THE TICK TOCK MAN by R.M. Clark #CoverReveal @vandalrmc #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books



Today R.M. Clark and Month9Books are
revealing the cover and first chapter for THE TICK TOCK MAN which releases May
2, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers
to receive a eGalley!!


A quick note from the author:

 

 


The Tick Tock Man is my
first foray into the world of speculative fiction. Here in New England, we are
fortunate to have many wonderful clocks around. We have clocks in church
steeples, parks, above banks and other locations. My idea for this story came from
a simple “what if”. What if there were a community of “clock
people” who kept all these great clocks running? Furthermore, what could
go wrong? Then I made something go wrong and the story “clicked.” The
Tick Tock Man takes place primarily in this fictional clock world, but the
issues, conflicts and resolutions are not unlike those in the real world.

 

 
Title: THE
TICK TOCK MAN
Author: R.M. Clark
Pub. Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: TantrumBooks
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 237
Find it: Goodreads
|
Amazon | B&N | TBD
When the clocks in town stop,
thirteen-year-old CJ discovers an unusual “clock world” where most of
the citizens are clock parts, tasked with keeping the big clocks running. But
soon the seemingly peaceful world is divided between warring factions with CJ instructed
to find the only person who can help: the elusive Tick Tock Man.

With the aid of Fuzee, a partly-human
girl, he battles gear-headed extremists and razor-sharp pendulums in order to
restore order before this world of chimes, springs, and clock people dissolves
into a massive time warp, taking CJ’s quiet New England town with it.

 

Excerpt

Chapter OneSomething wasn’t right.

I’d planned on sleeping in Thanksgiving morning because, hey, it was Thanksgiving, and that meant no school and no stupid alarm to wake me up. Well, that was the plan.

At precisely eight a.m., the clock sitting a mere two feet from my head wailed.

Thunka thunka thunka thunka.

Stupid clock. That wasn’t even a real alarm sound. It was just an invented strange noise to annoy me. I checked the buttons on top. No alarm set and no radio. Maybe it was a dream? Just to be sure, I gave the clock a good whack.

All was well. Back to sleep.

Bonka bonka bonka bonka.

Now it was nine o’clock. I sat up and grabbed the clock with every intention of tossing it against the back wall. What a pleasure it would have been to see it smash into a million pieces. I win!

But, this clock was a birthday present from Uncle Artie. He’d said it was “a special clock for a special kid.” I didn’t like being called “special” because that had a different meaning at school. But it was a cool clock.

Until now. I mean, what kind of noise was that? Certainly not the alarm sound I was used to.

I tried to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t help but wonder what crazy not-real-clock noise Uncle Artie’s “special” clock would make next. So I got out of bed.

Since it was Thanksgiving, I was not at all surprised to see my mom up and in the kitchen. The turkey was on the counter in a large pan. Her arm was halfway up the turkey’s you-know-what. Not what I wanted to see this early in the morning, thank you very much.

“Good morning,” Mom said. “You’re up early.”

“Couldn’t sleep.” I wanted to mention the special-but-stupid clock that made strange noises at weird times, but she had grabbed another handful of stuffing and stuffed it “up there.”

“We’ll need a few guest chairs from the basement when you get a chance. Nana and Papa are coming over, of course. Plus Grandma and Grandpa Boyce. And Uncle Artie too.”

“Sure thing, Mom.” I was barely awake and she was already asking me to do math. Nobody was coming over for quite a while, so I wouldn’t need the, let’s see, two-plus-two-plus-one chairs for several hours. I had tons of time.

What better way to spend it than on the couch watching TV? It would probably be the most fun I would have all day, with both sets of grandparents coming over. It was annoying enough that they had different titles: “Nana and Papa” on the Barnes side, “Grandma and Grandpa” on the Boyce side.

Then there was Uncle Artie. He wasn’t really an uncle but that’s what we always called him. I’ve also heard him called a “distant cousin,” whatever that means. He said his job as an “importer” took him around the world to some pretty exotic places such as Vienna and Timbuktu and South America. No matter what faraway land he went to, he almost always brought us back a clock. We had wooden clocks, metal clocks, cuckoo clocks, and some that were just too odd to describe. Mom would open a package from him and say, “Hey, look. It’s a clock. Imagine that.”

Each clock came with a wonderful story, so my parents loved to get them for just that reason. Unfortunately, both of them hated having all those clocks, with their constant ticking and chiming, so we kept them stashed away in the spare room upstairs until Uncle Artie came to visit. And since he was on his way, I sat up, knowing what was coming next. In three … two … one.

“CJ! Your Uncle Artie’s coming over, so you’ll need to set the clocks out.” Mom could sure belt it out when she needed to.

I knew the drill. I went to the spare room, pulled the special box out of the closet, and lugged it down the stairs. The crescent moon clock went in the living room, replacing a family portrait, which was fine with me since I looked like a dork in that picture, anyway. There was a special cuckoo clock for the bathroom that was pretty cool. The doors on the upper level opened at the top of the hour, revealing either a boy dancer or girl dancer. I set the correct time and adjusted the weights at the end of a long chain to keep the gears going. Six clocks later, I had completed the task, finishing it off in Dad’s basement shop with a clock made from a circular saw blade.

Uncle Artie’s favorite saying was, “You can never have too many clocks.” On this Thanksgiving Day, it was certainly true, even though I was sure my parents would disagree. Not me. Although I never paid a lot of attention to the clocks, I felt something strange as I took each one from the box and hung it in its rightful spot. The crescent moon clock had two huge eyes, one on the crescent side and the other on the orange side that completed the circle. The eyes were painted on but I swear they followed me as I moved around the room.

I double-checked the time on the cuckoo clock in the bathroom and admired the details in it. The entire clock was a house from a German village, with people dressed in lederhosen on the lower level. Lucky for me it was the top of the hour and the clock chimed, revealing the bird from a door at the top and children dancing in the two small doors just below it. Why hadn’t I noticed that before? What awesome detail!

I completed the clock replacement task, storing the non-clock items in the same box and returning it to the spare bedroom. That practically wore me out, so it was back to the couch. The smell from the great stuff Mom was cooking drifted into the room, reminding me I hadn’t eaten yet.

“I made you some scrambled eggs.” Mom smiled as I entered the kitchen.

“Thanks. I’m starving.”

She held out a plate then pulled it back, still smiling. “Just as soon as you bring up the chairs from the basement.”

This wasn’t fair, but it was the second time she’d asked. The third time would not be as charmed. On my way to the basement, I realized my early morning math was wrong. There were four chairs already in the dining room, so I only needed four more. I could easily get them all in one trip.

I passed Dad’s shop right at 10:30 and the heard the blade clock begin to make noise. I turned on the shop light to get a good look and, sure enough, the blade was slowly turning. Clockwise, not surprisingly. Even stranger was that the numbers never moved as the blade turned. A few seconds later, it stopped and went back to normal. Another clock I had never paid much attention to was suddenly freaking out. I hurried back upstairs with two chairs on each arm.

I got my scrambled eggs, finally.

***

At 11:00, things got even weirder. Dad was up by now, sitting in front of his computer, but that wasn’t the weird part. When the hour struck, the crescent moon clock made a strange clicking noise, and those crazy eyes began to wink at me. The painted-on lips between the four and eight went from a Mona Lisa smile to a full-blown grin. I wanted to say something to Mom or Dad, but who would believe me? I went into the bathroom, and the boy and girl dancers in the German village twirled next to each other while the bird stayed home. This was quickly moving into “bizarre” territory. It didn’t help when my watch—another gift from Uncle Artie—started chiming a sound I had never heard before. I took it off and stuffed it in my pocket. Problem solved.

***

I played video games in the back room, trying my best not to look at or listen to any of the suddenly crazy clocks in the house. It was working too, as I finished off another level of Mortal Warfare IV.

“CJ,” my mom called. “Please set the table.”

“Okay. Just one more level.” I sat up as the battle intensified.

“Now would be better. They’ll be here in less than an hour to watch the football game.”

“I’m on it.” I made it past the gatekeeper to complete the level, which allowed me to save my spot in the game.

I grabbed plates and set them out on the table. I took one plate and placed it on the TV tray next to the window. That’s where I would sit. The rule was: adults at the big table and kids somewhere else. Sometimes it was a card table when my cousins showed up. Since I was the only kid this year, I would have to settle for a TV tray.

My mom’s cell phone rang, and she talked with the phone squeezed against her shoulder as she mixed something in a large bowl. She stopped mid-mix and put the bowl down. “I’m sorry to hear that.” Her voice was all serious. She walked out of the room before I could hear any more of it.

I returned to my table-setting duties, grabbing forks, knives, and napkins. The smell of turkey and all the fixings hit me hard as I placed the silverware around the table. Maybe all this work would be worth it. I took another whiff. Maybe.

Mom returned to the kitchen, put the phone down, and stopped stirring.

“Mom, you okay?”

She looked up at me with moist eyes. “Uncle Artie is in the hospital and can’t make it for Thanksgiving. He hasn’t missed one since your dad and I have been married.” She dabbed her eyes with her apron. “Fortunately, it’s nothing serious and my parents are heading there right now, so they can’t make it until the weekend. I’d better go tell your father. Looks like we’ll only need five plates at the table.”

No Nana and Papa Barnes? No Uncle Artie? I truly hoped Uncle Artie was okay, but this was my big chance to sit at the head of the table, something I’ve always wanted to do. The head chair was bigger and had arms, and it felt like a throne. Uncle Artie always got the honors while I was stuck with the TV tray under the window.

I followed Mom out to the garage where Dad was cleaning out the van, getting it ready for our traditional late-afternoon drive. Dad didn’t seem too bummed to hear the news about Uncle Artie or his in-laws. He barely looked up as he polished the dashboard. “Yeah, well, sorry to hear about Uncle Artie. He’s never down for very long.”

The time was right to pounce. “Mom? Dad?”

Dad turned toward me and nearly bumped his head on the visor. “Yes?”

“I wish Uncle Artie was coming today, I really do.” I tried my best to act like I was crying. It must have worked because I felt my throat tightening. “His are some tough shoes to fill, but I bet he’d want me to sit in his spot at the head of table. After all, he gave me this watch for my birthday last year.” I pulled it out of my pocket to show them. “And we have the same middle name and everything.” I, Carlton James Boyce, was merely guessing at his middle name, hoping neither of my parents knew the truth. “Please? I think I’ve earned it.”

Neither of them thought about it for too long. “It’s all yours, kid,” Dad said as he leaned on the roof of the van.

“Remember your manners at the table,” Mom said. “Uncle Artie would want it that way.”

Manners? Oh, please. Uncle Artie smoked a lot, drank a lot, and sometimes swore a lot. In spite of all that, he was my favorite relative. Over the years, besides the watches and clocks, he had given me several toy cars, baseball cards, stuffed animals, and even a five-dollar bill. These gifts were always “our little secret.” Plus, he told the greatest stories.

Grandma and Grandpa Boyce arrived a little later, and each gave me a quick hug. It’s a terrible thing to say, and I know I’m supposed to love my grandparents without question, but Mom’s parents—the “good ones” who actually liked me—weren’t coming. If Mom and Dad ever found out I felt that way, I’d be grounded for a month—Dad’s typical punishment.

Dad and Grandpa went to the living room to watch the game while the women got the food prepared. I tried to help, but I mostly got in the way.

Everything was ready just before two o’clock, and I grabbed the spot at the head of the table, with Grandma and Grandpa to my right and Mom and Dad to my left. Everyone sat down except Grandpa. He placed his hands on the table and leaned toward my dad.

“I guess this doesn’t rate as a special occasion, eh, George?”

“How’s that, Pop?” Dad said.

“The Hoffhalder. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition, isn’t it?”

“You bet it is.”

The Hoffhalder was a large mantle clock that sat in the corner of the dining room on what mom called the buffet. The Hoffhalder had been in the family for decades, and Dad would only wind it on special occasions. Uncle Artie always had the honors when he came over.

“I’ll do it, Dad,” I said.

“Can he handle it?” asked Grandpa. “He’s just a child.”

I’m right here! I thought. And I’m not a child anymore. I’m thirteen.

“Sure he can,” Grandma said. “Now, make Uncle Artie proud.” She gave me her patented don’t-screw-it-up look.

“CJ, just be careful, okay?” Dad said.

“Sure thing.” I had seen it wound a thousand times. I took the key from the drawer of the small desk nearby, carefully opened the glass in front, and put the key in the keyhole near the number four. There was another near the number eight. I knew it wound clockwise on the right and counterclockwise on the left.

“Whatever you do, don’t overwind it,” Grandpa said. He gave anyone who ever got near the clock got the same warning.

I started winding. One turn. Two turns. Then it started to get tight, so I stopped. I placed the key in the left hole and began to turn in the other direction with my left hand. One turn. Two turns. It wasn’t getting any tighter. Three turns. That was odd; it usually tightened up by now, but I figured it had just been a while. Four turns and still not tight. I switched to my right hand to finish it up. Five turns. Surely it would start to get tight. Then I heard a faint click, and the key wouldn’t move anymore. Uh-oh.

“Everything all right?” Dad asked.

I pulled the key out and put it back in the drawer. “Everything’s great.” I looked at my watch, and then spun the Hoffhalder’s minute hand around until the time was five minutes until two. After closing the glass, I gently moved the large pendulum at the bottom, and the Hoffhalder began to tick. Whew! All was well.

When the Hoffhalder chimed, it made a beautiful sound. In fact, it seemed to be the only clock sound my family liked. It was a perfect combination of bells and gears and springs working in harmony. We now had three minutes until it would chime on the hour, and everyone at the table waited patiently for the moment to arrive. As the last thirty seconds ticked off, Grandpa nudged Grandma. “Here it comes,” he said in a low voice.

The Hoffhalder struck two and began to chime. Once. Then another.

But the second chime lingered way too long and the pendulum began to swing wildly, knocking into the side walls. The chime sound turned into a grinding noise, and the pendulum stopped.

“CJ!” Dad yelled. “What have you done to my clock?”

“He overwound it,” Grandpa said while making a turning motion with hand.

“Clearly,” said Grandma. “And I’ll bet Uncle Artie is rolling over in his grave as we speak.”

“Artie’s not dead,” Mom said. “Just in the hospital.”

“I’m sorry, everyone,” I said. “I didn’t mean to. Honest. It was an accident.”

“You’re grounded,” Dad said.

“For how long?” I asked.

“A month.”

“A month? Mom?”

“Don’t you think that’s a little harsh?” she said.

I looked around the table, and three sets of eyes were on me. Mom reached out and touched my hand. At least someone was on my side.

“That clock’s been in the family for four generations,” Grandpa said. “Built by the finest clockmaker in Germany.”

“And smuggled out on a steamer ship during World War I,” Grandma added. “Truly one of a kind. Irreplaceable.”

I knew the details by heart, and it just made matters worse. “I’ll get it fixed, okay? I have some money saved up.”

“Sounds like you snapped the mainspring,” Grandpa said, adding a “break in half” motion with his hands.

Grandma leaned over and got as close to me as she could. “It’ll never be the same.”

“A month,” Dad said. He put a finger in my face to make his point. “For breaking my clock.”

He continued to glare at me as Mom began to serve the turkey. We ate in near silence.

I had ruined Thanksgiving.

 

 
R. M. Clark is a computer scientist for
the Dept. of Navy by day and children’s book writer by night. He lives in
Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.

Website
|
Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 
3 winners will receive an eGalley of THE
TICK TOCK MAN. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

POLARIS Trailer by Beth Bowland #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books @chapterxchapter @BethBowland

 
Today Beth Bowland and Month9Books are
revealing the trailer for POLARIS, which releases August 16, 2016! Check out
the gorgeous trailer and enter to win a paperback of the book!!
 
A quick note from the author:

When I first watched the trailer I was in awe, tears formed in my eyes, and I
was frozen in my seat. I tried to say “OMG”, but only the “O” came out and “MG”
got stuck, because at that moment I watched as my story literally took a breath
and came to life.
 
I had such a great time writing Polaris, it
combined my love for creating stories and conspiracy theories. I love “What
Ifs” What if there is life on other planets? What if they’re really not so
different than we are? The big ticket question, what if they’re already among
us. Polaris takes a quirky but fun spin on an old conspiracy theory, but what
if the conspiracy is not a theory…
 
 
On to the reveal! 
 

Please make sure you want the trailer, it is brilliant.  


 
Title: POLARIS
Author: Beth
Bowland
Pub. Date: August 16, 2016
Publisher: Tantrum Books
Format: Paperback,
eBook
Find it: Goodreads
Amazon | BAM | Chapters |Google Play  | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks
 
Bixie, Montana is in the middle of
nowhere, not connected to any place, and not needed to get to any destination.
But one snowy evening, a lone visitor walking down an old country road changes
thirteen-year-old Aaron Martin’s life forever. Aaron thinks he’s being a Good
Samaritan by inviting the nearly-frozen visitor into his home, but he’s
unwittingly initiated “The Game.”
 
A group of Elders, known as the Council
of the Legend, come together from time to time to enjoy a rousing event they
playfully call “The Game.” Now, Aaron’s town is the playing board and he and
his fellow townspeople are the players.
 
The rules are simple. Win. Because if
Aaron loses, he won’t just lose his family. He’ll lose his very identity.
 


 
 
Beth Bowland, a native Ohioan, has
always enjoyed reading and creating stories of her own. As a child she devoured
every book she could get her hands on and spent numerous hours at the library
each week. She loves writing stories for tweens and young teens and her
characters are often described as quirky and fun, but always relatable. When
she’s not writing, she loves watching HGTV. She has one daughter and resides in
Arlington, Texas with her husband, Phillip.
 
 



1 winner will receive a paperback of
POLARIS, US Only.





a Rafflecopter giveaway
I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

OPERATION TENLEY by Jennifer Gooch Hummer #FridayReveal #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books

Today Jennifer Gooch Hummer and Month9Books
are revealing the cover and first two chapters for OPERATION TENLEY, book 1 in the
Fair City Files Series which releases September 13, 2016! Check out the
gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley of
OPEARTION TENLEY!!

 

Title: OPEARTION TENLEY (Fair City Files #1)
Author: Jennifer
Gooch Hummer
Pub. Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback
& eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N
|
TBD
|
Goodreads
Meet Tenley Tylwyth, an Elemental Teen
born with the power to produce weather. Cool? Not really.
Elementals make Mother Nature angry. And
who can blame her? Humans have been destroying her planet long enough. It’s
time she got rid of them all together. Tenley, and those like her, are the only
things standing in her way—and they don’t even know it.
It’s a Fair One’s job to keep Elemental
Teens safe. These ancestors of fairies have created a perfect plan to keep kids
like Tenley out of harm’s way – from afar.
But when rookie Fair One, Pennie, allows
her charge to use elemental powers once too often, she’s forced to travel to
Earth—a place where no Fair One wants to go—to save her.
Now, Pennie has forty-eight hours to
convince Tenley to stop manipulating the weather. But it won’t be so easy.
Tenley’s got a way with wind and has no plans to stop using it.
But then a field trip provides the
perfect opportunity for Mother Nature. She catapults Tenley deep into her
gardens, where trees grow upside down and insects attack on command.
For Tenley, things get real, fast. And
suddenly, knowing she’s got a few Elemental powers up her sleeve might be just
what Tenley needs to survive. Even if it kills her.

 

Excerpt

1Hadley Beach, California

Tenley Tylwyth needed votes.

Which is why today she stood outside in the busy quad wearing a sash draped over her left shoulder that read Vote For Me, Tenley T!

Behind her, a group of boys played Frisbee, while in front of her, students hurried by, ignoring the flyers she held out.

Please totally Nominate Tenley Tylwyth to represent Hadley Middle School on America’s Next Most Inspirational Teen this Friday Night.

When the Frisbee flew straight toward Tenley’s head, none of the students noticed.

Except one.

Holden Wonderbolt was a size or two skinnier than the other boys his age, with milk chocolate skin and impressive skateboard skills. He was on the way to the skate ramp when he spotted the Frisbee.

“Watch out!” he yelled.

Tenley turned around just as Holden leaped off his board and launched himself forward. Instead of intercepting the Frisbee, though, Holden sailed toward Tenley while above them, the Frisbee spun off in the opposite direction.

Had others seen it, they would have wondered: Did that Frisbee just stop in midair, flip itself sideways, and zoom off in a completely different direction? But no one had seen it. Not even Holden, who was busy preparing to land on Tenley.

This is what Tenley did: step back.

This is what Holden did: (crash) land.

This is what the rest of the students did: stare.

Oh, and a few photos were taken and posted on the Internet within seconds.

2

North West Observation Spot, Fair City

Standard Fair One 3rdi’s were sufficient enough to see everything happening on Earth, even from the far edge of Fair City. But Laraby must have missed something. Why would his client ditch his skateboard and dive toward another student like that?

He tapped at his 3rdi and groaned, then flung it back over his head into its holder. “Piece of junk. A 3rdi-All wouldn’t have missed anything,” he mumbled. Laraby coveted 3rdi-Alls, which were infinitely better, but were only issued to Lieutenant Fair Ones.

Frustrated, he rubbed his bald head and stepped back over jagged rocks and dust, the latter of which was always the archenemy of his pristine white robes. He pulled a controller out of his tool belt and entered some information. A small hologram screen appeared. A few more clicks and the scene he had just watched on Earth projected in front of him.

There was Holden, skateboarding through the quad, when suddenly and without reason, he flung himself off and dived straight into an unsuspecting girl. Nothing in Holden’s immediate surroundings gave any indication of potential danger. Wind, humidity, barometric pressure, fire, temperature, tectonic plates—all normal.

Laraby pulled his eyes off the screen and sighed. Today he was not in the mood. He’d been hoping to grab a small bite, and now his client’s potential injury would eat into his lunch hour. He’d have to fill out an accident report, for one thing, and Holden Wonderbolt was getting dangerously close to his limit. Another injury could very well result in a red flag for Laraby, which might then lead to a review. And although Laraby did quite enjoy Holden Wonderbolt, he had to admit the boy was a bit of a klutz.

Laraby prepared for departure. The sooner he submitted the report, the better. City Hall was becoming ever more crowded and less efficient.

Just as his propellers started to activate, a loud whirring sound made him take pause. There was nothing wrong with his equipment, as far as he could tell. No damage that he could recall, and he was always on top of the updates. But the whirring noise increased. Perhaps it was another Fair One coming to share his ob-spot. This seemed to be happening more frequently, even though he always picked the farthest, most remote sites to observe his client.

Or perhaps it was asteroid winds picking up. He’d heard talk the last time he was in City Hall that Mother Nature and her Weathers were on the brink of infiltrating the Fair Force’s protective layer again. A stronger system had been implemented since her first infiltration, but no one knew if this was enough. Mother Nature and her Weathers were becoming increasingly hostile, which meant the clients on Earth were in even more danger. Time spent filling out injury reports was precious time away from monitoring them.

Dust picked up around him. He’d washed his robes only yesterday. Annoyed, Laraby stepped out of the swirling debris but stopped when an enormous wind tunnel appeared overhead, close enough to be dangerous. With no time to protect his gear, Laraby took cover under his arms, abruptly knocking the 3rdi sideways. He yelped. A Fair One’s tools were powerful but not indestructible and once damaged, were never quite the same.

He waited for impact, but nothing happened. He peeked up at Fair Force, three of them, hovering a few meters above. Their badges were visible, and red sirens flashed over their propellers.

“Fair One lara b3. You are under arrest. Anything you think can and will be used against you. You are hereby ordered to City Hall in three minutes. Failure to do so will result in further penalty.”

“Officers,” Laraby shouted above the noise. “I think you must be mistaken.”

The Fair Force typed into a small tablet. A pocket in Laraby’s tool belt buzzed. The arrest warrant was delivered.

City Hall in three minutes? He’d never been arrested before.

“Good day,” the Fair Force nodded, before propelling upward and zooming away as fast as they had come.

“It’s lunch time,” Laraby grumbled, activating his propellers again. As soon as he felt his feet lift, he tipped his head left and started for City Hall.

 

 

Jennifer
Gooch Hummer is the award-winning author and screenwriter of her debut novel,
Girl Unmoored (SparkPress). Girl Unmoored has also been published in German (Carlsen).  Jennifer has worked as a script analyst for
various talent agencies and film studios. She lives in Los Angeles with her
husband and three daughters.

Connect with
the Author:  
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest |Instagram | Google +

 

3 winners will receive an eGalley of OPERATION
TENLEY, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

CLANLESS by Jennifer Jenkins #CoverReveal #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books

 

Today Jennifer Jenkins and Month9Books
are revealing the cover and first chapter for CLANLESS, book 2 in the NAMELESS Series
which releases October 4, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be
one of the first readers to receive a paperback of NAMELESS or an eGalley of
CLANLESS!!
 
Here’s a message from the author.
 
Clanless is Gryphon’s story in the way Nameless
was Zo’s. It encompasses the struggle of self discovery and taking the hard
road to find happiness. At its heart though, this book is a love story, with
two people determined to fight overwhelming odds, even death, to be together.
Clanless provides readers a view of the world outside Ram’s Gate, exploring
both the Raven and Kodiak Clans in more depth.

I LOVE THIS COVER. I love the way Gryphon is
depicted and the symbolism of of the white background in contrast to the black
of the Nameless cover. I personally think the series only gets better with
every book, and I hope readers agree.
On to the reveal! 

 

Title: CLANLESS (Nameless #2)
Author: Jennifer
Jenkins
Pub. Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback
& eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N
|
TBD
|
Goodreads
Striker Gryphon has lost his position of
honor among the Ram, and is now a hunted man. A traitor.
Zo, the object of his affection, was
murdered by members of his former clan. To honor her memory, he journeys to the
highly secretive Raven “Nest” to warn strangers of their impending
demise—though it could cost him more than just his pride.
He doesn’t know that Zo is very much
alive and in another part of the region assisting Nameless refugees over a
mountain swarming with wild men known as “Clanless.”
As each struggle to make sense of what
their lives have become, they fight and claw to reach the Allied Camp, their
last hope in bringing peace to the region.
But the road back to one another is
treacherous and uncertain. And freedom will come with a price.

 

Excerpt

Gryphon never thought he’d die at the hands of the Ram. Of course, he never thought he’d become a traitor to his clan, either.He awaited a likely public execution, sitting in a patch of mud outside the walls of Ram’s Gate, his clan’s stronghold, as rain filtered through the trees overhead. Bristled ropes rubbed raw his bound ankles. Iron manacles secured his wrists behind his back. Gryphon clutched the hidden key to his restraints inside a bloody fist and glared at a man he never thought he’d call an enemy.

Zander, Gryphon’s captain, stood at attention as the rain rolled off his brown hair and banked along the harsh angles of his cheekbones and jaw. He held a seven-foot spear like a walking stick, the blunt end buried in the mud at his feet. His short sword was sheathed at his hip, his round shield slung across his back. The perfect Ram warrior, and one of the best swordsmen Gryphon had ever known.

The fifteen members of his mess sat like stones in a field, unmoving but hard and very present. Most of Gryphon’s former mess, including his best friend, Ajax, kept their backs to him, as if his treason were contagious. Some slept under thick wool blankets that repelled the rain while others stewed with the restlessness that plagued so many warriors.

No one bothered to light a fire. Whether they were too impatient to find something dry enough to burn or felt they deserved the cold, Gryphon didn’t know. Ram were experts at self-discipline—not to be confused with self-control.

Inside Ram’s Gate, Gryphon grew up training every day until his body ached. On days he struggled to do everything his leaders asked of him, he would sentence himself to mountain sprints until he literally passed out from exhaustion. Like every other Ram boy, he willingly walked into scheduled yearly beatings that were meant to train his body to block pain, making him nearly invincible on the battlefield.

A little rain was nothing.

Sitting cross-legged in the mud with his hands chained behind his back, Gryphon let the rain muffle the sound of his struggle to insert the small key into the unseen lock of his manacles. Each metallic scrap wound his nerves that much tighter. His wrists burned from bending at an awkward angle and his shoulders strained as he struggled to keep his face a mask of indifference.

Zander watched him, barely blinking. Gryphon needed to distract him—to break his intent focus.

“Why do you think they haven’t let down the rope ladder?” Gryphon asked, speaking as though his impending execution meant little to him.

Zander’s lip raised in a snarl. “Barnabas has the Raven invasion to prepare for, the gate to repair. He will deal with you in his own time.”

Gryphon adjusted his grip on the key to approach the lock from a different angle.

“It seems Barnabas is content to let you sit out in the cold for the night. Do you think you’ll lose your command over this?” Gryphon raised his chin and smiled.

Zander drew a knife so fast Gryphon fumbled with the key.

“Barnabas ordered you brought back alive, but I don’t think he’d mind if I took out your tongue.”

Gryphon had been trained to use the emotions of his enemies against them. People made mistakes when they weren’t stable. Plus the conversation muffled the sound of the key scraping futilely against the metal lock behind his back.

A few of the heads in the wet camp turned to watch the exchange.

Zander leaned back, battling with his composure. “I might lose my command, but I’ll return to my bunk with our brothers of the mess and rest well after seeing your body hang from a noose.” He shook his head. “I knew you had a strange fascination with that slave—that Wolf. I just didn’t realize your treason extended to all the Nameless inside the Gate.”

Just yesterday, Gryphon had inadvertently helped hundreds of Nameless slaves flee the massive walls of Ram’s Gate. To slow the Ram pursuit, he disabled the only exit—a gate so large it required forty Nameless to open it. Even though only a fraction of the Nameless slaves escaped, it would be days before the chain connecting the gate to the counterweight could be repaired.

The key finally slipped into the lock. Gryphon let his head fall back, just a fraction, and closed his eyes in relief. Zander’s hate-filled gaze greeted him as he opened his eyes, but that didn’t stop him from turning the key. The lock clicked open, the sound lost in the rain.

With one hand free, Gryphon still kept both hands behind his back, though he relaxed his shoulders some to alleviate the ache from being bound. The metal key in Gryphon’s hand was warm. The grooves pressed uncomfortably into his palm, but Gryphon didn’t loosen his hold, refusing to let go of the hope Ajax had given him.

Not only was the key his only chance of escaping the certain death that awaited him inside the giant walls of his clan, but it also represented a dim hope that Zo was still alive. That Ajax—Gryphon’s best friend—hadn’t followed through with Zander’s order to find and kill her and the others after Gryphon’s capture.

The vivid scenes of the morning replayed in Gryphon’s mind again and again. Everyone asleep under the tree, except Zo and Gryphon. Ram circling the perimeter of the giant fir like bloodhounds sniffing out prey. Zo taking his hand, pretending to be brave even though her eyes—they were always so easy to read—proved it a lie. Her warm lips. The feel of her body pressed against his . . .

A shudder that had nothing to do with the cold ran up Gryphon’s back. He’d been captured not far from the tree, trying to lead the Ram away from the people he cared for most.

If only he could ask Ajax if they were alive, though the chances were as likely as staying dry in this storm. Ajax had a family to protect, and the penalty for deceiving his captain was as deadly as deceiving Chief Barnabas himself. Dangerous.

Lightning struck not far away, brightening half of Zander’s face in the fast-approaching darkness.

“Come back to me,” Zo had said, just before she’d leaned into him, touching her soft lips to his.

Gryphon slid the key into the second lock.

He chewed on the inside of his lip until he tasted blood. He fought the urge to spit in Zander’s face, to unlock the chains binding his wrist and strangle him with his bare hands. He was sure he could finish the job before he took a spear to the gut. It felt like the only way to quench the hungry blackness that consumed his insides.

Gryphon hung his head, remembering the promise he made to Zo before they separated. Whether Zo was alive or not, he needed to survive to warn the Raven Clan of an impending attack. Countless lives would be spared if the Raven had time to flee the Nest before the Ram arrived. Getting himself killed wouldn’t serve them, even if it meant an escape from the overwhelming ache in his chest.

Thunder rolled again. Zander stared. Gryphon prayed for a miracle . . . and hoped he deserved one.

He turned the key.

The lock clicked open.

But his manacles clattered to the ground before he could catch them.

***

“We’re not waking him.” Zo’s head throbbed as she held Joshua’s wrist to check his pulse for the tenth time in as many minutes.

The boy lay unconscious, but his heart beat a steady rhythm. Zo needed to feel that pulse; it was her tether to sanity. The sound of Ram fists connecting with Gryphon’s body . . . the muffled grunts betraying his pain . . . they still echoed in her mind when she didn’t check her thoughts. From her hiding place, she hadn’t seen Gryphon’s capture, but she had heard. She’d wanted to run out and fight alongside him. Even though she had Joshua and Tess to think of, her inaction tasted like betrayal.

Rain fell all around them, but they’d managed to stay mostly dry beneath the skirt of a giant fir tree.

“This is insane,” said Eva. She had the long nose of her Ram ancestors, set off by a thin mouth. “Do you have any idea what will happen to us if the Ram come back here?” Eva lay flat on her stomach—all leather and long legs—as she scanned the ground outside their fir tree haven.

Even with a full moon, it was impossible to see far beyond the confines of their shelter. “They have Gryphon. They’ll know you and Joshua are close.” Eva ran her hand over her cropped hair, oblivious to the action. “If I were tracking us, I would have found us hours ago.”

Eva was a Ram, just like the soldiers she feared. She’d fled the Gate with Zo for the sake of her unborn child. A baby who would have been killed at birth because it belonged, not to her betrothed, but to a man in the Ram’s slave class known as the Nameless.

Zo gazed up at the tree trunk, hoping to inhale a bit of patience along with the strong scent of pine. “We wait until Joshua’s ready, Eva. Not a moment sooner.”

“But the Nameless will be miles away by now.”

Zo conceded the point. At that moment, hundreds of escaped slaves traveled to get as far from Ram’s Gate as possible to protect their newfound freedom. They didn’t know how to find the Allied Camp. Zo had told Stone, Eva’s lover and the leader of the Nameless rebellion, it was south of Ram’s Gate, but that was the extent of their knowledge, and it wouldn’t be enough to find the slot canyon that led to the Allies.

The Nameless needed her. So did her little sister Tess, Joshua, and even Eva. None of them would survive without Zo’s ability to lead them to the Allies. But it didn’t change the fact that all Zo wanted to do at the moment was sprint up the mountain to Ram’s Gate—the place from which they’d just escaped—and demand the release of the young man she’d come to care for. The man who’d saved her life and the life of her sister, even though doing so had caused him to lose everything.

Gryphon.

Zo’s little sister, Tess, sat like a watchdog beside Joshua’s head, playing with the boy’s red hair. In the low light, she looked even smaller than her eight years.

“Zo’s smart. She knows what to do,” said Tess. She was blond with dirt smeared across her nose and cheeks. She glared at Eva with her giant blue-green eyes, almost daring her to contradict her big sister.

Zo hugged her knees to her chest, fighting a sudden surge of nausea, hoping Tess was right to trust her so completely.

“Someone’s coming,” Eva hissed. She pushed up onto her knees, wielding two deadly looking knives. At the same time, Zo yanked Tess to the ground and threw herself over her and Joshua’s body. It was a futile effort to save them, but fear took over all rational thought.

Soft footfalls crept outside their shelter, each step marking the final moments of their lives. Zo glanced around for some kind of weapon or stick to help defend the two people—two children—for whom she was responsible. All she found in the darkness was a bed of dry pine needles and her medical satchel—nothing to defend them against fighters from the deadliest clan in the region.

The footsteps came closer, muted by the soggy earth. Eva moved from her knees to the balls of her feet, a compressed spring ready to fly into an attack. She adjusted her grip on her knives.

Hope fled. Zo couldn’t catch her breath. Tess. Joshua. Eva. The Nameless. Dying today under this tree meant the deaths of so many others as well. Gryphon’s sacrifice had been in vain.

Large boots stopped mere feet from Zo’s hiding place. Boots she’d recognize anywhere.

“Don’t,” she cried, trying to stop Eva before she attacked.

But her warning was too late.

Eva sprang, blades in hand, aimed at the intruder’s chest.

 

 

With her
degree in History and Secondary Education, Jennifer had every intention of
teaching teens to love George Washington and appreciate the finer points of
ancient battle stratagem. (Seriously, she’s obsessed with ancient warfare.)
However, life had different plans in store when the writing began. As a proud
member of Writers Cubed, and a co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, she
feels blessed to be able to fulfill both her ambition to work with teens as
well as write Young Adult fiction.
Jennifer has
three children who are experts at naming her characters, one loving, supportive
husband, a dog with little-man syndrome, and three chickens (of whom she is
secretly afraid).
Visit her
online at jajenkins.com

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

 

 
1 winner will receive a paperback of NAMELESS,
US Only.

 

 
3 winners will receive an eGalley of
CLANLESS, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Cover Reveal: THE LINGERING GRACE by Jessica Arnold #Giveaway @jess_s_arnold #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books

 

Today Jessica Arnold and Month9Books are
revealing the cover and first chapter for THE LINGERING GRACE, which releases March
15, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers
to receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:

In The Lingering Grace, Alice is glad to find her life returning to normal
after a near-death experience. When a young girl drowns in a freak accident
similar to the one that nearly killed her, she suspects that something deeper
might be going on. This incredible cover is a reference both to the drowning
girl at the heart of the story, and to Alice—who is also in over her head. It’s
hard to tell whether the girl under water is sinking deeper or rising to the
surface. This story centers on Alice making that very choice.
On to the reveal! 
 
 
Title: THE LINGERING GRACE
Author: Jessica
Arnold
Pub. Date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback
& eBook
Pages:
320
Find it: Amazon
|
Goodreads
All magic comes with a price.
The new school year brings with it a
welcome return to normalcy after Alice’s narrow escape from a cursed hotel
while on summer vacation. But when a young girl drowns in a freak accident that
seems eerily similar to her own near-death experience, Alice suspects there
might be something going on that not even the police can uncover.

 

The girl’s older sister, Eva attends
Alice’s school, and Alice immediately befriends her. But things change when
when Alice learns that Eva is determined to use magic to bring her sister back.
She must decide whether to help Eva work the highly dangerous magic or stop her
at all costs. After all, no one knows better than Alice the true price of
magic.
 
 

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE“I’m so sorry.”

Tony turned on his left blinker. “Didn’t your dad say something about getting you a car soon?”

Alice gave a single, grating laugh. “He’s been saying that ever since I got a license.” Tony knew this as well as she did; if he was teasing, she wasn’t in the mood. She slouched down in the passenger seat as they pulled into the library parking lot. It was almost empty; the library was closing in twenty-five minutes. She rapped her fingers against the car door, gripping a notebook and a pen tightly in her other hand.

“Hey.” Tony parked. He grabbed her arm before she could jump out of the car. “Everyone forgets an assignment sometimes.”

She tried to smile, but her mouth ended up in a lopsided grimace. “You’re right. I’ve just been so . . . you know.”

Concern flashed across Tony’s face, and his grip on her arm tightened for a second before he let go. Alice clicked her pen as they hurried into the library. She’d had this assignment for weeks—how could she have left it until now? This wasn’t like her. Tony grabbed her hand as they walked and she looked down at their entwined fingers, glad that this at least was surviving, despite her half-present brain.

It wasn’t sudden, this relationship, so it baffled her why it still felt fragile—why she was still relieved every time he wanted to spend time with her. They’d been officially dating for two months now, and they’d known each other for three. She was certain she had gotten the better end of the deal; Tony had been helping her keep her head above water ever since last summer. Meeting him had been one of the only good things to come out of that vacation from hell. He’d helped save her life when she had nearly died, the victim of a witch’s curse on a creepy old hotel.

Physically, her recovery had only taken a few weeks. But everything else … well, it was still an uphill battle. Daily life was mundane and mind-numbingly routine—more meaningless than it had ever seemed before. Alice zoned out on a regular basis. The world would fall away and she would stare into space, not thinking anything, not feeling anything but the empty space inside her where everything was quiet. That empty space had never been there before, and it was only with Tony that she felt it close up for a few precious hours at a time. Only with Tony was she herself again.

Tony noticed her looking at him and smiled.

“We’ll find something here. I know it.”

“We’d better.”

It was hard to be hopeful after spending three hours driving around to all the libraries in the area with no luck at all, courtesy of this supremely dumb assignment. They’d been talking about primary and secondary sources in English class and Mr. Segal was requiring them to find one primary source (not on the Internet either—at the library) to include in their research paper. Alice knew she shouldn’t have put it off. She just hadn’t known it would be this hard. Now, with the paper due tomorrow, she had absolutely nothing to show but a blank computer screen and mounting panic.

“I think I chose the wrong topic,” she said as they walked by the front desk. A librarian looked up and scowled at them.

“We’re closing in twenty minutes,” she said. Her expression made it clear that if they made her stay a moment later, they would regret it.

Alice squeezed Tony’s hand and spoke through clenched teeth. “I’m gonna fail this project. And the class. And I’ll become a high school dropout. And I’ll never get into college. Will you still like me when I’m living under an overpass?”

“Yes. But you’re not going to fail. And I wouldn’t let you be homeless.”

“My hero,” she grumbled and he laughed.

They hurried through the nonfiction sections, passing row after row of packed shelves. The farther into the library they went, the more overwhelming the smell of old paper became. Alice wasn’t sure if the musty library air was thanks to rotting books or the persistent mold problem that had shut the library down for months a while back. The city said everything was under control; Alice’s nose told her otherwise.

“Ugh, I was hoping we wouldn’t have to come here.” She ran her fingers along the book spines as they hurried down a row. “This place creeps me out.”

Tony looked up at the dim rectangles of fluorescent lights scattered across the ceiling. “Not exactly cozy, is it?”

Alice shook her head and then stopped, squinting at the books to her left. “804 . . . 804.01 . . . here we go.”

She traced the call numbers with her fingers. Tony knelt down next to her, scanning books as he spoke.

“Excellent. Let’s hope Mr. Librarian Number Two was right.”

They’d been hunting down a copy of Literary Criticism of the 1800s for three hours now. Alice had discovered it while digging through the online library catalog—it was the only thing she could find that fulfilled the “contemporary criticism” requirement for her paper. The only problem was that the full text wasn’t online and, thanks to an interlibrary loan snafu, the only copy had slipped under the radar almost completely. The librarian at the last library they’d visited had been ninety-nine percent sure it was at the downtown branch, and so they had braved the rush-hour traffic and hurried over.

“What a nightmare,” she groaned. “I don’t see it.”

Tony grabbed her notebook and squinted at the call number she’d written. “Are you sure that’s a four? Looks like it could be a nine to me.”

“Let’s hope it’s a nine, then.” She jumped to her feet and grabbed his hand, pulling him up as well. They hurried to the next aisle.

He squeezed her hand. “Hey—we’ll find it. Don’t worry.”

She squeezed back but said nothing. Don’t worry. If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, her blank moments didn’t bring Zen into the rest of her life. They were more like blackouts than meditations—moments when fatigue got the better of her. The rest of the time, she was sprinting to keep up with the mindless churn of to-do lists that filled her days. How did people live like this? Every day stuffed with pointless urgency. It was exhausting. Sometimes Alice found herself longing for just a taste of magic again. Magic was a glimmer of something beyond logic and reason and sunrise and sunset. Without it, life melted into a meaningless churn of waking and sleeping.

Tony was patient with her—in more ways than one. She wasn’t sure how he managed to put up with her frequent mental lapses and her total lack of girlfriend know-how. Frankly, she was mortified by her own awkwardness. In her more positive moments, she told herself it wasn’t her fault. He was her first boyfriend. No one had warned her about these things.

If only someone had warned her about these things. Holding hands, kissing, it all looked so easy when other people did it. At first, for her, it had been a humiliating disaster. She didn’t know what to do with her body, how to move. She would press her lips into Tony’s without aim or direction, as haphazardly as she kissed her dad’s cheek. For Tony, on the other hand, finesse seemed to come naturally. His kisses were caresses. He was artistic. When they held hands, while her arm went stiff as a board, he would stroke the back of her hand with his thumb, making little circles—or hearts. She liked to think of them as hearts.

Her heart was pounding from half-jogging to the end of a row.

“Do you see it?” Alice asked, trying to read the call numbers on both sides of the row simultaneously.

Tony shook his head. “Not yet.”

“I don’t believe this,” Alice grumbled, sinking to her knees. “It’s got to be here. I can’t rewrite this whole paper—I don’t have time!” She ran her hands across the books on the bottom shelf, vainly hoping that the right one would just jump out and grab her by the throat. Tony scratched his forehead. Alice was starting to recognize these things he did. She knew now that when he scratched his chin, he was thinking deeply; when he scratched right below his hairline, he was worried.

“Maybe it was just shelved wrong,” he suggested. He turned around and started scanning the bookshelf behind him.

Though Alice worried it was useless, she re-scanned the spines on the shelf in front of her. Maybe Tony was right—maybe they had missed something. But she had that sinking feeling in her gut and her eyes were burning; she was frustrated almost to tears. Her sight grew blurry as she stared at book after book.

“The library will be closing in five minutes,” said a voice over the intercom.

Five minutes.

She blinked very quickly, trying to clear her vision. Her eyes stopped on a particularly tattered old book without a visible call number, and she reached out to grab it, glancing behind her at Tony, who still had his back to her.

Her fingers touched the binding and she gasped. It was the strangest feeling—a tingling in her fingers, a warmth that traveled up her arm and into her shoulder. Alice pulled the book from the shelf and felt as if all the hair on her body were standing on end. She shivered and stroked the cover, which was brown leather and plain. It was blind-stamped with three concentric circles, like a rounded eye.

Peeling the cover back, she scanned through a few pages at random and knew immediately what she was holding. There was a sharp tug in her abdomen, and she almost put the book back then and there. It wasn’t the first spellbook she had seen. She had discovered several while fighting for her life in the hotel last summer. They’d belonged to the witch who set the curse. One of them had been covered in scrawls and notes—an inconsistent, impossible mess.

This little volume was an entirely different story. It was printed; the old monospaced type left odd gaps between letters. Someone had carefully underlined a few sentences throughout, but overall, it looked nearly untouched. If it hadn’t been for the yellowed pages and the smell of rotting paper, she might have called it pristine.

Each page was laid out in the same way: a heading in large, capitalized type followed by an ingredient list and several paragraphs of instructions. To the left of each title were one to three small triangles. Some were colored in with solid black ink while others were empty. They were presented without explanation, but Alice felt sure they must be a scale of sorts: a rating to indicate how long a particular spell took to prepare or its difficulty or something like that. There were small sketches throughout. On one page, a tiny flower was drawn to the right of the ingredient list. On the bottom of another, a tiny frog, splayed out, cut open, its ink-drawn limbs hanging limply at its sides.

Her stomach turned; quickly, she shut the book. A shiver tickled her spine—the familiar sensation of being watched. Was it a coincidence that she had come across this book? Or could it be that the curse had left a magical stamp on her, a kind of otherworldly magnetism? Had she found the book, or had the book found her?

“I don’t believe it.”

Alice jumped, clutching the book to her.

“Hey—I found it!”

Tony was holding the book out for her to see, smiling widely. She took it from him with one hand; with the other, she slipped the leather book behind her back. The movement was instinctual. All she knew was that she didn’t want to return the book and leave so many questions unanswered. Nor did she want to explain to Tony why she had to know more.

“Thank God,” she said, grinning back. “You are a hero!” Maybe she could pass the book off as another ancient volume of literary criticism? Not a chance. Tony was too curious; he would want to look at it himself.

“See?” He helped her up and put his arm around her shoulders. “Told you it would be okay.”

“I guess you were right.”

He took the book back from her and examined it. Alice’s grip on the spellbook tightened. No, she definitely could not let Tony near this book if she didn’t want him to panic and light it on fire or something. “It’s kind of like finding buried treasure.”

“Except the treasure is a book and the only thing it was buried in was the library’s glitchy loan system.”

“Still—it feels good.”

“The library is closing. Please check out all books at the front desk,” the intercom blared.

Alice and Tony jogged past row after row of dimly lit bookshelves. As they did, Alice slipped the leather-bound book into her bag before she could talk herself out of it. It wasn’t stealing, she told herself. Not really. She would take it home, glance through it, and return it to the shelf within a few days. It was just a quick investigation—albeit a secret one. But really, it had to be secret. Ever since the hotel, Tony couldn’t even watch a card trick without freaking out. If she told him a spellbook might have found her … maybe magically … well, she was doing him a favor by not mentioning it.

She was just being responsible. Really.

***

Tony dropped her off at home half an hour later. Still immensely pleased with his book-finding success, he’d suggested a celebratory dinner, but Alice insisted that she really did need to work on her paper. This was true.

She didn’t mention that she was far more anxious to crack open the book she hadn’t checked out than read the one she had.

The house was so quiet when she walked in that for a second she thought she was the only one home. Usually, the ruckus of her brother’s video games in the living room would be drowned out by the drone of her dad listening to NPR in his office. But the living room was empty and her dad must have stayed late at work because the doors to his office were open and the room was dark. Just the light in the kitchen was on, and it was only on second glance that Alice saw her mother sitting on a barstool, staring blankly at the faucet. Someone hadn’t turned it off completely and water was leaking out one drop at a time.

“Mom?”

Her mom jumped up.

“Oh, hi, honey. I didn’t hear you come in.” She walked around the counter and turned off the faucet. “Were you with Tony tonight?”

“Yeah, we were at the library.”

“Good … that’s good … ” she said absently before lapsing into silence again.

“Um … how was your doctor’s appointment?” Alice asked to alleviate the uncomfortable quiet.

Her mother’s lips twitched upward, then tightened. She abruptly turned her back to Alice and opened the fridge.

“Fine, fine … ” she said, her voice drowned out by the crinkling of plastic bags.

Alice’s worries about her paper were immediately replaced by deeper, more insistent fears. “What’s wrong?” she demanded.

“I can’t hear you, sweetie.”

“What happened?” she repeated. “Is something wrong?”

Her mom emerged from the fridge, holding some celery sticks and a jar of almond butter—her “guilty” snack. Normally she wouldn’t have had the almond butter. (She liked to remind Alice that too many nuts would make a person chub up like a squirrel before hibernation.) Her eyes briefly met Alice’s as she turned to the sink and started to rinse off the celery.

“Oh, just a sad story in the news today.”

Alice’s heart immediately slowed. “See, this is why I never read the news.”

Her mom scrubbed the hollow of the celery stalk with one thin finger. “A single mom just moved into a new house with her two young girls. The girls went swimming unsupervised. The six-year-old drowned.”

Alice’s chest constricted, but she tried to brush it off. “They didn’t know how to swim? Why did they get in the pool?”

“Really, Alice.” Her mom’s voice went snappish. “You of all people should know—these things can happen to anyone.” She grabbed the celery stalks and the jar of almond butter and walked out of the room without another word. Alice heard the bedroom door close.

Alice sat still on the bar stool for a moment. A weak trickle of water was leaking from the faucet; she got up and turned it off.

You of all people.

A final drop of water hit the sink like the tiniest of hammers. Last summer, at the cursed hotel, she had nearly drowned in a swimming pool. Tony had pulled her out just in time.

She could remember all too clearly the press of water in her lungs. Not everyone knew the craving for air—the feeling that your head was being squeezed and squeezed until finally, in the last moments, when you thought you were going to explode … an arm around your waist pulling you up. A hand clapping you on the back, a voice telling you the coughing was okay, telling you to breathe when that was all you wanted to do until the end of time … just breathe.

Tony had saved her life. But the little girl would have felt the tightness, the void in her chest that nothing could fill, until the darkness came slowly in—not a stranger knocking down the door, but a cool-headed thief waiting for the window to fall open. Rushing into the opening, filling the lungs with cold black water … and then darker and darker until there was nothing—no space left.

“It’s okay. I’m okay.” Alice refused to turn into her mother, having panic attacks every time she heard a bit of disturbing news. She took a deep breath, shook her head, and walked slowly up the stairs to her room, pretending she was empty as a balloon floating higher and higher … out of her body, out of everything.

 
 
 
 
 
About Jessica:

 

Jessica Arnold lives (in an apartment)
and works (in a cubicle) in Boston, Massachusetts. She has a master‘s degree in
publishing and writing from Emerson College.

Where you can find Jessica: Website | Twitter
| Facebook
Goodreads

 
 
 
 
 
 
Giveaway Details:

 

1 winner will receive an eBook of THE
LOOKING GLASS & an eGalley of THE LINGERING GRACE. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Friday Reveal: THERE ONCE WERE STARS by Melanie McFarlane #Giveaway #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books

 

Today Melanie McFarlane and Month9Books
are revealing the cover and first chapter for THERE ONCE WERE STARS, which
releases April 26, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of
the first readers to receive a eGalley!!
 
A quick note from the author:

I have anticipated this moment for months—the moment I would be able to share
my cover with all of you! When I first laid eyes on the cover for THERE ONCE
WERE STARS I was immediately drawn to the stars and how they are escaping their
glass prison. In my novel, the main character, Natalia Greyes, is also locked
in a glass prison: her home, Dome 1618. During Nat’s childhood the stars became
more visible in the sky, after being blocked by darkness for decades after the
Cleansing Wars. Like the stars, Nat is a symbol of change as she transforms
from a naïve youth into a strong teen, who searches for her place in her tiny
world of Dome 1618, and dreams of escaping to the outside one day. But my
favorite detail of all is the grass and how cool and inviting it is in contrast
to the hard sheen of the glass jar. It can be seen as a symbol of how mankind
can never capture or truly duplicate the beauty of nature, or the wonder of
life itself.
 
Don’t forget to check out my trailer on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuTOuBPX11k
On to the reveal! 
 
 
Title: THERE ONCE WERE STARS
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Pub. Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it:  Goodreads

 

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the
motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia
Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly
radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never
questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the
dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has
the Order been hiding from everyone?
 
 

 

Exclusive Excerpt

Chapter One

I stretch my arms across my bed, running my fingers along the same sheets I’ve had since I was a child. The stiffness was beaten out of them long ago, but they still carry the memory of my mother carefully stitching the first tear back together when I was seven. The tiny x’s remind me of her long fingers, moving the needle back and forth with the same care as when she worked with samples in her laboratory.

I trace the row stitches, squeezing my eyes shut as I make a wish; it is my eighteenth birthday, after all. But when I open them, the same scene shows from my bedroom window that always does—the grid of our dome. Nothing changes. It doesn’t matter how many birthday wishes are made; I always wake up trapped inside the dome. The grid of thick glass and steel arcs far above our apartment, stretching to where the great Axis, a tower of government offices, meets the peak of our home—Dome 1618.

I crawl out of bed and let my gaze trail down the Axis to the rooftops of the other apartment buildings, row upon row of housing for blue-collar workers. Closer to the Axis are townhouses of the business owners, hidden from the rest of us, but that’s not where I long to be. My eyes drift to the base of the dome, far away from my window where the Outer Forest lies, my only saving grace. It’s forbidden to hike among the trees, but sometimes rules need to be broken.

“Natalia!” Grandmother’s piercing voice comes from the other side of my bedroom door. “Get up. You’re wasting the day away.”

The clock on my dresser reads eight o’clock in the morning. Seriously? It’s been nine years since I moved in with my grandparents, and saying Grandmother and I have differing opinions barely touches the surface. Her rules are sometimes worse than those of the Order, who police the dome. With any luck, I’ll be assigned my own apartment soon and can finally restart my life, again.

I run my brush through my long brown hair, although by the time I go outside it will look unruly once again. It’s my curse; I have thick hair like my mother, with waves that look more like oddly-placed kinks, unlike the smooth-flowing locks worn by some of the other girls at my school. But I won’t have to go back to the Learning Institute again. Today I’m an adult.

My jeans are on the floor where I left them last night, and I manage to find a clean T-shirt in my drawer. Both have the same tiny stitches as my sheets, covering up the wear and tear over the years, but I sewed these back together myself. Grandmother is firm on the fact that if I don’t take care of what I have, I don’t get a replacement. There’s no point in arguing when her opinions are as deep as the wrinkles on her face, and honestly, it’s hard to tell which she has more of. Before I leave my room, I grab my mother’s notebook. It’s filled with her sketches and work notes on different projects she was involved in. But my favorites are the tiny notes, squeezed in the margins, excerpt of her personal thoughts, hopes, and dreams. The biggest of these was to move her family outside the dome.

“I know you were out last night,” Grandmother says, eyeing me suspiciously between the milk and dry toast as I slip into my seat at the table.

“Must we have this conversation every morning?” Grandfather speaks up.

“You know the ramifications!” Grandmother shrills, and he shrinks in his chair. “Do you want to let her stroll around at night past curfew? One day she won’t come home, and then we will be questioned.” Grandmother redirects her attention to me. “What are you doing out there that’s important enough to risk everything? Haven’t I warned you? If the Order catches you, you will wish you had listened to me.”

“That’s my problem.” I fold my arms across my chest. She always makes me back down with her words. If I’m going to be an adult, I need to learn how to take a stand.

“If your parents could only see you now,” she says unsympathetically. “They would wonder how they got a daughter so determined to get herself detained. You know what they do with little girls who don’t follow the rules.”

“Yes,” I say through gritted teeth. She’s given these lectures many times. Girls who don’t follow the rules are sent back to the Learning Institute for retraining, where they come out all prim and proper, ready to take their place as functional citizens of the dome. I’m not going back there; I know how to stay under the radar.

“Come on, now.” Grandfather finally steps in. “It’s Nat’s birthday.”

“Yes.” Her tone softens. “You’re eighteen now. Hurry and eat; we got you a little something.”

I gobble down the toast, stale as it is, but fresh food is not something that our dome has had in a long time. Since the accident that caused my parents’ death, the Order stopped all excursions for scientific research, completely cutting off the outside world. Prior to this, there were plenty of rations from the farms due to uncontaminated seeds the expedition teams found, along with new plant life for supplementing the crops. But those stockpiles have slowly depleted.

When I finish breakfast, I look at my grandparents in anticipation. Grandfather’s face is beaming, and though Grandmother looks like she is trying to be serious, I can see a small sparkle in her eyes as she hands me a tiny green box with a little purple bow. The bow is smooth, made from fabric nicer than anything I own. I gently untie it, and put the silky strand safely in my pocket, before opening the box to see what is inside.

A silver, heart-shaped locket sits on top of fine tissue paper, so delicate I don’t dare touch it in case it rips. An image of two hands holding a smaller heart is engraved into the center of the locket. This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen—I’ve never owned jewelry of my own. My hands are shaking so bad I almost drop the box.

“Careful!” Grandmother’s voice snaps me from my awe. She grabs the box from me, and it takes all my inner strength to let it go.

She removes the necklace from the box and opens the locket, holding it out to me. Inside, is a photo of my parents on their wedding day. Photos are luxuries. I only own one other— a photo of me with my parents when I turned three—and it stays safe on my nightstand. But this locket—I can take it with me anywhere. I hold up my hair, allowing Grandmother to secure it around my neck, then grasp the tiny keepsake in my hand. I will cherish it forever.

“I’m going to show this to Jak and Xara,” I say, leaving the table.

“Don’t forget, you have to report to work today.” Grandmother reminds me.

“But it’s Saturday.” I groan.

“You’re eighteen now,” she says, her eyes vacant of the compassion they held only seconds ago. “Your time to contribute to the dome begins today. Plus, any experience is good to have if you want to be a scientist one day, like your parents.”

“I don’t see how cleaning toilets at the Axis will do me any good in the future,” I complain. “And I never said I want to be a scientist.”

“You’ll find where you’re meant to be.” Grandfather smiles. “Understanding everything from the bottom-up will help you make a better decision about what you want to do to make your contribution.”

I sigh as I lace up my sneakers, now feeling the pressure of the future. I have no idea what I want to do today, let alone the rest of my life. But it definitely does not involve cleaning up after those in the Axis. I wave good-bye as I leave the apartment, but only Grandfather waves back. My number one fan; he always tries to keep the peace between Grandmother and I. But no matter how close we are, I still have to lie about where I’m really going. No one can know about my secret place.

Outside, I stretch my arms up toward the top of the dome. The sun shines through the dust covered glass of the dome, with sections of blue sky showing here and there. I sneak around the back of our apartment building, and begin my stealthy weave through alleyways. I have hours before my first shift starts at the Axis. Hours to spend somewhere the Order can’t find me.

When I reach the Outer Forest, I sneak in a break in the fence and move between the trunks of trees, inhaling the last of the old world. The rich combination of musk and earth fills my lungs as I run as fast as I can from the fence. Running is one of the few things that make me feel free. When I reach my destination, I’m out of breath, but exactly where I belong—a hidden clearing at the edge of the dome.

I crawl inside a hollowed-out tree I’ve claimed as my own. How did the Order miss this lone tree, dying amidst the perfection of the Outer Forest? It should have been torn down long ago, to make room for larger, healthier, oxygen bearing trees. Decay doesn’t coincide with the Order’s pursuit for perfection and efficiency, but it’s ideal for me: hidden, empty, and alone. I accept this tree’s imperfections and it offers me solace.

I clutch my locket again, this time removing it from my neck so I can look inside. A twinge of pain prickles my throat as my parents’ faces stare back at me. They look so happy and in love. I remember that about them. The in love part. I haven’t thought about people in love for so long.

I lean back, holding the locket against my chest, intent on enjoying the morning sun. Unfortunately, the heat of the sun doesn’t penetrate the cold glass of the dome, but something about that glowing orb in those blue skies makes me feel better. Mom wrote in her notebook about the first time she felt the sun on her skin: warm and, bright, as if it gave her a new life with its rays, just like it did to the world, after the Cleansing Wars. I close my eyes, imagining myself bathed in sunlight, and finally give in to the peace of the forest.

I wake up, feeling something sharp poking my side. I can’t believe I drifted off. My hand shoots behind me, to find the source of the pain. My mother’s notebook is jutting awkwardly from my back pocket. I stand up to tuck it back in, and my gaze slips above a line of bushes growing wildly along the base of the dome. At the same time, something flashes above them, and my breath catches in my throat. My reflection stares back at me from the glass, revealing my locket shining in the sunlight. Relax, Dacie, it’s only you. A nervous laugh escapes my throat, as I finish putting the notebook away.

Another light flashes, but this time it’s in the distance, on the other side of the glass. I lean forward, focusing on the light, and see a shadow move on the other side. My entire body goes rigid, and my heart beat thunders in my ears. No one could be out there—unless—could it be an Infected? No, that’s impossible. They were all killed by the Cleansing War—everything was. If the nukes didn’t kill them, the nuclear fallout afterward would have.

Something moves again—closer this time. A gasp escapes my lips, as a shudder rips through my body. That’s when I see it—the faint outline of a person standing in the open. He’s camouflaged by a layer of dust, blending him into the barren landscape that surrounds the dome. The figure’s shadow stretches across the ground, reaching toward me.

I rub my eyes, as if something in them could be making me see the figure, but when I open them I’m startled to see the figure again, only now there are two. One stays farther back, toward the rockier land, silhouetted against the foothills in the distance. The other stands a short distance from the dome. My heart skips a beat—they’re both human, and they’re both staring in my direction.

 

About Melanie: 
Whether it’s uncovering the corruption
of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, Melanie
McFarlane jumps in with both hands on her keyboard. Thought she can be found
obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie has focused her
powers on her two upcoming YA novels: THERE ONCE WERE STARS and SUMMONER
RISING.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Giveaway Details:

 

 
1 winner will receive the FIRST eGalley
of THERE ONCE WERE STARS. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also Melanie is
giving away swag enter that giveaway too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl