Monday, August 6, 2018

Pirates: Truth And Tales - Guest post: Why Pirates? by Helen Hollick







Why Pirates?
by Helen Hollick

Helen has written a series of nautical Voyages based around her fictional pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his ship, Sea Witch, but her latest UK release in paperback is a non-fiction book – Pirates: Truth and Tales published by Amberley Press, which explores our fascination with the real pirates and those who are favourites in fiction. Today,  Helen drops anchor for another interesting addition to her on-line two-week Voyage around the Blogs with a pirate or two for company… but Helen… why pirates?


Why do many of us – readers, writers or just plain enthusiasts – have such a fascination with pirates? Let’s face it, the real men (and women) of the early 1700s so-called ’Golden Age of Piracy’ were not nice people. Leaving aside that they must have stank to high-heaven, were full of fleas and lice and probably had unpleasant sexually transmitted diseases, most of them would as soon cut your throat as look at you. Those of us who enjoy reading pirate-based novels, watching swashbuckling movies or dressing up in pirate costume to attend a party or one of the pirate festivals that happen in the UK and US, tend to  turn a blind eye (complete with pirate-patch) to the gruesome reality.

I blame Johnny Depp, or more accurately, Jack Sparrow. Apologies. Captain Jack Sparrow. Between them they resurrected the interest in pirates that had first been set in motion during the great days of Hollywood when actors such as Errol Flynn cut a dash with his cutlass across the Silver Screen. The Disney Pirates of the Caribbean franchise let the genie (pirate?) out of the bottle again, and no one has re-stoppered it since. (I only include the first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, the others varied from not very good to downright terrible.)

We do not want reality, we get enough of that in our everyday lives. We want our heroes rugged and ‘fresh from the fight’, as the song lyric goes. We enjoy these adventures because they are not real. It is the danger the hero must face, the within-an-inch-of-his-life death-defying scenes. The ability to keep on fighting / running / bedroom antics even though shot / wounded / kicked in a vulnerable place where real men would be curled up on the floor clutching their nether regions howling in agony. You know these heroes are going to get out of trouble; the thrill, the excitement, is not knowing how they do so. It is the journey that intrigues, not the destination. Pirates doing piratical things is exciting. We want them to succeed against all odds, although they have to go to hell and back first. Our heroes have to be tough, maybe a bit mean, but they must also be loyal and dependable.

As for the inclusion of fantasy, the suspense of belief is a part of the entertaining escapism. What I found frustrating after I had watched POC#1 for the nth time, was not being able to find an adult novel to match the fun. There were plenty of ‘straight’ nautical adventures – O’Brian, Forrester and such. Several very good young adult adventures included fantasy, but YA tends to be subtle (or entirely lacking) on the ‘adult’ content. I wanted a hero to die for, a handsome rogue of a pirate. I wanted a believable element of fantasy for his girlfriend and I wanted the ship itself to be as much of a character as the crew, but I couldn’t find the novel I wanted to read. So I wrote my own. Sea Witch

Trouble follows Jesamiah Acorne like a ship’s wake. He is a pirate, a scoundrel and a charmer of a rogue. Tiola Oldstagh is a healer, a midwife and a white witch. Will she capture his heart - or will the call of the sea drown their love? Will he get his girl, or will the hangman get him first?

I originally intended Sea Witch to be a one-off single novel but I am currently writing the sixth in the series, Gallows Wake – seventh if you include a short ‘prequel’ novella, When The Mermaid Sings. You see, my hero, Jesamiah, strode into my life several years ago and stole my heart. He still hasn’t returned it, nor is he likely to, but then, he is a pirate and that’s what pirates do isn’t it? Steal things!

© Helen Hollick
Pirates: Truth And Tales published in paperback in the UK July 2018 and November 2018 in the US – but available for pre-order.

Buy the Books: Her

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LINKS:
Twitter: @HelenHollick

Follow Helen’s Tour:
These links will take you to the Home Page of each blog host – Helen says thank you for their interest and enthusiasm! For exact URL links to each article go to Helen’s website:  www.helenhollick.net  which will be updated every day of the tour.

30th July: Cryssa Bazos  https://cryssabazos.com/ Dropping Anchor to Talk About Pirates
31st July: Anna Belfrage  https://annabelfrage.wordpress.com/ Ships That Pass…
1st August: Carolyn Hughes https://carolynhughesauthor.com/blog/ Pirates of the Middle Ages
2nd August: Alison Morton   https://alison-morton.com/blog/ From Pirate to Emperor
3rd August: Annie Whitehead https://rwranniewhitehead.blogspot.com/ The Vikings: Raiders or Pirates?
4th August: Tony Riches http://tonyriches.blogspot.co.uk/ An Interview With Helen Hollick (and maybe a couple of pirates thrown in for good measure?)
5th August: Lucienne Boyce http://francesca-scriblerus.blogspot.com/ Anne and Mary. Pirates.
6th August: Laura Pilli http://fieldofbookishdreams.blogspot.co.uk/ Why Pirates?
7th August: Mary Tod https://awriterofhistory.com/ That Essential Element… For A Pirate.
8th August: Pauline Barclay http://paulinembarclay.blogspot.com/ Writing Non-Fiction. How Hard Can It Be?   
9th August: Nicola Smith http://shortbookandscribes.uk/ Pirates: The Tales Mixed With The Truth
10th August: Christoph Fischer https://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/ In The Shadow Of The Gallows
11th August: Debdatta http://www.ddsreviews.in/ What Is It About Pirates?
12th August: Discovering Diamonds https://discoveringdiamonds.blogspot.co.uk/ It’s Been An Interesting Voyage…
13th August: Sarah Greenwood https://www.amberley-books.com/blog Pirates: The Truth and the Tales
14th August: Antoine Vanner https://dawlishchronicles.com/dawlish-blog/ The Man Who Knew About Pirates


ABOUT HELEN:

Helen moved from London in 2013 and now lives with her family in North Devon, in an eighteenth century farmhouse. First published in 1994, her passion now is her pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne of the nautical adventure series, The Sea Witch Voyages. Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (UK title A Hollow Crown) the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (US title I Am The Chosen King) explores the events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely praised as a more down-to-earth historical version of the Arthurian legend. She has written three non-fiction books, Pirates: Truth and Tales, Smugglers in Fact and Fiction (to be published 2019) and as a supporter of indie writers, co-wrote Discovering the Diamond with her editor, Jo Field, a short advice guide for new writers. She runs the Discovering Diamonds review blog for historical fiction assisted by a team of enthusiastic reviewers.  

Helen is published in various languages. 




Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Cover reveal: The Connelly Boys


The Connelly Boys
Lily Velez
(Celtic Witches, #1)
Publication date: September 13th 2018
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
The Connelly boys are practically royalty at St. Andrew’s Prep. Popular, wealthy, and devastatingly beautiful, the four brothers have long cast a spell over their classmates and over the sleepy seaport town of Rosalyn Bay, Ireland.
There’s only one problem: they’re also cursed.
…Or so the rumors say.
Seventeen-year-old newcomer Scarlet Monroe has never been one for rumors, but when she inadvertently banishes a demon while trying to help eldest brother Jack Connelly, the most breathtaking of the boys and the one to whom she feels inexplicably drawn, she quickly discovers there may be more to the local superstitions and folklore than she originally thought.
Before long, she’s pulled into a dark and mysterious world filled with ancient magic, powerful spells, kidnapped souls, and deadly enemies. But none of it compares to discovering the truth of who she really is…or what she’ll have to become to defeat a rising evil older than humankind itself before she loses everyone she loves—that is, of course, if she can survive the world of the Connellys long enough.
Don’t miss this first installment in the new dark fantasy series by Lily Velez, which features Irish folklore, Celtic mythology, mystery and light romance, and an engrossing world of witches and magic that will keep you reading long into the night!


Author Bio:
Lily Velez has been writing stories since she was six years old. Not much has changed since then. She still prefers the written word and her overactive imagination over the ‘real world’ (though to be fair, her stories no longer feature talking dinosaurs). A graduate of Rollins College and a Florida native, when she's not reading or writing, she spends most of her days wrangling up her pit bulls Noah and Luna, planning exciting travel adventures, and nursing her addiction to cheese. All this when she isn’t participating in the extreme sport known as napping. You can learn more about Lily and her books at www.lilyvelezbooks.com.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Book blitz: Veiled Waters


Veiled Waters
H.G. Lynch
(Unfortunate Blood, #5)
Publication date: July 24th 2018
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
They’ve faced ghosts, fought witches, and escaped the clutches of a lunatic cult…but this may be their most difficult enemy yet.
The new girl. One girl with the power to take Reid’s eye away from Ember, the power to break friendships, the power to destroy relationships.
And to top it off? Something is drowning students in the local lake.
Previous books in the series:
EXCERPT:
“REID!”
A sudden, familiar voice yelling his name from some great distance jerked him awake and he gasped. All he saw at first was endless, impenetrable blackness, but only for a second before his eyes adjusted and he was staring at the ceiling past Ricky’s concerned face. The younger boy’s eyes glowed blue-green in the darkness.
Slowly, Reid realized his heart was pounding on his ribs, he was gasping, and his hand was clenched tightly around Ricky’s wrist, so tightly he could feel it as a tiny bone snapped under his fingers. Ricky hissed in pain, but didn’t try to pull away, his mouth tight but his eyes gentle. With a shudder, Reid pulled his hand back to himself, and stared at Ricky with ghosts behind his eyes.
“Sorry,” he muttered apologetically, his voice hoarse. Had he been screaming in his sleep again? Most likely. No wonder Ricky had woken him. This was getting beyond ridiculous.
Ricky just nodded, rubbing his wrist as it healed swiftly and neatly. He was examining Reid carefully, kneeling on the floor by his bed. There was deep, serious worry in his face that Reid could read effortlessly in the dark. Not wanting to see it, Reid turned and glared at the useless dream-catcher on his wall. It hung there innocuously, the glass beads shining and the feathers still and pale against the dark wall.
“I guess I was right the first time; Feathers and beads do jack all to help nightmares,” he said shakily.
With a sigh, Ricky retreated back to his own bed and sat there, gazing evenly at Reid, who shifted uncomfortably. He noticed then that he was drenched in sweat and it was sending chills down his spine. His light hair clung to his forehead and ears, and his hands trembled on the mattress. He clutched the bed sheets to hide the shaking.
“They’re getting worse, aren’t they?” Ricky asked plainly, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees.
Not meeting his gaze, Reid nodded, running a hand through his messy, damp hair.
“There has to be something that would help. We could get you drugs, or Ember could make a potion I’m sure. We must have a recipe in one of the grimoires.Ember would have the power—”
“No,” Reid protested bluntly. The thought of Ricky going to Ember and asking her to make a sleeping potion or elixir to banish nightmares…her surprise and confusion, her hurt when Ricky explained what it was for…No.
Ricky started, frowning. “But why? It’s not like it’d put her out to do it. I’m sure she’d do anything to help you.” he insisted.
Reid just turned away, looked out the window as he got to his feet. He put his back to Ricky as he yanked his damp t-shirt over his head and tossed it onto his bed.
“Unless…” Ricky said slowly, and Reid could practically hear the gears turning in the boy’s head. “Unless she doesn’t know about this yet…”


Author Bio:
H.G. Lynch is a Paranormal Romance author from Scotland. She is an avid reader, and cat-lover. She spends most of her days writing, while wrestling her cat off her laptop. She loves horse-riding, Star Trek, and snow.
Her books are dark paranormal romances.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Blitz: The Dociles


The Dociles
Valerie Puri
Publication date: July 12th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Walls are meant to keep the monsters out…
Deep in the forest there is a wall where no wall should be. Behind it live the people of the Commune, the last remnant of human kind.
Jennie Caraway has lived behind the wall her entire life, certain that it protects her and her brother from the lemerons, ravenous undead monsters whose only desire is to kill – and feed.
Jennie’s peaceful existence is shattered when she uncovers a secret organization whose purpose threatens to destroy not only Jennie, but her entire world. The Order has a deadly mission, and they will stop at nothing to see it completed.
Jennie and those closest to her must expose the evil truth before they are killed – or worse.
EXCERPT:
Ethan
The ranger had feared he might risk encountering a lemeron that night; anyone who came too close to one rarely lived to tell the tale. The torrential rains and the intense darkness had made it nearly impossible for him to see. As he ventured through the blackness, finding his way with his outstretched hands, he couldn’t shake the feeling something bad was about to happen.
That’s when the lightning began, giving him intermittent visibility. He saw the skeletal figure stagger forward becoming visible through the heavy rain. The blotchy-grey flesh of the lemeron sagged from its bones and hung like ill-fitting clothing. It released a guttural moan causing the ranger to go rigid.
When he saw the lemeron approaching him, the ranger turned and hurried in a new direction, one perpendicular to his previous course. After putting some distance between himself and the monster, the ranger took care to disguise himself in the underbrush growing beneath a tall tree. He gazed in the direction he had just come from to see if the lemeron followed him. The loud pounding of his heart in his ears made him aware of its rapid pace. He tried to slow his heart rate if only to hear better, but it was to no avail.
He was startled by a crack behind him, the sound of a stick breaking underfoot. His fear turned to terror as he felt a boney hand seize his left arm. As the ranger spun around, the firm grip tightened, and sharp fingernails pierced his skin. The blood drained from his face at the sight. He was staring into the grey, sagging face of a lemeron.
He struggled and tried to pull away from the monster, but the action only made it clench tighter, its fingernails digging deeper and deeper into his arm. The cloudy, yellow eyes of the lemeron were wide and hungry. Its green lips parted, exposing blackened teeth. It lunged at him with its fully bared teeth.
The ranger was certain he would die in that moment. He frantically grabbed for the dagger hanging from his belt, his trembling fingers wrapped around the cold handle. He drew the blade from its sheath and instinctively swung it upward. His attack cut diagonally through the lemeron’s chest, sending it stumbling backward, but it was not enough for the monster to release him. Brown, congealed blood oozed from the rotting flesh. The ranger raised his dagger high above his head, and with all his strength, brought the blade down. His aim was good, and the small blade sliced through the monster’s wrist, severing the hand, thus releasing the ranger from its grasp. A crackling groan escaped from its throat, not from pain – lemerons feel no pain – but from anger.
The ranger ran mindlessly through the darkness, stumbling over the tangle of slippery roots covering the forest floor. He had to put as much distance between himself and the lemeron as possible. He smashed into a tree, not noticing it was in his path. Searing pain exploded through his left shoulder, and a rush of warm liquid ran down his arm. It must be my blood, he thought. His arm felt like it was on fire, but he could not stop to tend to it. He could hear the beast crashing through the underbrush behind him.
His head pounded, his heart raced, adrenalin surged through his veins, and his muscles begged him to stop running. Suddenly he slammed into something massive. The force of the impact knocked him on his back and the air rushed from his lungs. Dazed, he lay on the soaked ground while the freezing raindrops battered his face. He remained horizontal and motionless until he was able to recover his breath and regain control of his limbs.
The ranger stood up and reached his hand out in front of him to feel what had stopped him. The oppressive night was growing ever darker as the storm raged; he could barely see his hand in front of his face. He touched something smooth and hard – it felt like stone. Lightning ripped across the sky in a spider web of brilliant streaks. In the prolonged flash, the ranger saw a stone wall extending as far as he could see in either direction.
He was trapped. His only options were to go backward or to go forward. Behind him was the lemeron, and in front of him was a wall four times the height of a man. Frantically, he felt the surface with his hands and discovered crevices large enough to use as footholds where the large stones met. Quickly making his decision, he climbed the wall not knowing what he would find on the other side.


Author Bio:
Valerie Puri has always had a lifelong interest in all forms of artistic expression. She has tried her hand at many things, yet she always found her way back to reading and writing. With inspiration everywhere, she finally put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) with the intent of publishing her stories.
Writing has always come naturally to Valerie, and for a time she even worked as a technical writer. She continues to hone her skills by having at least one writing project in the works at any given time. Her true passion lies in the freedom that comes with writing the stories that pour from her imagination and real life inspiration.
Valerie believes that the experiences we have in life are just stories waiting to be written.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Cover reveal: The Witch's Tower


The Witch’s Tower
Tamara Grantham
(Twisted Ever After, #1)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: March 11th 2019
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Gothel is a witch. Punished for the actions of her mother, her choice is simple: either she stands guard over Princess Rapunzel—or she dies. But just because a choice is easy doesn’t mean it’s pleasant. Protecting Rapunzel means watching as the princess lays trapped in a tower, bedridden by hair that is so long and heavy it’s slowly driving her insane. Gothel’s life has become one of imprisonment and solitude as well—until a prince and his handsome squire appear at the tower.
Only one object can cut Rapunzel’s hair and end the curse: a pair of magical shears. But the shears are guarded by the most terrifying witches in the land, who also happen to be Gothel’s aunts. As Gothel and the prince’s squire, Raj Talmund, work to form a plan, she finds herself more and more drawn to the mysterious young man from the Outerlands. Unfortunately, his destiny is far more dangerous than she wants to admit: to save a princess, he must kill the witch who’s been forced to guard her.
THE WITCH’S TOWER is the first in an inspired new series of fairy-tale retellings from award-winning fantasy author Tamara Grantham.


Author Bio:
Tamara Grantham is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books and novellas, including the Olive Kennedy: Fairy World MD series and the Shine novellas. Dreamthief, the first book of her Fairy World MD series, won first place for fantasy in INDIEFAB’S Book of the Year Awards, a RONE award for best New Adult Romance of 2016, and is a #1 bestseller on Amazon with over 200 five-star reviews.
Tamara holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Lamar University. She has been a featured speaker at multiple writing conferences, and she has been a panelist at Comic Con Wizard World speaking on the topic of female leads. For her first published project, she collaborated with New York-Times bestselling author, William Bernhardt, in writing the Shine series.
Born and raised in Texas, Tamara now lives with her husband and five children in Wichita, Kansas. She rarely has any free time, but when the stars align and she gets a moment to relax, she enjoys reading fantasy novels, taking nature walks--which fuel her inspiration for creating fantastical worlds--and watching every Star Wars or Star Trek movie ever made. You can find her online at www.TamaraGrantham.com.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book blitz: Superhero High


Superhero High
T.H. Hernandez
Published by: Soul Mate Publishing
Publication date: July 5th 2018
Genres: Adventure, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Sixteen-year-old Annarenee Stevens is the sole member of her family without a super power. The only time she feels powerful is in the pool. With her sights set on swimming for U.C. Berkeley, she’s ready to win it all at the State championship and secure her future.
When the government unexpectedly ends the secret Genetically Enhanced Asset (GEA) program, Annarenee is uprooted from Dayton, the only home she’s ever known, and relocated to San Diego with all of the other GEA families. Queen of her public school, Annarenee is just another zero at Superhero High, a school without any sports teams.
With the end of the program, her hero older brother now needs a college education, too, meaning the only way Annarenee is getting into Berkeley is on a scholarship. Her dream is slipping through her fingers, no matter how tightly she clings to it. To make matters worse, super hot superhero, Ren Gonzalez, is paying too much attention to her. The kind of attention that has Ren’s ex-girlfriend intent on making Annarenee’s life even more miserable.
But when heroes begin disappearing, zeros and heroes will be forced to team up in order to solve the mystery. If they don’t kill each other first.
EXCERPT:
Smith slides in beside me and drapes his arm around me, kissing the side of my head.
Ryan glances over his shoulder before backing up. “You guys are coming tonight, right?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Smith answers for both of us.
The drive to my house is less than five minutes. On the way Smith leans in and whispers in my ear, “Anyone going to be home?”
I shake my head then wonder if I should have lied. Smith’s been hinting more frequently that he wants to have sex. We’ve been dating for three months, but unlike Smith, I’m not ready. Call me old-fashioned, but I want my first time to be special. I like Smith, he’s cute, popular, and funny, but I’m not in love with him. Plus, I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t keep secrets from the person you share the most intimate part of yourself with, and I’m keeping a huge secret from Smith.
We pull up in front of my house, and Smith and I hop out, grabbing our stuff from the back.
“I’ll call you later,” Ronny yells as Ryan roars off.
I wave as they turn the corner and disappear, nerves twisting in my belly as Smith takes my hand. I glance at him, my gaze drawn to his crystal blue eyes beneath messy-wild blond hair. Smith moved here last summer and rapidly became one of the most popular guys in our class. He’s always tan and his body is cut, a result of time spent in the pool or surfing in his native Florida. Every single girl in our school, and possibly even a few with boyfriends, would be thrilled to have my problem. I need to figure this out soon before he decides he’s tired of waiting.
Smith guides me up the walkway toward the porch, and I wonder how far I can let him go this time before I put on the brakes.
Our front door opens and two men dressed in black suits, white button-ups, black ties, and sunglasses exit our house. The taller of the two seems to size me up behind his dark lenses before he nods and passes. I turn and watch them get into a black Escalade parked across the street.
My brother, Noah, cruises up and parks his vintage blue Mustang convertible in the driveway. He climbs out, his eyes glued to the SUV as it pulls away from the curb.
Smith snorts. “What are the Blues Brothers doing here?”
I don’t share his humor and instead turn toward my brother, eyebrows raised in silent question.
Noah shakes his head, and inside my own head, I hear, “I don’t know, they were blocking me.”
A chill runs through me starting in the pit of my stomach. It’s not unusual to get a visit from the Men in Black, but my parents should be at work, and Noah should still be at his school for another couple of hours. Something is wrong.
Don’t panic, AR,” Noah says in my head.
I turn to Smith, “Um, I’ll call you later, okay? Pick me up at eight?”
He leans in and kisses my cheek. “Sure. Wear something sexy.” He smiles and waggles his eyebrows.
Douchebag,” Noah says only to me before heading inside.


Author Bio:
T.H. Hernandez is the author of young adult books. The Union, a futuristic dystopian adventure, was a finalist in the 2015 San Diego book awards in the Young Adult Fiction category.
She loves pumpkin spice lattes, Game of Thrones, Comic-Con, Star Wars, Doctor Who marathons, Bad Lip Reading videos, and all things young adult, especially the three young adults who share her home.
When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside her head, T.H. Hernandez lives in usually sunny San Diego, California with her husband and three children, a couple of cats, and a dog who thinks he’s a cat, affectionately referred to as “the puppycat.”
You can find her online at http://thhernandez.com

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Monday, July 2, 2018

Book blitz: Rival


Rival
Arwen Paris
(Fate of the Stars, #2)
Publication date: November 1st 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
It’s a role she didn’t want…
One deadly week has passed since seventeen year old Allison Delaney realized she must save Earth from the parasitic race of Ma’tiok. But the task is even more complicated than Allison feared, and she’s being set up to fail. Blamed for a fatal blow to the Alliance fleet that killed dozens of soldiers, Allison must face judgment for their deaths. The High Priestess Kiobaan is Allison’s only hope. Kiobaan sees the warrior spirit in Allison, along with her potential both politically and physically and agrees to train her.
And a game she can’t afford to lose.
Meanwhile, though Allison is the human host of Eenoki, protector of life, she’s not yet ready to harness their combined energy. Their bond is unpredictable at best—volatile at worst. Time is running out for Eenoki and Allison to trust each other—all or nothing—or she’ll never gain the power she needs to defeat the Ma’tiok and save Earth. When Allison is marked for death by an unknown enemy, the High Priestess Kiobaan must step-up and fight. But in return Kiobaan extracts a pledge from Allison, one that will compromise her new status and make her a target.
EXCERPT:
Staring out of the tinted bulletproof windows of the limo, I can’t tell for sure how gray the clouds are that gather above us. I hope it doesn’t rain again. It’s unsettling to come back here. To see the complete destruction of the California ocean side town that I once called home—Avilene Beach. It’s a ghost-like cemetery of charred, crumbling homes and palm trees turned askew and broken apart. Just like me.
This is the direct result of my decisions.
Wind skitters across the surface of black puddles racing by, reminding me of the oily blood of the Ma’tiok. It’s been just one week since my old life, my human life, ended and this new one exploded into existence. Acid rises in the back of my throat, burning hot, and I crush my jaw together hard until my lips press into a thin line. Why did Eenoki pick me?
“Priestess, do you understand what I said?”
Katok’s sharp telepathic tone startles me out of my immersive guilt. “Stick to the speech the High Priestess provided. Yes. I got it.” I swallow hard against the rising bile being pressed there by the trembling in my gut. What if this press conference makes things worse?
“Allison, don’t worry so much. You’ll be safe.” Stephen reaches out to me and Katok snatches his hand midair, crushing it in his huge taloned palm.
“Ow! Dammit, Katok!” Stephen clutches his wounded limb.
I swear, that’s almost a smirk on the massive Vongjar commander’s leopard-like face. Katok’s lips curl back menacingly to reveal his white fangs and piercing resolve. Stephen knows better than to try and touch me.
I sigh, and can’t help but glare at Stephen who sits across from me. His dark muscular arms are crossed hard against his white Navy button up shirt. Even with the blotchy purple and yellow bruises healing across his tense neck and face, he’s still handsome. But his haircut, shaved in military style, makes me miss his longer tawny surfer hair.
“Stephen, if I can’t be the bridge between the Alliance and Earth, our world won’t survive the Ma’tiok. You understand that, right?”
His angry blue eyes lock on me, softening, and he smiles.
I look away and clench my fists on the cold, empty, black leather seats beside me. We can never make it work. He’ll never understand what I am, or what I have to do. I have to serve the Alliance to have any chance of getting them to fight the Ma’tiok on the ground, instead of glassing the Earth like they have so many other infected worlds.
The blue tint to the air thickens as we get closer to our destination. What if I had just gone with Z’iram and left Earth behind? Maybe he would have spared those who died here.
No. If we left, there would be no hope of the Alliance helping this world fight back. Any other choice would have meant the total destruction of Earth without any chance of survival.
I know Eenoki is right, but the truth still hurts.
The High Priestess will arrive soon, aboard the planet killer Star Fire, to judge and test me. This speech is another test, one that I can’t afford to mess up. If Kiobaan doesn’t publicly declare me a Priestess, of Earth, then there will be no ambassador to the Alliance or protection for our world.
I take a deep breath and straighten the pale gown Tarem made me wear, irritated at how ridiculous I look. Not that I own any clothes besides what the Alliance has provided me. Before we left, my reflection shocked me. The way they pinned up my long auburn waves under a small crystalline hairpiece that stands a few inches high, reminded me of my vision of Aakina. The memory Eenoki shared with me from her last day alive, before she and her world were wiped out by the Ma’tiok.
“How much longer Katok, until there are too many Ma’tiok for your troops to handle”
His golden eyes widen. “They multiply too quick. The ground troops struggle to do more than contain them. Our current calculations project ten Earth days at most. We need Alliance support to do any more.” Katok shakes his head.
Ten days left? It’s only been twenty one since the Ma’tiok arrived!
Stephen leans closer. “He’s not telling you the whole story. Admiral Hurst says that there are over ten thousand Ma’tiok and infected humans on the ground, and that combined kills between Katok’s troops and the US military don’t even equal the rate that they’re multiplying at. We are losing every day.”


Author Bio:
Arwen Paris is the author of young adult fiction. Her debut YA Sci-fi Urban Fantasy novel FATE OF THE STARS releases September 1, 2017. The actions packed pages of her novels are filled with characters that are forced to face fears they never expected. When she's not writing, you can see posts of her (too many) vacations that keep her sane. Arwen lives in Washington, has a big crazy family & after the day job, she writes Fiction For the Fearless - #F3Fanatic

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