Lightning has struck!


JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD is here!  Finally!!

Joshua-Cover

Title: Joshua and the Lightning Road
Publication date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Donna Galanti

 Oh my gosh, I ‘ve been waiting for this for such a long time. This novel is sure to get Middle Grade students and YA fans talking. Check out the blurb.

BLURB

Stay away from the window, don’t go outside when it’s storming and whatever you do, do not touch the orb.

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper’s grandpa has always warned him about the dangers of lightning. But Joshua never put much stock in his grandpa’s rumblings as anything more than the ravings of an old man with a vast imagination. Then one night, when Joshua and his best friend are home alone during a frightful storm, Joshua learns his grandpa was right. A bolt of lightning strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever.

To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark place that steals children for energy. But getting back home and saving his friend won’t be easy, as Joshua must face the terrifying Child Collector and fend off ferocious and unnatural beasts intent on destroying him.

In this world, Joshua possesses powers he never knew he had, and soon, Joshua’s mission becomes more than a search for his friend. He means to send all the stolen children home—and doing so becomes the battle of his life.

swirl and flower scrollDoesn’t that sound so chilling?  I mean, come on. A child collector?  Shiver. It just sounds so incredibly awesome, so awesome I actually asked for a few sneak peaks from the publisher … and I got them!!  And now I’m going to share them with you.   Ready?

EXCERPTS

“One hundred. Ready or not here I come!” I said with more courage than I felt, pushing the attic door open.

Inky black swallowed me up. I darted my flashlight about, but its small,round light didn’t reveal much. The mustiness of old things hidden away filled my nose. Bo Chez, hurry home. The hair prickled on my forearms as the stairs screeched with each step and the landing loomed in front of me. Could a ghost with an axe be waiting to chop off my head? I took a deep breath, waiting for a blade to fall, butt he only thing lying in wait was a dusty bookshelf.

“Finn-man, I know you’re up here.” I flicked the flashlight around the room, its cold metal warming in my sweaty palm. Thunder crashed over my head and my ears popped.

One more step forward.

“Gotya!” Finn jumped up, his shadow against the window. I tripped and landed hard on my butt.

My flashlight twirled across the floor.

Then a blue arc of light struck the window. Glass exploded. Finn’s mouth froze in a wide ‘O’. I yelled and reached out to pull him down, but another zap of light blinded me. Finn screamed. Rain splattered my face, stinging with each drop. White dots floated in the air. Something gray billowed past me carrying a familiar, rotten stench that made me gag. A knobby hand grabbed me. I bit it and shoved it away, gagging again, and the hand dropped me back on the floor with the taste of salty dirt on my tongue. An angry howl blasted the air.

Zap. Zap.

Daggers of light shot everywhere as sharp glass cut into me.

“Finn!”

He floated in the shadows. Light erupted all around him, his eyes round with fear. The sky boomed overhead, and a deep laugh bellowed out as if the thunder itself were taunting me.

“Next time it’s you, boy,” a raspy voice said.

swirl and flower scroll

I am sooo ready to read this book, are you?

If so, scoot on over to one of the links below and grab you a copy.

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Galanti_DonnaDonna is the author of the Joshua and The Lightning Road series and the Element Trilogy. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at http://www.project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogs…, a cooperative of published middle grade authors. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com and www.ElementTrilogy.com. Donna wanted to be a writer ever since she wrote a murder mystery screenplay at seven and acted it out with the neighborhood kids. She attended an English school housed in a magical castle, where her wild imagination was held back only by her itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included!). There she fell in love with the worlds of C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and wrote her first fantasy about Dodo birds, wizards, and a flying ship (and has been writing fantasy ever since). She’s lived in other exotic locations, including her family-owned campground in New Hampshire and in Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives with her family and two crazy cats in an old farmhouse and dreams of returning one day to a castle.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Would you like to try to win a copy?  Go for it and follow the Rafflecopter Link below.

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY

Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Joshua and the Lightning Road by Donna Galanti (INT)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c08c9e8e347/?

#MINOTAUR cover reveal and Giveaway ~ #M9BFridayReveals


Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the cover for

Minotaur by Phillip W. Simpson

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Minotaur.v3

“Where shall I start?” asked Minotaur.

Ovid made an expansive gesture with both hands. “Where else but the beginning of course.”

Minotaur nodded his huge head. “Yes,” he said. “Yes,” his eyes already glazing over with the weight of thousand year old memories. And then he began.

So begins the story of Asterion, later known as Minotaur, the supposed half bull creature of Greek legend. Recorded by the famous Roman poet, Ovid, Asterion tells of his boyhood in Crete under the cruel hand of his stepfather Minos, his adventures with his friend, Theseus, and his growing love for the beautiful Phaedra.And of course what really happened in the labyrinth.

This is the true story of the Minotaur.

add to goodreadsMinotaur by Phillip W. Simpson
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Month9books

amazon

About-the-Author

Phillip W Simpson

Phillip W. Simpson is the author of many novels, chapter books and other stories for children. His publishers include Macmillan, Penguin, Pearson, Cengage, Raintree and Oxford University Press.
He received both his undergraduate degree in Ancient History and Archaeology and his Masters (Hons) degree in Archaeology from the University of Auckland.
Before embarking on his writing career, he joined the army as an officer cadet, owned a comic shop and worked in recruitment in both the UK and Australia.
His first young adult novel, Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1), was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for best Youth novel in 2012.

He is represented by Vicki Marsdon at Wordlink literary agency.

When not writing, he works as a school teacher.
Phillip lives and writes in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife Rose, their son, Jack and their two border terriers, Whiskey and Raffles. He loves fishing, reading, movies, football (soccer) and single malt Whiskeys.

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

Giveaway

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
Title will be sent upon its release.

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Ty Drago, Ty Drago, Ty Drago!


Yes, yes! YA Author and mastermind, Ty Drago, has a new book coming out in May,and everyone is talking about it. Check out this awesome cover!

Que up drum roll please!!

Last Siege Of Haven (The Undertakers #4) by Ty Drago

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Undertakers4ebook

While away on an undercover mission, Undertaker Will Ritter has made an unthinkable alliance…with a Corpse! But though Robert Dillin (aka ‘The Zombie Prince’) is indeed one of those alien invaders who animate and possess the bodies of the dead — unlike the rest of his kind, Dillin isn’t evil. In fact, he wants to help. And Will needs that help, because the Queen of the Dead has learned the location of Haven, the Undertakers’ secret HQ, and is planning a massive and deadly assault.

With the last day of the Corpse War finally upon them, Will and his friends find themselves in a desperate race to close the Rift between worlds and forever kill the Corpses. But can they do before Haven is overrun?

For that matter, can they do it at all?

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Last Siege of Haven (The Undertakers #4)
by Ty Drago
Publication Date: May 11, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books

Available for Pre-order:
amazon

About-the-Author

Ty Drago

Ty Drago does his writing just across the river from Philadelphia, where the Undertakers novels take place. In addition to The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses,The Undertakers: Queen of the Dead, and The Undertakers: Secret of the Corpse Eater, he is the author of The Franklin Affair and Phobos, as well as short stories and articles that have appeared in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest. He currently lives in southern New Jersey with his wife and best friend, the real Helene Drago née Boettcher.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
Title will be sent upon its release.

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ASHES IN THE SKY – Cover Reveal – Sqeeeee!!


Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the cover of

Ashes In The Sky (Fire in The Woods #2) by Jennifer M. Eaton

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

***

Oh. My. Gosh. I’ve waited so long to see this!!

The author, Jennifer M. Eaton, is a good friend of mine, an amazing beta partner and a fantastic author. I knew when I saw the cover for FIRE IN THE WOODS, that the other covers were going to be just as fantastic. I was right!  My heart be still!  Who else loves this cover?  And…as a beta reader…I can tell you the story is just as fast-paced and fantastic as FIRE IN THE WOODS.

I am so excited for Jennifer and her new baby.  Look at that alien greenness!!  🙂

Ashes In The Sky

After inadvertently saving the world, eighteen-year-old Jessica Martinez is ready to put adventure behind her and settle back into the familiar routine of high school.

Though when she’s offered an opportunity to photograph the inside of an alien space ship, Jess jumps at the chance. After all, she’d be crazy to turn something like that down, right?

Spending time with David on the ship has definite advantages and the two seem to pick up right where they left off. But when Jess discovers a plot to sabotage David’s efforts to establish a new home for his people on another planet, neither David’s advanced tech nor Jess’s smarts will be able to save them.

ASHES IN THE SKY is an action-packed, romantic Sci Fi adventure that will leave readers screaming for more.

add to goodreadsTitle: Ashes In The Sky (Fire in The Woods #2)
Publication date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books
Author: Jennifer M. Eaton

Available for Pre-order:
amazon B&N

About-the-Author

Jennifer M. Eaton

Corporate Team Leader by day, and Ranting Writer by night. Jennifer M. Eaton calls the East Coast of the USA home, where she lives with her husband, three energetic boys, and a pepped up poodle.

Jennifer hosts an informational blog “A Reference of Writing Rants for Writers (or Learn from My Mistakes)” aimed at helping all writers be the best they can be.

Beyond writing and motivating others, she also enjoys teaching her dog to jump through hoops—literally.

Jennifer’s perfect day includes long hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the fire with a great book; but her greatest joy is using her over-active imagination constructively… creating new worlds for everyone to enjoy.

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

FireInTheWoods.v6-Book1-Final

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Giveaway

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
Title will be sent upon its release.

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Cover Reveal For HUNTED – the electrifying sequel to BRANDED


I know a lot of people who are waiting to see  this cover.  For those of you who don’t know, BRANDED is YA dystopian novel that has taken the world by storm, and with characters like Cole, it’s not hard to understand why. Many have ranked this novel right up there with the Divergent series and I can understand why.  It is the first in The Sinners series, and has 433 5-star reviews on Amazon.

No wonder people are aching to see the cover for the next in the series, HUNTED.  So, without further ado … here it is. Oh, and don’t forget to keep scrolling down. There is a giveaway going on and a Chapter Reveal!!!!

Hunted

HUNTED is the electrifying sequel to the bestselling debut BRANDED, A Sinners Series, by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki.

It’s been three months since the revolt against the Commander’s fifty-year-old regime failed.

Under a new ruler, things were supposed to change. Get better.

But can anyone really be trusted?

Lexi and Cole soon find out, as life takes an unexpected turn for the worse.

In this ever-changing world, you must hunt or be hunted.

Lives will be lost.

Dreams will be crushed.

Fears will be realized.

Secrets will be exposed.

When Cole is once again faced with losing Lexi at the hands of a monster, one encounter will change everything.

Forever.

Connect with BRANDED fans on Instagram at:
#abiandmissy
#Sinnersfandom
#Sinnersseries
#Colexi
#Sinnersseriesbranded
#Brandedofficialfanpage
#Brandedfandom
#Lexihamilton

add to goodreadsTitle: Hunted (Sinners #2)
Publication date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki

Available for Pre-order:
amazonB&N

excerpt

You can read Chapter Three HERE!

Happy Reading and Enjoy!

About-the-Author

Abi and Missy 2

Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumbler

Giveaway

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

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YA Steampunk at its best! – A review of THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT-SO-INNOCUOUS GIRL


Today, I’m reviewing THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT SO INNOCUOUS GIRL.

Guys, I’ve got to tell you. I’ve had my eye on this book ever since I saw the cover last year. Look at this sweet cover art!

Innoculous Girl

I knew when I saw it I had to read it, so I signed up with Month9Books to get an ARC when they sent them out. I read it in less than two days. This book is everything I would want in a steampunk fantasy.

I rarely ever post the back cover blurbs in my reviews, but if you want to read it, you can find it at the bottom of this post.

Okay, so here are my thoughts.

This is a tried and true love story about two people from different worlds, different walks of life, who are in love with each other. Think Romeo and Juliette. Heathcliff and Catherine. Augustus and Hazel. Gatsby and Daisy. The theme has been done over and over before and this story is really no different as far as that goes. It’s sweet, and let’s face it – girls love romance, especially when there is a cute stable boy, or in this case, a smithie, and a wealthy girl who is full of spunk and determination.

But I don’t think this book would have had any draw for me if it weren’t for the steampunk aspect.

First, let me say I had my hesitations about this book. I’m not one for historical fiction and I really thought I would be bored by the 17th century French culture, but Statham makes it irresistible with her unique steampunk twist and all the gizmos and gadgets. I tell you, there were several times I wanted to jump in the book to see these things up close and personal. It was as if they were really real. I wanted see them, hold them, especially Marguerite’s cricket toy. I could go on for pages over the detail, the imagery. It was completely mind-blowing. I was drawn in right away by Statham’s imagination and her ability to make the reader feel like they were right in the thick of it. I was enthralled. Captivated, and all I kept hoping for was for this book to be made into a movie so I could see how the CGI artists would bring this world to life.

As for the characters, I found Marguerite very difficult to like in the beginning. She’s wild, reckless. Very defiant, but I couldn’t stop reading her adventure. She certainly plays with all of your emotions, but by the end of the story, I loved her. She developed and grew into this amazing individual, and discovering how her relationship with Claude grew and developed was a beautiful journey. Yes, it was clichéd on so many levels, but it was one thing I loved about the story. Statham not only did a wonderful job on Marguerite and Claude, but her secondary characters were well developed as well, with their own arcs, their own growth to achieve. It was quite refreshing.

I give this book a solid 4 stars for its steampunk originality and superb world-building. It added just the right spark to turn this otherwise mediocre, tried-and-true love story into something positively wonderful and delightfully different. I will definitely keep my eyes open for more books from Leigh Statham and I hope she keeps writing about her wonderful gadgets, toys and gizmos. She really is, my opinion, the Steampunk Queen of YA fiction.

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review 

Link to Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18308621-the-perilous-journey-of-the-not-so-innocuous-girl

Purchase Links:

Chapters Indigo | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TBD |

ABOUT THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT-SO-INNOCUOUS GIRL

 Title: THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT-SO-INNOCUOUS GIRL

Publication date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Leigh Statham

Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th century French girls can only dream of: Money, designer dresses, suitors and a secure future. Except, she suspects her heart may be falling for her best friend Claude, a common smithie in the family’s steam forge. When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love. Only the trip proves to be more harrowing than she anticipated. Love, adventure and restitution await her, if she can survive the voyage.

ABOUT LEIGH STATHAM:

Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but found her heart in New York City. She worked as a waitress, maid, artist, math teacher, nurse, web designer, art director, thirty-foot inflatable pig and mule wrangler before she settled down in the semi-quiet role of wife, mother and writer. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five chickens and two suspected serial killer cats. If the air is cool and the sun is just coming up over the horizon, you can find her running the streets of her small town, plotting her next novel with the sort of intensity that will one day get her hit by a car.

Connect with the Author: 

Website |Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl = Steampunk Awesome Birthday!


Today is THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT-SO-INNOCUOUS GIRL’s birthday!!

YAY!!!

OMGosh, I finished this book last night and it is soooo good. I’m not going to say much more because my official review comes out on March 22, but if you love steampunk, and YA historical fiction with a twisty-twist, you’re going to love this one! I mean, look at that cover!  *Sigh*

Innoculous Girl

ABOUT THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT-SO-INNOCUOUS GIRL

 Title: THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT-SO-INNOCUOUS GIRL

Publication date: March 17, 2015

Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.

Author: Leigh Statham

Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th century French girls can only dream of: Money, designer dresses, suitors and a secure future. Except, she suspects her heart may be falling for her best friend Claude, a common smithie in the family’s steam forge. When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love. Only the trip proves to be more harrowing than she anticipated. Love, adventure and restitution await her, if she can survive the voyage.

LINK TO TOUR SCHEDULE

There are quite a few peeps out there talking up this ever-so-awesome novel, so if you are so inclined, you can keep up with all of them here.

 WANT TO KNOW MORE? READ REVIEWS?

So, there’s not enough here to entice you to go out and grab a copy of this book? Check it out on Goodreads and see what people are saying.  As for me? I can’t say enough good stuff about this book. Leigh Statham is an author to watch.

Oh wait, who is Leigh Statham? *smacks forehead*.  Yes, well, I suppose it would be polite to introduce you to the author, duh.

ABOUT LEIGH STATHAM:

Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but found her heart in New York City. She worked as a waitress, maid, artist, math teacher, nurse, web designer, art director, thirty-foot inflatable pig and mule wrangler before she settled down in the semi-quiet role of wife, mother and writer. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five chickens and two suspected serial killer cats. If the air is cool and the sun is just coming up over the horizon, you can find her running the streets of her small town, plotting her next novel with the sort of intensity that will one day get her hit by a car.

Connect with the Author: Website |Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway Information!!!

Oh, and I forgot to tell you! There’s a Giveaway involved in all this birthday celebration.  Yes, you have the chance to win your very own copy of this awesome book.

Winner will be drawn April 13, 2015

·        Three (3) winners will receive a physical copy of The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham (INT)

·        Three (3) winners will receive a digital copy of The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham (INT)

How do you enter?  Just follow the Rafflecopter Link

Of course, if you can’t wait and you have to have your copy now, that’s okay, too.  There are all kinds of Purchase Links:

Chapters Indigo | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TBD |

Last but not least, head over to Leigh’s social media site and wish her and her novel a happy book birthday. She’d love to hear from you, and please, after reading her book, leave a review. It can be anonymous if you’re worried about seeing your name out there, but reviews help to spread the word and get other people to love the book as much as you did/do.  Show your author and book love with a review.

M9B Friday Reveal: Author Spotlight with Amy McNulty with Giveaway, and other news


Hi all!!

#Month9Books is featuring another of their new authors today. Her name is Amy McNulty and she’s written a pretty cool book titled, NOBODY’S GODDESS. you can read all about it and participate in the Giveaway over on my website page under News & Events.

On the home front, I’m working on my Chronicles of Fallhollow blog site that will only be available to my street team and peeps that have signed up for my Newsletter. I’m still trying to navigate through the world of Mailchimp and learning about campaigns, but I am certain I will have everything up and running by the end of the month. Well, I’m hoping I’ll have it together by then because I’m going to do the A-Z challenge where every letter will be centered around the trilogy, and more importantly, my debut novel and first in the series, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING.

As the time draws closer to publication date, there will be all kinds of sneak peaks, giveaways, early reveals, and never seen before goodies on my CoF blog.  I hope you will join in when the newsletter goes live.  I know I can’t wait to start sharing my novel with the world and with you.

Last, you know how you get some songs stuck in your head and no matter what you do, you can’t get them out?  Here’s the one that’s been rolling around in my noggin for the past few days, ever since #Mockingjay Part 1 came out.  There’s just something about the line:

But I got my fingers laced together and I made a little prison
And I’m locking up everyone who ever laid a finger on me
I’m done with it (ooh)

M9B Friday Reveal: Prologue for Nobody’s Goddess by Amy McNulty and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


My publisher, Month9Books has done it again!!  You’ve got to read this one!!

M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we will be unveiling the prologue for

Nobody’s Goddess (The Never Veil #1) by Amy McNulty

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Nobody's Goddess

In a village of masked men, each loves only one woman and must follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.

Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.

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Title: Nobody’s Goddess (The Never Veil #1)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Amy McNulty

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Prologue

When I had real friends, I was the long-lost queen of the elves.
A warrior queen who hitched up her skirt and wielded a blade. Who held her retainers in thrall. Until they left me for their goddesses.
Love. A curse that snatches friends away.
One day, when only two of my retainers remained, the old crone who lived on the northern outskirts of the village was our prey. It was twenty points if you spotted her. Fifty points if you got her to look at you. A hundred points if she started screaming at you.
You won for life if you got close enough to touch her.
“Noll, please don’t do this,” whispered Jurij from behind the wooden kitten mask covering his face. Really, his mother still put him in kitten masks, even though eleven was too old for a boy to be wearing kittens and bunnies. Especially ones that looked likely to get eaten for breakfast by as much as a weasel.
“Shut up, I want to see this!” cried Darwyn. Never a kitten, Darwyn always wore a wolf mask. Yet behind the nasty tooth-bearing wolf grin—one of my father’s better masks—he was very much a fraidycat.
Darwyn shoved Jurij aside so he could crouch behind the bush that was our threadbare cover. Jurij nearly toppled over, but I caught him and set him gently upright. Sometimes I didn’t know if Jurij realized who was supposed to be serving whom. Queens shouldn’t have to keep retainers from falling.
“Quiet, both of you.” I scanned the horizon. Nothing. All was still against the northern mountains save for the old crone’s musty shack with its weakly smoking chimney. The edges of my skirt had grazed the dusty road behind us, and I hitched it up some more so my mother wouldn’t notice later. If she didn’t want me to get the blasted thing dirty, she should have let me wear Jurij’s trousers, like I had been that morning. That got me a rap on the back of the head with a wooden spoon, a common occurrence when I was queen. It made me look too much like a boy, she scolded, and that would cause a panic.
“Are you going or not?” Darwyn was not one for patience.
“If you’re so eager, why don’t you go?” I snapped back.
Darwyn shook his wolf-head. “Oh, no, not me.”
I grinned. “That’s because you’re scared.”
Darwyn’s muffled voice grew louder. He stood beside me and puffed out his chest. “I am not! I’ve been in the commune.”
I poked toward his chest with Elgar, my trusty elf-blade. “Liar! You have not.”
Darwyn jumped back, evading my blow. “I have too! My uncle lives there!” He swatted his hand at Elgar. “Get that stick away from me.”
“It’s not a stick!” Darwyn never believed me when I said that Elgar was the blade of a warrior. It just happened to resemble a tree branch.
Jurij’s quiet voice entered the fray. “Your uncle lives there? That’s awful.” I was afraid he might cry and the tears would get caught up in the black material that covered his eyes. I didn’t want him to drown behind the wooden kitty face. He’d vanish into thin air like everyone else did when they died, and then we’d be staring down at Jurij’s clothes and the little kitten mask on the ground, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from giggling. Some death for a warrior.
Darwyn shrugged and ran a hand over his elbow. “He moved in there before I was born. I think a weaver lady was his goddess. It’s not so strange. Didn’t your aunt send her man there, Jurij?”
Jurij was sniffling. Sniffling. He tried to rub at his nose, but every time he moved the back of his hand up to his face, it just clunked against the button that represented the kitten’s nose.
I sighed and patted Jurij on the back. “A queen’s retainer must never cry, Jurij.”
Darwyn laughed. “Are you still playing that? You’re no queen, Noll!”
I stopped patting Jurij and balled my hands into fists. “Be quiet, Darwyn! You used to play it, too!”
Darwyn put two fingers over his wolf-mask mouth, a gesture we had long ago decided would stand for the boys sticking out their tongues. Although Darwyn was the only one who ever did it as of late. “Like I’d want to do what some girl tells me! Girls aren’t even blessed by love!”
“Of course they are!” It was my turn to put the two fingers over my mouth. I had a tongue, but a traitorous retainer like Darwyn wasn’t worthy of the effort it took to stick it out. “Just wait until you find your goddess, and then we’ll see! If she turns out to be me, I’ll make sure you rot away in the commune with the rest of the unloved men.”
Darwyn lunged forward and tackled me. My head dragged against the bush before it hit the ground, but it still hurt; I could feel the swelling underneath the tangled knots in my hair. Elgar snapped as I tried to get a grip on my attacker. I kicked and shoved him, and for a moment, I won the upper hand and rolled on top of him, almost punching him in the face. Remembering the mask, I settled for giving him a good smack in the side, but then he kicked upward and caught me in the chest, sending me backward.
“Stop!” pleaded Jurij. He was standing between us now, the little timid kitten watching first one friend and then the other, like we were a dangling string in motion.
“Stay out of this!” Darwyn jumped to his feet and pointed at me. “She thinks she’s so high and mighty, and she’s not even someone’s goddess yet!”
“I’m only twelve, idiot! How many goddesses are younger than thirteen?” A few, but not many. I scrambled to my feet and sent my tongue out at him. It felt good knowing he couldn’t do the same to me, after all. My head ached. I didn’t want him to see the tears forming in my eyes, though, so I ground my teeth once I drew my tongue inward.
“Yeah, well, it’ll be horrible for whoever finds the goddess in you!” Darwyn made to lunge at me again, but this time Jurij shoved both his hands at Darwyn’s chest to stop him.
“Just stop,” commanded Jurij. Finally. That was a good retainer.
My eyes wandered to the old crone’s cottage. No sign of her. How could she fail to hear the epic struggle outside her door? Maybe she wasn’t real. Maybe just seeing her was worth twenty points after all.
“Get out of my way, you baby!” shouted Darwyn. “So what happens if I pull off your mask when your queen is looking, huh? Will you die?”
His greedy fingers reached toward Jurij’s wooden animal face. Even from behind, I could see the mask tip dangerously to one side, the strap holding it tightly against Jurij’s dark curls shifting. The strap broke free, flying up over his head.
My mouth opened to scream. My hands reached up to cover my eyes. My eyelids strained to close, but it felt as if the moment had slowed and I could never save him in time. Such simple things. Close your eyes. Cover your eyes. Scream.
“DO NOT FOOL WITH SUCH THINGS, CHILD!”
A dark, dirty shawl went flying onto the bush that we had ruined during our fight.
I came back to life. My head and Darwyn’s wolf mask spun toward the source of the sound. As my head turned, I saw—even though I knew better than to look—Jurij crumple to the ground, clinging both arms across his face desperately because his life depended on it.
“Your eyes better be closed, girl!” The old crone bellowed. Her own eyes were squeezed together.
I jumped and shut my eyes tightly.
“Hold that shawl tightly over your face, boy, until you can wear your mask properly!” screamed the old crone. “Off with you both, boys! Now! Off with you!”
I heard Jurij and Darwyn scrambling, the rustle of the bush and the stomps of their boots as they fled, panting. I thought I heard a scream—not from Jurij, but from Darwyn. He was the real fraidycat. An old crone was no match for the elf queen’s retainers. But the queen herself was far braver. So I told myself over and over in my head.
When the last of their footsteps faded away, and I was sure that Jurij was safe from my stare, I looked.
Eyes. Huge, bulbous, dark brown eyes. Staring directly into mine.
The crone’s face was so close I could smell the shriveled decay from her mouth. She grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me. “What were you thinking? You held that boy’s life in your hands! Yet you stood there like a fool, just starin’ as his mask came off.”
My heart beat faster, and I gasped for more air, but I wanted to avoid inhaling her stench. “I’m sorry, Ingrith,” I mumbled. I thought if I used her real name, if I let her lecture me like all the other adults, it would help me break free from her grasp. I twisted and pulled, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch her. I had this notion that if I touched her, my fingers would decay.
“Sorry is just a word. Sorry changes nothing.”
“Let me go.” I could still feel her dirty nails on my skin.
“You watch yourself, girl.”
“Let me go!”
The crone’s lips grew tight and puckered. Her fingers relaxed ever so slightly. “You children don’t realize. The lord is watching. Always watching—”
I knew what she was going to say, the words so familiar to me that I knew them as well as if they were my own. “And he will not abide villagers who forget the first goddess’s teachings.” The sentence seemed to loosen the crone’s fingers. She opened her mouth to speak, but I broke free and ran.
My eyes fell to the grass below my feet as I cut across the fields to get away from the monster. On the borders of the eastern woods was a lone cottage, home of Gideon the woodcarver, a warm and comfortable place so much fuller of life than the shack I left behind me. When I was near the woods, I could look up freely since the trees blocked the eastern mountains from view. But until I got closer …
“Noll! Wait up!”
My eyes snapped upward on instinct. I saw the upper boughs of the trees and almost screamed, my gaze falling back to the grass beneath my feet. I stopped running and let the gentle rustlings of footsteps behind me catch up.
“Jurij, please.” I sighed and turned around to face him, my eyes still on the grass and the pair of small dark boots that covered his feet. Somehow he managed to step delicately through the grass, not disturbing a single one of the lilies that covered the hilltops. “Don’t scare me like that. I almost looked at the castle.”
The toe of Jurij’s boot dug a little into the dirt. “Oh. Sorry.”
“Is your mask on?”
The boot stopped moving, and the tip of a black shawl dropped into my view. “Oh. Yeah.”
I shook my head and raised my eyes. There was no need to fear looking up to the west. In the distance, the mountains that encircled our village soared far beyond the western fields of crops. I liked the mountains. From the north, the south, and the west, they embraced our village with their jagged peaks. In the south, they watched over our fields of livestock. In the north, they towered above a quarry for copper and stone. And in the east, they led home and to the woods. But no girl or woman could ever look up when facing the east. Like the faces of men and boys before their Returnings, just a glance at the castle that lay beyond the woods against the eastern mountains spelled doom. The earth would shake and threaten to consume whoever broke the commandment not to look.
It made walking home a bit of a pain, to say the least.
“Tell me something important like that before you sneak up on me.”
Jurij’s kitten mask was once again tight against his face, if askew. The strap was a bit tangled in his dark curls and the pointed tip of one of his ears. “Right. Sorry.”
He held out the broken pieces of Elgar wrapped in the dirty black shawl. He seemed very retainer-like. I liked that. “I went to give this back to the—the lady. She wasn’t there, but you left Elgar.”
I snatched the pieces from Jurij’s hands. “You went back to the shack? What were you going to say? ‘Sorry we were spying on you pretending you were a monster, thanks for the dirty old rag?’”
“No.” Jurij crumpled up the shawl and tucked it under his belt. A long trail of black cloth tumbled out immediately, making Jurij look like he had on half a skirt.
I laughed. “Where’s Darwyn?”
“Home.”
Of course. I found out later that Darwyn had whined straight to his mother that “nasty old Noll” almost knocked his mask off. It was a great way to get noticed when you had countless brothers and a smitten mother and father standing between you and any form of attention. But it didn’t have the intended effect on me. I was used to lectures, and besides, there was something more important bothering me by then.
I picked up my feet to carry me back home.
Jurij skipped forward to join me. One of his boots stumbled as we left the grasses behind and hit the dirt path. “What happened with you and the crone?”
I gripped the pieces of Elgar tighter in my fist. “Nothing.” I stopped, relieved that we’d finally gotten close enough to the woods that I could face forward. I put an arm on Jurij’s shoulder to stop him. “But I touched her.” Or she touched me. “That means I win forever.”
The kitten face cocked a little sideways. “You always win.”
“Of course. I’m the queen.” I tucked the broken pieces of Elgar into my apron sash. Elgar was more of a title, bestowed on an endless number of worthy sticks, but in those days I wouldn’t have admitted that to Jurij. “Come on. I’ll give you a head start. Race you to the cavern!”
“The cavern? But it’s—”
“Too late! Your head start’s over!” I kicked my feet up and ran as if that was all my legs knew how to do. The cool breeze slapping across my face felt lovely as it flew inside my nostrils and mouth. I rushed past my home, not bothering to look inside the open door.
“Stop! Stop! Noll, you stop this instant!”
The words were something that could easily come out of a mother’s mouth, but Mother had a little more patience than that. And her voice didn’t sound like a fragile little bird chirping at the sun’s rising. “Noll!”
I was just an arm’s length from the start of the trees, but I stopped, clutching the sharp pain that kicked me in the side.
“Oh dear!” Elfriede walked out of our house, the needle and thread she was no doubt using to embroider some useless pattern on one of the aprons still pinched between two fingers. My sister was a little less than a year older than me, but to my parents’ delight (and disappointment with me), she was a hundred times more responsible.
“Boy, your mask!” Elfriede never did learn any of my friends’ names. Not that I could tell her Roslyn from her Marden, either. One giggling, delicate bird was much like another.
She walked up to Jurij, who had just caught up behind me. She covered her eyes with her needle-less hand, but I could see her peeking between her fingers. I didn’t think that would actually protect him if the situation were as dire as she seemed to think.
“It’s crooked.” Elfriede’s voice was hoarse, almost trembling. I rolled my eyes.
Jurij patted his head with both hands until he found the bit of the strap stuck on one of his ears. He pulled it down and twisted the mask until it lined up evenly.
I could hear Elfriede’s sigh of relief from where I was standing. She let her fingers fall from her face. “Thank the goddess.” She considered Jurij for a moment. “There’s a little tear in your strap.”
Without asking, she closed the distance between them and began sewing the small tear even as the mask sat on his head. From how tall she stood above him, she might have been ten years older instead of only two.
I walked back toward them, letting my hands fall. “Don’t you think that’s a little stupid? What if the mask slips while you’re doing that?”
Elfriede’s cheeks darkened and she yanked the needle up, pulling her instrument free of the thread and tucking the extra bit into the mask strap. She stood back and glared at me. “Don’t you talk to me about being stupid, Noll. All that running isn’t safe when you’re with boys. Look how his mask was moving.”
His mask had moved for even more dangerous reasons than a little run, but I knew better than to tell tattletale Elfriede that. “How would you know what’s safe when you’re with boys? You’re already thirteen, and no one has found the goddess in you!” Darwyn’s taunt was worth reusing, especially since I knew my sister would be more upset about it than I ever was.
Elfriede bit her lip. “Go ahead and kill your friends, then, for all I care!” The bird wasn’t so beautiful and fragile where I was concerned.
She retreated into the house and slammed the door behind her. I wrapped my hand around Jurij’s arm, pulling him eastward. “Come on. Let’s go. There’re bound to be more monsters in the cavern.”
Jurij didn’t give beneath my pull. He wouldn’t move.
“Jurij?”
I knew right then, somewhere in my mind, what had happened. But I was twelve. And Jurij was my last real friend. I knew he’d leave me one day like the others, but on some level, I didn’t really believe it yet.
Jurij stood stock still, even as I wrenched my arm harder and harder to get him to move.
“Oh for—Jurij!” I yelled, dropping my hands from his arm in frustration. “Ugh. I wish I was your goddess just so I could get you to obey me. Even if that means I’d have to put up with all that—yuck—smooching.” I shivered at the thought.
At last Jurij moved, if only to lift his other arm, to run his fingers across the strap that Elfriede had mended. She was gone from my sight, but Jurij would never see another.
It struck them all. Sometime around Jurij’s age, the boys’ voices cracked, shifting from high to deep and back again in a matter of a few words. They went from little wooden-faced animals always shorter than you to young men on their way to towering over you. And one day, at one moment, at some age, earlier for some and later for others, they looked at a girl they’d probably seen thousands of times before and simply ceased to be. At least, they weren’t who I knew them to be ever again.
And as with so many of my friends before Jurij, in that moment all other girls ceased to matter. I was nothing to him now, an afterthought, a shadow, a memory.
No.
Not him.
My dearest, my most special friend of all, now doomed to live or die by the choice of the fragile little bird who’d stopped to mend his strap.

 

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

Amy McNulty

Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently spends her days alternatively writing on business and marketing topics and primarily crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.

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Cover Reveal: Joshua and the Lightning Road by Donna Galanti with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


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Joshua and the Lightning Road by Donna Galanti

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Joshua and The Lightning Road

Stay away from the window, don’t go outside when it’s storming and whatever you do, do not touch the orb.

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper’s grandpa has always warned him about the dangers of lightning. But Joshua never put much stock in his grandpa’s rumblings as anything more than the ravings of an old man with a vast imagination. Then one night, when Joshua and his best friend are home alone during a frightful storm, Joshua learns his grandpa was right. A bolt of lightning strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever.

To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark place that steals children for energy. But getting back home and saving his friend won’t be easy, as Joshua must face the terrifying Child Collector and fend off ferocious and unnatural beasts intent on destroying him.

In this world, Joshua possesses powers he never knew he had, and soon, Joshua’s mission becomes more than a search for his friend. He means to send all the stolen children home—and doing so becomes the battle of his life.

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Title: Joshua and the Lightning Road
Publication date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Tantrum Books/Month9Books
Author: Donna Galanti

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

Donna Galanti

Donna Galanti writes murder and mystery with a dash of steam as well as middle grade adventure fiction. She is the author of books 1 and 2 in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, A Human Element and A Hidden Element, the short story collection The Dark Inside, and Joshua and The Lightning Road (Books 1 and 2, 2015). She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. It has lots of writing nooks, fireplaces, and stink bugs, but she’s still wishing for a castle again—preferably with ghosts. For more information on Donna and A Human Element, please visit: http://www.ElementTrilogy.com AND http://www.donnagalanti.com

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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