Category Archives: Giveaway
answers. But the truth might be more than she bargained for…
For the last five years, the Sandman has spent every night protecting Nora.
When he hid the secret to the Nightmare Lord’s escape inside her dreams, he never
expected to fall in love with her. Neither did he think his nemesis would find her so quickly, but there’s no mistaking his cruel handiwork. The Nightmare Lord is tired of playing by the rules and will do anything to release his deadly nightmares into the world, even if that means tormenting Nora until she breaks.
When the Nightmare Lord kidnaps Nora’s sister, Nora must enter enemy territory to save her. The Sandman is determined to help, but if Nora isn’t careful, she could lose even more than her family to the darkness.
Shadows danced in the soft warmth of the white mini-lights strung around my bedroom. I hopped around my bed, fumbling with the buckle on my sandals, and tossed my purse in the corner. Something hard—probably my phone—thwacked against the light blue wall.“Whoops,” I muttered, then growled at the metal hook locking my footwear in place. There were places to go, people to see. Or, rather, one person, and it was already hours past our usual meeting time. I jerked at the stiff strap. “Get off.”Finally, it popped, and I kicked it triumphantly into the corner with my bag. The other came off without any trouble, and my stomach fluttered in anticipation. I tugged off my jean shorts and stepped into a pair of plaid pajama bottoms, leaving on the ribbed tank top I wore out tonight. Who cared that a glob of nacho cheese stained the front? The Sandman certainly wouldn’t.Climbing beneath the cool sheets, I dragged in a long breath and released it slowly. A small grin played on my lips as I stared at the lights hanging overhead. Then I shut my eyes and waited. Waited for sleep to claim me. To deliver me. But my body was too tense, and my mind still flipped through the day’s events—as ridiculously boring as they were. When the highlight of your day was painting your nails a new color, what was there to mull over?After a handful of long minutes, I opened my eyes again and bit my lip. I could ask. It had been…
Actually, I couldn’t remember the last time I asked him for anything. Even this. But I had to be up early for work tomorrow and we’d already missed out on hours together. A grin crept across my face.“Sandman,” I whispered, and closed my eyes again in preparation. “Help me sleep.”It came swiftly then, sweeping me gently from my world to another as easily as the breeze carries a feather. I curled my toes, feeling the powder-like sand of the Sandman’s beach beneath my bare feet, and opened my eyes. The endless blanket of bright stars, the luminescent waves, the Sandman… This place, this dream, was like coming home.“Sorry I’m late,” I called with a smile in my voice. The light aroma of lilacs filled my lungs and I sighed, content. “Natalie and Emery dragged me to a party to celebrate our final first day of summer vacation.” By this time next year, we would all be high school graduates and legal adults—neither of which I was ready to think about. I stretched my arms over my head and fought a yawn. “Sandman?” There was no reply. I dropped my arms and spun, searching for a glimpse of the familiar black-clad figure. This was our spot—the place directly below the brightest star. My brows lowered in confusion. So why wasn’t he here? He was always here. “Where are you?”The only sound was the soft hush of waves lapping the shore. I turned again, squinting down the beach, but there was no hooded figure in sight. My heart skipped a beat. The dream seemed to yawn open, the emptiness pressing in on me from all sides. He had to be here somewhere. A pit formed in my stomach, and I staggered back, unsteady. He had to.The beach was an addiction I didn’t know how to cure myself of—didn’t want to cure myself of. For every time I had to pretend this place didn’t exist, the Sandman was there to absolve me of the lies. There to make me feel like I was good and sane and normal. It didn’t matter that he was also the reason I didn’t feel any of those things were true when I was awake. The Sandman was my anchor, holding me firm when life tried to wash me out to sea. Without him… I swallowed hard. Without him, I would be a ship without sails.“Sandman!” I jogged down the water’s edge, my pulse drumming in my ears. “I’m here.”But he wasn’t.THREE THIRTY-TWO.The clock on my nightstand glowed green, the colon blinking in a slow, torturous rhythm. I tapped my fingers on my stomach. The Sandman had never been a no-show before. And if he wasn’t there, maybe that meant they were right, and he wasn’t real.No.I refused to believe that. My mother meant well, but I couldn’t face a lifetime of pill-pushing psychiatrists. One white-haired doctor tossing around words like personality disorder and delusional was enough. By the time the final doctor deemed the
Sandman a simple outlet for me to process my parents’ divorce, the damage was done.Don’t worry about it, he said. It will pass, he said.That was five years ago.The divorce was a distant memory. My father moved across the country and my mother remarried, but the Sandman became a permanent fixture. One I’d learned to never, ever talk about.What’s going on? I pushed the thought toward the Sandman even though I knew he couldn’t hear me. There was only one call that reached from this side of the Dream World to his, only one cry capable of bringing him here, but it never stopped me from trying.I flung the sheets back with a huff and grabbed an oversized Lund Valley Community College sweater from the end of my bed. Natalie hoped we would go there together next year but… I wrinkled my nose and glanced at the dresser drawer where my sketchbook was carefully tucked between scarves. If I went to college at all, it would be for art, but that was a big if. No one in my family knew I drew, and if my mother was going to let me major in something “impractical,” she would want to at least see my work. Unfortunately, each page featured a majestic beach and a man hidden beneath a hood. Both things I was supposed to have forgotten long ago.Tugging the sweater over my head, I made my way through the dark hallway toward the stairs. My mother and step-father were both working the night shift at the hospital and my sister could sleep through anything, yet I found myself tip-toeing down the hall.I paused outside Katie’s door and listened to the steady, heavy breathing on the other side. Part of me wanted to wake my sister up to talk about what happened, but the other part of me—the part that remembered the piercing fluorescent lights of a therapist’s office—knew better. Katie had teased me about the Sandman when we were younger, but she never treated me differently. However, now we were older. Barging into her room to complain that my imaginary friend hadn’t shown up that night might alienate the last blood relative I could rely on.Although Katie annoyed me like no one else, I loved her more than I was irritated with her. I needed my big sister on my side—even if it meant hiding a huge part of my life. So, I stepped away from her door and crept silently downstairs to the kitchen.Maybe because I was about to steal someone’s box of frozen Thin Mints.Sorry, not sorry.Mist curled out of the open freezer, and I reached behind the chicken before a shrill, heart-wrenching scream tore through the house, squeezing the air from my lungs. It was made of nails and teeth and death. Of danger and fear. My eardrums rattled. Each nerve stood at attention, electricity buzzing over my body.“Katie?” I yelled, frantically abandoning my pursuit of the cookies.Confusion laced the edges of my shaky voice, but I was already racing across the kitchen. Instinct twisted my gut, telling me to turn and run, to save myself, but I couldn’t. Not if my sister was in trouble. Not if someone had broken in when no one was home to help. Not if Katie was hurt and scared. I propelled myself up the stairs to the second floor, my skin itching me to go faster, faster, faster. Katie’s door was still shut at the front of the hallway. My breath shuddered, and I reached for the handle, pausing with apprehension. The metal was cold in my palm.“Katie?” Her name came out as a crackling whisper and I forced myself to inhale. Then exhale. Inhale again. My hand shook as I twisted the knob.I eased the door inward. Without a barrier between us, the sound cut through me like a knife. I slapped a palm against the wall, hitting the light switch, and flinched at the sudden brightness. At what it might reveal.Katie lay flat on her back, her eyes shut tight, with the sheets snarled in a ball at the end of the bed. Sweat poured down her face, plastering her pink hair to her skin. The wild scream continued, unrelenting, her jaw stretched wide, her neck muscles
protruding. But everything else was in its rightful place. Nothing was broken. The lock on the window hugged its latch.I stepped into the room and spun, bumping into the dresser. My pulse thrashed; it mimicked Katie’s scream in pendulum beats. Loud then muffled then loud again. “Katie?” My voice felt tight. I knelt on the mattress and shook my sister’s broad shoulders. “Wake up.”The scream cracked. Katie sucked in air as if she were drowning and began again, just as terrified. I used the back of my wrist to wipe the moisture from my forehead. My nails dug into her shoulders, and I shook her rigid body with every ounce of strength I
had. The more I yelled her name, the more desperate, more savage, my voice became. Black spots danced in my vision. Nightmares were one thing, but this was something else. Something beyond that. I shook the dizzying fear away and darted into the bathroom across the hall.I returned with a Dixie cup of cold water and leapt onto the bed. The water hit Katie’s face with a splash. “Come on,” I shouted to no avail.I fumbled for Katie’s cell phone on the nightstand. If our mother didn’t know what to do, she could send someone who did. My thumb hovered over the direct number to my mother’s unit when a quick, metallic burst of air whooshed in from the hallway. A shiver ravaged my spine, and Katie’s pitch reached new heights. I slipped from the bed, my hip smashing into the floor. The phone fell from my hand, seemingly in slow motion. I lunged for the door, and slammed it shut, leaning my back against the wood.I couldn’t think.Couldn’t… I couldn’t…The walls seemed to shrink, boxing me in. Trapping me.Above the screech, a deep chuckle rumbled in the hall. My heart rose to my throat, and I dove for the phone where it had landed on the rug. I managed to dial nine before Katie’s scream cut off. Palpable silence penetrated the room. My rapid breathing mixed with my sister’s, and I edged up onto shaking knees. Katie rolled onto her side with a twitch.“Katie?” My voice came out as a squeak.She snuggled into the pillow, and her breathing returned to normal. Okay. She was okay. I turned my attention to the space at the bottom of the door. There was probably no one out there anyway. My sister’s screams threw me off after a confusing night, that’s all. I was merely tired and scared and was likely imagining the whole thing.But before I called anyone, I had to be sure.With the phone clutched in my hand, I crawled across the room to where the bright yellow handle of Katie’s tennis racket leaned against the wall. I gripped the hard foam and held it to my shoulder. I didn’t want to leave Katie alone but what choice did I have? I couldn’t call for help if no one was out there. My mother would have a field day.Clenching my jaw shut to keep my teeth from chattering, I dialed two one’s before opening the door. If anyone was on the other side, it would only take a single touch to call for help.I eased out, holding the racket in front of me, and flicked on the hallway light. The stillness slammed into me like a brick wall. “Okay, okay, okay,” I chanted under my breath. This was stupid. And yet… at five-foot-three and a hundred and ten pounds, an
intruder wouldn’t necessarily need to be armed to overpower me.My nerves exploded with a burst of adrenaline, and I leapt from room to room until each light bulb on the second floor glowed. I checked every closet, under every bed. The racket shook in my hand. There was nothing. No one. An irrational spike of anger zipped through me at the possibility of my brain’s betrayal.My body moved on its own accord, taking me downstairs one tentative step at a time. One million potential fates I might encounter, if there was someone lying in wait, coursed through my thoughts. The joints in my fingers locked around the phone with my thumb still over the green call button. My tongue was sandpaper against the roof of my mouth, and I crept through the living room.The freezer was still open, rattling in an attempt to keep the internal temperature down. I chomped down on my lip and inched my way forward to shut it. The rarely-used alarm system beside the back door taunted me—if only I remembered the code.It seemed like it took ages to finish searching the house. I looked everywhere from the coat closet to beneath the bathroom sink, but it had only been eleven minutes since I had woken up. No time at all, really. I gripped the back of a dining room chair to stay on my feet.There was no intruder. Katie had a nightmare, and my mind deceived me.Again.Always.Only this time, it wasn’t part of my subconscious. I wasn’t asleep. Katie had screamed. There was a blast of air. Someone had laughed.I swallowed the fear rising in my chest.No one believed they were crazy. I wasn’t sure what it meant if I thought I was unhinged but constantly persuaded myself to believe I wasn’t. Was I? Wasn’t I? Not even the doctors could agree on an answer. My sanity was a double-edged sword, and I was fighting to maintain balance on the tip.I dashed back to Katie and climbed in bed beside her, nestling close. I tucked the wrinkled sheet around us both and tried to ignore the nausea curdling in my stomach. Katie was older than me, bolder and more confident, but in that moment, she felt as fragile as blown glass. I wrapped an arm around her waist and squeezed my eyes shut. My ears strained to hear the slightest sound that could signal danger, but no one else was in the house.No one had laughed.The Sandman wasn’t real.I balled the back of Katie’s T-shirt in my fist. He was real enough to me, and I needed him. Please, Sandman, I called in a silent plea for the second time tonight—the one only he could hear. Help me sleep.
worked near shelter cats which led to her previous crazy cat lady status.
Title: STOLEN (Stolen #1)
Pub. Date: January 22, 2019
Publisher: The Parliament House
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo
AN EMBARRASSMENTShaleigh didn’t think about how much concrete and steel stood over her head as she stepped carefully down the
decaying hallway of Ferris Factory. The building had been abandoned for so long that the mildew and fungus ran rampant from the moisture that crept down the crumbling walls, so a respirator was a requirement. Ferris Factory was only two stories tall from the outside, but the floors underground felt endless. The elevator shaft only went down three floors when it had been operational; the rest of the floors could only be reached with the stairs. She doubted any of it had been inspected by the fire marshal.Her best friend, Kaeja, walked so close behind that she could feel her warm breath on the back of her neck. The only
sound that echoed up and down the hallway, besides their footsteps, was the snap of Shaleigh’s camera. The photos were why they risked their lives to explore dangerous places: to document the decrepit. It was thrilling to explore a place that nobody else would see. Eventually all the walls would fall, and Ferris Factory would decay into memory. Shaleigh and Kaeja would have the only remaining proof it even existed, especially since it was clear that nobody was
supposed to know about this section of the factory.A rat skittered out of a heap of moldy paperwork and Kaeja took a deep breath until it passed. “This is the worst one
yet. By far.” Shaleigh grinned, though her respirator concealed it. “Come on, we had to come back and take the stairs down. We couldn’t just end it at the base of the elevator.”“Do you see that?” She swung the flashlight to the side. “I couldn’t even hang a picture on that wall. Four floors down was enough, five floors is just begging to get hurt.”Kaeja was right, the walls of the hallway curved inward like a bow string. Shaleigh hadn’t noticed how bad it was
until she mentioned it. “We’ll be quick.”She snapped as many photos as she could while Kaeja held the flashlight. It illuminated a good portion of the hall, but the beam had little effect against the thick, sick air. The light ought to have made the place more inviting, but it only made the shadows darker. It was hard for Shaleigh to keep her hands steady for the photos; fear and exhilaration kept combating within her. Sure, this place was terrifying and could collapse at any moment, but the thought of capturing a world that would never been seen again, of documenting the forgotten before it disappeared, made her tap the shutter button of her camera faster. “I wish we had more time. I’d love to
look inside some of these rooms.”“Not me,” Kaeja said, her eyes shadowed by the reflections of the flashlight on her mask. “These halls are creepy enough, thanks.” The light flashed across some metal scraps against the bowed wooden wall. It was hard to tell if it had been left behind by the workers, or if it had fallen from the ceiling. “Didn’t they used to make cars here?”“Sure, that’s it.” Shaleigh snorted as she tapped on a dirt-encrusted sign that warned visitors that the hallway was a high security corridor. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”“It’s an old building, but that doesn’t mean they were hiding anything down here.”“Then what’s with the high security? They had to be doing something illegal down here. The maps we found don’t even show these floors. I heard it used to be a hospital,” Shaleigh glanced back to her with a smile. “Dad heard it from a colleague at work. They used to keep dangerous people here.” Kaeja stared at her, the beam from the flashlight in her hands trembling.A high-pitched squeal of metal echoed down through the insides of the building, as though the entire structure was
shifting under its own weight. The squeal turned into a groan that shook the very floor beneath their feet. Both teens froze, barely daring to breathe as debris fell from the ceiling. Seven levels of exhausted steel, wood, and plaster shifted over their heads. They stood in silence waiting for the walls to give way, waiting to be buried beneath the rusty metal beams, discolored linoleum floors, and rat-infested insulation; but the building remained steady.The noise stopped. Particles drifted in the air.“It doesn’t sound very good, does it?” Shaleigh whispered.“I don’t like it. I don’t care what you say, this is the lowest I’m going. Five levels below ground is far enough.”Shaleigh stifled a laugh, “That’s what you said when we found the stairs.”A high-pitched noise erupted down the hall causing both teens to jump. It didn’t sound metallic…it didn’t sound
like the building at all.Kaeja stared down the hallway with wide eyes. The noise broke into a whimper, and then there was silence. It only
lasted maybe a few seconds, but they both knew what they had heard. Someone was down there with them.Shaleigh turned to look behind them, but without the flashlight beam it was too dark to see anything. “Was that—was that behind us?”Kaeja spun around, temporarily blinding Shaleigh in the process. “I don’t know. I thought it came from in front of
us.”The darkness felt like a cage all around them. The beam of the flashlight, darting forwards and backwards down the hall, seemed so small and insignificant now. Someone was in the darkness. Someone was watching them. Shaleigh stepped around Kaeja and started back toward the stairwell. “We should go.”Kaeja grabbed her arm and Shaleigh could feel her clammy fingers through the sleeve of her jacket. “Are you crazy?
You said that’s where it came from.”“How else are we going to get out of here?”Kaeja could give no argument and shook her head. “Shaleigh…” she whimpered.“It’s okay, we’ll do it together.” She put her camera around her neck and took Kaeja’s hand. They walked slowly towards the door of the stairwell, side by side, fingers clasped in a death grip.For a moment, Shaleigh thought she saw movement ahead of them and stopped. Kaeja must have seen it too because she swept her flashlight left and right, searching for whatever it was. Just before the beam of light reached one of the doors, Shaleigh was certain she spotted a shadow move into one of the rooms.“Ow…” Kaeja whispered giving their joined hands a tug. Shaleigh realized she had been gripping too hard and
loosened her hold but didn’t say a word. Her eyes were fixed on where the shadow had been. As they drew closer, an arm stretched out, hairy with long, black fingernails, and pulled the door closed. There was a splash as though
something heavy had fallen into a pool of water from behind the door.Kaeja screamed. A bolt of adrenaline hit Shaleigh and she grabbed Kaeja’s arm. Together they ran. As they passed the door, the knob began to turn with a creak. She wasn’t sure if Kaeja had seen it or not. “Keep going!” she yelled, all pretense of caution forgotten.Once the stairwell came into view, they sped up. Shaleigh slipped on a wet spot and her foot skidded. She would have sprained her ankle if she hadn’t grabbed for the wall. What a stupid way to die, she thought as she regained her footing. She had to keep her head straight, because panicking in an old, decrepit building was a sure way to get
hurt or killed by whatever was after them. She forced them to slow down to climb over a pile of broken boards and nails. Shaleigh had thought it odd to have it so close to the stairwell when they’d first come down, but now she saw
it as a marker, a warning perhaps, to keep trespassers out. As she helped Kaeja down the opposite side of the rubble, she heard limping footsteps approaching them.“It’s coming!” Shaleigh cried and together they sprinted for the stairwell. The flashlight bounced beams off
the walls.They hit the metal door like a battering ram, shoving it into the rusted railings of the stairs, causing it to reverberate like a gong up and down the concrete shaft. Shaleigh gripped the metal rail, feeling the flecks of paint come off on her hands, and the raw rust beneath. She exchanged a glance with Kaeja, both trying to catch their breath. The respirator was humid with her breathing and she couldn’t wait to rip it off when they got outside. She looked up the dark stairwell above them and grimaced. There were too many floors between them and safety.Kaeja gasped and reached out to grab Shaleigh’s arm. Shaleigh stared at her. She thought she could make out
footsteps from the hall they just left, but it was so faint it was hard to make out. It could have just been the sounds of the building, but she didn’t want to take any chances. Taking a deep breath, Shaleigh led the way as they started up
the stairs.One floor, two floors, three floors.Was that the sound of the doorknob beneath them being turned? Kaeja hurried to her side as they continued to
climb. Both were audibly gasping now. It wouldn’t take much for their pursuer to know where they went. Shaleigh’s thighs were burning. She could sprint up a flight or two of stairs, but this was tough. It didn’t help that she was
already out of breath before they even started climbing.“What if it’s locked us in?” Kaeja asked between sucking in gulps of air.Shaleigh didn’t respond. She didn’t want to even consider that option.They climbed two more flights of stairs. Kaeja reached the door first. They both let out a sigh of relief when the door
opened. Panting, they jogged to the main exit, a pair of massive iron doors that looked like they belonged in a mausoleum. Neither of them said a word as they descended the short flight of broken steps to the grass. Shaleigh ripped off her respirator, Kaeja did the same, and they both exchanged grins as they crossed the grass-pocked concrete walkway. It felt good to feel the heat of the day on her skin too. The sun was sinking in the west, but the air was sweet with wild honeysuckle and a light breeze rustled the old oaks. Shaleigh relaxed a bit but could tell by Kaeja’s expression that she wouldn’t be able to relax until they had left the property completely.The concrete walkway fell away to tall grass that came up to their hips, as they sidestepped small pine trees that were beginning to take over the lot and moved further away from the building. The chain link fence that surrounded the property sported multiple warning signs for trespassers, though they were faded from exposure. Kaeja pulled back the corner of fencing they had used to get in, and they both climbed through without saying a word. Kaeja paused, took a deep breath, and relaxed her shoulders.“I know you’ll hate to hear this, Kaeja,” Shaleigh started. “But I think I’m done with Ferris Factory for a while.”Kaeja laughed. “No complaints here. I’m going to add that we never go underground again either. I am not running up that many stairs again, no matter how great you say the pictures will be.” Shaleigh couldn’t help but laugh. The downtrodden path through the woods made it a short walk to reach the bus stop. Shaleigh unwrapped the scarf from around her head and shook out her twists. The breeze felt wonderful on her scalp. They dropped everything into Shaleigh’s backpack as they walked. The main road was surprisingly empty for a Sunday afternoon. After exploring inside of decomposing buildings for a while, she had new respect for even the simplest things. The bench for the bus stop, covered in graffiti and bearing a single broken board, looked like a luxury. Kaeja sprawled across the broken wooden bench and covered her eyes with her arms.“Wow, what a rush!”“I know!” Despite her smile, Shaleigh still glanced over her shoulder, as though expecting the person from the building to be slinking toward them through the woods. “What do you think it was?”Kaeja stared up into the sky. “Someone crazy, I’m sure. It’s a good thing they made some noise. I don’t like the thought of them sneaking up on us like that.” She sat up and patted the bench beside her.Shaleigh obliged, her legs were still shaky. “Did you see that hand?”Kaeja shuddered, “Looked like he hadn’t seen the light of day in forever.” She stretched her arms over the back of the bench. “This is exactly why I don’t like the big ones. There are too many hiding places.”“The small ones aren’t much better,” Shaleigh added. “Sometimes it feels like a shot right out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you know?”Kaeja nodded and the two grew silent from their own nerves. Kaeja’s leg jumped up and down, as though at any moment she would jump up into a sprint. Shaleigh kept resisting the urge to look over her shoulder once more. The bus couldn’t come fast enough.
“Ugh, I need to think about something else.” Kaeja said with a tense smile. “You’ve got a party coming up tonight, don’t you? You get to get all dolled up. I know you don’t like the people much, but I do envy you getting to go.”Shaleigh sighed. “I had almost forgotten about it.” She checked her watch. It was a good thing they had left when they did because she still needed to get home and clean up. “If you like it so much, you can totally go for me.”“Your dad would never let me. He needs you there.”“Unfortunately.”Kaeja scooted closer and put an arm around her shoulders. “I’m sorry. I guess that is pretty hard on you. Do
they ask you a lot of questions about him?”Shaleigh nodded. She hated the tight feeling she got in her chest whenever she thought of those stupid parties. She
hated the fact that she had to go. Why in the world did Roseworth College have so many of them anyway? It was like they wanted to torture her.Deciding to change the subject, she picked up her camera from around her neck. After checking to make sure nothing had been damaged in their mad dash, she asked, “Want to see the pictures?”Kaeja nodded but looked concerned. Shaleigh ignored it.The brilliant light of the flash somehow made the dark halls of Ferris Factory less frightening, less dangerous. If only
people were so easy to strip of fear.
talking about, check out a few clips or read a few drabbles.
I’ve also been known to nerd out about Batman and The Hobbit, and have recently discovered the cracktastic fun of Black Butler cosplay, so there will likely be more
of these incidents.
Brie picked the wrong guy—gave him the
When her fiance walks out three weeks before their wedding, she slowly picks up the pieces with the help of her friends. A serial monogamist, she’s not quite ready to start dating again. There are some things she misses about having a boyfriend, though. Her friends convince her to try something more casual.
Random hookups have never been her thing. When a guy she has flirted with for a while offers his services to solve her dilemma, she can’t help but be intrigued. Now she’s trying to keep things casual, but when she’s wrapped in his arms, it’s hard to remember she’s not supposed to be falling for him.
Max has had a few hookups since he split with his last girlfriend. Lately, though, he feels like something is missing. He has crushed on the girl he affectionately calls Cheese for years, but the timing was never right. When he finds out they’re finally single at the same time, he is poised to make his move. Unfortunately, she’s only looking for something physical. Of course, Max is happy to oblige, but the more time they spend together, the more certain he becomes that she’s the perfect girl for him.
He pulls out all the stops, and just when he’s about to make his move from the friends-with-benefits zone to serious dating, Brie completely ghosts on him. Now he has to figure out if she has really walked away, or if something more serious is keeping him from the girl of his dreams.
Funny, sexy, and satisfying, The Dating Alternative is a standalone new adult/contemporary romance.
As I lay on the bed, wearing my ex-fiancé’s t-shirt and remembering the night he left me six months ago, I realize that tears are slipping silently down my cheeks.I’ve done reasonably well, too. The first week, I was catatonic. The first month, I was practically a zombie. In those days, even showering on my day off had been a challenge. Within a couple of months, though, I was doing better. By the ninety-day mark, I could be mistaken for someone who hadn’t been virtually left at the altar.Now, lying on the bed six months after Grant had thrown away our life together, I was almost indiscernible from a normal girl. Looking at me most days, you would never know that my life had been ripped apart by an exotic Olympian named Isabel and my former fiancé, Grant.I sit up, realizing how far I’d come since that night. I put the back of my hand up to one cheek, then the other. No more. That asshole doesn’t get another single tear from me. Control-G-Delete.
This Christmas Eve… no creature was
Except, maybe, a mouse.
At long last, can true love break the Nutcracker’s curse?
For Clara Stahlbaum, this Christmas means the end of her youth. A daughter of
the aristocracy, Clara is expected to give up her dreams of adventures and the
extraordinary for more normal days as the wife of a cruel Viscount.
But when magical Uncle Drosselmeyer returns with his wondrous, dancing
contraptions, and one…special gift for Clara, she is beckoned to the land of
Winter Dream, where she is thrust into the greatest adventure of her wildest
dreams. But will she be able to break the Nutcracker’s curse?
Uncle Drosselmeyer’s apprentice, Anton, is handsome as he is mysterious. But
what is it about him Clara finds so alluring?
Winter Dream is a phenomenal retelling of The Nutcracker from the eyes of Clara
Stahlbaum with all the magic of the Holiday season. If you loved S. Jae-Jones’
Wintersong, you’ll fall in love with this stunning tale of love, war,
redemption, and Christmas magic.
PROLOGUELarge, white puffs floated all around me. Sinking into my flesh with their cold, yet light kisses. Every snowflake
was different, specially crafted before it fell from the sky. They were beautiful, even as they melted. I tipped my head back to catch the snow as it fell. I felt as though I was floating through air, caught in a haze of ice flakes as sugary and sweet as the icing on the gingerbread house my governess and I had made together.I stretched my arms out to my sides, spinning in place.The green forest turned with me, a wood full of large spruces perfect for Christmas trees. They were decorated as such, lighted with white candles and draped in silver tinsel. On some, icicles hung on the tips of the limbs. It was a world in which the snow was like sugar and the air smelled delicious, like freshly baked cookies. It was perfect—a world of my own making, if I was capable of crafting something so… wonderful.“Clara…”The sound of my name trilled from a distance, carried on the cool, winter wind.Turning slowly, I peered over my shoulder, catching a glimpse of a young boy my age. He was dressed in a bright
red suit, adorned with golden epaulettes. His blond hair was brushed away from his face, revealing two bright blue eyes. His lips, pink as his cheeks, curved into a smile.“Clara…”“Yes?” I asked curiously, turning to face him. As I slid my hands over my cream and ivory lace nightgown, I suddenly
felt quite foolish. My mama had always insisted I never wear my bedclothes in front of guests or visitors. And yet, here, in this strange and beautiful world, such things hardly seemed to matter. He took my hand and flashed another
warm smile as he led me to a large, white carriage.“Where are we going?” I asked softly, pausing before the door. The panels were solid ivory, adorned with a golden
handle and step.“Winter Dream,” the boy said with a relieved expression. “Home. Home to Winter Dream.”“Winter Dream?”“I’ve come to take you back, Clara. To where I am—to where all the people who love you live.”“But I don’t know where this Winter Dream is. I’ve never been there…”“Come with me,” he beckoned, squeezing my hand gently. “Come. . .”The snow fell all around us; small flakes clung to the tips of our hair and eyelashes. As much as I longed to go .
. . there was something holding me back. Something. . .As I peered behind me, a small, dark shadow began to form. It started out small, like the size of a mouse, and it
grew—or was I shrinking? The boy beside me held my hand, and his eyes grew wide with fear.“No!” I screamed, tucking myself into his shoulder. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to know.“Clara, wait!” I heard him beg, his urgent tone tugging at my heartstrings. “Come with me, please.”“No! I want to go home!”As soon as the words poured from my lips, I woke with a start.Here, there was only me and the four walls of my bedroom. A sheer sliver of light crept through the space of an open curtain, sparkling with the bright white of the snow outside. It was quiet, as if the world had not yet woken. As if I was the only one no longer dreaming sweet things. Instead, while everyone else slept, I contained the chill of my
own strange dream.I buried myself beneath the duvet and hugged my knees to my chest. I was alone, completely and utterly alone.I closed my eyes tight, not wishing to face that Christmas morning. I wished only for the chance to slip back into my
dream. To return back to that magical world, where a boy with bright blue eyes was waiting for me. Back to the place where an enchanting land called ‘Winter Dream’ existed.
“The Songs in Our Hearts” with 48Fourteen Publishing, and
“Allerleirauh” with Parliament House Press, with future titles to follow.
Chantal first started writing stories at the age of seven and continues with that love of writing today.
The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig
by Don Zolidis
Janesville, Wisconsin (cold in the sense that there is no God)
The worst thing that’s ever happened to Craig is also the best: Amy. Amy and Craig never should’ve gotten together. Craig is an awkward, Dungeons & Dragons-playing geek, and Amy is the beautiful, fiercely intelligent student-body president of their high school.
Yet somehow they did. Until Amy dumped him. Then got back together with him. Then dumped him again. Then got back together with him again. Over and over and over.
Unfolding during their senior year, Amy and Craig’s exhilarating, tumultuous relationship is a kaleidoscope of joy, pain, and laughter as an uncertain future-and adult responsibility-loom on the horizon.
Craig fights for his dream of escaping Janesville and finding his place at a quirky college, while Amy’s quest to uncover her true self sometimes involves being Craig’s girlfriend and sometimes doesn’t.
Seven heartbreaks. Seven joys.Told nonsequentially, acclaimed playwright Don Zolidis’s debut novel is a brutally funny, bittersweet taste of the utterly unique and utterly universal experience of first love.
She laughed again. “You know what I’m saying?”
“Sure,” I said, realizing I had zoned out again and she had probably said something important. “It’s just like . . . ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.’ By T. S. Eliot.”
“Well, yes, but I think that’s more about alienation than anything else, and what I’m talking about is acceptance. Like,
Prufrock can’t accept that he’s changed and the world is becoming different, you know?”
“Yup,” I said, crossing it off in my notebook. Shit.
You’re probably beginning to understand why I wrote down things to talk about.
“I think my favorite line,” I said, looking down at the rest of my notes, “is ‘I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.’”
“Aww,” she said. “Why?
I smiled into my pillow. I hoped she could see it too. “Because that’s how I used to feel before I met you.”
“I’m singing to you,” Amy said into the phone. “Except I really suck at singing.”
“I think the singing is metaphorical.”
“Maybe they’re like the Sirens. Luring lonely poets to their doom. And really they’ve got teeth like knives and will rip you to shreds if you come too close.”
“That pretty accurately describes my love life up to this point.”
“I’m sure it’s not that bad.”
“It’s pretty bad.”
“Oh come on.”
Amy was my first girlfriend. Well, okay, there was Jessica Southern, my junior year, who I went out with for nine days. We kissed once, and then she decided that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Which it probably was. So, twelve days into my first relationship with Amy, we had already lasted exactly 33 percent more than my previous record (yes, I had done the math).
About the Author
Originally from Wisconsin, Don Zolidis is a novelist and one of the most-produced playwrights in America.
His 102 published plays have received more than 12,000 productions and have appeared in every state and 64 countries.
His first novel, The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in October 2018.
He currently splits time between Texas and New York and aspires to owning a dog.
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3 winners will win a finished copy of THE SEVEN TORMENTS OF AMY & CRAIG, US Only.
A Room Away from the Wolves
by Nova Ren Suma
Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.
Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave…
In the Dark
When the girl who lived in the room below mine disappeared into the darkness, she gave no warning, she showed no twitch of fear. She had her back to me, but I sensed her eyes were open, the city skyline bristling with attention, five stories above the street. It was how I imagined Catherine de Barra herself once stood at this edge almost a hundred years ago, when the smog was suffocating and the lights much more dim, when only one girl ever slept inside these walls of stacked red brick.
I was with my friend, if she could be called a friend, on the rooftop that night, close enough to pull her away or slip a word into her ear, close enough to push. I saw how far the gate was, how long the jump would be to reach it. I was there to witness how she flew.
It was dark, and I blamed the darkness. For those few moments, when she was midair and not even kicking, I practically became her. I grew her long legs and longer eyelashes, I lost the jumble of knots in my hair, I let the mistakes spill out of my suitcase and scatter without a care into the wind. I was falling, and falling fast. There was a hum in my ears like a song leaking through floorboards. The windows on the way down were all lit up, every one, people I didn’t know living their private lives inside as if no one could see. The skyline above sparkled the way stars used to at home, and I didn’t want to ever hit ground. I was someone here. I was someone.
Maybe that was what she saw, what she felt, what this house turned her into. She was out there beyond the ledge with nothing beneath her feet. She was high enough to clear the gate many times over. I swore she was out there. I swore the air had her, the night had her, the lights cast a ring all around her, and then the patch of darkness was empty.
I could see past where she’d been, as if I were sailing straight over buildings, beyond spires and scaffolding, past roof gardens and water towers, down through Lower Manhattan to the southern tip of the island, where the gleaming black bay took over. I saw the whole city spread out before me, sinister and strange and perfect. The air was clear, and she wasn’t in it. No girl was falling or flying. Every window was dark. And how oddly quiet it became, like a patch of forest where no person had set foot for what felt like days upon days.
When I remembered where I was, I crept closer to the edge, gripping the bricks to stay steady, and I did what I knew she wanted.
I leaned out into the vacant night—the air boundless, feathery gray, and blooming with possibility—and I looked down.
About the Author
Nova Ren Suma is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Walls Around Us, a finalist for an Edgar Award. Her new novel A Room Away from the Wolves is forthcoming September 4, 2018, from Algonquin. She also wrote Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology. She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in the Hudson Valley, spent most of her adult life in New York City, and now lives in Philadelphia.
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—Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter
– 1 Winner will receive a Copy of A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma
– 1 Winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon/PayPal Gift Card.
by Tracy Barrett
Sixteen-year-old Clancy Edwards has always been “the good girl.” Ever since her mother died in a skydiving accident when Clancy was young, Clancy’s father has watched her like a hawk. Between her dad’s rules and her boyfriend’s protectiveness, she’s longing for an escape this summer. Then she meets Denny.
Denny is a new skydiving student and college freshman. Clancy lets Denny think they’re the same age–and that she’s old enough to make decisions for herself. But the lies snowball, relationships are damaged, and suddenly Clancy isn’t the person she wants to be. If only making choices were as simple as taking a leap out of a plane. Before Clancy can make things right, one last act of rebellion threatens her chance to do so–maybe forever.
Jumpers try to avoid reserve rides, even though every instructor reminds students, “When in doubt, whip it out.” It’s not only the expense of paying a rigger to repack the reserve. Reserves open fast, and the hard opening can give you whiplash, but it’s not the discomfort either. The main thing is that jumpers are superstitious. If you dump the reserve and it malfunctions too, you’re sunk. Nowhere to go. Reserves just about never malfunction, and the odds against both the main and the reserve malfunctioning are astronomical, but still. . . .
So my mom had tried everything to clear the main. She did exactly what you’re trained to do, exactly what I’d heard my dad and Leon and Noel and Randy and Louisa and Patsy tell their students: “If the pilot chute or the main canopy gets stuck, you have to break the burble.” So she flipped over. It didn’t work, so she flipped back to cut away, so the canopy would fly away cleanly. She had no way of knowing that the AAD would fire at precisely the wrong moment, making the two chutes—the main and the
reserve—snag each other, and that neither one would open.
I watched to the end, seeing the pink canopy and the white one wrap around each other, making a big nasty barber pole that didn’t slow my mom down enough to make a difference. Then, when Angie dropped the camera, the ground came up, up, up to the camera lens, and then—whomp. And the screen went black. Was that the last thing my mom saw? The ground coming up, and then nothing? What did she think about in those last seconds? Did she think of me? Of my dad?
After I went to sleep, I saw it over and over again, only sometimes she cut away sooner and sometimes she cut away later. But no matter what she did, it ended the same way, with the camera thumping on the ground and the sounds of screaming and crying.
I woke up when my dad got home, and I wanted to ask him to come sit by my bed until I fell asleep again. I wanted to tell him about how Theo was acting weird and how confused I was about Denny—about whether he was just a DZ friend or whether he was interested in me (and whether I was interested in him), and what I should do about it if he was. Or I was. I wanted to confess that I’d driven the car on Travis day and had done just fine.
I couldn’t. He’d ground me forever. Anyway, he wasn’t the sit-by-the-bed-until-you-fall-asleep kind of dad, and even if he were, once I got started, I’d tell him about watching the video. And seeing that we hadn’t talked about my mom’s death ever, not even once, I couldn’t do that.
Copyright © 2018 by Tracy Barrett
About the Author
Tracy grew up near New York City, and went to college in New England and graduate school in California. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Classics-Archaeology from Brown University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval Italian Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study medieval women writers and won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Work-in-Progress Grant in 2005. She taught Italian and other subjects at Vanderbilt University for almost thirty years. She has two grown children and lives in Tennessee with her husband and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of FREEFALL SUMMER and Swags (signed bookplate and a silver skydiving pendant) by Tracy Barrett.
The Leading Edge of Now
by Marci Lyn Curtis
Just when Grace is beginning to get used to being an orphan, her estranged uncle suddenly comes forward to claim her. That might have been okay if he’d spoken to her even once since her father died. Or if moving in with Uncle Rusty didn’t mean returning to New Harbor.
Grace once spent the best summers of her life in New Harbor. Now the place just reminds her of all she’s lost: her best friend, her boyfriend and any memory of the night that changed her forever.
People say the truth will set you free, but Grace isn’t sure about that. Once she starts looking for it, the truth about that night is hard to find — and what happens when her healing hurts the people she cares about the most?
There’s a moment when I do not breathe, when my heart rate goes volcanic, when the distance to Rusty’s house seems so wide and so impassable that it will take me hours to scramble back.
Owen is staring at me, eyebrows crashed together like he’s trying to solve a particularly difficult crossword puzzle. It’s an expression I know well, seeing as how I’ve spent half a lifetime watching him stand in the garage, gazing at his projects as though he were unraveling the greatest mysteries of the universe.
I want to turn around and run.
I want to slap him.
I want to burst into tears.
What I do, though, is stare at him. He looks the same now, only different. While his dusty blond hair has been cut short, his eyes are the same — still clear emerald-green, big and serious, with lashes as long as palm fronds. He’s probably grown a full two inches since I last saw him, and he’s broader across the chest. On his right forearm is the small diagonal scar he got back in the third grade, when he tried to build a birdhouse for an endangered owl. I always considered that scar one of the things that made Owen Owen. But now it looks misplaced, inappropriate. I have to resist the urge to try to scratch it off. I close my eyes, like maybe I can erase his presence that easily. But he smells so familiar — like sawdust and coffee and soap — that this particular action only makes him more real.
I open my eyes again.
Owen plucks the headphones out of his ears. “Grace,” he says slowly, like he’s trying to remember how my name is pronounced.
Now would be the proper time to speak. But I’m pretty sure that my mouth has been blown apart and then reattached backwards and inside out, a couple of miles north of my vocal cords. So I just continue to look at him.
A few decades pass.
I clear my throat. It sounds like an old, brittle floorboard, creaking under bare feet. “You’re here,” I say, which is quite possibly the stupidest thing I could’ve said to him. Twenty-some-odd months of dreaming about getting even, and now all I can do is state the obvious.
About the Author
Marci Lyn Curtis is the author of young adult dramedies THE ONE THING and THE LEADING EDGE OF NOW. She lives near Tampa, Florida with her husband. You can find out more about Marci on her website (marcilyncurtis.com), on Twitter (@Marci_Curtis), on Instagram (@marcilyncurtis), or on Facebook (marcilyncurtis).
Purchase the book:
3 winners will win a finished copy of THE LEADING EDGE OF NOW, US Only.
by Paula Stokes
Embry Woods has secrets. Small ones about her past. Bigger ones about her relationship with town hero Luke and her feelings for someone new. But the biggest secret she carries with her is about what happened that night at the Sea Cliff Inn. The fire. The homeless guy. Everyone thinks Embry is a hero, too, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Embry thinks she’ll have to take the secret to her grave, until she receives an anonymous note—someone else knows the truth. Next comes a series of threatening messages, asking Embry to make impossible choices, forcing her to put her loved ones at risk. Someone is playing a high stakes game where no one in Embry’s life is safe. And their last move…is murder.
About the Author
Paula Stokes is the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.
– 1 Winner will receive a $25 gift card to Amazon, B&N, Etsy, or Society6.
– 1 Winner will receive a Choice of any Paula Stokes YA Novel.
– 3 Winners will receive a Hidden Pieces Swag Pack.
by AJ Banner
Beware of friends with secrets…
Imagine your closest friend utterly betraying you. Years later, when she seeks forgiveness, you invite her to your engagement party as a gesture of reconciliation. But seething hostilities rise to the surface, ruining everyone’s evening. After an awful night, your friend’s battered, lifeless body is found at the bottom of a rocky cliff.
Newly engaged Marissa Parlette is living this nightmare. She should be celebrating her upcoming wedding, but she can’t shake the image of her friend lying dead on the beach. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Or did she take a purposeful step into darkness? Desperate for answers, Marissa digs deep into the events of the party. But what she remembers happening after nightfall now carries sinister implications: the ugly sniping, the clandestine meetings, the drunken flirtations. The more she investigates, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her friends, the man she once trusted, and even herself.
Bestselling author A. J. Banner keeps readers on a razor-sharp edge in this intricately plotted novel of psychological suspense…in which nothing is as it seems.
3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
If you like a story where absolutely everybody is a suspect, then this is the novel for you. Even the narrator thinks she herself is to blame at some point.
The morning after Marissa and Nate’s dinner/engagement party, Marissa wakes up to find that her best frenemy and next door neighbor Lauren is dead. Did she fall or was she pushed from the cliff down to the rocks below? Marissa does her best to investigate who might have had a reason to want Lauren dead–and before ling she finds out there are plenty of potential killers.
Marissa is a likable enough main character, though she makes some decisions that left me scratching my head. There is a wide cast in this novel, and it seems all of them have something to hide, even down to Nate’s 9 year old daughter.
At times I might have felt the author was throwing in TOO many red herrings; it’s a bit tiring trying to keep up with every side character’s personal problems. Most questions do get answered by the end, but it felt more like tying up loose ends than integrating their plot lines into the story.
When the killer was revealed, I was definitely surprised, although the climax fell a little flat for me. I wish we would have gotten to see a bit more of the culprit throughout the whole of the book.
This is another good thriller offering, and you will devour it quickly just like I did.
About the Author
Born in India and raised in North America, A. J. Banner received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her previous novels of psychological suspense include The Good Neighbor and The Twilight Wife, a USA Today bestseller. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and six rescued cats.
Connect with A. J. Banner
One commenter will win a copy of After Nightfall. US/CAN only. Leave me a comment telling me your best friend’s name! Ends 9/7/18.