Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Your Midweek Update for 08/04/21

How the fuck is it already August?

This year has just flown by and I really am not enjoying my time. God, so much has happened in the last seven months, but I don’t think I could name a single thing.

Oh wait, my daughter got kidnapped by her birth mother, and my sister killed her and is now on the run. Right. Totally forgot about that.

That isn’t sarcasm, by the way. In this moment, I genuinely forgot that happened. Supposedly bad short-term memory is tied to poor sleep which… I’ve got tons of that. Or maybe it’s just that so many things happen in my life and they all blur together. The passage of time is not even and it’s very annoying. For example, this pandemic has not been going on for eighteen months. It’s been eighteen years and I know longer remember what my life was like without a mask on.

On the upside, I only have to worry about obscuring half of my face on security cameras – and if I wear sunglasses or a hat, I can do whatever the hell I want.

At least that’s the mentality I’ve taken with the mask restrictions. I don’t know that it’s laid out there in the bylaws that so long as I where a mask, I can sever someone’s carotid artery by giving them a papercut and slowly opening the wound.

But it doesn’t say I can’t do that so I’m taking it as permission.

I don’t know how to explain it, by papercuts make me so squeamish. I felt so bad for that person (I really need to use more inclusive language and not assume the gender of my victims. I promise, I’m working on it). They’re just so uncomfortable. I think I once tortured someone by giving them papercuts between their toes. I almost got nauseous.

But cleaning out the hot, rotted storage unit filled with actual vomit and decaying flesh was no problem for me. Explain that.

The human body will forever astound me. If you think about it, I’m really just a hands-on scientist. Who doesn’t want the attention for my work. And doesn’t really care about human beings. And takes a significant amount of pleasure in my work – enough to call myself an expert despite a lack of peer review.

So exactly like a scientist.

As always, dear readers,

Stay Safe

Friday, 30 July 2021

Book Tour for Gems of Fire by Diane E. Samson

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the GEMS OF FIRE by Diane E. Samson Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About the Books:

Title: MOUNTAIN OF FLAME (Gems of Fire #3)

Author: Diane E. Samson

Pub. Date: August 4, 2021

Publisher: Diane E. Samson

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 347

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon

Kindle Unlimited members will be able to read this for FREE!

Reeling from Jack becoming king of Oclen, Princess Anna returns home as Sunderland’s Defender. Earning her title was a hard-fought honor, but Anna can’t escape the guilt of leaving Jack alone in that cursed, starving place.

When Jack comes to Sunderland seeking aid from Anna’s father, she must decide whether to return with him and help defeat the curse plaguing the cold northern land. If she remains Sunderland’s Defender, she knows her heart would never forgive her for abandoning Jack to rebuild a crushed kingdom.

Can Anna leave what she loves to become queen of a people suspicious of her and the gems? Joining Jack would mean battling an evil greater than anything she’s ever faced, for the curse’s roots grow deep. But if she doesn’t, Oclen will likely fall and Anna will lose Jack forever.

 

Title: VALLEY OF BONES (Gems of Fire #2)

Author: Diane E. Samson

Pub. Date: February 15, 2021

Publisher: Diane E. Samson

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 351

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, B&N, TBD, Bookshop.org

Kindle Unlimited members will be able to read this for FREE!

Princess Anna is left to rule Sunderland as regent when her father, brother and her presumed fiancĂ© Jack ride to battle devouring creatures in Jack’s home kingdom of Oclen. She must establish herself as a strong leader with the Sunderland council and a neighboring king who brings along two handsome princes to negotiate an alliance.

Trouble erupts as outlining Sunderland villages are attacked by pillaging marauders and the council loses confidence in Anna’s leadership. As Anna waits in trepidation for word from her father’s army, all she hears is silence. Her scouts never return. When the reports of a coming horror reach Anna, she forges an unlikely alliance and forgoes her father’s long-standing policies against gems of power. She trains Sunderland’s remaining soldiers to fight with gems. She’ll lead them to battle to rescue her family and the one she loves.

But first she must survive the treachery brewing in her own court.

 

Title: GEMS OF FIRE (Gems of Fire #1)

Author: Diane E. Samson

Pub. Date: August 4, 2021

Publisher: Diane E. Samson

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 347

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Audible, B&N, TBD, Bookshop.org

Start reading the series now for .99 or Kindle Unlimited members will be able to read this for FREE!

Palace of Sunderland. Paradise to the peasants. Prison to sixteen-year-old Anna, daughter of the king. She can never escape the castle’s cold walls and scorning disapproval of her father and his brute royal counsel, Seamus. She’ll always live in the shadow of her late mother, the queen. Will they ever see her for who she really is?

A riding accident lands Anna in the hands of traders who sell her as a slave in distant Kasdod to none other than her father’s enemy, Lord Anwar. After overhearing a dangerous plot to conquer Sunderland and kill the royal family, Anna must escape and warn her father, even if it means facing her greatest enemy.

With the doom looming over her, Anna is approached by a dangerous man in the dark. He claims to want to help her, but can she trust him with her secrets? The perils of the journey ahead will push Anna to the limit and answer the one question that has always plagued her...

Will she ever be enough?  

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Excerpt of Wolf Marked by Alexis Calder

 

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the WOLF MARKED by Alexis Calder Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: WOLF MARKED (Moon Cursed #1)

Author: Alexis Calder

Pub. Date: July 29, 2021

Publisher: Alexis Calder

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 232

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle

Read For Free With A Kindle Unlimited Membership!

They tried to break me. Now I’m going to break them.

Cursed to never shift, the only thing I was looking forward to about the First Moon Ceremony was that the magic sealing me into Wolf Creek would break, and I could finally leave.

Instead, the ceremony reveals my true mate: Tyler Grant, future leader of my pack and the man responsible for my most recent concussion and black eye. He’s as brutal as he is handsome and fate is a bitch to put us together.

There’s a rumor that a mating bond could break my curse and just as I’m getting my hopes up, Tyler destroys them all.

Instead of bonding with my mate, I’m beaten and left for dead.

A hot-as-sin feral shifter finds me and helps me back on my feet. But his help comes with a cost and I’m not sure I’m willing to pay the price.

With my former pack hunting me down, even an enemy might be a better ally than trying to stay alive on my own.

This is book one in steamy rejected mate series. This is not a reverse harem series. 17+ for steam, language, and darker themes.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Your Midweek Update for 07/28/21

I am so glad I never got the kids a dog when they asked. When Sandra and Jason first came to live with me and they were being, well, moody teenagers whose mother had just been arrested, they asked if they could finally get a dog. They’d asked their mother (and myself whenever I looked after them) for a pet for years but it just wasn’t a viable option for a criminal family. The kids didn’t understand that and I don’t think they fully forgave their mother – who was always absent to begin with – for never giving in to their one request. So, naturally, when they came to live with me full time, they once again started asking for a pet to keep them company. My excuse – which was, admittedly, very true – was that suddenly paying for two teenagers was enough of a shock to my bank account and schedule that adding another being would be too much to handle. The other part, that I never told them, was that having a dog around the house was just not safe for me. Coming and going at all hours, the scent of blood that takes a few washes to fully get out of clothes, the basic care and cleanup that requires a set schedule to be kept; it just wouldn’t work.

Of course, having a guard dog would be nice. Someone to protect the home while James and I were away. But that’s what Sandra and Jason were for. Then they grew up and were allowed to leave the house unsupervised and all of that went out the window. But it still wasn’t worth it to get a dog.

Now, with me, James and Casey living our rather hectic schedule, I’m so glad we don’t have anyone or anything waiting for us to come home. Our lives are stressful enough.

Perhaps the kids missed out on some sort of seminal childhood experience – although I never had a dog and I turned out just fine – but I have to think that Rover wouldn’t have been able to change their fates. Nothing I did would have changed it, either.

I keep having to remind myself of that: I can’t change the past. Regret won’t bring Sandra back or make Jason trust me again. What I did can’t be undone.

I can’t keep living in the past.

As always, dear readers,

Stay Safe

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Book Tour for Doppelganger by William Michael Davidson

 

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the DOPPELGANGER by William Michael Davidson Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About the Book

Title: DOPPELGANGER

Author: William Michael Davidson

Pub. Date: March 24, 2021

Publisher: Shadenger Press

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 319

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindle, TBD, Bookshop.org

Read for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited Subscription!

David Anderson is a mild-mannered English professor until he walks into the classroom one day and discovers the corpse of one of his colleagues. She has been murdered. With all eyes on him, another woman, this time a former student of his, is also found murdered. In both cases, the killer has done the same thing: taken photos of the body and posted them anonymously online. Because of this, the media has dubbed him the Voyeur Killer. When it happens a third time, Detective Grimm, the cold and ruthless woman leading the investigation, narrows her sights on the English professor and begins to close in. Yet David, who has exhausted himself convincing others that he isn’t guilty, begins to question his own sanity. Is he the one committing these murders? Has he been doing it without his own knowledge? Desperate to clear his own name and discover what is happening, he begins to unravel the secrets of a twisted and depraved mind. The only question: is it his own?

Praise for DOPPELGANGER:

"If you love James Patterson, you will love this!!I am an avid mystery reader. This was definitely a page turner. I judge a mystery on how quickly I can figure out "who dunnit". I didn't see the ending coming. If you love James Patterson, it is reminiscent of his style yet the author definitely has carved out his own niche. Great Read!!" Amazon Review

"This story is very compelling and David is a character that cared about, could relate to in his ordinary-ness. I like to read books like this that keep me glued to the page, wanting the best for the character but having this niggling worry he's not all he seems to be. The evil narrator filled me with such dread, pure evil with hope of redemption, a human horror story." Amazon Review

"Wow. Honestly, this isn't really my genre. It is just not the type of book that I generally seek out. But I started reading it, and once I did, I could not put it down." Amazon Review

Book Trailer:


 

Excerpt

The spark will ignite.

            The fuse will be lit.

            It reminds me of what my grandmother said on her deathbed: “It is almost time to strike off.” I can see her emaciated face, her wrinkled grin. The lights in her eyes blow out like two matches, leaving twin threads of smoke.

            I stand at the bottom of the campus stairwell and look up as the woman descends. Her heels click like hammers on the concrete steps, and her scarlet skirt flutters about her legs. She is sexy, yes. The kind that doesn’t know it—and that is always the best kind.

            She doesn’t see me standing in the shadows, but she will when she turns the corner. And that’s when I will have to put on my mask. Not a literal mask, but the facade I’ve created. The one we all create.

            I was only a young boy when I learned this very important aspect of human nature. It was my mother who told me this in the backyard over a glass of Jack Daniels. She held the glass in her left hand, adorned with its third wedding ring, her cigarette perched in the other hand, and she slurred her words: “I just don’t get you. School called again today and said you were brattier than usual. I don’t see you act that way here. How can you be two different people?”

            That was when it started.

            At least, I think.

            It was like the first time I pulled a dirty mag from under Stepdad Number Three’s side of the bed and saw it for the first time. That same sensual euphoria. The hot arousal.

            I can be two people. Split. A doppelganger. A soul in stereo.

            My mom didn’t know it was me when I killed the stray cat that wandered into our yard. She didn’t hear it scream when I sliced its throat, when I felt its blood pour over my hands. It was the first of several. Cats sound a lot like children screaming when they die. So much so that I worried the neighbors would call the police because it sounded like I was murdering a child. My mom didn’t know that I was the reason our bird died, too. She didn’t see when I held it underwater in the bathtub with both hands and brought it up minutes later, limp and dripping tepid water.

            All of that was in preparation for this.           

            Because I’ve taken so much—YOU ARE A HORRIBLE—of her—LOSER OF A CHILD—and the world—AND I HOPE YOU DIE—and the wait is over. I will unveil my art in defiance.

            Her voice is still in my head, like barbed wire.

            I have been two people.

            And so when the woman descends the stairs, I will put on my face. The face she likes. The face she knows. But the world will soon see that she is the first bit of fuse that I will light. The first domino that I will knock over.

            Because I’ve learned to master this art. I’ve done it for years, so much so that I wonder if the other half of me even knows about this. I have fooled even myself, because when I slip out of this self—like a snake shedding dry scales—I will refuse to admit this to myself.

            She sees me and walks toward me.

            I see that sexy smile, so I smile back.

            She shakes my hand, a courteous hello, and her fingers are strangely cold.

            I look into her eyes and grin. She doesn’t know that very soon, like my grandmother, the light in her eyes will flicker out and her hand will feel much colder than this.

            Time to strike off.

 

About William:

William Michael Davidson lives in Long Beach, California. A believer that "good living produces good writing," Davidson writes early in the morning so he can get outside, exercise, spend time with people, and experience as much as possible. He is a writer of suspense and speculative fiction. If he's not writing, he's probably at the beach.

Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

 



Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of DOPPELGANGER, US Only.

1 winner will receive an eBook of DOPPELGANGER, International.



Tour Schedule:

Week One:

7/5/2021

Rockstar Book Tours

Kickoff Post

7/6/2021

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt

7/7/2021

Jaime's World

Excerpt

7/8/2021

Jaimerockstarbooktours

Instagram Post

7/9/2021

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt

Week Two:

7/12/2021

Fire and Ice

Excerpt

7/13/2021

BookHounds

Guest Post

7/14/2021

The Momma Spot

Guest Post

7/15/2021

@lexijava_bookish

Guest Post

7/16/2021

Jazzy Book Reviews

Excerpt

Week Three:

7/19/2021

Rajiv's Reviews

Review

7/20/2021

#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt

7/21/2021

More Books Please

Review

7/22/2021

Writer of Wrongs

Excerpt

7/23/2021

Don't Judge, Read

Review

Week Four:

7/26/2021

@curlygrannylovestoread

Review

7/27/2021

Every Free Chance Books

Review

7/28/2021

Book for Thought

Excerpt

7/29/2021

Simply Daniel Radcliffe

Review

7/30/2021

@pagesofyellow

Review


Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Your Midweek Update for 07/21/21

I found my old crochet needles the other day. That feels like a lifetime ago, when I was stuck in quarantine, bored out of my mind and looking for something to do. So much has happened since this pandemic started. And I’m definitely not going to be picking up knitting or crocheting or any other sedentary habit, so I’ve been putting the needles to good use.

Do you know how sharp those things are? There are little old ladies walking around with literal knives in their purses.

Not that they could ever find them. Their bags are filled with so many THINGS, I’m surprised they can find anything. Is it a generational thing? My mother does it, too. She carries her entire life in her bag and maybe uses two items all week. I understand the “just in case” mentality (hence why I always carry around a Tide Stick and a nail file – for murdering purposes, I’m not just obsessed with tidy nails and a clean shirt) but it seems so ridiculous to heft these gigantic bags around all the time.

Anyways, I’ve taken to carrying these crochet needles around so I can stab people at my leisure but, unfortunately, I do need to

My brain has completely stopped working.

We took James’ car in to get his tires rotated and the mechanic just left a five minute voicemail explaining that it was ready to be picked up. Wholly unnecessary. If the man didn’t do such good work, I would kill him just for leaving that voicemail. I screen my calls for a reason, Micah, there was no reason to go into such detail. And now I’m distracted and forgot what I was going to say because I was listening to Micah.

Oh right.

So. I want to stab people but in order to make it at least somewhat believable for me to be carrying around these needles, I have to take up crocheting again. Just a little bit – just enough to have progress to show my co-workers and random strangers at cafes while I’m perusing for new victims.

It is so boring and yet so frustrating, I don’t understand why people enjoy this hobby.

But they make such good stabbing weapons.

Sharp enough to pierce skin, but they’re unusually shaped so it makes the weapon harder to identify. A few times, the news has reported that they believe the murder weapon to be an ice pick. Sometimes it’s a medical needle. One time, they said it was an alien straw.

I don’t know how credible their source was on that one but it certainly hurt everyone’s credibility during the investigation.

Point is: needles are super fun weapons and if it means taking up the most boring hobby in history in order to keep using them, I will put up with it… for now. Who knows, I’ll probably give up next week because I’m fickle and variety is the spice of life.

As always, dear readers,

Stay Safe

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Cover Reveal for Spirit Fire by Susan McCauley

Today Susan McCauley and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover for SPIRIT FIRE the third book in her Middle Grade Paranormal series which releases September 28, 2021! Check out the awesome cover and enter the giveaway!

 

On to the reveal!


About the Book

Title: SPIRIT FIRE (Ghost Hunters #3)

Author: Susan McCauley

Pub. Date: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Celtic Sea Publishing

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon

Kindle Unlimited members will be able to read this for FREE!

Who—or what—is causing the fires in the French Quarter? A little girl? A long-dead prisoner? An evil presence calling to those beyond the grave?

In this spooky, fast-paced adventure, twelve-year-old Alex must fight smoke, flames, and ghostly prisoners to stop whatever’s causing the blazes—before more lives are lost.

Haven’t started the series yet? Grab books 1 & 2, BONES IN THE WALL & PIRATE’S CURSE for FREE with a KU subscription! Or get the audiobook for book 1 for FREE on Audible!

BONES IN THE WALL: Kindle, Audible

PIRATE’S CURSE: Kindle

 

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

 

The remains of wood and stone poked through ash and broken glass like charred bones. They were bones, in a way—the building’s bones. I sighed and took in a deep breath of smoke-tinged air. At least the coroner had taken away the victims. I didn’t want to see that. Seeing their ghosts could be scary enough.

I walked over a scorched beam that had fallen from the ceiling, leaving a gaping hole that opened to the sky, letting the autumn sunlight illuminate the building’s steel-white ribs. Tattered bits of a singed paper skeleton dangled loosely from a door, hanging lopsided on its hinge. Halloween was only a few days away.

“The fire marshal hasn’t been able to determine the cause of the fire yet, but we’re glad it didn’t reach The Cablido,” said Frank Martinez, my mentor. “That museum is filled with artifacts.” Frank was not only my teacher, but he was also a famous psychic investigator and a retired officer from Washington D.C.’s head Office of Psychic Investigation (OPI). If it hadn’t been for Frank, I would have been sent off to some boarding school for psychic kids, which would have been super hard—especially since I was the only kid in history to become psychic at the ripe old age of 12. I was an anomaly. A freak. An oddball. And the accident that caused it all had turned my life upside down.

“Do you sense anything?” Frank sniffed the air. I knew he was smelling for something more than smoke and mildew.

I closed my eyes and let out a deep breath. I could almost feel the fear and pain of the people who had been trapped inside. Just a few days ago they’d been laughing, talking, alive. Now. . .Gone. Accidents happened so quickly, but they could definitely make permanent changes. My heart ached for the people who’d died in the fire. For their fear. For their pain. For the loss of their families. The ache in my chest was real enough, but I didn’t feel any ghosts. Not right now. I couldn’t feel the energy of what people had felt in the past; that part was my imagination. What I could see and feel and hear were actual ghosts; that was part of being psychic. 

 

About Susan:

Susan is an award winning author of paranormal, fantasy, and horror for adults, young adults, and middle grade readers. She first fell in love with the paranormal when she was three years old and scared witless on Disney's Haunted Mansion ride, but begged her parents to ride again and again!

Susan has lived on all three coasts of the United States, as well as having spent a few years in the U.K. She loves to travel, scuba dive, practice taekwondo (she's not a black belt - yet!), read, see movies, and go to the theatre. She's also passionate about animals and has a special place in her heart for cats. You can visit her on the web at www.sbmccauley.com

Sign up for Susan’s Newsletter!

 

Website  Facebook  | Twitter  | Instagram | TikTok |  Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive an eARC of SPIRIT FIRE delivered via BookFunnel, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Your Midweek Update for 07/14/21

I still have no idea what to do about Casey. I feel helpless – and you know how I feel about feeling helpless. She is getting better. She’s interacting more, she even went with me to get groceries this weekend. There’s just a lot that she’s not dealing with and I don’t know who to support her.

So I killed a few people just to make myself feel better. It’s a bit like eating my feelings (giving in to an “unhealthy habit” in order to get some sort of instant gratification). But you know what? If I keep doing it, those feelings of gratification will never end and I won’t have to wonder if my daughter will ever be able to deal with the trauma she endured while kidnapped by her birth mother.

Killing people makes me feel better. Even if it doesn’t solve the immediate problem, I deserve to feel better.

Admittedly, it wasn’t my smartest kill: now I have to go look for a new produce vendor. I am going to miss her cherries. But her prices went up and I was in a shitty mood, so I stabbed her in the neck with some gardening sheers and took home two bags for my troubles.

And then there was a man on the street who was talking on his phone, not paying attention, and bumped right into me, making me spill coffee all over my shirt. A very sweet gentleman grabbed some napkins and helped clean me up and I thanked him for his pains by throwing his head against a cement wall until his brain started to leak out his ears.

Not everyone I kill deserves to die – and not everyone who deserves to die is killed by me. It’s less about them and more about me and my needs. And we’re right back to the instant gratification.

Honestly, what is so wrong about prioritizing your own needs. You know the phrase “oxygen mask on first before helping others” doesn’t just apply to airplanes. This entire fucking existence is an emergency. Do what you want to do, don’t get caught, and everyone will be a whole lot happier.

My last kill of this week was some cyclist who flipped me off for opening my door into the bike lane. He was fine! He still had plenty of room. And it’s not my fault the city doesn’t think through their infrastructure. Honestly, I have yet to meet a cyclist who isn’t an entitled asshole. They think they’re so much better than motorists because they’re being “environmentally conscious”, but they have the same aggressive attitude towards pedestrians that all of us have (including other pedestrians) so they’re just as bad. And this guy. To cuss someone out because they opened a door?  

Sometimes, the people who’s tires I slash and then offer them a ride to the repair shop but instead drive them out into a wooded one-lane road and repeatedly run them over before dumping their body in another wooded section…

Absolutely deserve it.

As always, dear readers,

 Stay Safe 

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Release Day for In The Shadow Of The Cities by Laurel Solorzano

I am so excited that IN THE SHADOWS OF THE CITIES by Laurel Solorzano is available now and that I get to share the news!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book, be sure to check out all the details below.

This blitz also includes a giveaway for some AWESOME prizes courtesy of Laurel, & Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, check out the giveaway info below.


About The Book:

Title: IN THE SHADOWS OF THE CITIES

Author: Laurel Solorzano

Pub. Date: July 13, 2021

Publisher: Morgan James Fiction

Pages: 260

Formats: Paperback 7/13/21, eBook available now!

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

Scarlett would never kill her best friend, perhaps a Citizen if the situation called for it, but never Rhys. There are quite a few rules in the training center, but a few are the kind that are never broken.

1. Greens are not sent into Cities without officially being promoted to Blue.

2. Blues don’t kill each other.

So why is Scarlett being sent into a City without the proper training? And why does a bizarre, elderly male say Scarlett will kill Rhys? In the Shadow of the Cities details Scarlett’s life in the training center before she is pulled unexpectedly into City life. Without the proper training, she is confused about these things called “families” and why the Citizens aren’t grateful that she is keeping them safe.

In this dystopian novel, In the Shadow of the Cities, the story is told not from a Citizen’s point of view but from a Guard’s. Why do the guards seem to tirelessly obey the government? How can they gun down Citizens mercilessly? Find out as you follow Scarlett on her journey into the Cities.

 

Book Trailer:


 

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Scarlett stared out the window of her history class. 

The Blue droned on at the front of the room, but Scarlett hated the story of the Government, not that she would dare say as much aloud. Blah, blah, blah. Citizens couldn’t be trusted to share. Blah, blah, blah. They had been organized according to abilities and were allowed to live their best lives as long as they followed the rules. Blah, blah, blah.

Scarlett had never seen one of these Citizens, but she had been shown many pictures. They looked just like her, except for the fact they weren’t as intelligent. But that wasn’t always something you could see. 

Scarlett shifted to a more comfortable position in her chair and dared a glance over her shoulder at Jaylin. Jaylin was staring intently at the Blue as though they hadn’t been told this same story before, as though she might absorb some detail that she had missed during another account. 

Scarlett sighed softly as her mind turned to what she would do when she was finished with her classes for the day. She had exactly two hours of free time before dinner. Free time was the only chance she would have to see Rhys because males and females weren’t often allowed to mingle. 

A piece of paper landed on her desk, and Scarlett’s eyes flew up. The Blue was already moving on to the next desk. A quiz? On what? They hadn’t learned anything ew. Scarlett waited for the signal to turn her paper over and quickly scanned the questions. Then, rolling her eyes at the quick bout of anxiety, she raced through the quiz, circling the correct answers. 

All of her other classes moved on to new material after a week or two. But his- tory class—it was always the same. At least she was guaranteed a good grade. What Scarlett couldn’t wait for was the “Life in the Cities” class. But she wouldn’t be able to take that one until she was a Blue, and who knew when that would be. She had been a Green for three years, but she could continue to be a Green for an- other five if she wasn’t able to meet the right goals. She could potentially remain a Green forever, but she knew that wasn’t a real possibility, not with her dedication to the training. 

A grating beep signaled the end of class, and Scarlett placed her book carefully into her satchel. Everyone remained silent until they exited the classroom, then Jaylin grabbed Scarlett’s arm. 

“Female! You have got to come with me. Miya and I are planning on partic- ipating in the Optional Fitness Program, and you have to join us.” 

Scarlett nodded, trying to match Jaylin’s enthusiasm for the program. Scarlett enjoyed working out, and she often spent time exercising during her free hours. But there was something about having another program in lieu of choosing her own exercises that made Scarlett wary of joining. 

“Thanks, Jaylin, but Rhys and I are going to practice in the shooting range today.” 

“You can practice tomorrow. The program is only four days a week.” 

Scarlett and Jaylin were old friends. They had been promoted to Green on the same day and had nervously learned to navigate the new waters together. Scarlett knew her friend wouldn’t be hurt if she turned her down.

“I think I need more aim training than ab training,” Scarlett said. They had reached the end of the hall. “I’ll see you at dinner time.” 

Jaylin shrugged, making a pouty face that Scarlett knew was exaggerated. “Fine, female, abandon me then. Miya and I will talk bad about you behind your back.” 

Scarlett laughed. “Just don’t wear out your lips from using them too much.” 

Scarlett hurried toward the front door, which led to the gate that separated the males’ and females’ training centers. There was only one way to pass from one to the other, and you had to be approved by the Blue guarding it. It was a fair process. Scarlett had never been denied entry. 

She stepped up to the guard and presented her badge to be scanned. The guard nodded as the time flashed up on the board along with Scarlett’s information. She entered the males’ training compound, heading around the building rather than through it. Scarlett found most males maintained a horrendous odor, and it was best to avoid them in concentrated numbers when possible. 

Scarlett entered the males’ shooting range, scanning the pods for the familiar dark curls. Pod 3. The pod where they had met. 

Scarlett checked out a longer rifle and headed toward the pod, adjusting her safety gear. She waited for Rhys to lower his pistol and bob his head slightly to let her know he knew she was waiting to enter. 

Carefully, Scarlett slipped the sound-proof glass door open then closed. She stood beside Rhys, taking her position on the other shooter’s mark. Rhys didn’t hogwash her with boring questions of how her classes were. He already knew. He took the same classes, just in the males’ training center. 

“Five shots?” Rhys asked instead. 

Scarlett raised her rifle. “I don’t have my gun of choice. I thought I would go with something I hadn’t practiced with for a while.”

“All the better,” Rhys responded, aiming and firing five shots in quick succes- sion. Four hit the middle of the target. The other one missed by two centimeters. 

“Why? Because you’re assured of a win? Is that why you want to compete? Be- cause you can’t normally provide a challenge for me?” 

Rhys smiled as he waited for her to take her turn. Scarlett hesitated, but she wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. She turned toward the target and took her time aiming, the bulky weapon unfamiliar in her grip. Finally, she took her shots, pausing between each one. 

“Two,” Rhys declared bluntly. 

“Yes, two. Thank you. My eyes are working very well.” 

Rhys laughed a little as he lifted his safety goggles and propped them on the top of his head. “Hey, I couldn’t be sure after those shots. Besides, you agreed to it. I didn’t force you into anything.”

“Sure,” Scarlett said, copying his move with the goggles. “The ‘peer pressure’ came on pretty strong.” Scarlett looked toward the booth where she had checked out the rifle, wondering what had made her grab it. She hated being beaten. 

Rhys laughed and turned toward the target once more. They had various competitions and “trick shots” they could try, but Scarlett had something else on her mind. She gazed through the pod toward the east. She couldn’t see the Mound from here. The dorm’s tall frame was too close, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t on her mind. 

“Your turn,” Rhys responded impatiently. 

Scarlett shook her head “I have a better idea,” she said, even as her stomach twisted into knots. “I’m ready to get over my fear.” 

“Of heights?” Rhys knew her well. He followed her gaze, then laughed, rubbing his coffee-colored hands together in enjoyment. “What are you going to do? Scale the dorm?” 

Scarlett laughed. “Uh . . . no.” 

“Then what? There’s nothing else taller than that, so if you don’t scale the dorm building, then you’re letting me down.” 

“There’s the Mound,” Scarlett said, referring to the large thing that lurked just outside the fence, just outside the area they were allowed to go. No one quite knew what it was made of, but it looked possible to scale. 

Rhys gave her an incredulous look. “You’re not serious. When?” 

Scarlett shrugged, the nervousness making her feel weak. She turned to the tar- get and took a few shots to calm her nerves. They were near the bullseye, close enough with the unfamiliar weapon that she felt assured again. 

“Tonight.” 

“After lights out?”

Scarlett nodded. “Yes. The only question is . . . are you coming with me?” 

Rhys cocked an eyebrow. “I never miss out on an adventure, but . . . I also don’t break the rules. The rules are there for a reason.” 

The corner of Scarlett’s mouth curved up just a bit. “What rule would we be breaking?” 

Rhys shook his head. “I don’t know. How about never leaving the training cen- ter walls? Or the one about staying in bed between lights out and morning wake up? Do you want me to go on?” 

Scarlett sighed. “Those are Level 1 infractions; it’s not like you’ve never broken the rules before.” 

“Yeah, but two Level 1 infractions?” Rhys sighed and inspected the pistol care- fully. “I’ll do it. I mean, for you. But I know I’m close to being promoted. I know I’m going to be a Blue soon, and when that happens, none of this. I can’t risk being stuck at the training center for the rest of my career. I want to be in a City.” 

Scarlett nodded. “Okay, tonight. I’ll see you an hour after lights out where the fences meet.” 

Rhys considered her idea for a minute. “Okay, I’ll be there.” The seriousness of their plan weighed on them as they continued shooting. 

Scarlett couldn’t back down. She had been considering the idea for weeks, and now seemed like the time to do it. After all, Mrs. said you should conquer all fears before entering a City. And that meant facing them. Now that the plan was in place, Scarlett felt nervous, like maybe she shouldn’t have suggested it, like maybe they would be better waiting one more night. She glanced askew at Rhys. She didn’t dare say anything to him now. He would never let her live it down. So, tonight it would be.

 

About Laurel Solorzano:

Laurel Solorzano has enjoyed writing since she was in middle school, exchanging manuscripts for years with her best friend. After traveling the globe for a time, Laurel set her goal to become a published author. As she works teaching English and  Spanish,  she  writes stories  in  her  free  time.  Laurel  currently  lives  in  Raleigh,  North  Carolina  with her husband, Yader.


Website | Twitter |Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive an eBook of IN THE SHADOWS OF THE CITIES (gifted via amazon), International.