she still knew nothing of the type of power she held. His eyes drifted closed as he thought of her. His need to see her was a living thing inside of him. Before he’d have blamed his magic but he held no power here. He was simply…human.

“While you are here, paying for your sins, know that I’m out there showing her everything she could be. Showing her the potential she has to bring such exquisite pain and suffering to those around her.”

Despite everything, Mace huffed out a silent laugh. They didn’t know Ember at all. She would never harm anybody on purpose. She would sacrifice herself before ever hurting anybody. Ember’s soul was pure, not darkened by sin like his. She would never let herself be lured by something so dark. Not ever.

“Laugh if you will, Balthazar. You might think she’s above falling to the darkness but she fell for you, didn’t she?” The thought wiped the smile from his lips. “Besides, your necromancer isn’t as pure as she once was. Do you know what she did? Do you know she resurrected the witch? Did she confess her dark deeds to you? Did she drift off to sleep with a clean conscience, safe in the knowledge there was still a chance to save you?” He didn’t try to answer this time, letting them talk. “Here’s what you don’t know. Here’s what even your pretty necromancer doesn’t know. You were right when you said the universe is strict about maintaining its balance. You can’t simply pull a soul across the veil without offering one in return. Your necromancer didn’t choose a sacrifice so the universe decided for her.”

Mace’s mind reeled at that information. Was somebody else dead? Somebody from the pack? The constant pounding in his head made it impossible to think.

“Sweet little Ember is waking up right now to learn that you have abandoned her and somebody she cares for has paid the price for Allister’s soul.”

Mace’s breath came in shallow pants, helpless to do anything as their words settled in. Ember had so little control of her magic, to lose somebody else after carrying the responsibility for so many bodies. She no longer had him there to channel that excess energy.

“You’re starting to understand now. She’s so vulnerable. So out of control. Do you think she’ll stuff it down? She’ll think she’s fine at first but the deaths will keep coming. Her errors will keep causing lives and eventually feeling it all will become too much for her.” Mace didn’t want to hear anymore. Ember was better than that, stronger than that. He opened his mouth to say so and they laughed that hissing raspy laugh. “No, I’m not done yet.” Again hands brushed against his face and Mace couldn’t shake the feeling he’d done this before under far different circumstances. “Shh.”

They were quiet for so long that Mace jumped when they spoke again. “It’s once she stops caring that I’ll have her. It’s once she stops wanting to feel anything that I’ll show her just how much fun we can have.” The next words were whispered right in his ear and spit with the force of bullets. “Just as Finn had you.”

Mace jerked as if electrocuted. He tried to shove away the thought but the fear remained; haunting him.

“Do you remember? Do you remember how easily you gave up everything just to never feel again? Do you remember the vile things you did for him? What you let others do to you? All to shake off that pesky mortal coil? How quickly before Ember does the same? How long before I show her how much power there is when you stop feeling and just give in to the darkness?”

Mace fought then, fought against his restraints, fought against the spell holding his tongue. But it was no use. He was human. Somehow, some way he was human again.

“Oh, don’t look so glum. It’s not all bad here.” It laughed again, a full bodied cackle that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. “Think of it as a game. Survive the day and I reward you with a few hours of peace, fail and you’ll die again and again.”

In a blink, his restraints were gone as was the pain he’d just felt. His vision cleared and his heart sank. It would appear his captor was starting their game right now. Four leather hooded figures stood at each corner of the room, bare chested and holding the chain of a slobbering black dog with red eyes and too many teeth. They fought their restraints, eager for his blood.

Ember. Ember would find him. She’d know he wouldn’t leave her and she would find a way to get him back. Wouldn’t she?

His captor was nowhere he could see but their voice rang out anyway. “Welcome, Balthazar, to my island of misfit toys.”

In that moment, Mace realized his entire life had come full circle. He couldn’t cross over but this was hell all the same.

“Wait!” The word ripped from his lips without thought, only terror. It was little comfort his voice had returned when it was only so his captor could hear his screams.

And he did scream.

 

monsters

 

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10 Things About Dark Dreams and Dead Things

martina1

 

Now that our April Read-Along of Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things has come to a close and Book 2 in the Dead Things Series is right around the corner, I thought we would talk about what you can expect from Dark Dreams and Dead Things. (If you haven’t finished Book1, stop HERE! Spoilers ahead)

The Witches Take a Backseat

When we left Belle Haven in book 1, the witches had forced Ember to sacrifice Mace to bring back Quinn. Though Josephine has spelled them to forget the part they played, Stella is still the same hateful witch she was before and now, she has even more reason to hate Ember. That being said, the witches are the least of the pack’s problems as they have multiple threats coming at them in book two. But, fear not, the witches will be back with a vengeance in book 3.

This Book is Very Mace Heavy

Some of you may have gathered this as Mace is on the cover. This book deals with a lot of Mace’s backstory and how he became what he became. I will answer the question as to how he got those scars and, I promise you, whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably wrong. Mace has done some bad things in his time on this planet and now that his soul is floating in limbo, his past has come back to haunt him in a very big way.

This Book is Dark.

The title was not chosen simply for the alliteration. While the book will have the same humor, romance and pack feels of book 1 (I hope), there are some very adult themes in this book regarding things that aren’t often discussed in young adult fiction…let me clarify that; they aren’t often talked about in young adult paranormal fiction. I will say there are mentions and references to physical abuse and emotional manipulation as well as some things that may imply a rather dubious consent to the things happening to this person.

Flashback and Dream Sequences

Again, the title was chosen for a reason. I was leery of too many flashbacks as this is something that often makes people cringe in books. I do my best not to go overboard with these things but in order to tell the story as I wanted to tell it, both were needed. I hope you enjoy them.

More Characters

Yes, even with a cast of thousands, there are a few more characters coming to Belle Haven. I’m hoping you like them as much as I do. There will also be a few returning characters making a reappearance so, hopefully, that gets you excited. For the sake of everybody’s sanity, there will be a cheat sheet in the beginning of book 2 with a little reminder of who’s who and what everybody’s current status is.

There’s a New POV

I know, I know. That’s a lot. If you don’t like multi-POV stories, my books are not for you. Book 2 is told from five POV’s. This may seem like overkill but, again, in order for you to experience the story the way I wanted you too, I needed to give another character a voice. I’m hoping you will like this new perspective.

Tristin is Still a Bitch

Reactions to Tristin range anywhere from “I love her, she’s a badass,” to “Kill it with fire,” but I love her just the same. She (like all my characters) is a work in progress and she is just as salty as she was in book 1, maybe even more so. The only difference is this time Ember isn’t taking it sitting down.

Uh, Yeah, There’s a Baby

This may seem like the most random plot point of the story but I promise it matters for the future. This magically inclined baby quickly attaches itself to the most unlikely member of the pack and creates an interesting dynamic and a lot of problems. The pack can barely keep themselves alive much less a helpless baby.

Somebody is Gravely Injured

One of the pack is hurt…badly. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

We Will Finally Get to See What Neoma Can Do

Neoma is quite possibly one of the most asked about characters. It seems as though she sort of just floats along in the background just being her strange, carefree self. Which she does for the most part but we’ll get to see a bit more of her magic and what that entails and get a few more hints about how a faery became the adopted sister of a werewolf and what it was that drove a wedge between Wren and the Black Thorne pack.

So that’s it. Just a few things to know. As always, feel free to comment or ask questions below.

 

 

My Characters are Hella Gay…Get Over It

Good Morning, Lovelies…This is a bit of a rant post but I just can’t help myself so buckle up because this might get a little bit…hostile?

I recently received a letter from a person who told me they were unable to complete my book for review because they found the “relationships” weird/strange. In the last nine months since I first published Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, I’ve learned this is code for “Your gay characters make me uncomfortable.” Now, I didn’t just jump to this conclusion after one bad review. (In fact, I’ve only ever actually had one bad review). But I’ve had more than a couple people tell me they just couldn’t finish the book for the above reason mentioned. After the second time it happened, I decided to research it. I talked to these people, queried what specifically they found strange for future reference (we can’t do better if we don’t know, right?) and while it usually takes a while for them to be honest the anonymity of the internet allows them to tell me the truth eventually. They are uncomfortable reading about a gay character who is in a relationship. They will usually then follow it up with a statement that sounds a little something like this. “Seriously, I don’t mind that people are gay but…I just don’t want to read about it. What happens in people’s bedrooms is their business.” I’d like to say I’m paraphrasing but it’s almost always this statement word for word.  I find it funny that people don’t often see the hypocrisy in this statement. Gay people are forced to endure scene after scene after scene of hetero-normative garbage on television. They are bombarded with images of straight couples getting it on a hundred times a day but that’s okay because that is “normal.” It seems to escape them that it’s only their normal.

Now before you write me off as a sanctimonious bitch, I’m not claiming to be the voice of a generation or claiming that I speak for gay people or that I’m somehow better than other people. Far from it. When I first published this book, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little worried about how the world would react to an unapologetically gay teen character who was attracted to a guy who may or may not be gay also. I wondered if making him a main character was the right thing to do. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to tell the world in advance, like did the book need a warning label? I wasn’t sure if I should let reviewers know beforehand that my character was gay or if I was to somehow designate it to the world as such. I stressed about it for weeks before I had a real WTF moment. I was just as bad as the people I worried about alienating. I acted as if being gay was so scandalous it required some type of designation. I mean, seriously? People are gay. Hell, my daughter is gay. I needed to get over it.

My daughter and her girlfriend are constantly talking about a lack of diversity in books and movies and how it feels like they are invisible to society unless they are being exploited sexually. We were all recently devastated when a show we had great respect for pulled a card from the Joss Whedon playbook and pulled the dreaded dead lesbian trope. (Yeah, I’m looking at you The 100). There is this strange notion among Hollywood writers that lesbian characters can’t be happy. The lesbians must struggle and fight for every shred of happiness and as soon as they’ve achieved said happiness one of them must die to complete their final ascension into lesbian utopia or something. It’s insanely frustrating to me so it must be much worse for my daughter to witness. At the moment, the only happy lesbians I can think of are The Fosters on FreeForm. (I’m praying for you, Steph and Lena.)

It’s not just the lesbians. Male gay characters are often portrayed as feminine, over-sexed or self-loathing or the gay trifecta of all three stereotypes at once. When we do get a character that isn’t in the midst of some existential crisis about coming out, they are usually relegated to the background with their relationships hinted at or the affection shown as hugs and cheek kisses. And don’t even get me started on the queerbaiting seen on numerous shows targeting the 18-24 year old demographic. They love to try to appease all of their fans by giving them openly straight relationships but hinting that certain characters might be bisexual if you squint really hard or flat out promising you a bisexual character and then acting like it never happened.

Is it getting better? You would think so thanks to shows like Glee, How to Get Away with Murder and now, Shadowhunters (sigh #Malec) but that’s not necessarily the case. While their are more queer characters on television now it’s hardly demonstrative of the percentage of actual LGBTQ people in the world. The population is still grossly under-represented and a large part of that has to do with Hollywood producers and PR companies. Many actors are discouraged from playing gay characters in shows for fear they will be seen as less marketable as straight heartthrobs later in their careers. The same can be said for gay actors who are forced to stay in the closet so as not to scare off their female fans. There’s a strange thing in Hollywood where they publicly applaud actors for coming out but secretly do everything in their power to keep them in the closet.

Now, maybe it’s because I’m on Tumblr much more often than the average 39 year old, but it seems to me this next generation–the generation I write for–is so much more open to seeing people for who they are instead of how they identify. I’m not delusional. I know that there are people from every generation who are accepting and people who are homophobic and probably everything in between. But I’m proud of this generations ability to look past labels and try to see a person for who they feel they are and not who society tells them they should be.

Why am I telling you all this? Nasty email aside, I’m telling you this because when I realized that my character, Kai, had amazing chemistry with his alpha’s brother, I wrote them that way. I tried to ignore it at first but I knew that if one of them had been a girl I wouldn’t have hesitated to see the instant attraction between them. I know I’m not the only one who’s seen that? Two supposedly straight characters who have the most insane chemistry that you can’t possibly ignore it? Tumblr is filled with slash fanfiction based on this very principle…the two biggest fanfiction fandoms out there right now are undeniably Sterek (Stiles and Derek from Teen Wolf) with 40,949 fanfics written just on AO3 alone and Destiel (Dean and the angel, Castiel from Supernatural) with 53, 137 stories on AO3. I could go on and on. It speaks to me of a need for more representation in the community.

So now, finally my point….When writing my Dead Things series, I decided to let go of this world’s preconceived notions of sexuality and gender norms. I decided to live in a world where sexuality is irrelevant. Where if there is attraction between two (or more) people, there’s no reason it can’t be explored unless one of them isn’t consenting. Does that mean every character is going to be in a same sex relationship, no it just means there isn’t any reason why a character couldn’t be if they chose to be. If you aren’t a hundred percent okay with gay relationships, my books are going to make you uncomfortable.

But I didn’t become a writer to make people comfortable. I didn’t become a writer so that people would like me. I became a writer because I have stories I want to tell and I hope people want to read. I hope you want to read them too. This concludes my rant. I reserve the right to delete this later.

So TL;DR My characters are all kinda gay…get over it.

 

 

We’re Having a CSPWDT Read-Along

Facebook Read along promo

 

 

And off we go…

 

 

Yes, I know, I know, your first question, I’m sure, is the same question as everybody else:

 

Yes, that’s right. What the hell is a read-along?

So, with the help of the boys from Supernatural, I figured I’d tell you.

 

A read-along is exactly what it sounds like. We are going to hang out (online) and read Book 1 in my Dead Things Series, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and we are going to read it together, as a giant Facebook/Instagram family.

 

Well, now I know we aren’t like officially family.

 

And I totally understand that but, I consider you guys my family. I really do. We are like ride or die. (Yes I’m showing my age with that saying) But we are family…and because I love you like my family,  I will refrain from breaking into We Are Family from Sister Sledge despite my desperate yearning to do so. (But I linked it just in case you wanted to get your ’70’s groove on). So, what was I saying? Oh, yes. We will be reading this together.

Before you ask…yes, I do realize that reading it with all of you means you all will have a direct connection to tell me exactly what you thought of my writing, my characters and my plot (one painful chapter at a time). It’s kind of like…

 

And that’s crazy, right? Anybody with my insanely low self-esteem must be nuts to ask for that kind of criticism. But this is good , right?

 

It’s all about personal growth? Right? Right? Besides, like Dean says:


Think of it not as a read along but as a book club where you actually get to ask the writer what the hell her problem is? Who wouldn’t want that?

 

 

I know, so now you’re thinking…So…we just read the book and talk about it? Um…

 

 

It is legit.  Sort of. Each day I will make a post on both Instagram and Facebook. Most days it will be a question about what we’ve read. I’ll ask your thoughts, input, ask if you can relate to what the characters are going through. Now, I know this sounds like I’m giving you like an English assignment and that doesn’t sound fun at all…

BUT and it’s a big but (*snickers like a ten year old*)

Yes, that is Jensen Ackles’ booty. You’re welcome.

As I was saying…I will be rewarding your hard work and commitment to my book with stuff. Free stuff. Free bookish stuff. (More on that in a moment.) In addition to questions, I’ll also post some teasers for upcoming chapters, some teasers for book 2 in the series, Dark Dreams and Dead Things and some excerpts, teasers and promotions for cool books from some of my fellow YA/NA authors.

In addition to my posts on Instagram and Facebook, YouTuber Heidi Johnson from The Literary Oasis will be doing weekly posts to discuss everything we’ve learned over the week. (If you don’t know who she is, shame on you. She’s the most adorable person on the planet and her Minnesota accent alone is worth subscribing to her channel.)  She’s a tiny precious cinnamon roll:

So, if you want to get your spoilers on for what you read during the week, you can do so on her comments section for that weeks video. In fact, she’s already done a spoiler free review of Book 1 right here:

 

Now, for the stuff you care about: The Prizes!!!!! What have I got for you lovely people?

 

Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I told you, I’m a child.

Sooo…I have managed to con several of my lovely young adult and new adult author friends into letting me give away copies of their books to you lovely people, my readers. In addition to that awesomeness, I will also be giving out all kinds of swag from book one (bookmarks, coffee mugs, t-shirts), a couple of signed paperback copies of the illustrated version of the book, a bomb-ass day of the dead inspired tea set with the coolest skull spoon I’ve ever seen, swag from the up and coming Dark Dreams and Dead Things, Book 2 in my Dead Things Series (again, could be anything). Also, for one person (maybe two cause I’m a giant sucker for my readers) a chance to win a signed paperback advanced reader copy of Book 2.

Why do I feel the need to bribe you, my favorite readers?

So that’s it. That’s my pitch…if you’re in…

 

Meet me on Facebook or Instagram (or both) on April first and let’s do this.

 

Dark Dreams and Dead Things Cover Reveal

cover

 

I’m very excited to finally be able to reveal the cover for Dark Dreams and Dead Things, Book 2 in my Dead Things Series. My cover designer Nathalia Suellen has once again knocked it out of the park. She is a genius and I bow down before her. In addition to the cover below you will find the back cover blurb as well as Chapter One of the new book. I really hope you enjoy.

Blurb: 

17-year-old November Lonergan spent her whole life feeling like an outsider; like she was different. She was right. She’s a reaper like her mother; like her two cousins, Kai and Tristin. The supernatural world believes they are part of a prophecy to save them from an evil known as the Grove. Ember just wants to survive high school and fix the fallout from bringing back her friend.

Old enemies are lurking; waiting for their opportunity to strike but the pack has a new problem. A group of legendary hunters has resurfaced, threatening the reapers and anybody who stands with them. They are making good on their threats too; attacking those closest to the pack.

Their only hope of defeating the Legionaries involves trusting a stranger to perform a dangerous spell to advance Ember and her cousin’s powers. But Ember has a secret; a secret she can’t tell the pack. One that leaves the pack vulnerable.

An attack on pack allies, leaves one member of the group injured and another missing, along with a mysterious girl named Evangeline who may play a bigger part in this than any of them realize. As the Legionaries are closing in, the pack must trust their enemies, enter hostile territories, and play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a psychopath. Their entire plan lynches on a dangerous bargain, but rescuing one member of the pack could mean losing another in their place…possibly forever.

 

Chapter One Exclusive: 

Chapter One

Ember

“It would appear you owe me a new body, Luv.”

November Lonergan stared at the ghost of her dead pseudo-boyfriend and contemplated how truly screwed up her life had become. Despite everything that happened that night, Mace was there, standing in her window, fading in and out, image static. She sighed from her toes, not sure how she felt about the situation. Of course he was there.

He flickered, image strengthening as she got closer. There was still blood on his torn t-shirt but his silver hair looked cleaner than the last time she’d seen him. The symbols she’d painted on his skin were gone but the of scars layered across his torso remained. His dark brows were smudges over luminous silver eyes. He was beautiful even in death.

She opened her mouth to say something but realized there was nothing at all suitable for this occasion. She’d already endured a blood ritual, two deaths, a knife fight and a resurrection; she didn’t know if she could handle anything else today. Her magic didn’t agree, it stretched and purred at Mace’s presence, reaching out for his power. Even death hadn’t severed their magic’s connection it seemed. She didn’t give in to the temptation to move closer.

The heat of her magic and a bone deep exhaustion had her swaying on her feet. He moved towards her before seeming to remember he was of little use in his present condition. “You don’t look very well. Maybe you should sit down.”

Ember nodded, not so much sitting as collapsing onto her pale pink bedspread. “Or you could lie down.” She heard Mace mutter.

She yawned so hard her jaw cracked. She was still fully clothed but undressing seemed as impossible as climbing a mountain. She wiggled her toes. She needed to take her shoes off. She made a halfhearted attempt. “When did my feet get so far away?”

He glanced at her feet. “They appear to be in the same place as always.” He walked back towards the window. “While you’re just lying about perhaps you could enlighten me on how exactly you plan to fix this disaster?”

Ember blinked up at him. Funny how quickly his affections turned. “An hour ago it was ‘do what you have to do, Luv. I could have loved you’ now it’s hurry up and fix this?”

He chuckled at her terrible impression of his accent. “Well, I was trying to be noble and romantic in my final moments of existence. Now that I still exist, I think we’ve wasted enough time on sentiment.”

“Having your soul back obviously hasn’t made you a better person.”

“Did you think it would? I told you not to romanticize me. My soul was tarnished long before I gave it away.” Even as a glitchy apparition, she could see the moment her words sunk in. “Did you say my soul?”

He hadn’t realized what his continued existence meant. “Didn’t you wonder why you’re still here?”

“Certainly, but that wasn’t the answer I expected. How?”
Ember yawned again, eyelids drooping. “Can’t we talk about it tomorrow? I’m so tired.”

He gaped at her. “Seriously? You tell me I have a soul and now you want to go to sleep?”

“Yes. I’m tired. I’ve had a rather rough day.”

“Really? Did a witch force you to cut open your own stomach and create a mural with your own entrails? No? Then I win.”

Ember was too tired to play. “Drama queen.”

There was a long pause before he said. “You might consider a shower. You are still covered in blood. My blood specifically. Quite a lot actually.”

Ember groaned, looking down at herself with effort. She was pretty gross. She was so tired though. “If you weren’t a ghost I’d force you to carry me.”

There was a low chuckle. “Inviting me to shower with you? I’m sure that would go over quite well with the little alpha.”

Ember thought about the alpha werewolf currently downstairs cleaning the kitchen. After the night they’d all had, she doubted Isa would be concerning herself with such mundane things as teenage hormones. Could the wolves hear her talking to Mace? Could they hear Mace? See him? Did they think she was in here talking to herself? Could she only see him because she was a reaper? She had so many questions.

She rolled to her feet, grabbing her things and keeping her thoughts to herself. She hurried to the bathroom and locked the door. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and froze. He wasn’t lying. She was covered in blood, and not just his blood. Her bright orange curls were a tangled sweaty mess matted together with blood and who knows what else. There were dark smudges under her eyes, making her already pale skin look chalky under the soft white lights. Her violet eyes glowed–actually, glowed–like the wolves did mid shift. That was new. Had they been glowing since the ritual or was Mace’s presence sending her magic into hyper-drive?

She flipped the water on and stripped down, not even waiting for the water to heat up before stepping beneath the spray. She realized almost immediately her mistake. She muffled a scream, bouncing from one foot to the other under the frigid water, relaxing only when steam finally began to rise.

“So, tell me; how did I get back my soul?”

Ember gasped, slipping and yelping as her back hit the cold tiles. She stuck her head around the curtain. “There is a reason these doors lock.”

His smile was disarming. “There isn’t a lock in the world that would keep me away from you, Luv.”

She rolled her eyes, righting the navy and white shower curtain, absently wondering how much he could see in those white stripes. “That is like the most stalkery thing you’ve ever said to me and you rank really high on the creepy-lurker-stalker-guy meter.”

There was another throaty laugh. “I am starting to think this power has gone to your head. Five hours ago you were weeping at my side like a war widow.”

Her mouth fell open. She yanked the curtain back enough to level a glare at him. “Five hours ago, I thought I’d never see you again. Five hours ago, I thought I needed you. Five hours ago, I hadn’t known you’d been playing me the entire time. Remember? You’re the parasite and I’m the host. You needed me. You lied to me this whole time.”

He shrugged, incredulous. “Of course, I lied. I could hardly tell you the truth. You would have booted me into the abyss, which you ended up doing anyway, I might add.”

She made a noise of disgust. This was Mace with a soul. “I’m such an idiot.” She said, more to herself than him. He tilted his head, a hint of something behind his eyes, regret maybe? She didn’t give in, letting the curtain drop back into place, determined to ignore him.

She scrubbed herself quickly, alarmed at how little it bothered her to have this conversation with him while she was naked.

“I didn’t lie about my feelings for you, Luv; if that means anything?”

“Hah.” Like she was going to believe anything he said now.

“I’m serious. If you believe nothing else. Believe I meant what I said.”

“You said you could love me. If you’d been capable. Well, apparently you were capable this whole time. So I don’t even know what to do with your half-assed confession of love.”

Why was she even talking about this? Maybe it was the shower curtain. It was like a confessional. It was so much easier to talk to somebody when you didn’t have to look at them.

“Half-assed?” He said, “I sacrificed myself so that our dear friend, Quinn could have my body.”

Ember choked on her laugh. “Oh, please. You were kidnapped and tied to a chair with a gaping abdominal wound. It’s not like you volunteered for the job.” Ember’s eyes dropped to her feet, shuddering at the blood spiraling towards the drain.

Mace wasn’t done being offended. “Well, that hardly matters. Quinn’s soul is safely housed in my body and I’m…here? So you could at least tell me how this all came to be.”

Ember rolled her eyes. He was impossible. “Not that you deserve any sort of explanation but Ms. Josephine says I restored your soul the night we met in the cemetery.”

He was quiet for so long she caved and, yet again, pulled the curtain back enough to ensure he was still there. He stared at nothing, jaw slack. “I’ve had my soul the whole time?”

“Yep.” She couldn’t help but feel a bit smug about how wrecked he looked.

“You’re sure?”

She slathered conditioner into her hair. “That’s what Josephine thinks.”

“The swamp witch?”

“Oh, that’s right. You were dead. Josephine the swamp witch isn’t a witch at all. Well, maybe she’s a witch but she’s also an Oracle, because those are apparently a thing too. Oh, and Miller, my boss from the funeral home is actually Josephine’s brother and she’s had him, like, watching me this whole time and Donovan is her grandson.”

He sounded awed as he said, “Good Lord, how long have I been dead? I’ve clearly missed a lot.”

“You have no idea. Allister tried to kill me but Quinn saved me by stabbing Allister but as Allister was dying he forced Quinn to absorb his magic.”

“The human killed his own father to save you? I didn’t think he had it in him.”

“Former human.” She corrected. “Besides, Allister isn’t dead.”

“What? What do you mean? You just said Quinn killed him.”

She hesitated before saying, “I revived him.”

“Revived or resurrected?” Mace asked, leery.

“What’s the difference?” Ember asked, deliberately avoiding answering.

“Reviving is CPR, resurrecting is bringing a soul back across the veil. Stop being evasive, Luv.”

“Fine, I resurrected him.”

“With a spell?”

“No” she said, tone casual. “With my hands.”

She could hear his forced exhalation. “This is all very astonishing, even in our circle.”

Her heart did a strange skip at the word ‘our’. She was pathetic. She snagged the towel and wrapped it around herself.

“Why would they go to all this trouble to orchestrate this elaborate plan?”

She yanked the curtain open and stared at him. His eyes roamed her body, starting at her toes and working their way up. He grinned at her petulant expression. “Sorry, Luv. I’m dead, not blind. I’ve never been so jealous of a piece of cotton.”

She rolled her eyes. “Move, please.”

“Why? You can just walk right through me.”

When she didn’t take the bait he moved, following her back into her bedroom. “You didn’t answer my questions. So, what are you to two witches? Or a witch and an oracle?”

“They have a crazy theory.”

“Which is…?” he prompted in exasperation.

“They believe that Tristin, Kai and I are descendants of some ancient triple goddess.”

“The Morrigan?” Mace said, sounding like the breath had been punched from his lungs.

Ember narrowed her eyes. “Yes, exactly. They say there is some sort of prophecy. It’s insane. They are both insane.”

He watched her for a moment as she wriggled into her t-shirt and sleep shorts without revealing anything. She towel-dried her curls.

“I suppose it makes sense.”

“Nothing about this situation makes sense.” She told him, slipping between the sheets with a moan that bordered on obscene. She didn’t know what sex felt like but she bet it wasn’t as good as cold Egyptian cotton with a 700 thread count. She flipped her light off, amused as his spirit gave off a faint glow allowing her to see his annoyed expression.

“What are you doing?”

“We’ve had this conversation. Going to sleep.”

“You can’t. We have to figure this out.”

“Tomorrow.”

“What if I’m not here tomorrow?” He asked quietly.

Ember’s eyes jerked open, pulse tripping. She hadn’t thought about that. Could he cross over? Would he want that? He’d been immortal for a very long time. “You mean what if you cross over? Could you? Is that something you’d want?”

He sounded sick when he said, “To be tortured for all eternity in the pits of hell? No, Luv, I’ll pass, thank you. Besides, soul or no, sluagh can’t cross over into the spirit world.”

“So why do you look so worried?”

“Because there are things far worse.”

“Worse than hell?”

“Aye. I told you before, nobody gets away with the things I did.”

“We’ll figure something out.” She said without thinking. Why was she still trying to help him? He really wasn’t her problem. All those squishy sad feelings she’d had after he was gone were quickly turning to something else. She didn’t know what to call it but it felt like it was burning a hole through her chest.

She reached out, her hand brushing his. Her magic shocked through her, causing them both to suck in a breath.

Again, that same spooked look. It made her shiver. What the hell could scare Mace?

“But we have to figure this out tonight.”

She wanted to tell him not to worry but she felt drugged, eyelids so heavy. “Tomorrow. I promise.”

“Ember.” Her name sounded like a plea but she was too far gone.

“Tomorrow.” She mumbled, already falling into sleep.

 

 

 

YA Cliches and Why I Write Them Anyway

 

Anybody who knows me will tell you that I love to research things. Literally, anything. Is Wentworth Miller from Prison Break still dating that cute boy, Kyle something-or-other? (Maybe) Do snapdragons really look like tiny skulls when you dry them out? (yes!) Was there really an ancient order of Assyrian lizard demons that potentially trafficked people for ritual prostitution? (More on that in book two). Where was I going with this? Oh, yes. Research. I love it. So when it came to writing a book, I, of course, researched what made a book great. I took classes, bought books and read blogs. Oh, did I read blogs. I think I’ve pinned every article and blog post ever made about writing a great book. I know you’ve seen the posts: All Professional Writers Use Said, Said is Dead-Other Ways to Write Said, How to Write from a Male POV convincingly, 3 Mistakes You Are Making with Your YA Heroine, 10 Worn out Cliche’s in YA. It goes on and on.

Now, before I say point blank I spit in the face of these articles–metaphorically speaking, of course, spitting is gross, Ew–hear me out. Because I get where these articles are coming from. Sure, as readers, we all want fresh new ideas and something different but the truth is, cliches become cliches because when something consistently works, people continue to do it. I think some of these articles are misguided and can actually keep new writers from taking a chance and writing a truly good story.

My book Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things was born of a single solitary snippet of a dream I had six years ago and eventually grew into a 500 page monster. Had I listened to the articles above I may have become paralyzed by my fear of publishing my story. Here are some of the YA cliches you will unabashedly find in my book…

#1. The Chosen One- Yep, three of my four main characters have been chosen to save the supernatural world they live in. Is it a new premise? No, but my readers have told me they relate to my characters and who wouldn’t want to imagine themselves being ‘the chosen one’.

#2. The prologue- While I didn’t use one in book one, there may be one in book two. I’m doing this in order to bring in the POV of a character who we’ll never hear from again. Will it work? Maybe, maybe not, but in order for me to tell my story they way I want to tell it, I think it’s necessary.

#3. Insta-Love- I don’t know if some people would consider Ember and Mace insta-love. Maybe insta-lust? She sort of hates him and loves him at the same time but a backfired spell binds their magic together which may or may not have led to their feelings for each other accelerating quickly. I’m sort of iffy on whether insta-love works or not. No, I don’t believe a girl and boy will fall for each other the second they lay eyes on each other but I know that my mother knew she was going to marry my father the day they met even though she found him infuriating and my brother and sister-in-law have been married for 36 years and they didn’t even speak the same language. So, is it realistic? I can’t say, but if the story makes me believe it, I’ll suspend my disbelief and happily get swept away.

#4. The Hot Douchey Guy-I definitely have fallen prey to this cliche. I’m sorry, but I like hot guys. Some of my good-looking guys are douchey, some are nice, some are misunderstood. I like to think that my characters are well developed enough for people to understand their motives for their behavior. No, this doesn’t excuse their behavior but there are a lot of people out there who aren’t nice, some of them happen to be good looking. I’m okay with a writer using this cliche if they make them pay for their sins before rewarding their douchetastic behavior. Their karma must catch up with them if they are to be redeemed in my eyes.

#5. The Doormat Girl- I do not believe in writing girls as “weak” or needing a man to fix their problems but I will NOT write every female character as tough because not every female is just as not every male is. A few people thought Ember went with the flow of things too easily. They thought she let other people push her around. They are right. She’s a seventeen year old girl who just found out she has a magical ability that is probably going to kill her. She’s a little freaked out and preoccupied. This is a book series and I wanted people to watch her come into her own. I wanted people to see her get stronger and learn to stand up for herself. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. Some people will always go with the flow and some people will always be bitter, angry or jealous. I want to see characters I believe are real people. I want to care about them or hate them or close the book seething because the author made me love their characters and then took them away. I don’t care about giving me a life lesson as much as I care about making me believe in your characters struggle, whatever that is.

#6 The Brooding Bad Boy – This ties in directly with number five but is a little different. I love this character. I fall for him every time. You know who I’m talking about. Damon from The Vampire Diaries, Klaus from The Originals. Those guys. Jareth from Labyrinth. (RIP David Bowie) I’m sorry but this cliche is my cryptonite. Give me the brooding bad boy with a tragic past and a bad attitude and let his love interest be the only one who can get through to him. Sign me up almost every time. I had a review where the reviewer hated that my character Kai was head over heels in love with Rhys who was exactly this; broody, sullen, tragically good looking. Again, I acknowledge that in real life sometimes the broody sullen guy is just a moody bastard and he will never change but in my story, even though Rhys is constantly sighing and rolling his eyes and wearing his perma-frown, he always does the right thing. He loves his pack and his family and he does what needs to be done…he just does it grumpily.

I could go on and on and on but here is my truth…if you tell me a good story and you keep me engaged give me all of it. Give me your bad boys, your doormat girls, your chosen one, your dark creepy prologue. Bring it on. I don’t care if the person said, exclaimed, whispered or cajoled just make me care about your characters. Make me squeal when something cute happens. Make me cry when somebody is hurt. Make me sad the book is over. Make me want to write fan fiction about your characters or ramble on about them on Tumblr.

Give me all the cliches…just make me believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

How Not to Handle a Bad Review

Hello my lovelies, tis I, back with another How Not post. This week, I’m tackling the unimaginable, the unthinkable, the bad review. (Gasp!) Now,  so far, the only critique I’ve received on my book is one person thought it was just a bit too long. I’m sure, as more and more reviews come in, I will face far harsher criticisms. I’d like to say I’ve braced for it. On some super logical level, I have accepted the fact that not everybody will love my book. Sort of. I’ve sort of accepted that. Kind of.

That being said, I thought I would handle the stages of grief in relation to a bad review and all the ways you should absolutely NOT handle them when that fateful day finally arrives. And because I am a shameless gif whore and love, love, love Dylan O’Brien, I will be combining two of my favorite things and using gifs of Dylan O’Brien to beautify this blog post. You’re welcome.

Also, side note: if you are wondering who my dream cast would be for Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things–of course you are–I would cast Dylan O’Brien in every roll. All of them. Even Isa. Even the dog. I don’t care. It could be a one man show. That’s how much I love him. But even if I couldn’t convince him to play any roles, he will forever be Quinn in my mind. Case closed.

So, let us begin.

It’s happened. You’ve received your first negative review.

I know, I was shocked too. You put so much of yourself into that book. You bled onto the page and here comes some smug, clearly delusional…troglodyte…to say that your book was ____________ <—- insert negative comment here. At first you pretend you don’t care.

Of course, you knew this was coming and can handle it because you are a grown up.

Well, sort of…

One bad review doesn’t mean anything. So many people love your book. You’re just going to brush it off because you’re awesome.

But, later, maybe ten minutes, maybe ten days, you start to think about it.

 

Maybe you are having a bad day already. Maybe you have writer’s block or you’re on your period or maybe you’ve just finally really had a minute to think about what this person said.

You start to doubt yourself

Maybe they were right? Maybe you really do suck and all your friends are just being nice to you. Maybe only your mom likes your writing. Maybe blindfolded ferrets running over a keyboard do write better than you. You start to feel like this.

You start to get sad.

Stiles sad.

Stiles having a panic attack sad.

Stiles being mercilessly tormented by a nogitsune sad. If you don’t know what that means, trust me, it’s gutwrenching. Screw you, Jeff Davis.

But then, you turn cold.

Your sadness turns to rage.

You swear you will avenge your name and the name of your family. You will bath in the blood of your enemies.

No? Okay, maybe maybe that’s just me. Maybe you don’t have borderline personality disorder.

Maybe it’s just anger. White, hot vengeful anger. You start thinking you have some choice words for Mr./Ms. Thinks-They-Have-The-Right-to-Criticize-Your-Book . (Shut up, it’s their married name). You want to respond to your critic.

To calmly explain to them that clearly they have their heads lodged firmly up their-nevermind.

I mean, you just want to talk to them…right?

You are totally just going to have a nice, rational conversation with them.

Just an adult discussion.

You just want to explain to them that they should reconsider…

Okay, STOP. I understand the sudden need to commit homicide. I really do. I understand wanting to confront your snarky reviewer, especially if they were unnecessarily, gleefully cruel.

Even if they took a samarai sword to your fragile ego.

BUT nothing good ever comes from this.

Don’t look at me like that, I’m serious. I promise, nobody will cheer you on when you verbally beat down your critics, even if you know you could eviscerate them with your razor sharp wit.

You need to take a moment and reflect on how many positive reviews you’ve gotten.

Think about the people who love you and your work.

Remember that you are awesome and even the most famous bestselling author has had some extremely brutal criticisms. And your going to get bad reviews throughout the course of your long and profitable career. Some valid and helpful.

Some that will make you do this:

All you can do is pause, take a minute to evaluate whether this is constructive criticism you should really take to heart and work on or if this is just one person’s opinion and, in the grand scheme of things, not worth the amount of tears and murderous imaginings you’ve been wasting your valuable writing time conjuring in your mind.

Most often, you will find it’s the latter. So all you can do is shake it off and remember you are awesome, dammit, and people like you.

So channel your best inner void Stiles and tell the haters…

And no amount of crappy reviews are going to stop you from doing what you love.

Tune in next time when I tackle another How Not post.

Oh, and enjoy this bonus gif because his eyes are just so freaking pretty.

 

 

Who Wants Free Stuff?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In an effort to increase my social media presence I thought a bribe might be in order. Yes, I’m giving away free stuff because who doesn’t love free stuff. Especially free stuff that you don’t actually have to put much effort into winning. Just hit a couple of buttons and you could be entered to win the following items.

  • One signed paperback copy of my book Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things
  • A Day of the Dead sugar skull coffee mug
  • A set of 4 colorful sugar skull sugar cubes
  • A Skull teaspoon
  • A tin of Dia de Los Muertos Tea from Adagio Teas
  • 1 bronze sugar skull tea strainer 

This giveaway combines some of my absolute favorite things: Autumn, a scary book and a tea that invokes some of my favorite things about fall with marigolds right in the tea itself and spices like cinnamon and vanilla. I chose the Day of the Dead theme because November 1st is Ember, Kai and Tristin’s birthday in my novel and I chose tea because there is nothing I like more than Books & Tea. It’s one of my favorite tags on Instagram. So I hope you will enter and I hope you will share this opportunity with others.