Starbound Blog Tour – Exclusive Zander Excerpt!

Hello dear readers! While some of you know, but others who are newer may not, is that I don’t just review books: I write them, too. And my fifth novel comes out on Tuesday! Today is my stop on the Starbound blog tour, and I’m going to share with you part of the first chapter from Zander’s point of view (a big change from the other four books in the Starstruck Saga). But first, a little about the book!

Spoilers for the first four books if you haven’t yet read them!

Home is where the heart is. Or maybe the pizza.

There’s no better feeling than being back home after a long week exploring the galaxy, though being abandoned by one’s friends and left to fend off a glitching evil robot spoils it. All that’s left is to settle back into life, preparing Marcy’s wedding and job hunting. If only mysterious midnight SWAT teams and crop-circle crafting-sessions weren’t constantly getting in Sally’s way.

When an old foe returns, and Sally is the only person on the planet to recognize it, it’s up to her, her sullen ex, and an overly-excitable FBI agent to save the planet. But first they have to get the president safely out of his favorite sushi bar without starting the war of the worlds.

It’s hard maintaining a long-distance relationship when your crush is light years away and thinks you died of old age, but that hasn’t stopped anyone yet. Sally must save the planet, the universe, and herself – though maybe she’ll take a nap first.

Preorder your copy here!

I’m so excited to share with you this new book. So much happens, so many reveals and twists, that I was actually terrified of showing my publisher! But the outpouring of love and great reviews shows us that we made the right decision. Sally’s going to blow you all away!

And Zander will too: part of the book is from his perspective. Which I can promise you is not what you would expect…

CHAPTER TWO

Interplanetary Sibling Rivalry, Now in Technicolor

Sisters.

You love them. You hate them. They love you, support you, and then, just sometimes, they just they twist you up in knots and stab you repeatedly with every trick they know, not limited to those in the book. And sometimes that knife is quite literal. It’s the cost of having family. Of having someone who will stick by you for no reason other than she shares some genes with you.

Or someone who will destroy you for no farshing reason.

Case in point: Just when I was feeling happy, ready to have a nice cup of tea and, I don’t know, enjoy the feeling of being clean for the first time in days, my sister disintegrated me. Well, technically, she teleported me to who knew where, just when I was going to ask about the flower-scented soap in the bathroom and if it was okay that I had finished the bottle. In that case, good thing Blayde got me out of there because things could have deteriorated fast.

But jumping me again to some other place so I couldn’t get back? That was stone cold. A jerk move if I had ever seen one, and boy, had I seen jerk moves.

The second  my cells started stitching themselves back together, they were ripped apart once again, and I was sent reeling back blindly through the vast emptiness of the universe. I couldn’t see where I was going, I couldn’t see where I had come from, and I couldn’t see anything at all since my eyes technically did not exist.

It was at times like these  I seriously considered buying myself a spaceship. Nothing fancy. Just something with a good faster-than-light engine or a warp drive, a place to keep my stuff and make my travels through the universe more scenic. And maybe, just maybe, having my own keys would stop Blayde from farshing kidnapping me.

But, then again, parking’s terrible. And I hear the gas prices are worse than ever.

Suddenly, I was back in one piece, the ground firm beneath my feet once more. Instinct kicked in before I had gathered my wits about me, automatically making sure all my limbs were still attached to my body, counting off the arms and the legs, fingers and toes, even as they spread into a pounce.

My own roar rang in my ears as I flew through the air, arms outstretched and hands ready to go for her jugular. My fingers were wrapped around her neck before the neurons had fired from my brain. Fury burned through my veins like a poison, corrosive acid in my blood.

Blayde sidestepped easily, letting me crumple on the ground beside her. I felt the heat as my face slammed into the metal floor, my nose snapping from the collision.

But she did not return the attack. Flipping myself over, I brought a leg spinning under her. I used my own momentum to jump to my feet, dropping my center of gravity and swinging around to lash out with a right hook. She caught it square in the jaw, a tooth flying off in the air and lodging itself in a nearby wall. She scowled, blood pouring out of her lip, but I could already see the white enamel growing back to fill in the gap in her mouth. A bruise blossomed and wilted on her cheek.

I swung to hit her again, but her arm flew out to grab mine, holding it easily in midair. I struggled to break loose from her grip, but her fingers were clasped firmly around my wrist, and I could barely move it. Effortlessly, she gave it a twist, ripping my arm from the socket and effectively reducing the number of punching elements by half.

She said nothing, cocking an eyebrow, as if waiting for me to start. So, I did.

“What the veesh do you think you’re doing?” I shouted as I struggled to break free from the titanium grip. She blinked then wasn’t there, and suddenly I was face down on the ground, hands pinned behind my back, a knee on the back of my head.

“Weak,” she snapped, anger dripping from her lips. “Look at you, you’ve grown weak.”

She had underestimated me. In seconds, I had thrown her off my back and pinned her down, my elbow pressing  on her windpipe. My useless arm dangled  by my side, but I hardly felt it. She only smirked, unperturbed by the decrease in air flowing to her lungs.

“I’m not weak,” I snapped back. “You’ve grown paranoid. Look at you!”

“We held up our end of the deal,” she hissed. “We were free to go. Nothing left for us to do on that dull excuse of a planet.”

“But you jumped us twice!” I pressed down harder, but she only rolled her eyes. She motioned as if to say  there was no way she could reply if she had no air. I hopped on my feet, watching her get back up gingerly. I tried to cross my arms but failed with the dangler.

“I thought you might jump right back,” she replied with a shrug, oblivious to what I meant. I shook my head. I mean, screw her; that’s the part I was furious about in the first place.

“What if I wasn’t ready to leave yet?” I snapped. “She was making us tea!”

“Can you even hear the words  spilling out of your mouth?” she asked, leaning back against a shelf casually. “Oh, tea, yes, let’s all sit around and drink tea with the Earthling. When would you be ready to leave? Huh? A day? A month? Next year?” “I—” I sputtered. But I couldn’t reply. There was nothing I could say.

I hope you’re excited to read more! And remember, every preorder entitles you to a special gift. Working with Jessica from Paperly & Co, she has created these stunning character bookmarks which I can’t wait to put in your hands. Sally, Zander, and Blayde come to life and will happily keep your page in Starbound or any other book of your choosing!I hope you’re excited to read more!

Learn more about the preorder gift HERE.

And while I’m in the US, I finally have media mail! Which means SIGNED BOOKS FOR EVERYONE!

We have a massive sale on all signed books, dropping the prices even more when you get multiple copies. AND every order gets the cute character bookmarks made by Paperly&Co!

Either message me or order through Bolide’s website to order. Only 3 days until Starbound hits the shelves! https://bolidepublishing.com/

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Everything I Do – Blog Tour + Author Interview

by M.C. Frank

Happy release day to M.C. Frank for her newest novel. Everything I Do, a retelling of Robin Hood that will destroy your heart in the best possible way. I had the absolute pleasure of reading an advance copy of this book and fell totally and helplessly in love.

Summary

A robber and a princess.
A girl disguised as a boy.
A medieval reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood packed with adventure, sacrifice and romance.

Robin Hood, hidden deep in the Sherwood Forest, is fighting to restore the crown to its rightful king, surrounded by faithful friends, green leaves and clear skies. Burdened with secrets, betrayal and an incredible responsibility, he struggles to stay alive and keep the starving people fed. One day, a boy saves him from the Sheriff’s poisoned arrows. Robin, impressed by the slender youth’s courage and skill, takes the boy with him to the forest. 

Only, the boy is not a boy.

In the castle of Nottingham, a maid who used to be a princess is forced to obey the wishes of a tyrannical Sheriff. She dons on male clothes and trains to become a fierce assassin, vowing to catch the greatest criminal in the kingdom. But when she saves Robin Hood’s life nearly losing her own, she is rescued by the outlaws.
When Robin and the “boy” meet, two worlds collide, resulting in unimaginable danger and intense romance. Who will survive when they learn each other’s secrets? 
What happens when the assassin falls in love with her victim?

Musings

Let me preface my review with my one let down: I NEED MORE OF THIS BOOK. It was over so quickly I reached for the sequel only to remember that it’s not even in the works yet! Oh please of place I need more!

Everything I Do is Frank’s best work yet. It takes a classic tale and gives it a believable twist, and I could almost believe this is the real legend of Robin Hood. The cast of characters gives me total #squadgoals and I love each and every one of these forest muffins. It’s a recipe for success, and totally unforgettable. 

Robin and Ru’s playful relationship as outlaw teacher and student casts a sharp contrast to the backstory that is slowly revealed. I loved the twists – the biggest one being precisely at the midpoint of the book, which was brilliant – and the way the ending changed our entire perspective of the story. You can really feel the love she’s poured into it as she wrote it. I read old reviews for the first version of this book Frank worked on, and see she’s taken everything into consideration into making this book a success. 

As you can tell, I’m struggling to put my ideas in any precise order, but it’s because I’m so in love with this book that I’m just babbling about how awesome it is. It’s the beginning of a fantastic series, and I can’t wait to read what happens next – especially after that ending!

Get your copy here!

An Interview with M.C. Frank

I think the best place to start is at the start! How did the idea of doing a Robin Hood retelling come to you?

I have loved Robin Hood since I read his story  when I was nine or ten. From that day, I started plotting the story of Everything I Do in my head (as crazy as that sounds). Two characters from my childhood daydreams have even made it all the way to the book, can you believe it? Heavily of course, but still! It goes to show how much childhood stories stick with us.

In more recent years, the story came back to me, as I live in a country that’s being abused and tortured in the hands of evil and self-serving leaders. The sufferings of Robin’s people acutely remind me of my own, even though we’re centuries apart. So I felt the need to modernize the story, and share it with the world

Did anything from the first draft stick all the way through? Were the characters of Robin and Run always the way they are now?

No, pretty much nothing from the first draft is the same, except some basic things. But all of the names, characters have changed. Three major plot points are exactly the same since I started writing it years and years ago. But pretty much everything else is changed.

Who was your favorite one to write – the Robber or the Princess?

Ah, that’s a cruel question, Sarah, haha! As an author yourself, you know how impossible this is to answer. I loved the pain and despair behind the Princess chapters, but of course I have a soft spot for your tortured bad boy, so the Robber chapters always came out like a breeze. It always took me a moment to get inside his head, however, as I haven’t had personal experience with being so highly confident and capable as Robin is. So that took a bit of imagination.

One of the things I really liked was the team Robin has supporting him. As I said in my review, they’re ultimate #squadgoals. Do you have a favorite character outside of the two main ones? Which was the most fun to write?

I’m in love with that hashtag #squadgoals, it’s perfect! Of course, Will my poor baby is my obvious favorite, but I also loved Alis. She is so feminine but kickass, the opposite of Ru in many ways. She’s unapologetic and brave, but also very tender and mothers the boys. I love her.

Along those same lines, who would you have stand with you in a fight?

Robin, of course, since his fighting skills surpasses everyone else’s. However, he might not be available at the moment, since he’s got so many things going on (to put it mildly) I’d always pick John Lyttle. A gorgeous Viking giant to defend me from all the internet bullies, that’s what I need.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story is a story that makes you think and feel. If the writer is invested while creating it, then the reader is more likely to relate and then the book will stick with them forever. I read somewhere that the mark of a good book is how long after reading it you remember everything about it. I completely agree.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everything. Books, movies, my own daydreams. Memes, K-drama, Jane Austen… (I could go on forever).

I can tell you really took the readers’ comments into account when you rewrote this new version. I absolutely loved it, and I feel like it must be an entirely different book to the one that came before. Just how much has changed?

Thank you so much! As I mention on my blog, (read the full story of what happened here) I completely rewrote Everything I Do and republished it. The old version was live for a bit less than 2 months. So, I didn’t  just change the book, I rewrote it. Everything is different. Names, characters, scenes. Robin’s age changed, his looks, his motives, his backstory. Literally everything. Ru didn’t even exist in the old book. And so on about Robin’s men and the villains… The only thing that’s the same is the name Robin Hood, although Robin’s title and last name are changed as well!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing Everything I Do?

How a human being can be absolutely destroyed in a few days, and how it takes years and a lot of love to restore them to greatness. It never ceases to amaze me that it is possible to be redeemed, even if you are completely broken. I started writing Everything I Do in order to show this, and it was so hard to do as the story progresses in the series (but I think I’ve succeeded). Imagine how much harder it is in real life! But it is possible, that’s all that matters.

I absolutely loved the way the book ended – well, more like I screamed to the heavens, begging for the sequel! How long do we have to wait for the next installment? And what are your plans for the series?

Haha, that warms my heart! Thank you! I always want my readers to suffer… erm, or something. I talk frequently on my blog mcfrankauthor.tumblr.com and on my Instagram @mcfrank_author about my Robin Hood series plans, because they constantly change! So far, the first 5 books have been fully outlined, and of them, the first 3 are fully written! So you may expect the next installment in the fall or winter of 2019.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Reading! I am a bookworm (or actually a book-eater). I read about a book a day, to keep the imagination fuels full.

Connect with the author!

Wicked Saints – Blog Tour

by Emily A. Duncan

Once I got into this book, I couldn’t put it down. It was like the Grishaverse, except so much darker, and more gruesome: as if someone stitched Nevernight and Shadow and Bone together and didn’t apply a bandage.

Summary

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.
In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world
of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between
dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something
Dark and Holy trilogy.

Musings

So if you don’t like blood, turn away now. My only qualm with the book would be how gratuitous it was with all the bloodletting, cutting, and just everything blood; but I’m willing to look past it since it was such a gosh-darn great story. 

Three characters come into play: Nadya, a cleric girl given power by the gods, trying to save her country; Serefin, prince of the enemy country, and Malachiaz, a mysterious boy on the run. We have holy, royal, and cursed – and each willing to do what they must to get what they want. Nadya’s nation has been in a holy war with Serefin’s for centuries. While her country worships the gods, Serefin’s has renounced them, taking power from within under the form of blood magic. Both want the war to end by any means possible, and will become who they must to tear town the enemy. 

So far, it might seem formulaic. Until the author does one single, tiny little thing: she makes her characters begin to question where the gods actually come from. All of a sudden, the holy war seems inconsequential, as we realize that there is so much more at play. The author delves into the complex issues of wars fought over ideals, of the people who are caught in between. And I was hooked.

It’s basically YA on steroids. Everything is ramped up x1000: the blood, the magic, the complexity. Nothing was predictable. I really don’t want to give anything else away if I can avoid it, so I’ll stop my review here. But this book is really going to blow everyone away – I guarantee it!

OUT TODAY from Wednesday books!

The Near Witch – Blog Tour

By V.E. Schwab

It’s such a fascinating adventure to read your favorite author’s debut novel. V.E. Schwab is one of those instabuy authors of mine who would put any book out there and I’d preorder with my eyes shut. But the Near Witch was still one of hers that I hadn’t read yet, simply because I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was so excited for the new edition, and reading my favorite author’s first book was so much fun!

Summary

The Near Witch’ is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Musings

A dark and mysterious novel, we follow Lexi, a young girl in a tiny, isolated village on the moors, still mourning the loss of her father. She’s not happy staying at home, she’d rather follow in her father’s footsteps, working and hunting on the moors. When children start disappearing from town à la Pied Piper, Lexi is desperate to find answers to protect her beloved little sister, before she’s next. It doesn’t help that the children start disappearing just when a stranger appears in town, a boy who is more than he looks.

I think this is the first V.E. Schwab book where she uses first person narration. The novel follows a somewhat familiar YA fantasy plot, with a dark, mysterious danger, and a heroine who doesn’t conform. I found it a little odd that in such an old fashioned, puritanical town, we’d have a girl with such a modern name like Lexi, but whatever. She’s a bit – I hate to say this – flat, since her character can be recapped by two traits: not fitting in, and fiercely loving her sister. However, we already see traces of Schwab’s signature voice in the way Lexi stands up to the men in her village, and in the incredible atmosphere she creates.

When I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but feel cold. It’s a perfect ghost story, in the sense that it really does raise goosebumps on your skin, without resorting to cheap horror tricks. It made me feel like I was watching The Crucible – on the Moors of England. The oppressive fear of the ‘other’ makes the air thick and hard to breathe. So while my first reaction to the book was that I could see the plot coming a mile away, I was still transported by it, and blown away (no pun intended) by the subtle worldbuilding. MOORS! WITCHES! MAGIC! HECK YES!

The love story was also a bit flat. Cole is probably my favorite character of the bunch, but it felt super weird to read an instalove here. I was more excited about the actual story of the Near Witch, and wanted to spend more time tracking her down, and learning about her past. I thought there might be an extra twist at the end, but none came. I think it’s why I loved the short story that came after so much – Cole’s point of view, written with the power of Schwab’s writing ten years in the making.

This might be a bit blunt, but I think the best part of reading the Near Witch, now, is seeing how far V.E. Schwab has come since. The Near Witch is good, especially for a debut novel. But compare it to Vengeful… it’s like watching a child grow into a queen. Schwab has grown so much as a writer in the past decade, and it shows. It just makes me even more excited to see what she writes next!

Massive thank you to Titan Books for sending me the new collector’s edition!

Star Shepherd Blog Hop Tour

A a massive fan of R.R. Virdi’s work, I couldn’t pass up a chance to be a part of the blog tour for his new Scifi Epic, Star Shepherd. I am so, so thrilled to be able to share this new adventure with you, I can’t even put it into words! Star Shepherd just came out on Tuesday, and while I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you know it’s going to be amazing since it’s R.R. Virdi.

(BTW, did you hear he’s up for a Nebula award? I’m so excited for him!)

And now, onto the official blog hop tour info. Please get yourself comfortable as we take a daily tour through these fabulous blogs. Each blog you visit will entertain you with exclusive articles and excerpts from this fantastic new book. Get an insight into the character’s head with interviews and profile images. Then hunt down the hidden word that will get you one step closer to the $10 Amazon Gift Card.

Star Shepard is the first book of new the space western series, Shepherd of Light.

Star Shepherd knows a raw deal when he sees one. And he’s got the worst one in the galaxy: to deliver a mysterious package to a rebellion to change the scales of power in favor of the common man. As he meets with an old friend to seek much-needed help, he draws the attention of a genocidal admiral willing to destroy entire worlds if it means catching Star Shepherd.

Will Star survive the chase and bring hope to the rebellion, or deliver a gift into the hands of a worse power, tipping the galaxy into further chaos?

Check it out on Amazon!

Character Interview – Star Shepherd

What is your biggest fear?

Biggest fear’s likely having my wings clipped, stuck somewhere locked on land–worse, prison. No way to fly, no space to sail through. All that openness just gone.

What makes you laugh out loud?

Never had much time for laughter of late, but seeing Ahiko (my co-pilot) getting flustered is pretty damn funny.

What is your greatest achievement?

Never really lived my life seeking achievements and the like. Figured it was enough to do what I loved for every moment — flying, shepherding.

Do you have a memorable journey?

Every one of them where I can fly when and how I want.

Where and when are you at your happiest?

When I can fly free and open, no passengers and pre-set destinations Liberation. When I can just sail with no compass.

What talent would you like to have?

Suppose the ability to shut others up would be mighty great. Does that count as a talent, or does it fall somewhere else?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Might change my sense of right and wrong. It seems to buy me a lot of trouble I’m not keen on paying for, but I end up doing so anyhow.

Do you have a motto?

Never thought much on one, truth be told. That’s a no.

Don’t forget to visit all the blogs and collect the 10 hidden words for your chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

Send your completed word list to kkantasauthorassist@gmail.com

Tuesday 19th –  https://rrvirdi.com
Wednesday 20thhttp://indiescififantasy.com
Thursday 21sthttps://readcommendations.com
Friday 22ndhttps://mmcquillen44.wixsite.com/themadhouse
Saturday 23rdhttps://www.authorerikamszabo.com/my-thinking-board
Sunday 24thhttps://rainne15.wordpress.com
Monday 25th –  https://www.maryrwoldering.com 
Tuesday 26thhttps://karensbookbuzz.wordpress.com
Wednesday 27thhttps://katerauner.wordpress.com/
Thursday 28thhttps://celthric.com

Blog Hop Tour organized by Author Assist.
Sponsored by Bolide Publishing Limited


The City in the Middle of the Night – Blog Tour + Author Q/A!

by Charlie Jane Anders

I’m a massive Charlie Jane Anders fan, from the days where she was running io9.com. I devoured her short fiction and fell in love with her spellbinding novel All the Birds in the Sky. So when I had the opportunity to join the blog tour for her newest book, The City in the Middle of the Night, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

My expectations were set incredibly high, and yet she still blew them all away: I binge read the book in less than two days, and even after finishing the last page I’m still caught there, and can’t get the story out of my head. Not that I want to: as I digest the book, I’m seeing more, understanding more, and loving it more.

Summary

A new book from the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Charlie Jane Anders. On a planet that has never-changing zones of day and night, time means only what the government proclaims, and lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage. One such pariah, sacrificed to the night, forms a bond with an enigmatic beast, and will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

Musings

Set on January, a planet tidally locked with its star, the city of Xiosphant lies in the strip of habitable land along the terminator. To the one side, the heat of a planet baked under a neverending sun. To the other, the frozen desert of a world that has never seen sunlight. In the strip of twilight in between, human colonists have established a great city, self-sufficient, a testament to survival. But in order to thrive, one must live in a dystopian nightmare.

In order for the city to work, people must all sleep at the same time (between shutters up and shutters down, a curfew punishable by violence), eat the right food at the right time, work, live, die, at the same time. Timefulness (mindfulness of the time of day) even saturates their language, as the conjugation you use depends on what time it is. You day to day life is mapped out, as well as the entirety of your life ahead of you.

In the midst of all this, lives Sophie, a quiet girl from the dark side of town, attending university on a scholarship she earned for her distinguished studying, desperate to avoid the life her social class has laid out ahead of her. There she meets Bianca, a beautiful affluent girl who dreams of changing the world. Together, they might make a difference.

Like with All the Birds in the Sky, Anders takes idealistic youth who want to change the world, and bring them face to face with reality. Sophie is dragged through a traumatic experience that almost kills her, and she deals with the aftermath for the rest of the book. Bianca’s own reaction to this violence is with more violence, hoping to make change through revenge. These characters motivations are so real they feel like your own.

There was so much to love about this novel. Not only was the worldbuilding so perfect that I was fully immersed from the first page, but I couldn’t help but be attached to Sophie and the other characters that crossed the page. Especially Mouth, a nomad born on the road between the two major cities on January, is the last of her people, and struggles to fit in anywhere.

But what connected me most with this novel was the theme of culture. As a girl born in one country, raised in another, by parents who come from neither, my own culture comes into question every stinking day. And through City, Anders explores what it means to be uprooted, how cultures are built, or how they are forgotten. As the characters perspectives on their own place in the world shifts, I found myself exploring my own feelings of cultural identity through their different eyes. It felt so deeply personal, like a conversation held between me and the book.

Some fit more in the rigidly defined society of Xiosphant, where their lives are controlled, but they are comfortable. Everyone has food, a home, a future. No one speaks about the past, and it’s disconcerting to bring up your heritage, where your family was from on Earth. And then you have a polar opposite in the other major city, Argelo, which is more like an open-air bazaar, a libertarian paradise only with the real consequences such a free-for-all would create. Time there is impossible to tell, and heritage is embraced, along with new ideas, art, and music. And in the middle, there is only the road, a dangerous place where being alone means certain death.

And in the end, after Anders explores what it means to belong to a society or culture, she goes deeper – and asks you what it means to be human. The so-called ‘crocodiles’ which the humans of January hunt and fear are the native intelligent life of the planet, and they have their own culture and world. Are we visitors on their land? What kind of colonists are we, friendly or cruel? The last part of the novel is beautiful and distinct: it feels like you’re drifting in a dream, going beyond the human experience. And it was so… hopeful. It made me want to be so much more than I am right now.

There is so much more the author explores through this book, I feel as if I need to reread it right away to see what I might have missed. This is a story of control: how our control has ecological consequences and human ones. It’s a story about our need to have someone to believe in, or believe in us. How our idea of the person we love may be quite different from the person they truly are, and how it is so hard to admit when we have been betrayed by a person we thought worthy of our trust.

This book was the perfect read for me: great science fiction with a cool science-based premise (I’m an astrophysics masters student working with a planetary science supervisor. This book is gold.) and complex exploration of humanity and culture, a question that I struggle with myself. It feels as if the author was writing just for me.

A quick question to Charlie Jane herself!

Readcommendations: It’s been three years since the release of All the Birds in the Sky. How has the writing experience been different for you in creating The City in the Middle of the Night compared to AtBitS? Have you found it ‘easier’ in the sense that you have already published, or has it been more complicated because of the critical acclaim your last book received? Were there differences that surprised you?

Charlie Jane Anders: It’s been such a crazy whirlwind! I’ve been just amazed and blown away by the response to All the Birds in the Sky. Makes me really kind of nervous about putting out another book and having to live up to that buzz. On the other hand, after spending years writing novels that never got published, it’s great that I can now come up with a new book, and it actually appears on shelves.

Massive thank you to Titan Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour, and providing me with a copy of The City in the Middle of the Night. I also want to thank them for putting me in touch with the author, and thank Charlie Jane Anders for not only answering my question, but also for writing this remarkable book.

Destroyed Blog Tour – Exclusive Excerpt

As you may have seen in my review a few days ago, I’m so insanely thrilled for the release of Madeline Dyer’s last book in the Untamed series, Destroyed! It’s a fantastic ending to this amazing series and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you. And being a part of the blog tour is just the cherry on top!

So without further ado, I give you – an exclusive excerpt from Destroyed! Read on through for your chance to enter a giveaway as well!

Destroyed

I jolt awake, heart pounding. Blood thumps in my ears. Soft blankets, over me, tucked under me. The light is bright, and it takes my eyes a moment to adjust.

I am in a hut. Raleigh’s not here. No net.

Just soft blankets. All around me. And—and my clothes, they’re different. I can feel them. I untangle my arms from the blankets. Long sleeves, red, not ripped.

“It’s okay,” a voice says. “You’re safe.”

I turn and stare at the woman in the hut’s entrance: heart-shaped face, pale, with large eyes. Untamed. Blue eyes, like Jana’s. Her hair is a golden sun around her face, with just the smallest hint of red tones.

“You must be hungry,” she says. Behind her, the light is bright, but I see a blue sky.

She steps closer and places a bowl of meat stew in my hands. I find myself salivating at the aromas—don’t know how I didn’t notice before, because the smells are everywhere and they are wonderful. The woman hands me a spoon, and I dig in.

“Where am I? Where are the others?” I ask around a mouthful.

“You are at the hunting residence of the Stone Seers,” the woman says. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Zara.” She holds out her hand, and I shake it. “Jana is assisting with the life your other female companion is bringing forth.”

The Stone Seers? But this isn’t a cave—this is a hut. I can see the wooden structure, how hides have been sewn together to make the walls.

Then I realize what she said. “Esther’s giving birth?”

Zara smiles. “Untamed births are always a gift, even more so when they’re blessed.”

I set the bowl and spoon aside. “I need to go to her.”

“No.” The woman pushes gently at my shoulder. “My dear, you were injured and your Seer powers were threatening the stability of your mind when you arrived here. You still need to rest. Your fever may have broken, but you’ve been unconscious for nearly two days.”

A fever? Two days?

I stare at her and blink several times. I feel fine, just tired.

“Our healers have been overseeing you. Do not worry, my dear, you are safe now. We are together. But you must rest. We know how important you are. Jana has told us everything, and you’re with us now. It will be okay. We have a large group of Untamed. There is no need to worry.”

She sounds oddly like my mother, and I feel safe.

“Where’s Corin?” I look around, but it’s just me and her in here. “And Taras? Elf? Are they with Esther?”

“No, my dear. They are visiting the Great Stone River at the moment. The waterfalls are really magnificent at this time of year, and this is one of the last opportunities to see them before the ice comes. They will be back soon though. Corin has been sitting with you a lot. We did not think you would wake so soon for the fever has only just broken.”

He’s been sitting with me? Of course he has. I blink, and I see him in my mind’s eye, and then he’s gone, and all I’m looking at are the walls of the hut: some sort of coarse-looking fabric stretched over a wooden frame.

The hut is big, very big. Bigger than any we had at Nbutai. So big I don’t even know that hut is the right word. What looks like a wooden kayak sits by the opposite wall, and I stare at it.

“Do not use your Seer powers yet,” Zara says. “You must rest, Seventh One, just rest.”

I take another mouthful of food, feel the way its warmth seeps into me, makes my arms and legs feel heavier. Resting does sound like a good idea. I can’t argue with that. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to rest and be safe, with others around—a whole group who can keep watch.

It’s only after Zara’s gone, and I’m not sure how much time has passed, that I realize I forgot to ask about the attack, whether the Enhanced injured any of us.

Whether we lost any people.

Whether any of us were ‘saved’.

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Don’t forget to check out the other blogs on this tour for more fun goodies!

Celestial Blog Tour – Exclusive Excerpt

Blog Tour Readcommendations

Starstruck Saga #4
by S.E. Anderson

Welcome to day one of the Celestial Blog Tour! In just one week, book 4 of the Starstruck Saga will hit the shelves, and Sally’s next big adventure will be revealed. And It’s promising to be more exciting (and weird) than ever before! To start off the week, I’ll be sharing with you the entire first chapter of the upcoming book. Be sure to visit the bloggers every day for more cool and exclusive Celestial goodies!

Spoiler warning if you haven’t read the first three books yet.

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Sally, Zander, and Blayde, accompanied by their new friend Nim, have only one request: no more bizarre distractions on their hunt for Earth.

But before their cells can complete a single jump, the team is shoved off course and crash into a dreary old temple. Worse yet, there seems to be some confusion over Sally’s face, as it looks exactly like that the local deity, Selena, goddess of the moon and omniscient absentee. Sally’s ticking every box on the ancient prophecies checklist. 

Fresh off of her meds and riding the withdrawal, and Sally must choose between embracing the role of Goddess so as to protect the planet from mysterious Sky People, or being thrown in a Volcano. Not the best way to start a tropical vacation. It’s not going to be easy uniting warring factions, dealing with excitable whispering forests, or fighting both literal and figurative demons. Not to mention keeping up the appearance of divinity when all Sally wants is a nap. 

Armed only with some high school improv’ classes and a basic knowledge of foreign pop songs, Sally must save the planet – before everything goes up in flames.

Chapter 1

SALLY WEBBER AND THE TEMPLE OF DEATH

The day I ran out of Prozac, I landed in the Temple of Death, which is the worst possible way to start an adventure. Then again, I wasn’t looking for adventure; I was looking for home and the temple got in the way. Buildings like that crave attention.
It started off as all good adventures do: with a sense of excitement and endless possibilities. Zander and Blayde, two immortals I somehow got to call my friends, Nim the boy we had partially kidnapped and partially rescued from a literal bubble society, ande—all four of us holding hands on the ship we had just saved, ready to be whisked away to another world, with me silently hoping it would be Earth. I was prepared for the interstellar atom shredder that was Zander’s jump, a method of crossing space in the blink of an eye, though your eyes can’t blink when they’re particles on a cosmic wind.
The second my being was opened to the immensity of the universe, I was filled with a sense of meaninglessness. It was so powerful it made me want to shrivel up and out of existence. I felt empty. I felt lost. And yet—through all this—I felt like I was part of something bigger, something I could not yet comprehend.
Nothing compared to the first jump—the feeling of bliss that had come from being dragged through the rips in the universe, becoming one with everything around me—nor the pain of having it taken away again. Every jump since was easier, a smaller taste of those feelings, as I learned not to give myself up so entirely or so easily.
But none of those jumps had a temple in the way. Out of nowhere there was a shove, and just like that I was lying on cold stone, my head spinning.
I had never felt something physical in the space between the stars. I had never experienced anything other than the whole ‘not being me’ part. And how had I run out of breath when I hadn’t stopped breathing?
I groaned and pushed myself up to sit. The world around me was dark, the air smelling heavily of mildew and mold. I clutched my chest, willing the pressure to dissipate, but the tightness grew.
“Arms … fingers … head, toes, shoulders, and shit, everything’s here,” I said as soon as my mouth allowed it. My body trembled from the shock and the pain. I had to calm down. I had to get my body straight.
And there was no answer.
My eyesight took an eternity to return. Fingers of nothingness pressed against my eyelids. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t hear anything. Or maybe the room was windowless, lightless, everything-else-less.
I wondered, for a second, if I was still floating in the in-between space of the universe, if this was what death was like. The idea of being dead scared me a whole lot less than the thought of being alone.
I forced myself to my feet, my muscles screaming as if I had just run a marathon. Before I could even take a step, my stomach decided it was time to announce itself and I threw up.
Dang. I thought I had gotten the hang of jumping without retching. It’s never a good way to start the day.
“Hello?” No answer. “Zander? Blayde?” Still nothing. “Nim?”
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
I pushed my hair from my clammy face. First things first, I needed light. Then I needed to find my friends—assuming they were nearby.
I shuddered at the thought of where else they could be. Halfway across the galaxy, perhaps, with no way of reaching me.
My trusty iPod was in my pocket, and I pulled it out, turning on the flashlight and scanning my surroundings. The chamber was about the same size as my living room back on Earth, though entirely empty. Every wall was carved stone, and the air inside was stale but damp, with a definite salty smell and a hint of rotting fish. Lichen grew on the walls, adding a nice touch of green to the place. That explained the smell but nothing else.
The ceiling was too high for my light to reach, so either it was way up there or my iPod sucked.
This wasn’t a cave; it was man-made. Or intelligently made. I wasn’t too sure on the nomenclature.
Panic rose in my chest, and I focused on breathing, forcing it back down. An attack right now wouldn’t help in the slightest. My control over my panic attacks was tentative but growing stronger. I was confident I could keep it at bay until I found Blayde and my meds.
“Is there anybody out there?”
I hadn’t expected a response, and I didn’t get one. My voice barely bounced off the walls; the chamber was that tight. I flashed the beam of light across the walls, desperate for a door. The room seemed smaller, closing in on me, suffocating me.
I had to get out. Now.
A new kind of fear filled me. One that threw me back to the look on Zander’s face after I had run him over all those years ago. To the terror of being abandoned in a place he did not know, alone, with no idea where his sister was. This chamber could have been anywhere in the universe for all I knew, and I was alone.
And then my beam landed on something that made every drop of blood in my veins retreat. Because there on the wall, in nice bold, excited letters, were three words I never thought I would see on the wall of a mysterious stone chamber.
Welcome, Sally Webber.
“Sally? Are you in here?”
Zander’s voice shattered my thoughts. Relief coursed through my bones, and I rushed forward. He had been holding my hand when we jumped, leading me through space until the terrifying shove had ripped us apart.
“Zander?” I sputtered, stretching out my hands.
“Sal! Hold on! I’ll get you out.”
The stones before me quivered and then slid away. The door had been hidden in the features of the wall. Now that it was in motion, it was so evident that I could have smacked myself for not seeing it.
And there he was: my immortal friend, complete with gravity-defying hair slick with dust and sweat, his skin tinted blue in the light of my flashlight. I flew at him, desperate for his reassurance.
“Zander,” I said again, giddy with relief. I breathed in deeply, filling my lungs with mildewy air. “What happened?”
“I don’t know.” He touched his hand lightly to my cheek before pulling away again. Three words I hadn’t expected to hear. “I haven’t found Blayde yet, or Nimien.”
“But what happened?” I repeated. “The jump? That . . . push.”
“Let’s find Blayde.”
My heart dropped. Zander rarely avoided a question, not without a witty remark to distract me. He wasn’t even trying to cover up his terror; something had gone terribly wrong.
The outside of the chamber looked the same as the inside: more stone, more lichen, no light. How Zander had navigated his way through without a torch was beyond me. He picked a direction seemingly at random, and I followed him, keeping my little iPod light on. This would kill what was left of my battery, and there probably wasn’t an Apple charger for another thousand light years.
“What is this place?” I didn’t know why I was whispering, but something about the cold halls clenched my vocal cords.
“It feels ancient,” he replied, running his hand along the moss, “like a temple or something.”
“Or a labyrinth. We’re lost like rats in a maze.”
“But rats like solving mazes.”
“They do?”
“Why else do they make humans build them?”
I had no reply to that, or for anything else for that matter. But before I could even sputter out a reply, Zander threw out his arm to stop me.
“Did you hear that?” he whispered. I shook my head; his hearing was better than mine, anyway. “This way.”
A few minutes later, I heard it too: a faint rustling and maybe footsteps. The soft fall of light feet against stone. And then the soft steps weren’t so soft and weren’t so quiet. Blayde appeared out of nowhere, her rainbow hair disheveled in the gloom, my duffel bag slung over her shoulder.
“Zander.”
“Blayde.”
“Heya, Blayde.”
“Sally.”
“Have you seen Nim?” asked Zander, giving no sign of being happy to see her. She shook her head.
“I haven’t even found a way out. What was that, Zander?”
“I thought you might know.”
“I don’t.” Short, direct, to the point. There was a sudden animosity between them or maybe a shared terror. It was hard to imagine something that could scare two immortals.
The three of us set off in silence, hunting for the last member of our party: Nimien, the boy we rescued from a life of indentured servitude to the Alliance, only to drop him in a mysterious maze, a labyrinth of twists and turns that led nowhere. Not a great way to make him trust us.
As we talked, we found a torch on a peg against the wall, and Blayde lit it with her laser pointer, giving us a better touch of light than my phone. I had been the only one of us three to appear in a chamber—Zander and Blayde had found themselves in a corridor, with Zander narrowly avoiding a booby trap; a large log sailed right for him when he appeared.
I whispered about my welcoming sign. They said nothing, but the air around us got colder.
We turned a corner, and there he was. Nimien was slouched against a wall, his back to us, his weight on his shoulder. The first time I jumped, I had fainted, though that was before I woke up and threw up on Zander’s shoes, of course. Jumping was a shock to one’s system, as I could attest to. Maybe Nim was going through the same thing. If being shoved during a jump had felt so awful to me, I couldn’t imagine what it might have done to the kid on his first intergalactic time-space warping experience.
“Nimien!” I shouted, rushing to his side. He slouched forward, collapsing on the stone floor. Before I could reach him, Zander had jumped to his side, his face turning ashen.
“Did he faint?” asked Blayde, but as he fell back in Zander’s arms, we knew the answer. I was afraid to move any closer, but I had to know.
Nimien lay motionless, his Alliance uniform stained in a thick, dark liquid. No noise escaped his mouth, not a whine or groan from those bloody lips. There were hardly any lips left; most of the skin on his face had torn away like it was nothing but cloth.
Not to mention the rest of his body. I never thought skin could tear so easily and thoroughly. His body lay in shreds. What had once been a brilliant young man with a genius mind was now a bloody mess. I turned to Blayde, her face as unchanging as the stone walls of the room.
Blayde crouched beside the two men, saying nothing more. She didn’t look sad. She didn’t look angry. She looked tired.
“What …” I couldn’t finish my sentence. My stomach lurched, and I leaned over as if to retch, but my stomach was empty.
That was when I saw the booby trap on the side of the wall: a gate of spikes that had swung back on its hinges and was dripping in red.
“Is he …”
“He’s still breathing,” said Zander, his ear close to Nim’s mouth, “but I don’t know for how long.”
Tears welled in my eyes. Useless. I was so useless. All I had wanted was to save Nimien from a life of servitude. Was that too much to ask? Was Nim destined to be ripped from his home, saved from the Alliance’s child-hire program, only to be torn to shreds before he had a chance to see the universe?
Jumping was not an exact science, but there had been no faults with it in the few trips I had taken with the siblings. Well, except maybe with the fact that they had gotten me lost in the middle of nowhere in space, with no way to get home, and quite possibly years ahead of my life back on Earth.
Maybe I put a little too much trust in them.
Zander was my friend, though, and as such, I seemed to make excuses for him at every turn. But the truth was, if Nim died, he would take it personally. I had to save Nim. I was the one who had insisted he came with us.
I crouched by Nim’s side, knowing my stomach was empty enough to handle seeing him like this. He wasn’t dead, but he was close to it. His chest was heaving, but he was breathing all the same.
The tattered skin was too far gone, though.
“We have to do something.” I wanted to put my hands on Nim and comfort him, but I was afraid it would cause him more pain.
“We can save him,” said Zander, slowly, not taking his eyes off Nim.
“Absolutely not.” Blayde glared at him. “It’s too dangerous, we still don’t know if—”
“I did this,” Zander snapped. “Me. I convinced you he would be safe, and I jumped us to this… place. I have to save him.”
“But we don’t know the long-term effects.” Blayde reached for his arm. He pulled it away quickly. “Zander, we can’t do this. It isn’t safe.”
“We have to.”
He looked up at me, as if asking for permission. I shuddered. I hadn’t been following their conversation, not as closely as I should have been. My mind zoned out as soon as the possibility of Nim being saved was put on the table.
“Do what you have to, Zander,” I said, “Please. Save Nim. He has to live.”
He nodded slowly, once, twice. His eyes returned to Blayde, and she shook her head.
“He’s in my care,” he said. “It’s my decision.”
“Then he’s your responsibility. Whatever happens, you will be held accountable.”
“Of course.” Zander looked down at Nim, delicately placing the skin where it should be. Nim didn’t react. I don’t think he even knew we were there.
“But … what are you going to do?” I asked, my voice coming out in a faint squeak.
“I’m going to donate some blood.”
What was I even supposed to understand about that? Was it supposed to somehow reassure me? Was he really saying what I thought he was saying? I wanted to call out and tell him no, that it was wrong, that Blayde was right; they didn’t know what it could do to a person.
But this was Nim. He had to live. The universe was screaming it at me from every direction, as if it needed the boy alive at all costs. Though maybe it was the guilt gnawing at my stomach.
“What can I do to help?” I asked.
Blayde rifled through the duffel bag, and to my surprise, she pulled out a tiny first aid kit that definitely wasn’t mine. From inside, she retrieved a bright yellow syringe, handing it to me. I hesitated, my hand hovering over the device, fingers trembling at the knowledge of what was to come.
Zander nodded. With one hand cradled under Nim’s head, he outstretched the other arm, holding it out so I could pull his blood from the bulging vein. I looked down at the syringe, the arm, and my friend Nim dying on the floor.
“Remember, you’re not going to hurt me,” said Zander, his voice low and casual despite how serious the situation was.
“I know.” I stuck the needle into his arm and drew out the warm crimson liquid, trying to keep my trembling hands steady.
He took the syringe from me then, his hand touching mine for an instant, filling them with warmth the same way that door had. He looked up at his sister. “I know you don’t approve, but please. Take his feet. I’ll owe you one.”
She said nothing, but crouched down and clasped Nim’s calves, holding them in a vice-like grip.
“Sally, you hold his head steady,” he said. “Don’t let him move.”
I clutched Nim’s head, my hands clammy against his bald scalp. Tiny hairs were growing there now, prickling my palms.
Zander drove the syringe into Nim’s chest, but it was too late. He was dead. And it was my fault.
The three of us knew it was over, but no one dared say a word. My hands trembled as they clasped Nim’s head. His skin was so pale, even under the torchlight. Nimien had stopped breathing, and by the look of it, he wasn’t going to start again.
“Nim?” I stammered, brushing the sweat from his brow.
I knew he couldn’t answer, but I wanted to hear his voice again. I wanted to hear the excitement he had been bubbling with when we promised to take him away from that ship. The same excitement I’d had when I was invited to see the universe.
But I would never hear it again.
Nimien was dead. Until, out of nowhere, his back arched.

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Excited to see what happens next? Make sure to preorder your copy right here. Every preorder may claim their own gorgeous print of Sally as the goddess Selena, which I will personally mail to you with some other goodies. And don’t forget to check out Mad On Reading tomorrow for the next stop on the blog tour!

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Click here to claim yours!

 

 

Star-Touched Stories Blog Tour and author Q&A!

If you’ve had the pleasure of reading Roshani Chokshi’s Star-Touched Queen and Crown of Wishes books, then you know why I’m enamored with her writing. Beautiful, lyrical prose and engrossing tales that leave you begging for more: she is a modern master storyteller. So when I heard that she was coming out with a series of short stories, I was ecstatic. And I was blown away.

About the stories

Star Touched Stories_cover image.jpgDeath and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Gauri and Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she will have to battle her insecurities and maybe, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

Musings

Each story may be self-contained, but you should read her books in order to fully appreciate them. Death and Night is the prequel for the main characters in The Star-Touched Queen. Poison and Gold is a spin-off at the end of Crown of Wishes, following Aasha. And Rose and Sword is the epilogue of Crown of Wishes, spanning decades in a single story. That last one shattered my heart for all the right reasons, and I feel tears coming on as I think about it again.

I loved the chemistry between Night and Death in the first story. Their courtship was actually really cute, while being worthy of an epic. Seeing how their love blossomed, and how their relationships with their friends affected them even before Star-Touched Queen was a great touch. I think, of the bunch, this is the one story that will fill you with love and hope.

Now that Aasha is living with Guari and Vikram after the events of Crown of Wishes, as they prepare to marry and unite their two kingdoms, she is scared that her powers are out of control. She’s deadly and afraid of her own self. But when she is offered the chance to become their spy mistress, it’s an opportunity to find her place in this human world. I loved her training: it’s my favorite part of fantasy tales, to be honest. Seeing characters faced with seemingly impossible scenarios and then using their skills to get out.

As for the last tales, I won’t spoil a thing. It was the shortest of the lot, but the most passionate. It shows me just how powerful Chokshi’s writing can be, on top of beautiful. I’m in awe!

About the author

ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

A Q&A with Roshana Chokshi

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What was your favorite bed-time story (or tale in general) when you were growing up?

The one that stands out the most that terrified the living daylights out of me was TAILY-PO, an Appalachian horror story that for some reason is told to small children.

Of all the terrifying and bone-chilling characters in your books, which one scares you the most?

Probably the antagonists of A Crown of Wishes because they’re the result of what happens when you cannot let go.

Out of all the characters in your novels, which one did you have the most fun writing about and who do you relate to the most personally? What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?

In the world of the Star – Touched Queen, I think the one who I related to the most was also the one that I had the most fun writing: Kamala! There’s just something about the demon horse that resonated a lot with me. I think it’s because she does everything that I would do in a fantasy story, which frantically derails the plot and whine to her friends about how hungry she is all the time.

What inspired you to create this fictional world? Were there anyRomo mythologies that particularly inspired you?

I was really inspired by the childhood stories that my grandmother told me. To me, they were so rich with details and texture that it really shocked me how these worlds and mythologies were never explored in mainstream literature. I was particularly inspired by Greek and Hindu mythology.

Why did you feel it was important to add Star-Touched Stories to this world you’ve created? What do you want readers to gain from the stories? Do you think there are any more stories to tell from the Star-Touched world, and if so, who you most like to write about next?

For me, this collection of stories is my farewell to the world that I created. It was extremely cathartic to write these three stories. I want readers to gain a sense of closure. I want readers to feel as much as I did when I with the stories. Who can say whether or not there are more stories left to tell in this world? 😉

Will you miss writing this world and characters?

Absolutely! They lived in my head for so long that I feel strangely weightless to be without them.

What was your favorite scene to write from Star-Touched Stories, and what was your favorite scene to write from the whole series?

Honestly, my favorite scene that I wrote was the last scene the last story. I think you’ll see why. As for my favorite scene that I wrote from the whole series, I think it would have to be the moment when Maya first enters the Night Bazaar.

Is there a scene or character from one of your stories that you’ve had to cut which you really wish you could share with readers?

There once was a speaking monkey character… But I had to let go of him. Maybe he’ll reappear some other time.

How is writing short stories different than writing a full-length book? How different is it to write YA and MG? How has your writing evolved?

Writing short stories is really different from writing a full-length book because you’re ultimately writing to a punchline in a shorter amount of space. There is less space to explore so the language must be very deliberate. I think my writing has evolved to become a lot more character focused than I once was. I still love gorgeous, decadent prose, but I believe that the best kind of language is that which is emotionally filtered through the feelings of a character.

What is the best advice you would give to inspiring writers?

Read often. I realize that sounds trite, but so many people retread the same path with stories out of comfort or nostalgia. I totally understand this and I’m one of those people who loves to reread my favorite books but I never found a sense of my own writing voice or writing style without reading a wide variety of works.

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Get your copy now!

Smoke and Iron – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway!

36595619I’m so excited to announce that I’m the third stop on the Smoke and Iron blog tour! If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’m addicted to the Great Library series by Rachel Caine. So I couldn’t believe it when I got picked to be a part of the tour! If you haven’t read my review of Smoke and Iron yet, check it out here.

To celebrate the release, I’ve been given the great honor of showing you an excerpt of a chapter from Wolfe’s point of view! Fans of the series are probably sitting in shock right now – what? We’re not following Jess? Well, in book four we get to explore multiple points of view and it’s amazingly exciting. Check out the other stops on the blog tour to see other chapters from other beloved characters!

And at the end, check out the TWO giveaways for a chance to win a signed copy of Smoke and Iron… and the entire series as a whole!

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WOLFE

9_wolfeIt was the smell, in the end, that was the worst of it. Not that the Great Library kept a filthy prison, but the stench of terror and de¬spair was harder to wash away than more organic stains. This facility used stones that had been quarried for similar purposes five thousand years ago, long enough that the walls had been well soaked in pain and horror, and exhaled it constantly.

And he knew the miasma of it so intimately, horribly well.

He could ignore the darkness, the bars, the discomfort. But not the smell. And so, after the bars had closed around him, Christopher Wolfe had gone a little mad. A day of shuddering, flinching, imagining that every noise was a torturer coming for him again. A night when he wouldn’t close his eyes, for fear the past would smother him.

The morning of the second day—which he calculated not by sunrise, which was invisible down here, but by the changing of the guard watch—he had grown more accustomed to the stench of the place, and the darkness and the confinement, or at least he’d mastered his dread of those things a bit. He reminded himself that if he was right, his job here was not to wallow in useless self- pity, but to do something more.

If he was right, of course. If this was some plan that Jess and his miserable twin had conjured up. If this was not simply betrayal, but betrayal to a purpose.

The question then was what he was expected to accomplish, locked up here. Morgan, he could understand. But if this was a plan, by rights one of them should have whispered at least a hint to him before it was too late.

Then why would it profit any scheme—and he sensed Dario San¬tiago’s Machiavellian hand behind it—to send him back to a hell he’d never have agreed to return to? Wolfe had worked hard to keep his trauma silent and secret from the younger members of their little band, but Jess, in particular, had been privy to details. The young man knew at least the edges of that particular knife, if not the terrible wounds it had left.

No way to solve this puzzle without information, he told himself, and concentrated on the one he could solve: the security of this prison.

Here in this passage, he saw more of the dull metallic gleam of moving sphinxes than he did human High Garda. An overdependence upon automation, he thought. The sphinxes could be gotten around. Jess had worked out how. Even Dario had managed it.

Human guards were more difficult, if less lethal. They adapted. The sphinxes at least operated upon a set of rigid orders.

But surely his feckless students hadn’t put him here just to escape; no point in that. No, there was a purpose behind it, just as there was behind putting Morgan back in the Iron Tower.

That was when he heard the murmurs from another cell. He rec¬ognized the words, and they were echoed from other locations—one farther to his right, and one almost directly to his left. Prisoners at morning prayers.

And suddenly, Wolfe knew precisely why he’d been placed here. It started with those prayers but would hardly end there.

He sat cross-legged on his narrow bunk and ran through where, precisely, these prisons were located. They’d not taken the precau¬tion this time of moving him to another city. He was in Alexandria, in the cells buried far beneath the Serapeum. Holding pens for those sentenced to death. Ignore that, Wolfe thought, as he felt a small crack run through his resolve. Just another problem to be solved.

He listened. Sat for the better part of an hour and simply listened, pinpointing coughs, shuffles, rustles, the distant sounds of moans and sobs. This place is full of dissidents. Normally, it would not be; the Li¬brary’s opponents ranged from Burners—who normally killed them¬selves rather than end up here—to smugglers, who were usually killed quickly.

This prison, he realized, had been packed with individuals the Archivist thought might go against him. We did this, he thought. Our small act of rebellion, rescuing Thomas from Rome, echoing across the entire Library system . . . it forced him to tighten his grip, eliminate those who could do him harm. He had no doubt that the individuals jailed near him were Library sworn . . . Scholars, librarians, High Garda soldiers.

The core of the Library, now seen as its enemies. Tyrants turned on their own, in the end; it was the only way to keep power.

The prayers ceased, and Wolfe stood up and went to the bars of his cell. They were heavy, cold iron, and he thought of a thousand ways to break them. All required things he didn’t currently possess, but that had never stopped him for long. “My friend next door,” he said. “Are you by any chance a relative of Khalila Seif?”

There was a moment of silence, and then a guarded reply. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I know her well,” Wolfe said. “And a more brilliant, clever student I’ve never taught. She’s that rare combination of a great mind and an even better heart.”

He heart the release of a breath. It sounded shaken. “That’s my sister,” the man said. “My younger sister. I’m Saleh. She’s well?” The young man—he was young, perhaps a few years older than Khalila—sounded shaken. “She’s not here?”

“Safe I can’t guarantee, but last I saw her, she was well, and far away from here.”

“I pray she stays far away, too.” He hesitated a moment, then said, “My apologies. I’ve given you my name and not asked yours.”

“Christopher Wolfe.”

“The rebel Scholar.” Saleh’s voice had turned brittle. “The one who brought all this on us.”

“Blame can wait. Survival first,” Wolfe said. He had no patience for fools, now or ever; the only thing he’d ever done to deserve the blame was to invent a machine the Library didn’t want. Everything, everything, followed from that. His imprisonment. His release, and erasure from Library records. His penance as lowly instructor. His determination to never allow the Archivist to destroy another bright mind. “Tell me who’s here with us.”

“My father, uncle, and older brother are farther down the row,” Saleh said. “Arrested on suspicion of treason against the Great Library. Which is nonsense, of course. We were arrested to force Khalila to come back.”

“Who else is here?”

“A Scholar Artifex, Marcus Johnson. Le Dinh, Scholar Medica. Captain Ahmed Khan, High Garda. Two or three Scholars from the Literature ranks, one a beloed author whose recent works are considered heretical. A host of librarians, for various crimes including concealment of original works, and Burner sympathies.” Saleh paused to think. “There’s one at the end of this corridor I don’t know. He never speaks. My father tried sign, but there was no response. But that only accounts for this one hallway.”

“How many other High Garda confined in here?”

“Six more. Ahmed’s the only one of significant rank, though.”

Wolfe had forgotten about the bars around him now, the chill in the stones, the evil smell of the place. He found a small chip of stone and used it to begin scratching out a list on the wall. “Start method¬ically,” he said. “Are you at the end of the hallway?”

“No.”

“Then tell me who is next to you.”

When he was done with Saleh, he engaged the woman to his right, Ariane, who’d been listening. She was High Garda and deliv¬ered her account in a crisp, calm voice that he quite liked. It re¬minded him for a terrifying second of Nic, and he had to pause and push that need away. Niccolo is safe, he told himself. And on his way. Your job is to be ready when he arrives.

The word spread slowly down the hall, and passed back to him, as he drew a complete map of the prison hall, with names attached. By the time the meager ration of lunch arrived, he’d memorized the placements and rubbed away the map.

“Eat it, don’t throw it,” advised the High Garda soldier who handed him the tray of food. Meat, bread, cheese, figs, a small por¬tion of sour beer and a larger one of water. “Throw it, you get noth¬ing else today or tomorrow. Doesn’t take long for people to learn the lesson.”

Wolfe glanced up at him and had a second of doubt. Did he know this man? Recognize him? It was possible, but he couldn’t be sure, and the soldier gave no indication at all of knowing him.
“I’ll throw it when I’m tired of the food,” he said.

That got him a bare thread of a smile, and the young man—he was young, nearly as young as Wolfe’s students—tapped fingers to his forehead in a mock salute. “That’s why you’re a Scholar,” he said. “You get right to the bottom of things.”

I do know him, Wolfe thought. He couldn’t place the boy in proper context; surely they wouldn’t put one of Santi’s people on duty here? Unless, of course, there was more going on in Alexandria than he’d previously suspected—eminently possible, considering the shocking number of Scholars and librarians imprisoned. Perhaps the strong¬hold of the Great Library was no longer holding quite as strongly. An interesting theory to chase.

Wolfe ate his food slowly, not to savor its taste—it had little—but because he was involved in assessing the residents of this prison for their potential value in any escape attempt. The Artifex Scholar would certainly be useful. The writers could certainly come up with distractions. He was most concerned about Khalila’s father, who suf¬fered from a delicate heart, which these conditions certainly hadn’t improved.

He was still deep in thought when he scraped the last of the wa¬tery meat from the bottom of the bowl.

There was a message written on it, barely visible now and disap¬pearing fast. It said, Lieutenant Zara sent me.

Wolfe paused, closed his eyes a moment, and took in a deep, slow breath. Brightwell had not, after all, abandoned him here without a word, without a plan. Santi’s lieutenant—not a woman he cared for a great deal, but competent nonetheless—had been alerted to his plight. And knowing Zara, she had plans.

Now he had a messenger, and possibly even an extra ally.

Wolfe used his thumb to scrub the rest of the message from the bowl and put the tray through the slot outside the bars after down¬ing the ale and most of the water, which he desperately needed.

When the young man came back to collect the dishes, Wolfe fi¬nally placed him in his proper context. A lieutenant, one who’d been in charge of the Blue Dogs in Santi’s squad. Troll. His nickname was Troll. A competent young man, and fearless, which would be an as¬set here. Wolfe nodded. Troll glanced down in the bowl, gave that thread-thin smile again, and left without a word.

Wolfe sat back on his bunk and began to methodically catalogue every item in this bare, depressing cell for its usefulness.

Because soon, he’d need every possible asset to find a way out of this.


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