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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Kallum's Fury by E Michael Mettille Cover Reveal and Giveaway!


Title: Kallum's Fury
Series: Lake of Dragons Series #2
By: E. Michael Mettille
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: TMR Books
Cover Design: Mayhem Cover Creations
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Five summers have passed since Maelich and Cialia bested Kallum over the Forgotten Forest and scattered the god to the wind. Ouloos is entering an era of peace like none the world has ever known. Tragedy strikes. Ymitoth is killed at the hands of dead-eyed men bearing an uncanny resemblance to Kallum’s priests. The loss proves too great for Maelich to cope. His sanity slips and he vanishes. Cialia embarks on a quest to find her lost brother. Along the way she learns her former city, Druindahl, has entered a period of darkness. The people she once protected are at the mercy of mercenaries interested only in coin and presided over by a king powerless to stop them. The cruelty she finds in the hearts of these horrible, false riders of Druindahl is more than she can stand. She finds her flame. The aftermath challenges the very core of her moral beliefs. Meanwhile, war threatens the shores west of Havenstahl. Without the city’s two greatest heroes to protect her, one man must stand up and lead the armies of the greatest city of men against an unstoppable force of monsters from across the Great Sea. Riddled with uncertainty, Daritus must stand tall against overwhelming self-doubt and lead his soldiers into a war more perilous than any in Havenstahl’s history. Ouloos will never be the same.
PROLOGUE
A GOOD DAY FOR HUNTING
It was far too late in the morning to begin a hunt. The sun already flirted with the very pinnacle of its ascent. Before Ymitoth reached the next clump of trees, the bright lord of the sky would be on its slow dive into the Great Sea to swim the dark waters until once again it was time to kiss Ouloos with the light of a new day. A late start didn’t matter much to Ymitoth. The hunt wasn’t really what drew him out of the throne room and into an unfamiliar saddle on an unfamiliar horse. It was the trail he yearned for—fresh air and freedom from the daily squabbles of those who called him king. The road forever beckoned, tugging his attention away from his duties and mundane questions of who did what to whom and why it wasn’t fair. Sadly, the weight of his crown kept him firmly planted within the walls of his great city. Each day the freedom of the trail seemed to slip further and further away, a fond memory slowly fading into the murky obscurity of forgotten loves. The horse shifted awkwardly, reminding Ymitoth of another lost love. Pride was a sturdy, black steed, built for miles on the trail and fast as the westerly wind ahead of a furious storm, but he was no Rumallah. More than merely an ample mode of transportation, Rumallah had been his only companion on many a journey. The king’s heart ached even more for the old horse than it did for the open trail. In sixty summers he hadn’t met a man he trusted more than that animal. If only he could have one more adventure racing over rolling meadows, stooping to drink from the cool waters of a forest brook, and battling fearsome, nightmare creatures from the darkest places where the feet of good folk don’t tread. Alas, even if he could find a bit of freedom to do any of those things, his old friend would remain absent. Nothing could ever fill the empty spot Rumallah left in his heart when he departed this world. “Ye think we’ll be seeing anything for the wall, highness?” a voice from behind tugged him away from his melancholy, another stark reminder he could never be alone on the trail as long as the damned crown of Havenstahl called his head its home. He turned the home for a crown enough to make eye contact with Egete as he replied, “Any life we be taking from the trail be filling our bellies not decorating our walls.” “Forgive me, highness,” Egete’s eyes dropped quickly away from the king’s stern gaze. Ymitoth ignored it. Egete was a solid soldier and a sturdy guard who still managed to wield a downright friendly personality. As far as guards go, he was probably the king’s favorite. He certainly didn’t earn Ymitoth’s sour look. In fact, his statement hadn’t really bothered the king at all. Any words leaving his mouth would have earned a negative response. His presence was what truly bothered the king of the greatest city of men. Not because of anything he had done, simply because the trail and Rumallah were the only company Ymitoth cared to keep just then. In Rumallah’s absence, Pride would have to do. Egete and Scrih—the other guard accompanying Ymitoth on his hunt—were about as wanted as a three-inch thorn in the arch of a tired foot. The taste of sweet solitude on the trail was the one thing Ymitoth hungered for and the one thing he couldn’t have as the king. A brief flash of brown in a dark and familiar clump of trees caught the king’s attention. “Whisht,” something like a whistle without a tongue blasted sharp and quick from his lips as he raised his left arm and nodded toward the trees. Egete and Scrih tugged the reins of their respective horses, halting them immediately behind the king. Ymitoth shot an intense, narrow-eyed scowl in their direction to stifle any words that may have been knocking against the backs of their teeth. The heavy look carried more meaning than anything the king had said since passing through the gates of Havenstahl. After a few moments of startling quiet, disturbed only by the sound of lightly rustling leaves blowing about in the random clumps of trees surrounding the three hunters and the slow rush of waters from the River Galgooth flowing behind them, Ymitoth pointed while nodding at the dark clump of trees. Scrih sat just a notch lower than Egete in Ymitoth’s eyes. They would stand equal if only Scrih had stronger control of his tongue. “I ain’t be seeing nothing there, highness,” he blurted. “Shh,” Ymitoth scolded before shaking his head and whispering, “These eyes have watched me friends toast me sixtieth summer and ye’re telling me they be seeing more than the keen eyes of one so fresh to the trail?” Scrih silently shrugged while Egete added, “I ain’t be seeing nothing either.” “Fine hunting partners the two of ye have turned out to be,” the king shook his head as he raised his bow and knocked an arrow. As he drew his bowstring back and exhaled, Ymitoth’s body relaxed. All the tension tightening up his muscles and hardening his face fled on a current of hot breath. His old eyes scanned the dark clump for the faint flicker that caught them in the first place. Finally, it came again, barely a shape and scarcely a color. He remained frozen in odd, relaxed tension, all but forgetting about the two behind him. His intense focus sharpened and pierced deeper into the darkness beneath the mingling crowns of the trees. To Egete and Scrih he must have appeared stiff and rigid, more like a stone statue or a painting than a real, flesh and blood man. If only he could show them what he was feeling inside. That would be a lesson. They could marvel at the stillness of his form, the absence of even the slightest wobble or twitch as he held his bowstring back. The missing piece of the lesson, what he couldn’t show them or even describe with words, was how completely at ease he felt. Adrenaline pumped no matter how many hunts a man boasted. Experience didn’t stop the heart from racing. That was the thrill of the hunt, and it was always present. Controlling it was the trick. Learning to let your heart pound wild without allowing your body to fumble along behind it is what separates the hungry man from the fed man. He could have remained that way without flinching far into the darkness of night. However, the mighty hunter’s composure crumbled when his target stepped out into the light. Ymitoth shrunk in his saddle like fat melting on a hot stone as three cloaked figures slowly approached from the shadows. Nearly eighteen summers had passed since he faced down the dead- eyed men in the cathedral at Havenstahl, yet his paralyzing fear was as fresh as the day that memory was painted on his brain. “Run,” he could barely hear his own voice as terror squeezed his lungs, only allowing him enough air for a hoarse whisper. Egete and Scrih regarded their king with twisted, queer expressions. After a few moments of struggling with his lips, Ymitoth finally found his voice and shouted, “From a mere three men?” Scrih’s expression matched the incredulous tone of his voice. “Damn it, that ain’t no request. It be a command from your king,” the volume of Ymitoth’s voice filled the clearing. “Have ye ever known me to be fearing any man or anything?” “Not in all me days, highness,” Egete shook his head slowly. “Not a chance, highness,” Scrih’s reply quickly followed. “Well I tell ye true lads, fear be tearing at me spine as I be sitting here trembling before ye. Now run, damn it,” Ymitoth’s cheeks shook with the force of his words. “Ye can be punishing me later, highness. But if there be a force in this land so awful as to be scaring the wits out of the bravest man I ever served, I’ll be cutting that terror down,” Scrih shouted as he drew his sword and slammed his heels into his horse’s flanks, driving the animal toward the three cloaked men. Egete fell in right behind Scrih shouting, “Make haste, highness,” over his shoulder. Ymitoth closed his eyes for the briefest moment, “Them boys damn hearts be far bigger than their damn brains.” Despite wrestling with the kind of mind-numbing fear that reduces most men to blubbering fools, duty prevailed. Ymitoth fired three quick arrows before charging after the stout, young soldiers who were so eager to prove their worth. Had they heeded his warning, all three of them would be on a hard gallop back to Havenstahl. The arrows sliced the air one after another, splitting the space between Egete and Scrih. All of them bounced harmlessly away from the dirty, brown cloak they connected with. Confusion knotted up the expression on Scrih’s face as he looked back over his left shoulder at his king. Then both he and Egete came to a halt. Ymitoth stopped directly behind his two soldiers before urging Pride in front of “Highness,” Egete complained. “No, lad,” Ymitoth kept his steely glare fixed on the dirty, brown cloak that led the group of three and stood a mere ten feet in front of him, “Ye ain’t be having no idea what ye be dealing with here. I do, and it ain’t nothing less than death.” A low, deep chuckle emanated from the cloak, as the shape beneath it raised both hands to draw the hood back. Ymitoth failed to suppress a gasp. Two black, dead eyes—lifeless orbs that had haunted his dreams ever since he faced the three in the cathedral at Havenstahl—glared at him. The last time he saw those eyes in the waking world had been shortly after celebrating Maelich’s twelfth year. Even after all the years that had drifted by since the terrifying night so long ago, the horrors were as fresh as the breeze upon his neck. As his focus remained locked on those two empty globes, he was only faintly aware of something resembling a smile slithering beneath the orange mange under the twisted nose immediately below them. Ymitoth drew a deep breath in through his nose. There was something foul about the aroma of the wet decay of leaves from the damp ground beneath the trees. Normally he found the scent rather appealing. Staring at the nightmares before him made the odor far less pleasant. Without averting his steely gaze, he growled through clenched teeth, “Race back to Havenstahl, lads. Tell them the king has fallen and a nightmare be coming to batter our gates. Find Maelich, and tell him dead-eyed men be walking about the woods of Havenstahl.” “No, highness,” Scrih’s voice carried a measure of authority. “Aye,” Egete agreed. “We ain’t be going nowhere without ye, highness.” Ymitoth sighed and shook his head, “Lads—” “Such fierce loyalty for their king,” the dead-eyed man goaded. “I am impressed. And king, no less. That is equally impressive. When last we met, you were but a crude swordsman training an insolent brat to swing sharpened metal around. Look how far you have come.” “Aye,” Ymitoth scowled, “a king I be. But I warn ye, this sword at me hip ain’t for show. I swing this lady hanging at me side with vicious intent.” The dead-eyed man’s stillness made the volume of his laugh seem impossible. The horrible sound filled the air around Ymitoth and his guards, startling the horses that stamped and whinnied in response. Much like a cornered animal puffs up its chest in the hopes of frightening off a threatening predator, Ymitoth pressed on, “Ain’t a jest left me lips, ye vile thing.” The horrible laughter ceased as quickly as it began, “Therein lies the brilliance of your humor. It is completely unintended.” The foul creature paused. “I am still not convinced whether you believe your boasts, or if you are merely feigning bravery for the sake of your men. I assume the latter. Even a gruff swordsman parading as king must be wise enough to realize the folly in standing against a herald of the one true ruler of Ouloos, god of creation, and master of all things.” “I fear nothing,” Ymitoth spat as he drew his sword and leapt off Pride’s back with the grace of a warrior half his age. Before the muddy bottoms of the king’s boots kissed even the tip of a blade of grass, Egete and Scrih charged. Hooves tore into the wet trail, tossing muddy clumps of grass up into the air behind them. Ymitoth barely took a step toward the monster before the heavy air beneath the trees thickened once again with the deep horror of the dead-eyed man’s laugh. Like a premonition, the next act danced out on the stage of a brief, waking dream flashing through his consciousness. Before he managed even a step toward the horror threatening his men, the nightmare manifested itself in two pairs of claws shooting out from beneath the sleeves of the other two dirty, brown robes. His feet froze as he helplessly watched his faithful guards dashed against the ground in heaps while their horses—life gushing from throats torn open by sharp talons—rose toward the treetops. “No,” a throaty shout grew from deep in Ymitoth’s gut, filling the air and challenging the might of the dead-eyed man’s laugh. The dead-eyed men paid him no heed. Their leader offered Ymitoth that same silent, snaky smile as his two companions yanked back their hoods and leapt onto the broken piles Ymitoth considered the finest of his guard. The king remained frozen as half of a hand landed near his foot, and the air before him filled with pieces of Egete and Scrih. Mere moments later, lifeless eyes glared up at him from heads no longer connected to the bodies that had carried them around. Their dead stares seemed to accuse him. It was more than he could stand. The warrior charged.
Amazon UK - http://goo.gl/PtDWzi
Amazon CA - http://goo.gl/1F3oIT
E. Michael Mettille is the pen name of Mike Reynolds. Mike Reynolds is the author of Lake of
Dragons and Hell and the Hunger. Mike has also written numerous short stories and poems. He has spent the last twenty years in direct marketing, print, and communication. Mike is fascinated by history, belief systems, the human condition and how all of those things work together to define who we are as a people. The world is a wonder and, based on the history of us, it is a wonder we have a world left to wonder about. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, he now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Shelia.






Social Media Links
Twitter: @MikeReynoldsAut  
Website: www.themikereynolds.com

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sugar & Other Luxuries by Everly Scott Blog Tour and Giveaway :)

Title: Sugar & Other Luxuries
By: Everly Scott
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Cover Design: Mayhem Cover Creations
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Chick Lit

Katherine Humphries wants to find the love of her life. As a recovering perfectionist who hasn’t been on a date in five years, finding love is harder than she thought. Faced with beginning her twenty-sixth year of life insecure and living in Los Angeles where men and women either ignore or insult her curvy existence, Katherine decides to make dating her bitch. She’s not changing her curvy body. She won’t put down the dessert. And she isn’t going to apologize for any of it. Her first night out ends nothing like she’d planned. When a flirty and rugged New Yorker asks for her phone number, Katherine freezes. She’s ready to give up before heartbreak happens. That is, until she meets a polyamorous, fairy-godmother-wanna-be, Hunter. The self proclaimed Queen of Pleasure coaches Katherine on badass, dating etiquette. Hunter’s first rule? Don’t fall in love. The second rule? Perfection doesn’t exist. But when a bet with a sexy and sensitive music teacher changes her perspective on the dating game, Katherine learns that breaking badass rule #1 before loving every inch of herself might spell trouble. On the other hand, breaking rules might be exactly what Katherine needs to discover the true power of a woman’s body, the sugary sweetness of indulgence, and whether saying yes to her dream life against the wishes of advice-slinging friends will lead to heartache or harmony.

 Amazon US - http://amzn.to/1QyY5ZO
Amazon UK - http://goo.gl/0YNGGA
Amazon CA - http://goo.gl/8x4AoU


Chapter One
I spent the first half of my twenties accusing myself of being a feminist fraud for wanting a boyfriend who thought I was perfect. I had been a good girl, a maniacal, career-focused, intellectually stimulated woman who leaned-in, took a seat at the table, and made my voice so heard I had become hoarse. But none of that seemed to matter in the Los Angeles dating world. Looking for love had led me into the defined biceps of guys who thought I might turn into an acceptable companion if, and only if I changed something about myself. If I lost fifteen pounds. If I didn’t say “fuck” so much. If I made more money. Less money. Had a smaller nose. Didn’t always want to eat pasta. If I didn’t have a belly. At some point between learning how to flirt in high school chemistry class and stumbling furiously toward the eve of my twenty-sixth birthday, I had given up. Stopped dating completely. Packed away the dresses, heels, and the innuendo. Vowed to focus on myself. Sharing a chocolate chip cookie sundae with a guy who wouldn’t be afraid to caress an arm, thigh, or hip bigger than a size two, five, or eight only happened in my imagination. A male sundae-lover definitely didn’t exist in a Los Angeles gym. I went to the gym once. My childhood best frenemy, Jenna, convinced me that the gym helped women burn energy, melt fat, and meet men. The entire experience mirrored meditation, she’d told me. “Don’t complain about being fat. Complain about things you can’t change.” I went alone, without telling her that I had decided to test out her theory. Bad idea. With my phone, tiny polka dotted towel, and headphones in hand, I entered the world of adult, organized, physical activity. It smelled like stale water. I flashed my electronic guest pass at the laser scanner, kept my focus towards the back of the big square room, and moved quickly past the cardio machines, knowing that if I tried to run or elliptical or spin bike myself, I’d be exposing my newbie status. A tsunami of terror hit me, hard. I had no idea what to do in a place like this. I quickly looked for a place to fit in, a place to disguise myself. A group of women crowded around one weight machine like it was a pan of brownies and they had PMS. It seemed like the magic potion. It was the Miss Universe of the gym, and if they had to have it, so did I. Jenna’s directions echoed in my mind. “Stretch first. You don’t want to pull a muscle. Touch your toes or something.” So I leaned against the wall and touched my toes. Except touching my toes was more like leaning my elbows against my bent, trembling knees. I bent over a little farther, and the back of my thighs burned. A couple of bones crackled, but I had a good view of the magical machine. “Totally worth it,” I whispered to myself, rubbing my hamstrings. A woman in a full face of makeup, with boob-length blonde hair taught me how to use the contraption without knowing it. I continued touching my knees. Step 1: adjust the weight on the machine. Step 2: pull the level that makes the thigh pads fly apart. Step 3: sit down. Step 4: clench thighs together. Step 5: Repeat. A lot. It seemed easy enough. The blonde sitting on the machine made it look like thigh clenching was a way of life. Real women learn to walk, talk, read, and thigh clench. So when she was done, and the crowd of women had busied themselves with other gym work like butt extenders, and arm pumpers, I approached my machine like we had an intimate relationship. “Looking good,” I said, patting the seat. I adjusted my weight and assumed my clenching capacity would be 50 pounds. I didn’t want to look like a complete wimp. I pulled the lever, sat down, and tried to squeeze my thighs together. Nothing moved. The more I tried to pull my knees toward each other the more everything stayed in place. At that moment, I understood why the weight lifting men grunted. I closed my eyes and pressed my knees against the pads. A grumble vibrated inside of my stomach. Roar like you’re a queen. Queen of the fucking jungle, I thought. My best attempt at roaring resulted in a throat clearing sound, a thankfully silent fart, and yet again, a complete lack of movement. I lowered the weight down to twenty-five pounds and did two of rapid squeezes. The weights slammed together, alerting everyone within ten feet of me that I worked hard. I pumped iron. Made my body fat cry. A woman with a bright orange towel draped around her neck walked back and forth in front of me. Sighing and pacing. Her orange shoes squeaked each time she spun to walk in the opposite direction. She was hunting me. Staring. My knees hovered in mid-thrust, incapable of meeting in the center, already too shocked by this new range of motion. Orange bang and I had been subjected to watching my shameful attempts at exercise long enough. My inner thighs tingled, and damp sweat bubbled under my butt. I would sacrifice my time on the clencher before Orange Bang threw me to the floor in an exercise-induced rage. I rubbed my inner thighs before getting up. “She’s all yours,” I said. Orange Bang looked at me, her head now between her legs because she could actually touch her toes, and mouthed thanks. She wiped down the seat before she took her turn. I stood in the middle of the gym, scanning to find my next work out option. A thick film of steam covered the floor to ceiling windows of the gym. Bathroom mirrors after a hot shower had nothing on these shining beauties. Men were everywhere. And only one of them had a belly that hung over his shorts. He was diligently at work, doing squats all the way across the length of the gym floor. Squat. Step. Squat. Step. I was relatively inexperienced when it came to exercise protocol and gym etiquette, but I was pretty sure squats could be done in one location. A trainer, dressed in the gym’s collared uniform shirt, stood in the corner scribbling on a clipboard. The squatter smiled through open teeth, and kept his eyes glued to the clipboard – his finish line. A man, who could have been a football player, or model, or a professional Hulk impersonator, fumbled with the weight control on a machine that looked like a horse and carriage. Right next to me. He set his desired weight, somewhere way at the bottom of the weight stack, and then jumped into the empty space fit for a human’s body – the horse section of the horse and carriage. He rested in a squatting position, his legs bent at an awkward angle. It already looked painful to me, and he hadn’t moved yet. He placed the handles on his shoulders, and unbent his knees, until they were completely straight. He let out a guttural sound that, to me, suggest he tore something. I squinted, but couldn’t look He pressed his chin into his chest, took a deep breath, and bent down again. This was it. My next victim. It seemed simple enough, as long as I stuck with what I had found to be my twenty-five pound limit. The man, finished with his grunting and growling, stepped out of the machine, and looked my way. “You next?” he asked, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “Yeah. I do these all the time,” I said, not moving from my spot in-between the thigh clencher and the horse and carriage. “I’ve got a couple sets left. Let’s rotate.” He patted the machine, raised his eyebrows, and then poured water into his mouth from a water bottle he held a foot away from his face. I had no idea what he was talking about. Rotating sets sounded more like baking cakes than exercising. Instead of being clueless and admitting it, I was clueless and nodding. “Yep,” I said. “Rotations.” I cracked my fingers on my right hand one by one. I assumed he would simply move on to the bigger and better things this place had to offer, maybe returning to the horse and carriage when he was done with a different machine. Pulling the levers down to rest on my shoulders turned out to be impossible. I leaned against the back of the machine looking for switches or hooks or buttons that would make it do what I’d seen happen for the Hulk a few seconds ago. I refused to read the instructions. No one at the gym read the instructions on anything since I got there, and I wasn’t going to be the first one. You are a lion, I thought. A lion goddess. Jenna will be jealous because you will look like a fucking lion goddess. And then I roared at myself. Out loud. While the levers of the machine were still in the air and I, stood there, obviously not lifting weights. “Get off for a second. I’ll adjust it for you,” the hulky-man said. And then he laughed softly. My face felt like it had caught on fire. I had been discovered. “Why are you still here?” My undercover mission was prematurely aborted. I got off the machine. “You didn’t happen to hear any roaring, did you? Cause, if you did, I think it was that lady over there with the orange towel.” He shook his head. “If you did these all the time,” he said, “you’d probably know that you gotta pull this handle back here. It raises the height and loosens the shoulder rest.” He rattled the metal, pulled what had to be fifteen different handles, and slapped the machine. “We’ll just have to adjust it again when it’s my “Thanks,” I said. I needed to make a quick recovery if I was going to survive this encounter with any dignity. “I meant, I come here a lot, but I never use this machine,” I said. He dropped the weight from twenty-five to ten. I adjusted the underwire in my sports bra. “You know, if you want to lose weight quickly you have to focus on your diet more than exercise,” he said, as if he were talking through me. I got off the machine, made some excuse about having to use the bathroom, and walked to the water fountain near the entrance. We were separated by half a wall, a couple of mirrored pillars, and hundreds of sweaty people, but what he said felt like it lodged itself in between my ribs. Jenna had been so wrong. No one designated wanna-be Hulk as the king of the gym universe. He didn’t know if I was there to lose weight. He didn’t know what I ate on a regular basis, if I was actually healthy or not. He didn’t know anything about me, and yet, out of his mouth came an ice cold dagger. But neither the Hulk or Jenna could know that the gym had gotten under my skin. So I stuck around. I played with a strange arm contraption, choked back tears of embarrassment, waved some free weights in the air, and accidentally hit the max speed button on my archenemy the treadmill before I ran out of the gym basically screaming. When I came home sticky and red skinned, I looked in my own mirror for an entire hour. Sat and stared. It seemed like I had grown larger than I was when I left for the gym. I removed my faded white shirt and saw rolls of flesh that had in no way been taught a lesson by an ab-ripper. Without the support of my sports bra, my breasts were sagging and young, a complexity I still can’t understand. And under my yoga pants there were seas and valleys, mountains, craters, and hills that were either created by nearly twenty-six years of a delicious diet, or a poor genetic makeup. I sat for the entire hour, inspecting my body, centimeter by centimeter, wondering how anyone could unveil me, explore me, and touch me without seeing this history of a rebellious body. At the end of the hour, I was naked and alone and unchanged. I texted Jenna. Me 7:05 PM: Liar! Meditation does not exist at the gym. There are no magical fixes. I have boobs and thighs and arm bulges and cheeks and I hated the entire experience. Keeping my body the same. Jenna 7:10 PM: Hahaha, you actually went? Okay chubs. If you say so. I knew my best frenemy was an asshole, but the longer I sat in front of the mirror, the more I solidified my belief that someone out there could love a stomach that wasn’t the countertop, washboard, six pack, bikini ready bombshell type. Jenna had to be wrong. Somewhere, there’s a single guy who would love a woman even though she despised the gym. He would probably have three sisters and would adore his mother. He might eat large portions of healthy lettuce wraps and protein shakes when in public, but at home would nurture gnocchi in pesto creams, butter sauces, and b├ęchamel toppings. He’d indulge in garlic breads and steaks and brownies and ice cream cakes. When entertaining a lady, he would not stare at her disapprovingly if she went back to the kitchen for a second taste. And he certainly would not recommend that she accompany him on his next trip to the gym. I wasn’t so desperate for designated exercise time that I was willing to justify paying hundreds of dollars a month to attend the sweatiest, most judgmental place on earth at four in the morning on a Thursday. I didn’t want to go running at four in the morning on a Thursday either. And doing crunches to an online workout video wasn’t my idea of an enthralling way to spend a Friday night. I wouldn’t have wasted a Monday night on that. I’d rather paint, or browse make up blogs, or learn how to play an instrument. Anything other than the gym, honestly. I hoped that I could find a man willing love the naked woman sprawled exhausted and overwhelmingly bootylicious on the floor of her bedroom. I had only encountered the opposite of him. Then again, I didn’t bother to spend time in many different places – I went to my makeup studio, I went to the mall, to the bank, to buy groceries, the park– but surely the most enticing and rare of the male species must have gone to places like these too. If he did, he must have been hiding from me. I was absolutely against the online dating world – if not for any larger reason than that upon meeting my initially two-dimensional friend, he might have found that my picture didn’t accurately portray who I was in person. Maybe he would expect my body to be similar to a nutritionist or a gymnast instead of a hardcore foodie or a self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur. I was always in the mood for a good, thin crust, fresh mozzarella covered pizza. Anyway, the body-type mix up was possible despite video chatting and selfie-sending. Honestly, no one ever looks like themselves on Skype. And so, on the eve of my twenty-sixth birthday, in a gym induced state of fatigue, I threw both middle fingers in the air. Fuck Jenna, Orange Bang, the Hulk, and the gym. “Victory,” I screamed. I stood in front of the mirror, middle fingers still up, swaying, spinning, and posing for no one but myself. After many years of contemplation and in the face of all the things that men and women might have considered my cosmetic deal breakers, I decided to find new public places to spend some time, places that embraced bodies like mine. A place where I could find my person. My tribe. I committed to participating in a new social activity every weekend, even if I was uncomfortable or terrified. Promised myself I would stay for at least an hour. Pinky swore I would talk to or maybe even flirt with at least one guy during that time. One place, one hour, and a couple of weekends to find the love of my life. Or maybe to find a couple of men who showed potential. At least, that was the plan.
Chapter Two
I walked into the cooking class alone on the first Saturday evening in February. My twenty-sixth birthday. The day I had casually titled Find My Soul Mate Date. It was raining outside, a cruel and unusual punishment for Angelenos. The windows of the corner restaurant speckled with condensation. A sign informed the public that the restaurant was closed for a private event, but it was written on a chalkboard positioned inside the closed door. Helpful, right? As I got farther into the room, the door behind me opened and closed, and hungry groups of people hummed and grumbled while retreating back into the damp night. I brushed past empty tables for two or four, and targeted the ten people already in the back of the restaurant, not including the chef who wore a floppy, white hat covering the very top of what could only be a charmingly bald head. I wondered how many people in the group already knew each other before that night. It definitely crossed my mind that all ten of them came in a huge party bus, and that I would be the intruder, the odd woman out, the one oblivious goldfish in a pond of stunning family of Initially, I thought a cooking class would be a perfect event to find a man who appreciated a curvy body. But as I pried each foot off of the ground and then forced one in front of the other, I saw that of the ten people, only two males were present. One of them attached his pinky to the brightly polished pinky of a woman in a short black dress. Taken. Under no circumstances should a woman attempt to attract a man who obviously operates under the spell of another woman. Even I knew doing that brings bad dating karma. So I immediately diverted my attention to the other male. He was surrounded by a group of three women, and none of them looked particularly attached to him. I was interested, and terribly sweaty. I made it my mission to sneak into a conversation with the only seemingly single man in the room. With about ten minutes until eight, we had time to mingle. The ten people were standing in subgroups of six and four, and I turned slightly to the right to angle myself at the single man. The more I focused, the more clammy my palms got. There was no ring on his left hand, and he had very nice facial hair - the kind that required special grooming tools and more time to perfect than the amount traditionally expected for a man to spend. I approved. When I was about five feet away, I made eye contact with the woman standing next to the single man. I smiled. The extra fat on my stomach wiggled up and down with each bang of my heel against the floor. Looser clothes were on the list of necessary items for my next night out. While draping my coat over my right arm and sliding it in front of my stomach, I continued smiling. Looking friendly had to give off good vibrations. Standing just slightly outside of the circle their bodies had formed, I leaned forward, glancing at each person’s face. “Hello,” I said, which sounded way too professional and not at all fun. Who ruins saying hi? I waved, hoping it would lighten up my manly hello. Sweat formed in my armpits, lubricating my skin in the most unpleasant way. I made sure that my hand was the only part of my arm that moved. “I’m Katherine,” I said through a forced smile. The woman standing next to the single man grabbed the hand I waved with and shook it. My arm flailed wildly as she pulled it up and down. Mission accomplished. Sweat droplets fell from my armpit and slid down the side of my torso, settling somewhere near my belly button. Pull yourself together. You’re not meeting the fucking President. “My name is Mindy, and this is my brother Zander,” the woman said as she pointed to the single All signs pointed to Zander’s potential. He had a sister, and she was friendly. Progress. I moved to shake Zander’s hand and I made a quick but complete once over. Brown eyes. Trimmed mustache. Crooked bottom teeth. Tousled black hair. Tight green shirt. Black suit jacket. Dark jeans. Converse. Maybe twenty-eight. Skinnier than the average guy. Cute. “Nice to meet you,” he said. It looked like he was winking but I didn’t know for sure so I acted like he wasn’t and decided that I needed to say something interesting to Zander. That was my self- imposed requirement before meeting the other two people in the circle. “So what brings you here on a Saturday night?” I said and then immediately regretted. It didn’t get any cheesier than that. No, the first thing out of my mouth was even worse than cheesy, it was strangely forward. Not even cute-forward. Just bizarre. No one says that tired line except cougars who know they sound like an extra from a one season sitcom. I continued picking myself apart for asking that question while Zander made conversation. “My sister loves cooking. I live on the east coast so we don’t get to spend much time together. While I’m visiting I try to hang out as much as possible. Quality time, you know?” He grinned. His sister was chatting furiously with the other two women from the original group of four. I told myself to go for it. It. Zander. Flirting for the first time in five years. Because I had already been cheesy and strange, so I thought the night had to be up from here. “And,” he hesitated a little, leaning forward, “I don’t ever turn down good food.” He smiled a one-sided grin. And we have a winner, everybody! That was all I needed him to say. Before I had the chance to convince myself that I totally wasn’t Zander’s type I was blurting out things like, “I could show you around sometime,” and “Maybe I could take you to see the Hollywood sign?” Determination goes a long way, I guess. He stared straight at me as stupid words fell out of my mouth. I stood there squeezing my arms into my sides, feeling shocked at my ability to be bold, and worrying that in about two seconds I’d be shot down. I wasn’t worried because I’d be getting shot down from Zander in particular, but because I didn’t want to be shot down at all. No one likes to be told they suck. The possibility of rejection, of someone saying right to my face that they didn’t want to get to know me, or even have a one night stand with me (not that a one-nighter was the goal, even though hell, it might be nice) was enough to make me run straight out into the rain and down the street to the closest gym. Really, any kind of rejection, even a remotely polite one, might as well scream “You’re not good enough,” or “You don’t look like that girl on T.V. and you probably eat a lot so taking you out to dinner would be too expensive.” I worried that if someone told me that I might want to change myself. I resisted the sudden urge to bat my eyelashes and flip my hair because I wanted this guy to like me for me and not for whatever horrible impression of a runway model I could come up with on a fifty- four degree winter night in the back of an empty restaurant on Pico Boulevard. “That’s nice, really. But, no need to show me around,” he says confidently. I knew it was coming. There was no chance that we had made a connection in the first place. I should have walked right back out into the rain when I saw there were only two guys here. I could have pretended I was a hungry customer turned away by the chalkboard announcement. I wanted to break eye contact with him but he smiled and then I couldn’t look away. “I’m from here originally. Born and raised. I work in New York now, but I’ll always be a California boy at heart. Actually, I could probably show you a thing or two about L.A.,” he says. He nudged my arm and walked over to his sister who had joined the pinky partners’ group. I touched the spot on my arm where his elbow brushed my skin. I had become a giddy teenager in less than ten minutes. “Everyone find your kitchen companion,” the man with the chef hat said. “It’s going to be a delicious night.” He walked around to the front of the kitchen where his counter top was, and explained in a thick Italian accent that the class would be making Fettuccini Alfredo. “Pasta and sauce from scratch,” he said, “because that is the only way.” After everyone was paired up, Zander with his sister of course, myself and the second half of the pinky partners were the only two people standing alone. Her male companion found himself partnered with a woman with giraffe legs. He drooled and stood there staring, right at eye level with her breasts. I looked at him, and then back at the woman he came with. I sighed. “Men,” I said under my breath. The kitchen assistant dropped a ball of dough on my work stand, slapping the dough once on its puffy top before she moved to the next pair of amateur cooks. My partner’s name was Hunter and the pinky partner was her husband. She told me they have an open relationship, and patience is not in his nature. It was going to be a long night. We began rolling out our own sections of pre-kneaded dough just like the chef instructed. “So,” Hunter said, moving her rolling pin in short bursts, “Anyone special in your life? A lover, I mean, not a best friend or a sassy grandma or anything.” Her eyes fixed on me, expectant. I told her I didn’t, and that I was in the market for a six-foot-two businessman who had a thing for bigger women. “Oh please. You’re not a bigger woman,” she said, almost too quickly in my opinion. I laughed it off and put more pressure on the rolling pin. “Honestly Hunter,” I said, putting too much upper arm strength into the task, “you and I both know that out here anything bigger than a size 5 is a bigger woman these days.” Holes began to peek through my dough, which looked more like lace than like pasta. Hunter rolled her eyes. “It’s true,” I continued. “ They call size eights plus sized models, and if any woman dares to call herself curvy but has a little extra stomach, then she’s not the hot kind of curvy she’s just fat.” “Honey,” Hunter said, throwing a flour-covered hand in the air. “A little confidence goes a long “Do you know how long it took me to get into this dress?” I asked. “Same amount of time it took me to get into this thing,” Hunter said, pushing her breasts together with her arms. “Impossible,” I replied. “I’m a 10, the dress says it’s a 10, but it wanted to act like a 5 tonight,” I said, pulling the dress down at my thighs. Smudges of flour polka-dotted along the hemline. “My dress has multiple personalities.” Hunter shook her head. “Poor thing,” she said while laughing. “All the best ones do.” The chef spun around quickly in our direction. “All the best what?” he asked. He peered down his nose at our workstation, and held my dough up for the class to see. It hung in the air; the weight of the mass opened the holes up even more. “Attention class! This dough here, is not the best. Don’t. Do. This.” I could have sworn it wasn’t that bad stretched out on the counter. Even though there were only ten other people there, my face went red as he explained that my lack of technique resulted in a poor product. “Stop all the talking. You are not focused,” he added. I glanced around the room to gauge everyone’s reaction to the chef’s tirade and there he was. Zander. He looked at me and mouthed the words: I like it. He shrugged his shoulders. I felt sweat seep from the pores in my hands. The rolling pin slid easily against my palms. The chef handed my dough back to me, and I crumpled it up to start over. The chef shook his head. “You are not a natural. It will take more work,” he said. Zander watched and laughed silently. With my crusty ball of dough in hand, I swung it through the air in a halfhearted attempt to hurl it at Zander’s head. I quickly slapped it back onto the counter, and blew him a small kiss. Zander held up his flattened dough and swirled it in the air like a pizza. “The biggest and most important rule of my kitchen, this kitchen, or any kitchen is: do not play with the food,” the chef said as he wandered over to Zander’s station. He said something directly to him that I couldn’t hear. I was staring long and intently enough that I should have been able to read their lips, but I couldn’t. The chef walked away and Zander whispered in his sister’s ear. In that instant I was already jealous of their relationship. If he were that interested in me, wouldn’t he have looked at me first? After all, we were having an across the room food fight when he got busted. His attention should have been directed at the last person of contact before the interruption. And there I went. My imagination exploded in a fury of fake memory montages: my first date with Zander, quickies before work, meeting the family, Thanksgiving dinners. We had absolutely no relationship and I was already acting like we had to decide which set of parents to visit on Christmas. If Zander would have shown up here alone like me, maybe then we could have been partners. Maybe I could have practiced this flirting thing without adding in the complications of jealousy. I was still watching him when Hunter began to tell me about how she and her husband met. She mentioned something about Palm Springs in the summer time and a business trip to get away from his ex-wife who was adamantly against the open relationship lifestyle. But when Zander’s eyes met mine and I had absolutely no idea what Hunter was talking about anymore. He winked. I was sure of it. “After going through all of that,” Hunter said, “I knew for sure he was supposed to be my husband. If we could get through something like that and still be in love. And I mean he really supported me through it all, then I could explore a non-traditional relationship for him.” “Definitely,” I said, pretending to be completely up to speed with the conversation. “Who knew I would love it so much?” Hunter burst into laughter. “Well, honey that’s life.” I nodded, the other half of my consciousness sill across the room lost in whatever Zander was doing with his hands. My hands had given up on rolling my useless crumbly ball of dough into anything edible. So Hunter made the fettuccini. I asked Hunter if she thinks she has found true love. She handed me a hand held pasta cutter and a sheet of dough. “Do that.” She pointed to the screen at the back of the class, magnifying the intricate work of the chef. Hunter slipped her section of dough through the slicing machine as she looked at me and asked, “is dough only pasta after you cut it?” “Not sure,” I said. Hunter raised her eyebrows, and plopped the long noodle into a pot of boiling water. “So you’re the type who likes to speak in riddles?” I asked. “A little bit.” We dropped the fettuccini into boiling, salted water, and the chef taught everyone how to make Alfredo sauce with butter, Parmesan cheese, and a little heavy cream. “No garlic or onion or any extra seasoning. Not authentic,” he said. I let Hunter do most of the work. My job was to stir. Wooden spoon in my hand, I stirred and stirred to meld the ingredients into one united sauce, and to keep it from burning. My hand sweat made the spoon slide around in my grasp. The damp hands could have been a result of nerves or a product of the sauce’s tiny sauna. Both were equally possible. I stirred while I looked at the back of Zander’s head wondering if he was too handsome. I wondered if he lived too far away, or was too skinny, or too rich, or too smart to be interested in someone like me. I consoled myself with the idea that he could simply be a nice guy. The nice guy who said nice things to the sort of chubby girl who came to the cooking class alone. I laid the spoon handle against the side of the pan and then wiped my palm against my shirt. “I’m sorry if I’m being too intrusive,” I said to Hunter, who still hadn’t told me the status of her belief in one true loves. “I thought we were sharing stories.” “I haven’t heard very much about your story yet.” “Well,” today’s my birthday-“ “And you’re by yourself?” She looked surprised. “That’s usually a thirty-something thing to do.” “How do you know I’m not thirty-something?” “Honey, because I’m thirty-something. You’re still a baby.” “I’m twenty-six today, thank you.” “Exactly.” “I’m twenty-six today, and I’m-” I lowered my voice. “I’m trying to meet people, kind of the old fashioned way. I felt like I needed to do it on my own. Be responsible for my own happy ending.” I tapped the top of the sauce with my spoon. “So here I am.” Hunter directed her attention to Zander, and then back to me. Then she did it a couple more times, raising her eyebrows the whole time. Hunter asked if I was interested in the guy with the black suit jacket. “You know, the guy who likes to play with his food,” she said. “I know you want to go talk to him. In my opinion, he’s a little immature for you, but if that’s what you like…” I stirred the sauce again, my eyes fixed on the pot. “Oh come on, you’ve been staring at him the entire time. I thought you were going to slip your fingers into the pasta machine.” The pasta machine was highly frowned upon by the chef, but was there in case anyone was inadequate with slicing by hand. “Practice. Practice. Practice.” The chef clapped after every pause. He stopped to hover over every station, inspecting the sauce’s aroma. An intense heat flooded my cheeks and I wondered if I had in fact been that obvious. “Look, Zander seems alright but I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one night,” I said. “I just want to eat this pasta and head home.” The chef stopped at our station, adjusted his hat, and yelled with a wide-open mouth. “Practice!” He clapped twice. Hunter dropped the freshly drained fettuccini into the alfredo sauce and inhaled deeply. “Sweetie, don’t be sorry when that cutie walks right out of here and you never see him again. Mine likes to be curious and all,” she said, gesturing to her husband who was chatting with the giraffe girl and not even attempting to learn about making fettuccini alfredo, “but I know who means the most to him.” She smiled and dropped fresh pasta into boiling water “True love?” I asked. “Our own kind of true love.” At the end of the class everyone was sitting around eating fettuccini with slices of bread and drops of olive oil and the scent of Italy rising from the pots seated on multiple stoves. I shoved my elbow into Hunter’s side when I saw that Zander was walking over to our station. “Oh my God,” I said as I shoved a forkful of pasta into my mouth. “Swallow that pasta! You don’t want to look like a pig, do you?” She giggled after asking and I assumed it was to take away the sting of calling me a pig. “Asshole,” I muttered to her. She ignored me. I swirled the fettuccini around my fork and asked Hunter if she thought it was pasta or dough now. “Both.” She shrugged and I swallowed. I shoveled in another bite hoping I would still be chewing when he reached our station. He started talking before he made it all the way to where I was sitting. “How’d yours come out? Mine was a little dry,” he said, attempting to replicate the chef’s accent. All I could manage with my mouth fully occupied by creamy starch and cheese was a clumsy head nod. “I take it that nod means your food was molto magnifico,” he said with some kind of waving hand gesture. “Your horrible job on the rolling must have been the secret.” “Did you have too much wine or do you always speak in tiny spurts of Italian?” I asked. Hunter butt-bumped me from her spot at the counter, and then cleared her throat. I took another bite of the fettuccini, a little smaller this time, hoping that having something to do with my mouth would excuse any moment of silence in case the small talk grew stale. As I looked up from my plate, I noticed Zander’s eyes weren’t focused on my face. He wasn’t even staring at my chest like I expected. His eyes were glaring at the area directly underneath my chest, and I couldn’t be sure what his conclusion about that area was. I had a feeling it could be something like: This girl should really stop with the forklift of cheese and cream ‘cause I can see right where it’s headed, and it’s not pretty. I stood up immediately to help disguise the bounding rolls. I smiled and took another bite. Bigger this “My sister and I are leaving now, but I thought maybe I could get your number,” he hesitated, for what I could only explain as an attempt to read my reaction. “In case I forget something about L.A. and need a tour guide or something.” He smiled and his eyes traveled from my face back down to my stomach, and all the way to my feet. I didn’t know if he was intrigued or appalled. “I think its sweet that you’re asking, really, but you really don’t have to do that,” I said. I put my plate down and wondered if his sister put him up to this. She probably said, “Zander, that poor girl looks so lonely. And I can tell she likes you. She could have a fun time with a successful, attractive guy for once. Show her a good time and then go back to New York. No harm done.” I could just imagine it happening. If I could read lips I probably would have recognized the exact moment it happened too. “Don’t have to do what?” Zander asked as he fumbled with his cell phone. I pressed my tongue into the corner of my lips and wished I was still chewing so I could buy myself some time to respond without having to tell him the ugly truth. I couldn’t tell him that I was too afraid to give him my number because if he never called all of my fears would be staring me in my big, hope-filled face. I couldn’t tell him that I didn’t want him to call out of pity, or because he just wanted a girl he wasn’t attracted to for a friend so that the relationship would never get messy and complicated. I must have stood there thinking for too long because he shifted his weight to his left side and asked, “So do you have a boyfriend or are you just not interested after all?” His gaze stayed on my face this time. All at once I could see my heart breaking before it happened. If we actually started a relationship his friends would ask him when he started being into bigger chicks. They’d tell him he could do better. His mother would disapprove. His sister would tell him she didn’t mean for us to actually date, she just wanted us to have a little fun. He would go back to New York and would decide that he’s too nice of a guy to dump me. So we would have a long distance relationship, and then he would run into a model on her way to a photo shoot. He would cheat on me and they would fall in real love. And it would all be because I was never meant to be with someone that far out of my league anyway. “Its none of that Zander. I actually have to go. It’s getting so late. Great job on the dough though!” I turned around, grabbed my coat and my plate of pasta, and ran out of the kitchen and into the cold, sprinkling night.

Everly Scott loves Italian food, yummy candles, and love stories. She recently made the

switch from teaching college writing to hogging all of the writing time for herself. But, when she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out on Twitter, Instagram, and her website, or learning how to powerlift, kind of. Eventually. 10 Random Facts About Me: 1. I am the proud owner of Bachelors Degrees in Honors English Literature and Creative Writing and an MFA in Writing. 2. Sunny (and dehydrated) Los Angeles has been my home base since birth. I’ve never lived anywhere else. 3. I love dogs, especially my own fuzzy Shih Tzu baby, but I am not the biggest fan of dog beaches. 4. I am utterly in love with my high school sweetheart. Not in a creepy, still crushing on him kind of way, but in a we-are-married-and-more-in-love-than-ever kind of way. 5. I may or may not be addicted to pasta. 6. I also may or may not be addicted to Dateline, 20/20, and Investigation Discovery. Don’t judge 7. Beyonce is #lifegoals. 8. I used to sing. A lot. In choirs, at weddings, and funerals, and football games. And in the shower. Actually, I still sing. Mostly in the shower. 9. When I was a kid I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then I realized I was allergic to cats, hated science and really sucked at math. Dreams crushed. 10. Tattoos. I love them. I have three, and if I could be covered from head to toe in beautiful art, I would! Okay, maybe not head to toe. Maybe just from collar bone to toe.

Social Media Links
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/EverlyScottWriting
Twitter -  @EvWriting   
Website -  http://everlyscottwriting.wix.com/everlyscott
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Cover and First Chapter Reveal of Scepter of Fire by Vicki L Weavil :)


Today Vicki L. Weavil and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for SCEPTER OF FIRE, a companion novel in the CROWN OF ICE Series! Which releases October 18, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a message from the author.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” SCEPTER OF FIRE is a companion book to CROWN OF ICE, my retelling of “The Snow Queen.” It takes place a few years later, in the midst of an invasion by a power-mad foreign emperor, and includes most of the characters from CROWN OF ICE.

However the protagonist in SCEPTER OF FIRE is someone new—17yo Varna Lund, an ugly duckling among swans, who’s certain her destiny lies in taking on the mantle of village healer after the death of her aged mentor. But when a young soldier enlists her aid to care for his injured friend, Varna and her sister, Gerda, are catapulted into the war that has engulfed their country.
Forced to flee enemy troops with her sister and the two soldiers, Varna must also evade her mentor, Sten Rask—revealed to be a powerful mage seeking the enchanted mirror hidden by a former Snow Queen.

To protect the mirror, and their country, Varna, Gerda, and the soldiers join forces with a sorceress, an enchanted reindeer, a brilliant scholar, and a young woman traveling with a wolf. But Varna faces a terrible temptation. Promised beauty and power by the devilishly handsome Rask, she must choose—achieve her own desires, or protect a society that has never embraced her.

The Cover:

I love how this cover matches the cover of CROWN OF ICE, and yet is different enough to set the books apart. Both feature striking young women, but whereas CROWN is glazed with icy blue tones, SCEPTER is saturated with reds, golds and other fiery hues. If you look closely, you can even see flames reflected in the girl’s eyes—very appropriate for a book that deals with sorcerers who wield fire. Although the cover model is not an “ugly duckling,” she does accurately reflect the protagonist during one portion of the book, which I will not reveal at this point due to “spoilers”! 


Title: SCEPTER OF FIRE
Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Pub. Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD |Goodreads

Sharp as pine needles, and twice as bitter, seventeen-year-old Varna Lund’s determined to become a healer. At least patients don’t care about her looks, unlike the young men who spurn
her for eighteen-year-old Gerda or even her younger sisters. An ugly duckling among swans,
Varna hopes to bury her passionate nature in useful work.

Her healing skills are put to the test when Varna encounters Erik Stahl, a young soldier who’s
deserted the battlefield to carry his injured friend, Anders Nygaard, to safety. Varna, enlisting the
aid of Gerda, cares for Anders in secret.

But a brutal betrayal catapults the four young people into life on the run, where Varna discovers
her old mentor is actually a powerful wizard. Seeking the enchanted mirror hidden by a former
Snow Queen, the wizard hopes to use Gerda as a pawn in his plan to aid the invading emperor.

Other forces ally against the wizard, including an auburn-haired sorceress, an enchanted
reindeer, a brilliant scholar, and a young woman traveling with a wolf. Along with the soldiers
and Gerda, they vow to prevent the mirror from falling into enemy hands. But tempted with promises of beauty and power from her now devilishly handsome mentor, Varna must choose
between her own desires and the good of a society that’s never embraced her.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”,
SCEPTER OF FIRE is a companion book to CROWN OF ICE.



Vicki L. Weavil was raised in a farming community in Virginia, where her life was shaped by a wonderful family, the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and an obsession with reading. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Virginia, a Masters in Library Science from Indiana University, and a Masters in Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After working as a librarian at the NY Public Library at Lincoln Center, and the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) in NYC, she is currently the Director for Library Services at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Vicki loves good writing in any genre, and has been known to read seven books in as many days. She enjoys travel, gardening, and the arts. Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats. A member of SCBWI, Vicki is represented by Fran Black at Literary Counsel, NY, NY.

Where you can find Vicki: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr



1 winner will receive an eBook of CROWN OF ICE & an eGalley of SCEPTER OF FIRE (when available), International.


 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Welcome to the cover reveal for McGrave's Hotel by Steve Bryant

 
Welcome to the cover reveal for
McGrave's Hotel by Steve Bryant
presented by Month9Books!
Be on the look out for this upcoming title!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
 
McGraves Hotel FINAL eBook Feb 29 2016
 
It’s 1936, and nearly twelve-year-old JAMES ELLIOTT is a bellhop at McGrave’s Hotel, there a year since the night his parents died while on a spy mission into Nazi Germany.
JAMES craves a goodbye message from his parents, but is distracted by troublesome guests who require his help.
Assistance with locating a missing and priceless mummy, wrangling mutant spiders, and attaching the head of a bridegroom is just the kind of hospitality guests have come to expect while at McGrave’s hotel where guests are dying to check in.
But over the course of one frightful evening, James will team with Death’s daughter to fight Nazi sympathizers, monsters, and the undead in this riveting, deathly, historical adventure story unlike any you’ve read before.
add to goodreads
McGrave's Hotel by Steve Bryant Publication Date:  October 4, 2016 Publisher:  Month9Books
 
About-the-Author2
Steve Bryant
 
Steve Bryant is a new novelist, but a veteran author of books of card tricks. He founded a monthly internet magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction, and he frequently contributes biographical cover articles to the country’s two leading magic journals. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.
 
giveaway2
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
 
 
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Goodnight by Susie Tate Release Blitz

  
Title: Goodnight
By: Susie Tate
Publication Date: April 28, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Life is pain. That is the reality Goodie has had to accept since she was nine years old. Even before the night her childhood shattered she was never normal: her mind can process people and situations at lightning speed, she has the ability to recall anything she sees or hears with perfect clarity, she can separate from herself if she needs to – making her difficult to torture, difficult to intimidate. In summary, she is the perfect mercenary. A life in the shadows where she can stay in darkness is fine by her. That is until he tries to pull her into the light. Powerful, arrogant, filthy-rich men are, quite frankly, a pain in Goodie’s arse. She’d much rather take an extraction job in the depths of a Colombian jungle than have to deal with their bullshit. But sometimes the money is just too good to turn down, and this time someone important, who is actually doing something Goodie believes in, needs to be kept safe. Luckily, Goodie is an expert at maintaining an invisible presence, enabling her to keep any interaction with the egomaniacs she protects to a minimum … until she meets Nick Chambers. Nick doesn’t seem to understand invisible presence, appropriate employer–employee protocol, security precautions, following instructions, or in fact just leaving her the fuck alone. Everything about him, from his ability to laugh at their situation to the perpetual smile on his gorgeous face complete with goddamn dimple, drives Goodie insane, and for some reason makes her feel threatened. Fear is weakness, and if Goodie’s life has taught her anything it’s that you never, ever show weakness. But Nick is determined, and he’s used to getting what he wants. He’s been effortlessly charming the women in his life since he was five years old, so he knows it won’t be long before he has Goodie right where he wants her. Only some things are so dark, so horrific, they can’t be dragged into the light. Some people are beyond redemption, and Goodnight may be one of them. This book is a full-length contemporary romance of approximately 85,000 words with no cliffhanger and its own HEA. Warning This story involves both swearing and violence from the outset.
 
Amazon UK - http://goo.gl/ctkH6P
Amazon CA - http://goo.gl/MoNv12


Nick watched as Goodie’s eyes opened again, and searched for the panic he could have sworn was there before she closed them, but her ice-blue gaze was now blank, all emotion wiped from her expression. She moved quickly, her mouth crashing down on his and her hands going up into his T-shirt. ‘I want you,’ she told him, her voice husky and unbearably sexy as her hands traced over his abs and the muscles of his chest. He sucked in a sharp breath – he could tell something was off, there was an unnatural desperation about her; but with the woman he had been obsessing over finally touching him, he became incapable of rational thought. ‘Christ,’ he rasped as one of her hands moved down to his crotch and all his ability to think was obliterated. He drove both his hands into her soft hair and took control of the kiss, pushing her back to lie on the duvet he had dumped on the floor. He pulled her hands from him and unzipped her hoody, revealing the black bra beneath. Her body was more amazing than he had imagined (and he had a good imagination and had invested a fair amount of time on this endeavour when it came to her, so that was saying something): she was all defined, toned muscle, combined with softer curves. She was magnificent. She rocked against him and her hands went to his belt, frantically pulling at the buckle. Something about her movements jolted Nick out of his lust-induced haze. He dragged his eyes from her breasts and stomach to her face and he almost flinched. Her expression was blank and her jaw was clenched. ‘Goodie?’ he whispered, and her gaze flew from his belt to his face briefly before focusing just over his shoulder. ‘Hey … hey,’ he muttered, grabbing her hands to still them in her frantic attempts to undo his belt. ‘What is problem?’ she asked sharply, her Russian accent thicker than normal and a frown marring her beautiful face. ‘Where did you go?’ Nick asked, his eyes roving her face. He gathered both her small hands in one of his and reached up to cup her cheek, stroking across her cheekbone and up to her crescent scar with his thumb. ‘I am here,’ she said, jerking her head to the side, away from his touch. ‘No,’ Nick told her, ‘no you’re not here. Where have you gone? Why are you so scared?’ ‘Scared?’ Goodie spat, wrenching away from him, and then scuttling back against the units next to Salem, who raised his head in surprise. ***** Goodie was breathing hard, her exposed chest rising and falling. She desperately wanted to zip her top, but knew that would show yet more weakness. She had perfected the type of meditation that took her out of her own body many years ago. The fact was that there were times in her life that she needed to be able to separate from herself; torture situations being one example, any form of intimacy being another. But nobody, nobody had ever called her on it. Nick made a move forward and she flinched – fucking flinched. What was wrong with her? Salem could feel her tension and flattened his ears against his head, letting out a low growl. She stroked his head and muttered to him that everything was okay in Russian – Salem could smell fear and the only other times Goodie had been as tense as this was when they had been in mortal danger, so she didn’t exactly blame him for his reaction. Nick continued to move towards her, his palms up like he was approaching a terrified wild animal. When he was inches away he reached down to her zipper and surprised her by hooking it together and pulling it up, covering her to just under her chin. ‘Are … are you okay?’ he asked softly, and for the first time since Goodie was eight years old she felt her eyes sting with tears. She blinked rapidly and gritted her teeth. What the fuck was going on? Nick turned and sat next to her on the floor up against the units leaving just a little more space than before, which she was grateful for. They sat in silence for a few minutes. ‘Um, Goodie?’ he asked. ‘Yes?’ ‘Look, I don’t want to pry or anything –’ Goodie sucked in a breath preparing to have to explain her reaction to him ‘– but … well, you don’t seem to have the full complement of toes.’ Goodie blinked, letting out a short bark of laughter in her relief (but unusually for her not noticing Nick’s body jolt at that rarity) and staring sightlessly down at her bare feet. Yes, she was two toes down – both her little toes were missing and part of her third toe on her left foot; ugly scars marked where they had once been. ‘I have never noticed this before,’ she deadpanned, curling the few toes she did have into Salem’s fur so that he would settle back down to go to sleep. Nick sighed. ‘You won’t give anything away, will you. You are the most closed person I’ve ever met. It makes me crazy – do you know that?’ Goodie shrugged. ‘Can’t you just tell me this one small thing? Give me that at least – you know everything about me.’ Goodie rubbed her temple and closed her eyes slowly. After a few silent moments Nick puffed out a frustrated breath and she felt him start to push up to stand. ‘Frostbite,’ she blurted out. She had no idea why, as his questions annoyed her to death, but the idea that he would give up asking them made her stomach clench with actual pain. He eased back down and turned his body towards her. She could feel him watching her face closely. ‘How did you get frostbite badly enough to lose actual bloody toes?’ He sounded incredulous, and weirdly furious, about something Goodie considered relatively trivial. She had been lucky to come out of what happened that winter alive, leave alone largely intact. ‘I lay in the snow for a long time,’ she told him. ‘Why did you do that for God’s sake?’ ‘I had to be still, and I had to wait.’ ‘Well, that’s just goddamn ridiculous. Whoever ordered you to –’ ‘Nobody orders me to do anything,’ she told him. ‘I had a job and I was going to complete it. I knew the risks.’ And she’d finished the job too. The cold had driven her nearly insane and she’d thought she would go blind if she had to stare down the sight of her rifle any longer. Even now she could still feel the surge of excitement as her target finally came into view after so many hours waiting, and the internal battle she had to fight to remain in control of her heartbeat and breathing. She’d resisted the urge to just fire immediately, taken three deep breaths, and on the respiratory pause at the end of the last breath she’d taken her shot. Adrenaline was pumping through her system but she still had to make sure that even after the shot had broken she maintained a slow steady squeeze on the trigger; follow through is everything. So despite the cold and the pain, when she did get her shot she took it; she finished it. Just like she always did. Just like she was trained to do.


Susie Tate is a general practitioner and when she's not working she's looking after her four yummy boys under six (okay one is actually over thirty-six but it's the mental age that counts!). This is the first of her books to be set totally outside the medical world and is a little darker than the others, but hopefully still funny at times.