Guest Post: Three Tricks to Make Your Word Count by Zachary Paul Chopchinski #bowtieauthor

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Zachary is a bow tie wearing, formal vest rocking, pocket watch using, sarcastic monster of a writer. Currently residing in Orlando, Florida, he spends his days working, writing, and procrastinating.

Zach has multiple college degrees, in the fields of criminal justice and criminology…because he wanted to catch ALL the bad guys. Now, coupled with being an author of young adult fiction he spends his days yelling at people for breaking regulatory laws.

Zach is the author of the Gabrielle series, a young adult fantasy with a paranormal-historical-time traveling twist (try saying that five times fast).  

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By a show of hands, who else here thought that they would grab this whole “Be an author” thing by the keyboard and become its master? I can tell you that I have my hand up. I can also tell you that, I’m sure those of you who are human (robots, immortals, monsters, and other fictional beings need not apply) this thing is way harder than I thought it was.

Now, we all have our stories. We all have our very own inspirations, adventurous tales, and dreams when it comes to being a writer. Yet, I think in many respects, we all face some of the same hurdles that our cohorts face daily. I, for example, was not fortunate enough to be discovered by my first novel. Nope, this one’s going to make me work for it.

So, like many of you, I must also maintain a job to pay the bills. I mean who else in here needs electricity, internet, and copious amount of coffee to get the job done? I can tell you I sure as hell do! This is what brings me to here today to talk about one of my main obstacles, and I think that many of you also share this one: getting those damn words on the paper.

Word counts are a funny thing. They can scare us and drive us all at the same time. They are a great reflection of what we have accomplished, but at the same time they’re like looking at the bully that wants to fight you after school and you are in last period. I’m here to tell you, however, that you don’t have to be afraid. I also am here to tell you that there are some small tricks that I use to help get me through the numbers.

On a side note, ironically, writing all comes down to numbers. I think the reason many of us became authors was so that we didn’t have to “math” anymore…

Trick #1: Set that goal, girlfriend!

Yeah yeah yeah. I know, easier said than done, right? WRONG! Setting a decent, and obtainable goal is often the best and only way to be sure that you’re writing regularly. Writing regularly is a must, by the way, or you would be surprised how much something like this can be a perishable skill.

So, set a daily goal. It could be 500 words, it could be 5000 words, but the key is to set a goal and nail it. This is also why it is important to be honest with yourself and don’t try and pop a wheelie before you know how to ride the bike. If you’re busy, set a 1000-word goal. A general typist will take roughly an hour or so to accomplish this and with a goal, you can break this up throughout the day. This doesn’t have to be all at once.

Remember, the day is not complete until this goal is met. So be fair to yourself and your writing and give it the time its needs and keep into account what you can afford to give.

Trick #2: 500 is the warmup.

Dependent upon the size of the font and spacing, 500 words is roughly a page. This is about the break point for many writers. Often the will to create is lost on you, but just try to reach that 500-word marker. By this time, creativity will start to bloom and the words will flow more easily, trust me. Often, with writing, you must first find the flow and then the inspiration will follow as you engage your brain and challenge it to create. Reaching one page and pressing forward tends to allow your mind to wander in a determined direction and you will find yourself able to focus while letting loose.

Trick #3: If you want to get those gains on, get you a spotter.

Weightlifting jokes aside, often finding someone that you trust to check on your progress daily will help drive you to get those words down. You find yourself not wanting to let this person down, or if you have let them down, trying to make it up to them by hitting your goal. (NOTE: This also works if you are trying to prove them wrong and show them that you CAN do it! Just saying)

This trick can get…well…tricky. Remember to not get mad at your spotter. They are only trying to help you and they want you to be the best author that you can be. So… DON’T SHOOT THE DAMN MESSENGER!

Well, these are some of my tricks. I hope they can help you as much as they have helped me. I must be off now, as I have my own words to get down for today. By the way, this article is 817 words and I am totally counting that for today. Just saying.

CHECK OUT ZACH’S BOOKS

curious taleAmazon/Goodreads/Signed Paperback

What If You Woke Up in Someone Else’s Life?

Thirteen-year-old Gabrielle was given a mysterious bracelet for her birthday. She went to bed as a normal teen but woke up in another time, as another person.

When demons appear, Gabrielle’s dream adventure turns into a nightmare. But is a nightmare adventure better than just existing in your mundane life?

curiosityAmazon/Goodreads/Signed Paperback

Is An Extraordinary Experience Worth The Loss of Innocence?

In this gripping sequel, Gabrielle stumbles into revolutionary France with more questions than answers. Why did Alexandra chose her for this adventure? What did the mysterious old woman mean by “it’s all up to you”? And why was she seeing monsters no one else could see?

In search of these answers, Gabrielle finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she could have ever imagined. Can a nineteen year old old take on the past and un-seen evil all on her own?

curiosityAmazon/Goodreads/Signed Paperback

Will Gabrielle’s power be enough to save her?

In this third installment, Gabrielle finds herself living in one of the darkest times in American history, running a safe house for the Underground Railroad.

Arawn’s done playing games. When he discovers Gabrielle’s weakness he will stop at nothing to take her down. Gabrielle is going to have to use every ounce of her new power if she’s going to survive.

Keep reading, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review & Giveaway: The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley

 Scholastic/Amazon/Barnes and Noble/BAM!/Bookmark It/IndieBound/Powell’s/Goodreads

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***I received this ARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author and Scholastic

The Princess and the Page is a magical mystery that combines an intriguing glimpse into French history with imaginative sleuthing skills fit for any modern day Nancy Drew. 

I don’t normally review children’s or middle grade books on my blog, but when I heard that Christina Farley had one coming out, well, she’s one of my go-to authors. Somehow she always manages to put a twist on history, folklore, and culture to make it captivating for any reader, i.e. her Gilded series, which is AMAZING. I am so glad I was given the opportunity to review this book that is sure to be a favorite of any tenacious young girls and boys with a knack for mysteries and a love of writing. 

The Princess and the Page is a blend of history, fairy tale, and fantasy. The castle and historical events are real and the author does a wonderful job discussing the history and her own experience visiting the castle at the back of the book. The way the history swirled into the mystery made me ask questions and dive into the history mentioned. I loved the tragic unhappily ever after aspect of Gabrielle and Henry IV. It was gutting and yet, balanced with Keira’s heroic efforts to change the past.

The concept of Word Weavers is awesome. I love the idea of bringing fantasy to life with words and altering history. It truly shows the power words have from the page first and how they resonate into real life, spreading from reader to reader, and everyone the reader came into contact with. Words have power. They can alter perspectives, change lives, and sometimes destroy them. Keira learns this the hard way, she makes mistakes, and puts people in dire situations with her reckless use of her power. Honestly, I thought this was the best part of the book. Teaching kids that what they say, what they write, and how they use their words in every manner has consequences.

The mystery was compelling. Keira uses her Nancy Drew-channeled detective skills to make observations, find clues, and uncover mysteries. She has lists of suspects, thoughts, and ideas that guide the reader and force them to come up with guesses of their own. The story is super interactive.

Characters, down to the fleeting secondaries, have loud and memorable personalities. Bella has so much sass and confidence, it’s remarkable. She’s mature, goal-oriented, and still feels like a little girl with big dreams. Though I have my doubts that any adult would give her that much power with a credit card. Chet is devious, playful, and always getting himself into trouble. He lives for adventure and leaps into danger. He livened up the story and won over my heart. 

Some of the plot points were a little oversimplified and resolved quickly, but that may be usual for books geared towards a younger audience. 

Overall, the story is didactic, inspires courage, confidence, and never giving up. Keira makes mistakes, she faces challenges, and she continues to fight for her dreams. That’s a heroine anyone can get behind. 

 
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author

CHRISTINA FARLEY is the author of the bestselling Gilded series. Prior to that, she worked as an international teacher and at a top secret job for Disney where she was known to scatter pixie dust before the sun rose. When not traveling the world or creating imaginary ones, she spends time with her family in Clermont, Florida with her husband and two sons where they are busy preparing for the next World Cup, baking cheesecakes, and raising a pet dragon that’s in disguise as a cockatiel. You can visit her online at ChristinaFarley.com.
 
 

CONTINUE THE BOOK TOUR

Mar. 23th – Ana Loves Books
Mar. 24thYA Book Madness
March 25th – Literary Rambles
March 27th – Twinning for Books
March 28th – Mundie Kids
Mar. 29thAll Things Christine
Mar. 30thYA Book Divas
Mar. 31stWord Spelunking
Apr. 3rdMine of Books
Apr. 4th The AP Book Club
Apr. 5th Middle Grade Ninja



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One (1) lucky winner will receive:
 
$25 gift card to their favorite book vendor. Giveaway open internationally. Enter below or HERE.
 

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Magical reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review & Giveaway: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

BLLOOD ROSE REBELLIONFinal Blood Rose coverAmazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Audible/Goodreads

Pub. Date: March 28, 2017

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The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

review4/5 Stars 

*** I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & the publisher

Blood Rose Rebellion is a beautifully written thrill ride complete with thought-provoking views on equality, prejudice, and feminism. 

Blood Rose Rebellion is a stunning historical look at Hungary and the politics that sparked the uprising in the 1800s plus fairy tale elements and rich folklore. As a historian who studied Hungary during this period, particularly the poetry that sparked the revolution, I absolutely LOVED how history blended with magic and it still made a point to correct dangerous prejudices that still circulate today. From the food, to the clothes, to the behaviors and mindset of the characters, everything was rich and memorable and made total immersion possible. I felt transported in more ways than one. 

Anna is daring, occasionally naive, headstrong, and so ahead of her time. The way she views social classes, injustices, and what roles a woman should have in society are as revolutionary as the uprising in Hungary itself. Preach girl, preach. Anna is far from perfect. She is stuck in a horrible position, has been manipulated by her heart, and her desire to fit in is a heartbreaking motivation that she can’t resist. Anna says some seriously profound stuff. She owns up to her mistakes, she recognizes that she has been brainwashed by ideology, she apologizes, and what’s best is that she learns and corrects herself. Thank you! Finally. 

The magic, the lore, and the class wars mesh perfectly. This is one of those books you look at and think, how on Earth did this all fit together so well? But it does. It flows, it’s poetic and political, and as whimsical as it is dark. The fire of the revolution burns bright throughout. The fairytale creatures are menacing, twisted, and sometimes scary, but others are full of heart and helpful. Magic is neither good or evil, nor are the creatures. The descriptions float off the page. Amazing. If you’re looking for new paranormal creatures, search no further. 

One of the greatest lessons within this story is that we all have the power to make choices and decide who we want to be-freedom is deserved by every individual, but what they will do with that freedom is up to them. I paused and lingered over this section. There’s a conversation with a demonic creature who is basically the incarnate of the deadly sins and it is he who poses this question to Anna. When you give someone who has been imprisoned their freedom, there’s no telling which path they’ll choose. That’s the beauty of choice. 

The Roma. I have been waiting for someone to get this right. Derogatory terms are corrected through characters and how they are treated today and were treated in the 1800s is a poignant and important history lesson that everyone should learn about. I appreciated the sections that talked about their camps, the way they feel about their children, their beliefs, just wow. 

And the romance. It’s like a magical pulse that beats through the story growing and glowing with anticipation. That kiss is one of the best I’ve ever read in YA.

You’re probably asking why I gave this 4 stars when I clearly loved so much of this story. The major issues I had were with pacing. Some sections dragged significantly, though it picked up fast towards the end. Another was the complete disappearance of her family after she leaves for Hungary. Even the letters, there were so few. I expected more. The relationship is so strong is the beginning and her love for her younger brother so warm that it was weird that they fell off the face of the planet. I also figured out what was going on with Anna at 30% through. So that was mildly disappointing for me, but I think it will be a surprise for many readers. 

authorRosalynWebsite | Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr | Pinterest | Goodreads

Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.

She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works. Rosalyn is represented by Josh Adams of Adams literary.

Her first novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, first in a YA historical fantasy trilogy, debuts Spring 2017 from Knopf/Random House.

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3 winners will receive a signed finished copy of BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, US Only.

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Tour Schedule

Week One:
3/20/2017- BookHounds YA- Interview
3/21/2017- YA Book Madness- Review
3/22/2017- Page Turners Blog- Guest Post
3/23/2017- Fiktshun- Review
3/24/2017- NovelKnight- Review

Week Two:
3/27/2017- Once Upon a Twilight- Interview
3/28/2017- YABC- Interview
3/29/2017- Emily Reads Everything- Review
3/30/2017- Two Chicks on Books- Interview
3/31/2017- Book Briefs- Review

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Lovely reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Fanning the Flames by Chris Cannon

fanningGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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Bryn McKenna has it all. Even though she’s a hybrid dragon, she’s finally fitting in the new shape-shifting dragon world that’s become her own. But her grandparent’s want to ruin everything by making Bryn’s nightmare of an arranged marriage to Jaxon Westgate a reality. It doesn’t help that Jaxon’s father is on a witch hunt for Rebel sympathizers and Bryn finds herself in his line of fire.

If she doesn’t say “I do,” she’ll lose everything. Good-bye flying. Good-bye best friends. Good-bye magic. But if she bends to her grandparents’ will and agrees to marry Jaxon she’ll lose the love of her life—her knight.

review3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Entangled and NetGalley

Fanning the Flames is the 4th book in the Going Down in Flames series and unfortunately, my least favorite so far. The story picks up right where Trial by Fire left off, Valmont and Bryn in a complex but joyous relationship, Bryn and Jaxon engaged but with a plan to make it work with their respective romantic partners, the dragon world recovering after the attack on the school dance. Everything is uncertain, but the one thing that seems solid is the way each couple feels about each other. 

Here’s the thing, I never want to say a story is too happy or too romantic or anything like that, but when there’s not a balance between the romance and the major plotline, it feels tired and slows down the pacing. While I love Valmont and Bryn, Bryn’s head was always on wondering about Valmont, about their relationship, getting jealous, etc., that the major tunnel mysteries were rushed and cut off and occasionally felt like filler because the romance played such a huge role in this book. You almost forget that there are politics, terrorists, and attacks happening. There were three heart-stopping scenes that should have had a killer impact on the reader, and while the final scene did tug at my heartstrings, it was nowhere near the emotional carnage that should have played out and I think it’s because focus was pretty much soley on Bryn and Valmont and the other characters were neglected and fleeting. 

That final scene should have been devastating, but honestly, it needed to happen to refresh the story. 

The battle description, the gore, the fighting, the tension was A+ as usual. Definitely edge of your seat material. And Bryn was beyond fierce. She raged, she conquered, she slayed. 

The underground tunnels were interesting. I enjoyed the history and the knight stories that shed light on the past-it’s its own mythology.

While this might not seem like a positive review, it is. I enjoyed this book, I wanted to read it, and I will continue to follow the story, especially after that explosive ending. I just wanted more. It felt surface level. 

Lovely reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review & Giveaway: Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell

garden of thorns banner copygarden-of-thornsGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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After seven grueling years of captivity in the Garden—a burlesque troupe of slave girls—sixteen-year-old Rose finds an opportunity to escape during a performance for the emperor. But the hostage she randomly chose from the crowd to aid her isn’t one of the emperor’s men—not anymore. He’s the former heir to the throne, who is now leading a rebellion against it.

Rayce is a wanted man and dangerously charismatic, the worst person for Rose to get involved with, no matter what his smile promises. But he assumes Rose’s attempt to take him hostage is part of a plot to crush the rebellion, so he takes her as his hostage. Now Rose must prove where her loyalties lie, and she offers Rayce a deal—if he helps her rescue the other girls, she’ll tell him all the Garden’s secrets.

Except the one secret she’s kept for seven years that she’ll to take to her grave if she must.

GardenOfThorns4

review4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Entangled and with participation in the YAReads tour

+++Contains potential triggers for graphic violence/abuse 

From the very first page I knew I’d love this book. It’s dark and twisted and made of intrigue and the darkest forms of humanity. What happens when humans are reduced to numbers? When they become dispensable and money/greed reign supreme? You have the sparks of a rebellion and the vilest and most inhumane atrocities.

From the sinister descriptions to the unflinchingly honest voice of Rose, this story is gripping and despite the carnage, you won’t be able to look away. The Flowers, the Wilted, the whole hierarchy of these dancing, trafficked girls and the pain their Wilted faces every time one of the Flowers disobeys. It’s terrifying. From the clicking of the shears on their caravan cages to the pools of blood and threats made all too real; it’s gory, graphic, and sickening. The fear and anxiety will keep you on edge, it definitely had me flipping pages like mad hoping that Rose and the others made it out of whatever dangerous mission they happened to be on. 

If there’s one thing this story excels at, it’s pacing and keeping the tension high. Whether it’s blossoming sexual tension or fear, it’s there in abundance. 

The characters are full of life and strong voices. Every one of them is memorable and leaves you with something to thing about. They add to the story. They’re so much more than throwaway characters and after seeing so much of that lately, I am seriously impressed. I loved each and every one of them. Whether I liked them as characters was one thing, but they all had flaws and an energy that took over whenever they were present, despite the story being told from Rose’s POV. 

Rose has suffered years of psychological and verbal abuse. And I’m not sure if this term is correct, but secondary abuse-having to watch someone she loves get punished in her place. Everything she’s seen, each horrific, bloody act, all the guilt she’s felt, all the pain, and still Rose rallies on, she fights, and she sacrifices everything for her Flower sisters. Her determination, her courage, and her humility are a powerful example and completely unexpected. Some other things I loved about Rose was that she admitted her mistakes, she thought through every situation, and she weighed the risks. And her voice was consistent throughout. 

Rayce. Dear sweet gorgeous man. He’s playful and regal and brilliant and loves his people so fiercely that you can’t help but fall for him hard as the story progresses. The way her looks at Rose, how comfortable he feels with her, the honest way he confesses his fears and just listens to her, made of head over heels swoon. A noble and epic love interest that is more than worthy of Rose. 

Some of the plot was a little iffy. I would have liked a stronger history lesson on why these two groups hate each other, why the intial rebellion happened, and the aftermath. What’s happening in Varsha? More of that backstory would have painted a clearer picture of the animosity between groups and better explained why blondes are discriminated against, etc. 

authoramberGoodreads/Twitter

Amber Mitchell graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Creative Writing. She likes crazy hair styles, reading, D&D, k-dramas, good puns and great food.

When she isn’t putting words on paper, she is using cardstock to craft 3D artwork or exploring new places with her husband Brian. They live a small town in Florida with their four cats where she is still waiting for a madman in a blue box to show up on her doorstep.

Garden of Thorns is her debut novel from Entangled Teen.

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If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Read on, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

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In The Great Pursuit, the dramatic sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Great Hunt, Wendy Higgins delivers another thrilling fantasy filled with dangerous enemies, political intrigue, searing romance, and a princess who is willing to do everything to protect her kingdom. 
 
One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continues.
 
The kingdom of Lochlanach has traded the great beast that once terrorized the realm of Eurona for something far more dangerous: the ire of powerful Lashed woman Rosaria Rocato. Rosaria demands that Eurona overturn the laws prohibiting magic, or an innocent will be killed each day.
 
Despite the king’s resistance, Princess Aerity believes they must make peace with the Lashed, and though she’s accepted a betrothal to the man who took down the beast, she cannot help thinking about Paxton, the Lashed man who stole her heart and disappeared.
 
Aerity soon discovers that Paxton has joined Rosaria’s army in the war against her family. Though her feelings for him are still strong, her duty to her kingdom and her family is stronger—especially when her parents are kidnapped and she has to step up to the throne and once again put aside what’s best for her in order to do what’s best for her people. Paxton and Princess Aerity must fight to see what is more powerful: their love or the impending war between the magical Lashed and the non-magic humans.
 
Grab the eBook 1 THE GREAT HUNT !
Excerpt

CHAPTER ONEA new beast roamed the kingdom of Lochlanach, killing at will. A second unnatural monster created by the hands of Rozaria Rocato, granddaughter of the most infamous and hated Lashed One of all time. Princess Aerity Lochson’s mind was a blur of piled-up worries as she rushed from High Hall of the castle, away from the frightened commoners and guests who’d come for her betrothal ceremony, and toward the office of her father, King Charles. She turned at the sound of heavy footsteps behind her and found both her childhood friend Lieutenant Harrison Gillfin and her betrothed, Lord Lief Alvi, following. Lord Alvi looked every bit the hero—his broad stature striking, with elk furs about his shoulders and a black kilt to his knees above leather boots. His blue eyes were filled with bright passion and hunger, but those emotions were not for her. They were for the beast. The new hunt.

He had killed the first creature, thereby earning her hand in marriage. The thought twisted Aerity’s stomach with discomfort and turned her mind to the man who’d disappeared weeks before when the beast was killed—the Lashed man who’d taken her heart with him and would likely never return. She clenched her jaw. This was no time to think of Paxton Seabolt or her drowned desires. The kingdom was suffering again—rendering everything she’d sacrificed to have been in vain.

Her eyes shifted from Lord Alvi’s to Harrison’s and found a fierce, protective comfort there. Harrison stood tall, lean, and capable. Never faltering. The thought of her noble friend fighting yet another beast filled her with sharp fear. So many lives had already been lost, including Harrison’s cousin Breckon, who’d been the true love of Aerity’s cousin Wyneth. Half a year was all it had taken to trample the dreams and futures of so many.

Aerity gave the men a nod to follow her. She lifted her long white skirts and moved quickly down the tapestry-lined hallway to her father’s office. Guards and soldiers ran past, shouting orders, fully armed with bows, swords, and lines of throwing daggers strapped across their uniformed tunics.

She opened the door without knocking. No fewer than twenty faces shot toward her. She recognized the burgundy red hair of her mother, along with her aunts and uncles, military elite, and royal advisers. Her father invited them in with a quick flick of his fingers.

When the door closed he asked her, “What is the state of things in High Hall?”

“The people seemed to have calmed for the moment, Father,” Aerity said. “And supper is being served.”

“Your daughter gave a rousing speech,” Lord Alvi pro- claimed in his rumbling voice. “She is to thank for the calm.” Aerity’s face flushed with heat at the unexpected compliment. Then he put a heavy hand on her shoulder and pulled her close. Aerity fought the urge to shrug away. For the sake of the kingdom, she had made a commitment to become his bride, and she would follow through regardless of what her heart wanted, and regardless of the fact that she was certain feelings had grown between Lief and Wyneth.
“Did she?” The king’s eyes softened with pride, and her mother, Queen Leighlane, smiled at Aerity and Lief, no doubt thinking what a lovely couple they were. If she only knew.

Behind them Harrison cleared his throat. “Are we to begin hunting the creature, Your Majesty?”

King Charles nodded, his face lined with anxiety. “Aye. But most of the hunters have dispersed.” Or been killed, Aerity thought with sorrow, remembering the men who’d come from all over Eurona and even a huntress who’d lost her life.

“I can have a message sent to Tiern Seabolt,” Harrison said. “I’m certain he would return with haste.”

Aerity’s abdomen tightened. Tiern was Paxton’s younger brother. He’d nearly been killed by the first beast and had been saved by Paxton’s Lashed magic. It was the very reason Pax had fled the kingdom—using magic was illegal, even to heal. Aerity didn’t want Tiern to hunt again. She didn’t want Paxton’s sacrifice to have been a waste.

“And his older brother?” the king asked.

“Nay.” Harrison paused. “He disappeared after the hunt. We don’t know his whereabouts.”

“Must you call Tiern back?” Aerity asked. When her father’s eyebrows drew together she emended, “He’s . . . so young.”

“He’s the same age as you, Daughter,” the king reminded her. “Seventeen. A man who’s already proven himself in the hunt.” Aerity pressed her lips together and nodded. She could not keep Tiern safe any more than she could force Harrison to stay out of harm’s reach. Their heroic hearts would urge them forward.

“Can we send word to the Zandalee?” Aerity’s uncle Lord Wavecrest asked.

The king shook his head. “I’m afraid not this time. The letter from the Rocato woman stated that her creatures have now been released in all the lands of Eurona. The Zandalee will be needed to fight in their own drylands of Zorfina.”

A fearful silence fell over the room. Each kingdom was on its own with its own beasts to battle now. Lochlanach was a quaint kingdom of fishermen and crop villagers, farmers, that had enjoyed many years of peace. The people had risen together to fight the first beast, but how much more could the king expect from them? It was too much. To imagine this kind of horror inflicted on innocent people all over Eurona sickened Aerity.

“Perhaps another proclamation?” Lord Wavecrest suggested carefully. At this proposal from Aerity’s uncle, the men in the room glanced around at one another, and the hairs rose on the princess’s arms. The queen caught her daughter’s eyes, and they both went still.

The last proclamation had offered Aerity’s hand in marriage to whoever killed the beast. The only thing left to give was the second princess, Aerity’s fifteen-year-old sister, Vixie. Her father stared down at his desk.

“No.” Aerity stepped forward, out of Lord Alvi’s embrace, her body trembling. “You cannot offer Vixie’s hand.”

The king’s hazel eyes, filled with regret, rose to hers. “I have nothing left to give.” With Vixie’s hand would come her dowry of lands. Using Vixie as a prize would surely smother her soul. Aerity wouldn’t stand for it.

“And why should you oppose it?” her uncle Preston asked haughtily. “The first proclamation provided you with a fine match. It can do the same for Vixie.”

Aerity stilled, forcing back the torrent of words that flooded her mind: unfair, poor match, confinement, no joy, no love. She was to endure those things for her kingdom, but the thought of Vixie losing her freedom to choose her future . . . it gutted Aerity. She knew how it appeared to the world—that she’d landed a handsome, noble, brave lord—but the heart didn’t care about appearances. It wanted who it wanted.

“And then what?” Aerity asked. “Who shall we offer for the next beast, and the one after that? Your own Wyneth? Or perhaps six-year-old Merity?”

Lord Wavecrest scowled.

“Enough, Aerity,” Queen Leighlane said quietly. Aerity met her mother’s eyes and felt an understanding there. No one knew better than the two of them how this would crush Vixie’s spirit. These men couldn’t possibly understand.

“Vixie’s nearly sixteen,” Lord Wavecrest pressed. Aerity wanted to claw out his eyes and force him to stop speaking.

“A proclamation offering Vixie’s hand will be my very last resort,” King Charles said, standing taller. “It is my hope that the people will rise of their own free will to protect their families and lands as they did in the last hunt. I will not hinder them with further curfews.”

Lord Wavecrest shook his head and crossed his arms. Aerity breathed a temporary sigh of relief.

“Sire, we should address the other part of the Rocato woman’s letter.” This was from the king’s oldest adviser, Duke Gulfton. This duke had been the closest adviser to Aerity’s grandfather King Leon. His views on the Lashed were legendarily conservative and strict, and he was a proponent of keeping the Lashed lists up to date. All persons with Lashed capabilities and their families were notated in the records and checked regularly for markings.
The stooped man wore a sea-green robe around his shoulders and a perpetual serious frown on his face. He leaned on his cane. “We cannot do as the Rocato woman demands. We cannot burn our records of Lashed Ones in these lands, or give them rein to take over our kingdom.”

A few of the other older men murmured their agreement.

Harrison stepped forward. “What if we made a copy of the list? Then it wouldn’t matter if one was destroyed.”

“I’ve got scribes copying pages as we speak,” the king responded. “But the Rocato woman has called for the records to be burned by sundown. The copy won’t be complete. There are thousands of names.”

Thousands of persons with Lashed blood in Lochlanach. Amazing, Aerity thought. Only a small percentage of those on the list actually had magic, though. Paxton’s family was not on the list. Aerity wondered how many others of magical blood had been able to elude the system.

“How will the madwoman know the difference?” Duke Gulfton asked. “Burn papers to appease her, then kill her and her monsters once and for all. End of story.”

“Here, here!” a few men shouted, as if it were that simple. As if they wouldn’t have done it by now if they could.

The king’s jaw was set. “I have a terrible feeling this woman has eyes and ears everywhere.”

The room quieted and a sense of unease spread as heads turned and everyone eyed the others present. Her father’s council was a small group of family and a mere handful of wise advisers, all landowners, who’d been loyal to the kingdom since her grandfather ruled. She couldn’t imagine this group being compromised.

“With all due respect, gentlemen,” Lord Alvi said to the room, “we will find every beast and even Rocato herself, but we cannot guarantee immediate success. The last hunt took two months.”

“Aye,” Harrison added. “And she’s threatening to kill seven men each week.”

“You’ll have to work faster this time,” Duke Gulfton told them.

The room tensed. During the last hunt they’d had a hundred men. They’d sought the monster nearly ten hours a night and spent the days scouting and preparing. The lands of Lochlanach stretched far and wide. Yet people like Duke Gulfton were expecting a miracle of the sea.

Queen Leighlane cleared her throat. “The fact of the matter is that we’re going to have to at least put on a show of honoring her wishes. We need to buy time as we plan.”

Another elder, Duke Streamson, asked, “What are you proposing, Your Highness? Rocato is demanding that all Lashed be allowed to freely work magic.”

Magic that wasn’t all bad, Aerity thought. Magic that had saved Tiern and could save others. If only she could get them to embrace that.

“I have an idea.” Aerity’s brain whirred as all eyes turned to her. “What if we set up a public area just outside the royal lands and invited Lashed from throughout the kingdom to come, and any Unlashed who wishes to seek their healing can receive it?”

Duke Streamson made a choking sound. “Round up the people of Rocato to turn against us in one place? That’s precisely what she wants!”

Aerity rushed on. “I don’t believe all Lashed are ‘her people.’ The entire area would be heavily guarded so that if any Lashed got out of line, they could be dealt with immediately.” The old dukes scoffed at her.

One of the military advisers stepped forward. “Our numbers are not as large as they once were. Our troop sizes have been modest in the past fifty years. I’ve got to keep men patrolling the seas and borders, and we’ve lost many in the past months. I worry that a large-scale showing of the Lashed will bring crowds.”

The room broke out into fervent debate. Those who were against Aerity’s idea were adamant, passionate in their fears. Those in favor seemed on weak, shaky ground.

“Given permission to put their hands on innocent people, it could be a massacre!”

“What if the Lashed overwhelm our guards?”


“They’ll rise up throughout the lands!”


“. . . commoner revolts . . . war . . .”


Aerity felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Harrison, his light brown eyes showing the never-faltering respect he seemed to hold for her. She gave his hand a quick squeeze of gratitude before he released her. Aerity caught Lord Alvi watching the exchange with curiosity, so she turned her gaze forward again—she would let him think what he wanted.

“Enough!” King Charles’s voice silenced the room. “I will think on it. I must put safety first. I’m not ready to overturn our laws—” Aerity opened her mouth to argue that she wasn’t suggesting a complete overturn, but a one-time, enclosed, secure circumstance. Her father held up a hand to stop her. “This blasted parchment from Rozaria Rocato is bound to have our people in terror. If I take the stability of our rules away, it will cause chaos. Tonight on the lawn we will burn whatever pages my scribes have managed to copy, to keep Rozaria satisfied, but the original lists remain with us. I pray to the sea this works.”

He looked at the hunters. “Lord Alvi. Lieutenant Gillfin. Gather as many hunters as you can and begin hunting this new beast immediately.” They nodded and took their leave. Aerity watched them go, swallowing a dry lump in her throat. The king looked to his military advisers. “I want every soldier on duty, and round-the-clock patrolling of royal lands. I want Rozaria Rocato, dead or alive.” He turned to his top castle guard. “Send messengers to the other four lands to let them know of our new foe and to find out their circumstances.”

Without another word, the king swept from the room with Queen Leighlane and a line of advisers close behind.

Aerity felt the brush of velvet on her arm and peered

down at the old man beside her. It was Duke Gulfton, his eyes glistening. “I mean no disrespect, Princess, only a piece of advice. In times of fear and upheaval, absolute routine and stability in the law are called for. Any slight change can set the people off.”

“As I recall,” Aerity said steadily, “Mrs. Rathbrook healed your ailing heart last year.” Mrs. Rathbrook was the royal healer—the only Lashed allowed to work magic.

He grasped the top of his cane with both hands. “Aye.”

“Should we not allow the people of this land to benefit from magic as you have?”

He looked down at his hands, nodding solemnly. “Not all Lashed are as trustworthy as Mrs. Rathbrook. You saw the Rocato woman face-to-face. You know the evil of which she is capable.”

“I suppose everyone is capable of evil, Duke Gulfton. None of us is immune, Lashed or not. But I choose to believe the best in people until they show me otherwise.”

Duke Streamson, waiting in the doorway, cleared his throat. Duke Gulfton peered up at Aerity and patted her hand. “Once they show you otherwise, it is often too late. As a rule it is not safe to take such chances. Seas help Lochlanach in our time of need.”

As Duke Gulfton shuffled away, Aerity whispered in return. “Seas help us, indeed.”

Wendy Higgins is the USA Today and NYT bestselling author of the Sweet Evil series from HarperTeen, the high fantasy duology The Great Hunt, and her independently published Irish fantasy, See Me. She is a former high school English teacher who now writes full time, and lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her veterinarian
husband, daughter, son, and doggie Rue.
 
Wendy earned a bachelor’s in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University. She is represented by Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.
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(2) Winners will receive the grand prizes (The Great Hunt Paperback and The Great Pursuit hardback from HarperTeen, and signed swag from Wendy Higgins! Plus an ARC of ROAR by Cora Carmack!), US Only.
 

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Adventurous reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz: Fanning the Flames by Chris Cannon

fanning
Bryn McKenna has it all, including her smoking-hot knight turned live-in boyfriend, Valmont. Even though she’s a hybrid dragon, she’s finally fitting into the new shape-shifting dragon world that’s become her own. But her grandparents want to ruin everything by making Bryn’s nightmare of an arranged marriage to Jaxon Westgate a reality. It doesn’t help that Jaxon’s father is on a witch hunt for Rebel sympathizers and Bryn finds herself in his line of fire.
If she doesn’t say, “I do,” she’ll lose everything. Good-bye flying. Good-bye best friends. Good-bye magic. But if she bends to her grandparents’ will and agrees to marry Jaxon, she’ll lose the love of her life—her knight.
author2085c-chris
 
Award winning author Chris Cannon lives in Southern Illinois with her husband and her three dogs, Pete the shih tzu who sleeps on her desk while she writes, Molly the ever-shedding yellow lab, and Tyson the sandwich-stealing German Shepherd Beagle. She believes coffee is the Elixir of Life. Most evenings after work, you can find her sucking down caffeine and writing fire-breathing paranormal adventures and snarky contemporary romance.
Epic reading,
Jordan