“I will have you on my throne. And worship you like the goddess you are.”
Flowers have followed Isla Adayra her whole life. Things are no different in the City of the Dead.
After volunteering to be Bride of the Corpse King to save her family, Isla sets a course to woo the God of Death. From seducing him with her corpus roses to accepting his mark of Death, Isla must keep him from reaping her soul.
With Death in his cursed form, the Corpse King, Allysteir, meets his match with Isla and her passion. It isn’t long before his feeble heart falls for the girl who eats forbidden fruit and grows roses and thorns from her flesh. But could she truly tempt Death? And break their land’s Curse?
For fans of A Touch of Darkness comes a dark and rapturous fantasy retelling starring a brooding and tortured Corpse King and a heroine strong enough to conquer the God of Death…
As a bestselling Kindle Vella Author for fantasy romance, I love to feature strong, badass heroines, dark, tortured love interests, spicy romance, and queer inclusivity. My past work includes a Top 100 YA anti-trafficking dystopian: The Uncaged Series.
After finding my voice late 2020, I am celebrating my newer debut works. Bride of the Corpse King: A Hades and Persephone Retelling and Bride of Lucifer are my top Kindle Vella books. Learn more at “Emily’s Vella Verse” on FB or connect with me on any social media pages, especially Tiktok!
An abuse survivor and trained advocate, I’ve worked as an awareness speaker all over Minnesota including the MLA and MEA conferences attended by hundreds of educators and librarians. As a recently out and proud bisexual feminist, my passion through my advocacy work and writing is to celebrate and normalize queer characters, showcase trauma-overcoming themes, and to empower female audiences, including my two daughters.
Please subscribe to Emily’s newsletter at – http://www.emilybethshore.com – to keep up with my series projects, author promos, and contests to receive fun prizes!
Emily lives in Saint Paul with her husband and two daughters. When not writing enemies to lovers with sex positive and empowered females smashing the patriarchy, Emily is pursuing grad school for domestic abuse advocacy.
Everyone who knows me knows that I’m obsessed with Halloween so in 2019 when I found out that there was a Halloween/horror convention in long beach I knew I had to go and it was everything i had ever wanted. They not only had venders selling spooky wears they also had panels and home haunters who had set up in what they called the hall of shadows. I loved everything about it and had planned on coming back the following year and then the pandemic happened.
This year I hadn’t been planning on going originally since it took place so close to comic con but then i saw that Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw (Max and Allison from Hocus Pocus) were going to be there and I 1) freaked out a little since Hocus Pocus is one of my favorite Halloween/ Fall movies and 2) immediately tried to find a ride up to long beach, (for those who don’t know I can’t drive because of the MS). After finding my ride i bought my tickets. So here’s what I did.
Once we got to long beach we found parking and made our way up to the convention center. There was already a line to get in so we joined that line. It wasn’t to long and it only took us maybe a half hour to get inside the convention center (I heard that the line for Saturday was really bad).
The first thing I did once inside was find the room where they were having the panel for Dizney coast to coast & Hocus Pocus cast and got a seat for that. After a half hour of waiting the panel started. It was so cool listening to Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw talk about being on the set and their experience as actors.
After the panel I went down to the convention hall so i could get a signed print from both of them but they hadn’t returned to their signing table yet so instead i looked around the hall. There were over 300 venders to look at!
here’s some pictures from inside the hall
I checked back later in the day at the signing table and saw that Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw were back so i got a print signed by both of them before heading to the hall of shadows.
I’m a little sad that it was to dark to take picture inside of the hall. It was amazing! This year the entrance was a spooky Halloween town. My favorite house was the pumpkin one. They also had some staff handing out candy so you could trick or treat at some of the houses as you walked by.
The first thing i did was look around to see if there were any strobe lights you could see from outside the haunts and skipped those ones. When it comes to haunts it’s always hard for me to find ones that don’t have strobe lights, I always have to ask and most of the time it’s a yes we have them. For those who don’t know I get non epileptic seizures. After asking around I did end up finding three I cold do!
When i was done with the hall of shadows I went over to haunted orange county booth so i could get a signed poster from Bob Gurr .
After that the convention was starting to come to a close. I quickly ran over to the mystic museum booth so i could take a couple quick pictures and we called it a day.
After such a long wait Comic Con is back! If you guys don’t know me this is probably one of my favorite events of the year even without a ticket there is so much stuff to do. After staying inside so long and trying to avoid getting covid, (which I ended up getting in June.) I was not prepared for such a big event. This year I decided to take it easy on myself so instead of going to a bunch of parties and trying every offsite they had I picked a few of the outside things to do along with the two days I was in the con.
I woke up early so I could take the trolley down to the convention center and be there before the doors open. This year they had us line up at different locations so we could show either a vaccination card or a negative test result and get a wrist band (I feel like they probably should have given us plastic ones instead of the paper one they did).
After getting my wristband I headed into the convention. I had a small list of things I wanted to get done that day. I headed to the publishing booths first to see what their giveaway schedules were and ran into the fierce reads booth handing out Anna-Marie McLemore’s new book so I got in line and grabbed one.
Afterwards I wandered around the small press sections for a while and chatted with the different exhibitors (one of my favorite things about being inside the con is looking at the different art and talking to the small press venders). Around 11:30 I headed back to the fierce reads booth because they were giving away copies of Aiden Thomas’s new book The Sunbearer Trials.
After getting my copy I started making my way over the Manchester Grand Hyatt to get wrist bands for the her fashion universe show. I love going to the show every year and always make sure to add it to my schedule. When I got to the hotel I was told t by some girls in line that they had started handing out the wristbands an hour earlier then they said they were going to, (they were supposed to hand them out around 1 and instead they started handing them out at 12). I got my wristband still, (I was so glade that I decided to head to the hotel earlier than I had planned to.) and was told to come back around 4:45.
I quickly headed back to the convention center for the three signings I had planned on attending that day.
The first signing was for Cissy Jones the voice actress who plays Lilith in the owl house a show I love. If you haven’t watched it yet you’re missing out, it has a great story line and amazing characters and the art if fantastic. If you love gravity falls, amphibia or star vs the forces of evil you’ll love this one to and did I mention that it’s a LGBTQ+.
I might have fan fangirled a little when it was my turn to meet Cissy I told her how much I loved the show and that I wished that season three was going to be longer (the show deserves way more than Disney is giving it). I got a print signed by her and left to go to another singing.
I got in line for the brick by brick: building a magical world panel signing next. I was super excited to meet Aiden Thomas and Rose Szabo, I loved cemetery boy’s and what big teeth so much when I read them. When it was my turn, I got my books signed by Aiden first and I told him how much I loved his writing and that cemetery boy’s is probably one of my favorite books and then I moved on to Rose and got my copy of what big teeth signed (i blanked and completely forgot to take a picture of Rose).
I headed over to my last signing of the day which was for the challenge of challenges panel. They were handing out belladonna ARCS and I was so excited since Belladonna is one of my most anticipated reads for this year.
When it was my turn they handed me the ARC and I talked to Adalyn for a few minutes, my next book was for Axie Oh but she was still busy signing someone else’s books so I chatted with Gina Chen for a little bit, I told her I was super excited to read her book and that I saw that she was coming to the mysterious galaxy the next week, ( which is my local indie.) she handed me some stickers and I moved on to Axie Oh to get my copy of the girl who fell beneath the sea signed.
Afterwards I headed downstairs to look at the artist alley for a hour before heading back over to the Manchester Grand Hyatt. I showed them my wristband and got in line to watch the fashion show.
This year I had the hardest time taking pictures of the show because everyone else kept trying to do the same thing so after a while I just gave up.
After the show instead of letting the public look at the costumes and take pictures of them, the models and designers were rushed off to a influencers party so I was only able to take a quick pictures of one of the models. I was a little upset at this because being able to look at the costumes up close and take pictures of them has always been one of my favorite things about the show. After I left the show I headed over to eat at the cheesecake factory and headed home.
I had reservations for the dungeon and dragons offsite for 11 so I headed to that. The line moved pretty quickly. Once I got close to the front of the line they mentioned that they had strobe lights (I get non epileptic seizure because of the MS.) so i had to take myself out of the line, the staff was very apologetic about not having a better warning for the strobe lights.
I was a little upset that I couldn’t do the offsite since it was one of the main ones I wanted to do.
I made my way over to the Petco interactive zone so I could see what the ghost offsite was about. I really enjoy the show and watch it with my sister sometimes. It was another one of the offsites my list to see.
I got in line for the offsite and the line moved pretty quicky. Once inside they gave out a map for the different station you could earn badges at.
The stations you could visit and earn badges were tarot reading, crystal reading, palm reading, archery and a photo booth.
I have a huge history with divination I’ve been doing it since I was very young starting with a scrying crystal when i was 12 and moving on to tarot and rune stones when I was 18. I don’t trust very many people with reading me so I was a little hesitant to have people I don’t know try to read me. If I really need answers I tend to get them myself.
With that said I still tried it though none of the things each reader said resonated with me at all and two of them tried to talk to me about my love life and needing to open up more (I’m happy being single thank you!).
Over all it was fun.
After I left the Petco interactive zone I headed over to the FX maze. This has to be my favorite offsite that I did.
When I was done with that I headed over to the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness “Pop-A-Poppa” which was a photo OP and a whack a mole game where you get to hit Pizza Poppa instead of a mole.
When I was done with that I took some pictures from around the Gaslamp, ate dinner and called it a day.
i hadn’t actually been planning on going down to the con on Saturday, i didn’t have tickets for that day and i wanted to save my energy for Sunday but a friend asked me if i wanted to hang out for a little bit and a few of my pictures from the day before didn’t turn out well so i went to do that.
Sunday didn’t quite go as I planned (probably because of how tired I was).
The first thing i did when i got in the convention was go to the fierce reads booth so i could get a ticket for Marissa Meyer’s signing at 11. after i got my ticket i wandered around the convention hall so i could see the stuff i hadn’t been able to look at yet and take pictures.
Around 10:30 I headed back to fierce reads to get in line for the signing and was handed the last number for the posters they were giving out. the signing started at 11 and i waited for it to be my turn. i had seen Marissa Meyer a few times at the mysterious galaxy but each time she came i had either forgotten my books or didn’t have enough money to buy her new one so i was really happy to get my renegades trilogy signed.
After i got my books signed i went to go pick up a few things for my brother, he had asked me to grab him a poster from coffin comics and a signed print from the woodsmen from twin peaks ( i forgot to get a picture of the twin peaks actors).
i went back downstairs so i could try to get the R.L Stine ARC that fierce reads was giving away at 1. when i got to the booth at 12:50 only two other people were waiting for the giveaway. I grabbed my copy when it was time and ran into a signing for the Art of prophecy so i got in line for that (I was lucky and was given the very last ticket!).
Next i wanted to find one of my friends who was signing at shout factory sadly i couldn’t find the booth, (which later when i got home i realized I had walk by multiple times.) so instead i look at the artist alley.
Around this time i think the con was really starting to get to me and after looking at the art for a little bit i stepped outside to get some air and to get away from the crowed inside.
Around 3:30 i made my way back upstairs so i could do the last signing on my list. when i got in line i was handed a ARC of the Illuminaries which made me super excited since Susan Dennard was the reason i was there, i love her books and can’t wait to read her next one. after waiting a half hour in line and talking to some of the people next to me it was time for the signing. When it was my turn i got my ARC signed and talk to Susan for a little bit before leaving.
I wandered around for a little bit more and then 5 hit and the con was over.
More pictures of the con.
some cosplay pictures.
This years con felt a little off to me I don’t know if it was because we haven’t had one for a few years and no one knew what they were doing anymore or something else but I’m hoping that next year will be better.
Also i wish that i knew about the Disney + arcade i would have loved to do that but i never saw or heard anything about it until Sunday and when i tried to get in line it was already closed down.
Hi everyone, i hope your having a great October so far can you guys believe it’s almost Halloween already. Today i have a excerpt of a golden fury for you. i hope you enjoy.
first the synopsis
Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.
While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.
But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.
Now for the excerpt
My mother was screaming at the Comte. Again.
I slammed the front doors behind me and walked down the carriageway, under the dappled shade of the pop- lars that lined it. A hundred paces away, I still heard her, though at least I could no longer hear the Comte’s frantic endearments and low, rapid pleading. He should know by now that wasn’t the way. Perhaps I should tell him. Adrien was the first of my mother’s patrons I had ever liked, and I did not want to leave Normandy just as spring was break- ing. Just as we were beginning to make progress.
Though perhaps we were not. Mother would not be screaming at the Comte if the work were going well. She would not take the time. Alchemy was a demanding sci- ence, even if some scoffed and called it charlatanry or magic. It required total concentration. If the work were going well, the Comte would scarcely exist to her, nor
would I, now that she would not let me be of use. The com- position must have broken again. This was about when it had, last round. I could not be certain, since she had taken away my key to the laboratory. She could hardly have de- vised a worse insult than that if she had tried, and lately she did seem to be trying. The laboratory was mine as much as it was hers. If she did succeed in producing the White Elixir—which turned all metals into silver—then it was only because of my help. She had found Jābir’s text languishing in a Spanish monastery, but it had been I who translated it when her Arabic wasn’t nearly up to the job. I had labored for months over the calcinary furnace to make the philosophic mercury the text took as its starting point. I had the scars on my hands and arms to prove it. And now that success might be close, she wished to shut me out and deny my part, and claim it for herself alone.
But if she was acting ill and cross, it meant she had failed. A low, smug hum of satisfaction warmed me. I didn’t want the work to fail, but I didn’t want her to suc- ceed without me, either.
A distant smashing sound rang out from the chateau. My mother shattering something against the wall, no doubt.
I sighed and shifted my letter box to the crook of my other arm.
I knew what this meant. Another move. Another man. The Comte had lasted longer than the rest. Over two years, long enough that I had begun to hope I would not have to do it all again. I hated the uncertainty of those first weeks, before I knew what was expected of me, whether Mother’s new patron had a temper and what might set it off, whether he liked children to speak or be silent. Though I was no
longer a child, and that might bring its own problems. A chill passed over me, despite the warm afternoon sunshine. God only knew what the next one would be like. My mother had already run through so many of them. And with the recent changes in France, there were fewer rich men than ever looking to give patronage to an expensive alchemist, even one as beautiful and famous as Marguerite Hope.
I veered off the carriageway, into the soft spring grass, dotted here and there with the first of the lavender anemo- nes. I sat by the stream, under the plum tree.
There was no screaming here, no pleading, no signs that my life was about to change for the worse. I inhaled the soft, sweet scent of plum blossoms and opened my letter box. If this was to be my last spring in Normandy, I wanted to re- member it like this. Springtime in Normandy was soft and sweet, sun shining brightly and so many things blossoming that the very air was perfumed with promise. Everything was coming extravagantly to life, bursting out of the dead ground and bare trees with so much energy other impos- sible things seemed likely, too. I had always been hopeful in Normandy when it was spring. Especially last spring, when Will was still here. When we sat under this very tree, drank both bottles of champagne he had stolen from the cellars, and spun tales of everything we could achieve.
I took out his last letter, dated two months ago.
Thisismyaddressnow—asyouseeI’ve left Prussia. It turns out that everything they say about the Prussians is quite true. I’ve never met a more unbending man than my patron
there.One day past the appointed date and he tried to throw me in prison for breach of contract! He thinks alchemy can be held to the same strict schedule as his serfs.
Laws against false alchemists were very harsh in Ger- many, as Will knew full well when he sought patronage there. I had begged him to go somewhere else, though he had few enough choices. He was my mother’s apprentice, with no achievements of his own to make his reputation. His training had been cut abruptly short when Mother found us together under this plum tree, watching the sun- rise with clasped hands and two empty bottles of cham- pagne. She’d seen to it that Will was gone by noon. It was no use telling her that all we’d done was talk through the night, or that the one kiss we’d shared had been our first, and had gone no further. He had behaved with perfect re- spect for me, but she wouldn’t believe it. My mother had imagined a whole path laid before my feet in that moment, and scorched it from the earth with Greek fire.
I turned to the next page.
I blame myself, of course, Bee, for not heeding your advice. I can picture your face now, wondering what I expected. It would almost be worth all the trouble I’ve caused myself if I could come to you and see your expression. You must be the only woman in the world who is never lovelier than when you’ve been proven right.
The keen thrill of pleasure those words had brought me when I first read them had faded now, and left me feeling uncertain. Should I write back knowingly, teasing him for his recklessness? I had tried this, and was sure I sounded like a scold no matter what he said about my loveliness when proven right. I took out my latest draft, which struck a more sincere tone. I read the lines over, saying how I worried for him, how I missed him. I crumpled it in my hand halfway through. Too much emotion. It didn’t do to show such dependence on a man. My mother had shown me that. I didn’t wish to emulate her in everything, but I would be a fool to deny her skill at winning masculine devotion. I tried again.
I am sitting under the plum tree where we had our last picnic. I know how you feel about nostalgia, but I hope you will forgive me this one instance. I fear this will be our last spring in Normandy—perhaps even in France. Many of my mother’s friends have left already, and though you may well condemn
them as reactionaries, the fact remains that there are very few good Republicans with the ready cash to pay for our pursuits.
I sighed again and crumpled the page. Somehow I could never seem to write to him about the Revolution without a touch of irony creeping in. I didn’t want that. Will had put his hopes for a better world in the new order, and even though I was less hopeful than he, I loved him for it. At least he wanted a better world. Most alchemists simply wanted better metals.
I tried to imagine he was here. It wouldn’t be difficult then. He was so good at setting me at ease. His admira- tion was as intoxicating as wine, but unlike wine it sharp- ened my wits instead of dulling them. I was never cleverer than when Will was there to laugh with me.
My chest constricted at the memory of Will’s laugh. I didn’t know anyone who laughed like him. The Parisian aristocrats I had known all had so much consciousness of the sound they made when they did it. The Comte wasn’t like them, but he was a serious man and laughed rarely. My mother didn’t laugh at all.
But Will. He laughed like it came from the loud, bursting core of him. Like he couldn’t have kept it in if he wanted to, and why would he want to? And when he was done laughing, he would look at me like no one else ever had. Like he saw only me, not as an accessory to my mother, but as myself. And not as an odd girl whose sharp edges would need to be softened. Will liked the edges. The sharper they cut, the more they delighted him.
I threw my letters into the letter box and snapped it shut. I looked around for somewhere to hide the box, and noticed too late that one of my crumpled drafts had blown toward the stream. My mother appeared on the hill above me, the late afternoon sun lighting up her golden hair like an unearned halo. She walked down the hill with measured steps and stopped a few yards above me, I assumed because she wished to enjoy the experi- ence of being taller than me again for a few moments. Her eye moved to the crumpled paper. I ran to it and stuffed it into my pocket before she could take it, though
my haste in hiding the failed letter told her all I didn’t wish her to know.
“Oh dear,” said my mother. “I do hope you haven’t been wasting your afternoon trying to find the right words to say to that boy.”
My mother was tolerant of my letter writing these days, perhaps because she was confident I would never see Will again. She had smiled when she heard of Will’s contract in Prussia. He won’t find it so easy to charm his way past the Prussian alchemy laws. In Germany, one must deliver results, not pretty smiles, or end in prison.
“I wouldn’t have an afternoon to waste if you would let me into the laboratory,” I said.
“Don’t be pitiful, Thea,” said my mother. “Surely you can think of something worthwhile to do when I don’t happen to need your assistance.”
I clenched my teeth so tight that my jaw ached. Shut- ting me out of the laboratory, our laboratory, was the great- est injustice she had ever committed against me. Worse than all the moving about, worse than sending Will away, worse than any insult she could think to level at me. Before she had done that, I believed we were together in alchemy at least, even if nothing else. That she had raised and trained me not simply to be of use to her, but to be her partner. Her equal, one day. Throwing me out of the lab- oratory just when we might achieve what we had worked for told me that Will was right. She would never let me claim credit for my part of the work. She would never ac- cept me as an alchemist in my own right.
And yet she described it as though she had simply let me off my chores. As if I were no more necessary than a
servant. There was no point in arguing with her, but even so I could not let it stand.
“I am not your assistant,” I said.
“Oh?” she asked. “Do you have news, then? Have you found a patron on your own merits? Do you intend to strike out on your own?”
“Perhaps I will,” I said, my face growing hot. “Perhaps I will stay here when you are finally finished tormenting the poor Comte.”
My mother had a perfect, deceptively sweet beauty: golden blond and blue-eyed with a round, doll-like face. It made the venom that sometimes twisted her expression hard to quite believe in. Many men simply didn’t. They preferred to ignore the evidence of their minds for the evidence of their senses. I, of course, knew her better than they did. I tensed, preparing.
But instead of lashing out, my mother turned aside, a hand to her chest. A tremor passed over her; she bowed her head against it.
Mother had been strangely unwell for weeks. At first I responded to her illness as she had taught me to, with distaste and disapproval, as though falling sick were an ill-considered pastime of those with insufficient moral for- titude. But if she noticed how unpleasant it was to receive so little sympathy when unwell, she did not show it. She had locked herself away in the laboratory every day until late at night, ignoring my silence as much as she ignored the Comte’s pleas that she rest. I had not thought much of it until this moment. Any pain great enough to turn her from chastising me for thinking I could do alchemy with- out her must be serious indeed.
“Mother?” I asked.
“You will go where I tell you.” Her voice was low and breathless, almost a gasp. “For now, that is to dinner. Wear the green taffeta.”
“The robe à la française?” I asked, perplexed. I hadn’t worn that dress since before the Estates General met. Its style was the hallmark of the ancien régime: wide pan- niered hips, structured bodice, and elaborate flounces. “But it’s out of fashion.”
“So is our guest,” said my mother.
She went up the hill again, then turned back to me at the top.
“Thea,” she said, all the sharpness gone from her voice. “I know you do not believe it any longer, but everything I do is for you.”
It was the sort of thing she always said. Before this year, I had always believed it, more or less. At least, everything she did was for the both of us. She had considered me an extension of herself, so that doing things for me was no different than doing them for herself. Why else take so much care to train me, to see to it that I had the tutors I needed to learn every language necessary—more even than she knew? To take me with her in all her travels to seek out manuscripts? She was an impatient teacher at times, but a good one. A thorough one. And in turn I was a good student. The best.
Until we were close to our goal. Then, suddenly, I was a rival. And my mother did not tolerate rivals.
“You are right, Mother,” I said. “I don’t believe that any longer.”
Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.
happy book birthday to Maya and the rising dark! This book sounds amazing! Not only dose it sound like the main character is into nerdy thing, see the mention of comic con in the synopsis. It also mentions werehyenas! I’m a huge fan of shapeshifters of every kind and i’m super excited to see/ read about werehyenas. I’v been waiting for this book since i first heard about it and can’t wait for my preorder to come in. Have i also mentioned that this book is ownvoic and that Rena Barron other book is kingdom of souls? There are so many reason why you should pick this one up.
now for the synopsis
In this highly anticipated contemporary fantasy, twelve-year-old Maya’s search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world. Perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret.
Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams.
When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.
Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school.
From a very young age she loved reading stories where kids saved the world, tamed dragons, wielded magic, flew spaceships, became the chosen one. She desperately searched for characters in books who looked like her and was always disappointed to find none, which fueled her early interest in writing.
Before HarperTeen acquired her Young Adult Epic Fantasy, Kingdom of Souls, Rena spent 10 years in the query trends–writing across multiple genres and age groups in the pursuit of publication. In 2017, she entered Pitch Wars, a popular and highly sought-after online mentorship program that included an agent showcase round. Rena’s entry (then titled “The Last Witchdoctor”) received multiple offers of representation. She signed with Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary shortly after, and the manuscript went on to sell in a heated auction.
In addition to the Kingdom of Souls series, Rena also has written a middle grade epic fantasy titled Maya and The Rising Dark debuting in Spring 2020, pitched as Stranger Things meets Percy Jackson, that sold in a pre-empt to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
On a personal note, Rena loves all things science fiction and fantasy, ghosts, and superheroes. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.
hey guys, i’m so so happy to be part of this blog tour i adored the merciful crow! If you haven’t read it yet then i highly suggest you do! It’s so good. I haven’t been able to read the faithless hawk yet but i’m hoping i can eventually. On a side note: I’v been having such a hard time with reading lately that i just can’t seem to get back into it any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Today i just have a promotional post for you and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post. Also if you haven’t read the merciful crow yet please do, you wont regret it.
Kings become outcasts and lovers become foes in the thrilling sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow.
As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.
With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows—and add numbers to her monstrous army—Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.
A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows—secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze.
Born and raised at the end of the Oregon Trail, Margaret Owen first encountered an author in the wild in fourth grade. Roughly twenty seconds later, she decided she too would be an author, the first of many well-thought-out life decisions.
The career plan shifted frequently as Margaret spent her childhood haunting the halls of Powell’s Books. After earning her degree in Japanese, her love of espresso called her north to Seattle, where she worked in everything from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. The common thread between every job can be summed up as: lessons were learned.
Fortunately, it turned out that fourth-grade Margaret was onto something. She now spends her days wrestling disgruntled characters onto the page, and negotiating a long-term hostage situation with her two monstrous cats. (There is surprisingly little difference between the two.) In her free time, she enjoys exploring ill-advised travel destinations, and raising money for social justice nonprofits through her illustrations.
I am beyond excited to be part of the blog tour for where dreams descend, this is one of my most anticipated books of the year. Today I have a excerpt for you. I hope you enjoy!
First the synopsis
In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.
As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.
The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost
The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told
The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide
Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.
Now for the excerpt
Never come to Hellfire House without wearing a mask.
It was one of the rare rules in a joint without any. The only rule the master of the club did not mind following. He blended in with the sea of suits and white masks that arrived every other night, switching appearances from crowd to crowd. A bartender one moment, a dealer at the card tables the next.
Only his face remained the same, half-masked and haunting. Like a prince who relished the bloody crown on his head, and the ghosts that came with it. A face almost hardened by beauty, though glints of youth ran deep beneath soft black eyes. It always shocked new guests, to see him. The master of the House was rumored to be a dragon of a man. A monster. A magician who had no mercy for fools.
Only those who dared slur the word boy in his face understood how true those rumors were.
To the rest, he played the devil on all shoulders, leading patrons to his bar and game tables, guiding them toward his enchanted smoke lounge to drown in curated memories. The warmth of first love, the heady rush of triumph, the immense joy of dreams come true. The master kept a selection of sensations, and one hit of the pipes delivered magic the people came crawling to his house to taste.
They had no idea the show that was in store for them.
The master of the House sipped his short glass of scarlet whiskey in peace, tapping along the wide black strip over his brass knuckles. He’d long since manipulated his attire, sitting casually at a card table and savoring the mayhem. Raucous cheers erupted from the next table as dice rolled out across the surface. Smiling Hellfire girls in black blazers and masks of lace denied patrons begging for a dance. Loudest of all, the dealer’s crisp shuffling of the black cards with teeth-white numbers before she doled out hands to players at the table.
“No, no more,” one moaned. “I can’t.”
“Sure you can, chap.” A young man in a white thorn-edged mask cheerfully pressed him back in his seat. “We can’t leave. Haven’t even finished your drink, yet.”
His drunken friend’s mouth puckered under another gulp. “Think it’s true, the drink? Magician’s Blood, the menu said.”
“Think you have power, now?” Thorn Mask laughed, leaning back to appraise the club. “Here, you take your magic where you can get it. You wear a mask. You flip a card, smoke a memory. Or you look up . . . at her.”
The master’s fingers tightened around his glass, just as the lights dimmed. Dancers cleared the floor under the hush of music, shifting from smooth, steady beats to a racing rhythm loud as thunderous applause.
Right on cue.
The band’s worth of instruments he’d charmed for the night started up a wild entry tune of drums, the thick trill of trumpets. Chatter ceased and backs straightened as a beam of light speared toward the ceiling. A panel slid open over the dance floor.
And the chandelier descended.
Strings of crystals dangled along tiered rims of rose gold, cutting sharply into a jewel-set swing where a masked showgirl sat. A throne of glittering jewels, casting luminous lace across the walls and the ground and the audience taking her in. Her brown skin glowed against her corset, red as her gem-studded mask. Arms stretched out, she crossed and extended her legs in smooth lines all the way down, until her heels touched the lacquered black dancefloor. With the hint of a smile, she rose from her throne and stalked forward, thrusting a hand up with a snap.
Darkness engulfed the room.
Hoots and hollers rang at the drop of the beat, before a glimmer of her form reappeared in the shadows. The room pulsed at her command, matching the spike of heartbeats the master sensed throughout the club.
The smirk on his lips matched the girl’s as she arched her back to the raw stretch of the melody. She thrived under the attention, like a wildflower under the sun. A star finding the night.
“I’ll be damned.” The drunk at the card table breathed in awe, as the girl’s palms began brightening with a molten glow. “Nothing like an academy girl.”
“Worth the trip, right?” His friend clapped a hand on his shoulder.
“I didn’t know they could be magicians like . . . this.”
The master smothered a dark scoff under a sip of whiskey. The girl showed off good tricks—improvised and bettered from his basic crowd-pleasers. Treating the ceiling like a sky and showering comets from it, casting an elaborate shadow show of dancing shades over the floor, shifting every candlelight in the room to different colors to the beat of the music.
But always the performer, she preferred to be front and center. Teasing her power just enough to make the audience want more of her magic, more of her.
He wet his lips as flames shot from her hands, arcing over her head and around her body. The fire’s melody bent to her every movement, and she gave everything to it. If she wasn’t careful, she’d overexert herself like she did most nights, never knowing when to stop. How to pull back.
Careful never was her strongest suit.
Sparks fell before her, sizzling on the ground. Unafraid, she sauntered down her stage of flames with slow swaying hips and a firelit smile.
“Magicians like this are best kept a secret,” Thorn Mask went on. “And besides, the work is far too scandalous for a lady. Only clubs will take them.”
“What a shame. Imagine going up against the likes of her at the competition.”
The master paused, drawing his gaze back to his glass.
“Not this again. That flyer was nothing but a joke.” Thorn Mask slapped the table with a groaning laugh. “A prank.”
The drunk sloppily patted around his coat, pulling from his breast pocket a dirty, scrunched ball of paper. “It’s real. They’re all over the academies, in Deque and New Crown and—”
“A prank,” repeated Thorn Mask, unfolding the flyer anyway. “It has to be. No one’s been to that city in ages, it would never open itself to such games.”
“That makes it all the more interesting, don’t you think?” As another roar of cheers erupted around them, the friend sipped his drink smugly. “Imagine if she entered, the city might implode.”
“Right. As if that would ever happen.” Thorn Mask leered. “Competition would eat a creature like her alive.”
“Because she’s . . . ?”
With an impish lift of his brow, the man in the thorny mask flicked the flyer off the table and returned to his forgotten spread of cards. “Let’s get on with the game, shall we?”
Before he could gesture at the dealer, the master suddenly appeared at their table, snatching the young man’s wrist in a biting grip. The man yelped as the force knocked over his drink, and sent a stream of hidden cards spilling out from his sleeves.
“What’s this?” The master bent toward the ground and picked up a couple, entirely too calm. “Cheating in my house?”
The man froze, recognition dawning at the brass knuckles alone. “Where did you—I-I mean,” he sputtered, patting frantically at his sleeve. “That’s impossible. Those aren’t mine, I swear.”
“Then where did they come from?”
Sweat dripped from his temple, his face paler than the white of his mask. “I emptied my pockets at the door. Honest.”
Honest. That was the best he could do? The master almost laughed.
“You want to know the price cheaters pay in my joint?” His question offered no mercy. Only deliverance, served on ice. “Memories.”
“No, please!” The man’s lip trembled. “I didn’t, I-I’ll do whatever you want!”
“This is what I want.” The master rose from the table with the jerk of his wrist. The cheat flew to the ground in a gasp as he gripped at the invisible chain-like weight around his neck. Sharp, staccato breaths followed the master as he dragged his prisoner toward the smoke dens.
The man screamed, but no one heard him. No one saw, no one cared. All eyes fell on the star of the show as she searched for a dance partner to join her. The drunken friend, noticing nothing amiss, raised his half-full glass of Magician’s Blood to his lips before waving his hand high like the others. The man thrashed harder, only to feel his cries smothered and deeper in his throat. His form, invisible at the sweep of the master’s hand.
With a disdainful glance, the master chuckled. “You’re only making this more difficult for yourself. One memory won’t kill you.”
At once, he paused. The lights blinked around them, the air grown still. Dim and hazy, as though locked in a dream.
He thought nothing of it until he caught the movements of the patrons—their arms raised and waving slowly, increment by increment. Their cheers dulled and stretched into low, gravelly roars, as if the sound were wading through heavier air. Against time itself.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
The sound of her voice slithered around him, stopping the master in his tracks. The man quieted. Sweat soaked his pale face, his chest heaving. The showgirl stood in their path, every stare in the room still locked on the spotlit floor where she’d been. As though she’d never left.
Her red corset glinted as she cocked her hip and pointed at the man on the floor. “I choose him.”
She could never let things be easy.
“Kallia,” he growled, warning.
She smiled. “Jack.”
“Pick another. He’s a cheater.”
Her lips pursed into a dubious line. “Then let me teach him a lesson. He’ll no doubt prefer it more.” She swung a leg over the man’s prone form so she stood directly above him. Invitation dripped from the crook of her fingers. “The music calls, darling. Let’s have ourselves a grand time.”
The man’s terror turned swiftly into awe, and he looked at her as if ready to kiss the ground she walked on. As soon as he took her beckoning hand, the room resumed its lively rhythm—a song snapped back in full swing. The cheers and hollers returned to their normal speed, exploding in delight as patrons found their lovely entertainer in their midst, her chosen dance partner in tow.
She bypassed the master, pressing a casual hand on his chest to move him. It lingered, he noticed. Unafraid, unlike most. Their gazes locked for a moment, their masked faces inches apart.
No one ever dared to get this close. To him, to her.
Only each other.
At the next round of cheers and whistles, she pushed him away, smug as a cat. Tugging the man close behind her, she sent fires onto the ground that illuminated her path and warded others from trying to follow them to the stage. Never once looking back at the master, even as he watched on after her.
His fist tightened, full of the cards from his earlier trick. They disappeared into mist, having served their purpose. Along with the flyer he managed to grab.
He didn’t even bother giving it a read. It died in the fire caged by his palm. Tendrils of smoke rose between his brass knuckles, and when he opened his fingers, nothing but ash fell to the ground.
JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.
I’m really happy to be a part of the blog tour for lobizona when I first heard about this book I knew I had to read it on top of that I’m a big fan of Romina Garber. Today I have an excerpt for you. I hope you enjoy.
First the synopsis
Some people ARE illegal.
Lobizonas do NOT exist.
Both of these statements are false.
Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.
Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.
Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.
As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.
Now for the excerpt
I awaken with a jolt.
It takes me a moment to register that I’ve been out for three days. I can tell by the well-rested feeling in my bones—I don’t sleep this well any other time of the month.
The first thing I’m aware of as I sit up is an urgent need to use the bathroom. My muscles are heavy from lack of use, and it takes some concentration to keep my steps light so I won’t wake Ma or Perla. I leave the lights off to avoid meeting my gaze in the mirror, and after tossing out my heavy-duty period pad and replacing it with a tampon, I tiptoe back to Ma’s and my room.
I’m always disoriented after lunaritis, so I feel separate from my waking life as I survey my teetering stacks of journals and used books, Ma’s yoga mat and collection of weights, and the posters on the wall of the planets and constellations I hope to visit one day.
After a moment, my shoulders slump in disappointment.
This month has officially peaked.
I yank the bleach-stained blue sheets off the mattress and slide out the pillows from their cases, balling up the bedding to wash later. My body feels like a crumpled piece of paper that needs to be stretched, so I plant my feet together in the tiny area between the bed and the door, and I raise my hands and arch my back, lengthening my spine disc by disc. The pull on my tendons releases stored tension, and I exhale in relief.
Something tugs at my consciousness, an unresolved riddle that must have timed out when I surfaced . . . but the harder I focus, the quicker I forget. Swinging my head forward, I reach down to touch my toes and stretch my spine the other way—
My ears pop so hard, I gasp.
I stumble back to the mattress, and I cradle my head in my hands as a rush of noise invades my mind. The buzzing of a fly in the window blinds, the gunning of a car engine on the street below, the groaning of our building’s prehistoric eleva- tor. Each sound is so crisp, it’s like a filter was just peeled back from my hearing.
My pulse picks up as I slide my hands away from my temples to trace the outlines of my ears. I think the top parts feel a little . . . pointier.
I ignore the tingling in my eardrums as I cut through the living room to the kitchen, and I fill a stained green bowl with cold water. Ma’s asleep on the turquoise couch because we don’t share our bed this time of the month. She says I thrash around too much in my drugged dreams.
I carefully shut the apartment door behind me as I step out into the building’s hallway, and I crack open our neighbor’s window to slide the bowl through. A black cat leaps over to lap up the drink.
“Hola, Mimitos,” I say, stroking his velvety head. Since we’re both confined to this building, I hear him meowing any time his owner, Fanny, forgets to feed him. I think she’s going senile.
“I’ll take you up with me later, after lunch. And I’ll bring you some turkey,” I add, shutting the window again quickly. I usually let him come with me, but I prefer to spend the morn- ings after lunaritis alone. Even if I’m no longer dreaming, I’m not awake either.
My heart is still beating unusually fast as I clamber up six flights of stairs. But I savor the burn of my sedentary muscles, and when at last I reach the highest point, I swing open the door to the rooftop.
It’s not quite morning yet, and the sky looks like blue- tinged steel. Surrounding me are balconies festooned with colorful clotheslines, broken-down properties with boarded- up windows, fuzzy-leaved palm trees reaching up from the pitted streets . . . and in the distance, the ground and sky blur where the Atlantic swallows the horizon.
El Retiro is a rundown apartment complex with all elderly residents—mostly Cuban, Colombian, Venezuelan, Nicara- guan, and Argentine immigrants. There’s just one slow, loud elevator in the building, and since I’m the youngest person here, I never use it in case someone else needs it.
I came up here hoping for a breath of fresh air, but since it’s summertime, there’s no caress of a breeze to greet me. Just the suffocating embrace of Miami’s humidity.
I close my eyes and take in deep gulps of musty oxygen, trying to push the dread down to where it can’t touch me. The way Perla taught me to do whenever I get anxious.
My metamorphosis started this year. I first felt something
was different four full moons ago, when I no longer needed to squint to study the ground from up here. I simply opened my eyes to perfect vision.
The following month, my hair thickened so much that I had to buy bigger clips to pin it back. Next menstrual cycle came the growth spurt that left my jeans three inches too short, and last lunaritis I awoke with such a heightened sense of smell that I could sniff out what Ma and Perla had for dinner all three nights I was out.
It’s bad enough to feel the outside world pressing in on me, but now even my insides are spinning out of my control.
As Perla’s breathing exercises relax my thoughts, I begin to feel the stirrings of my dreamworld calling me back. I slide onto the rooftop’s ledge and lie back along the warm cement, my body as stagnant as the stale air. A dragon-shaped cloud comes apart like cotton, and I let my gaze drift with Miami’s hypnotic sky, trying to call up the dream’s details before they fade . . .
What Ma and Perla don’t know about the Septis is they don’t simply sedate me for sixty hours—they transport me.
Every lunaritis, I visit the same nameless land of magic and mist and monsters. There’s the golden grass that ticks off time by turning silver as the day ages; the black-leafed trees that can cry up storms, their dewdrop tears rolling down their bark to form rivers; the colorful waterfalls that warn onlookers of oncoming danger; the hope-sucking Sombras that dwell in darkness and attach like parasitic shadows . . .
And the Citadel.
It’s a place I instinctively know I’m not allowed to go, yet I’m always trying to get to. Whenever I think I’m going to make it inside, I wake up with a start.
Picturing the black stone wall, I see the thorny ivy that
twines across its surface like a nest of guardian snakes, slith- ering and bunching up wherever it senses a threat.
The sharper the image, the sleepier I feel, like I’m slowly sliding back into my dream, until I reach my hand out tenta- tively. If I could just move faster than the ivy, I could finally grip the opal doorknob before the thorns—
Howling breaks my reverie.
I blink, and the dream disappears as I spring to sitting and scour the battered buildings. For a moment, I’m sure I heard a wolf.
My spine locks at the sight of a far more dangerous threat: A cop car is careening in the distance, its lights flashing and siren wailing. Even though the black-and-white is still too far away to see me, I leap down from the ledge and take cover behind it, the old mantra running through my mind.
Don’t come here, don’t come here, don’t come here.
A familiar claustrophobia claws at my skin, an affliction forged of rage and shame and powerlessness that’s been my companion as long as I’ve been in this country. Ma tells me I should let her worry about this stuff and only concern myself with studying, so when our papers come through, I can take my GED and one day make it to NASA—but it’s impossible not to worry when I’m constantly having to hide.
My muscles don’t uncoil until the siren’s howling fades and the police are gone, but the morning’s spell of stillness has broken. A door slams, and I instinctively turn toward the pink building across the street that’s tattooed with territorial graf- fiti. Where the alternate version of me lives.
I call her Other Manu.
The first thing I ever noticed about her was her Argentine fútbol jersey: #10 Lionel Messi. Then I saw her face and real- ized we look a lot alike. I was reading Borges at the time, and
it ocurred to me that she and I could be the same person in overlapping parallel universes.
But it’s an older man and not Other Manu who lopes down the street. She wouldn’t be up this early on a Sunday anyway. I arch my back again, and thankfully this time, the only pop I hear is in my joints.
The sun’s golden glare is strong enough that I almost wish I had my sunglasses. But this rooftop is sacred to me because it’s the only place where Ma doesn’t make me wear them, since no one else comes up here.
I’m reaching for the stairwell door when I hear it.
Faint footsteps are growing louder, like someone’s racing up. My heart shoots into my throat, and I leap around the corner right as the door swings open.
The person who steps out is too light on their feet to be someone who lives here. No El Retiro resident could make it up the stairs that fast. I flatten myself against the wall.
“Creo que encontré algo, pero por ahora no quiero decir nada.”
Whenever Ma is upset with me, I have a habit of translat- ing her words into English without processing them. I asked Perla about it to see if it’s a common bilingual thing, and she said it’s probably my way of keeping Ma’s anger at a distance; if I can deconstruct her words into language—something de- tached that can be studied and dissected—I can strip them of their charge.
As my anxiety kicks in, my mind goes into automatic trans- lation mode: I think I found something, but I don’t want to say anything yet.
The woman or girl (it’s hard to tell her age) has a deep, throaty voice that’s sultry and soulful, yet her singsongy accent is unquestionably Argentine. Or Uruguayan. They sound similar.
My cheek is pressed to the wall as I make myself as flat as possible, in case she crosses my line of vision.
“Si tengo razón, me harán la capitana más joven en la his- toria de los Cazadores.”
If I’m right, they’ll make me the youngest captain in the history of the . . . Cazadores? That means hunters.
In my eight years living here, I’ve never seen another per- son on this rooftop. Curious, I edge closer, but I don’t dare peek around the corner. I want to see this stranger’s face, but not badly enough to let her see mine.
“¿El encuentro es ahora? Che, Nacho, ¿vos no me podrías cubrir?”
Is the meeting right now? Couldn’t you cover for me, Nacho?
The che and vos sound like Argentinespeak. What if it’s Other Manu?
The exciting possibility brings me a half step closer, and now my nose is inches from rounding the corner. Maybe I can sneak a peek without her noticing.
“Okay,” I hear her say, and her voice sounds like she’s just a few paces away.
I suck in a quick inhale, and before I can overthink it, I pop my head out—
And see the door swinging shut.
I scramble over and tug it open, desperate to spot even a hint of her hair, any clue at all to confirm it was Other Manu— but she’s already gone.
All that remains is a wisp of red smoke that vanishes with the swiftness of a morning cloud.
ROMINA GARBER (pen name Romina Russell) is a New York Times and international bestselling author. Originally from Argentina, she landed her first writing gig as a teen—a weekly column for the Miami Herald that was later nationally syndicated—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Her books include Lobizona. When she’s not working on a novel, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.
I’v been looking forward to a wicked magic for a few months now and when I saw that TBR and beyond tours was having sign ups for the blog tour I jumped on the chance. Today I have a interview with Sasha for you guys. I hope you enjoy it!
First the synopsis
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The Craft when modern witches must save teens stolen by an ancient demon in this YA fantasy-thriller debut.
Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.
During a spell gone wrong, Liss’s boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss’s friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?
Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss’s orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she’s hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.
When another teenager disappears, the girls know it’s no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?
Set in the atmospheric wilds of California’s northern coast, Sasha Laurens’s thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all.
Now for the interview!
1. I’ve been super excited about this book since I first heard about it. What made you want to write about witches? I actually didn’t set out to write about witches! I wanted to tell a story about the friendship between two girls, Dan and Liss. Magic is a sort of metaphor for that friendship. Dan and Liss gain the ability to do magic when they find a mysterious black book of spells and try one to transform themselves into witches. Their magic is this secret, shared thing, that changes them in profound, and not entirely positive, ways–just like their friendship.
2. What’s the most interesting thing you researched when writing A Wicked Magic? I did some research to nail details about the setting. I talked to friends who lived in the part of California that inspired the book and picked their brains for tidbits about life out there, read up on California’s ghost towns and abandoned mining camps, and picked up old coastal access and hiking guides from local used bookstores. I enjoyed researching the pygmy forest the girls visit. I had been to a pygmy forest on a school trip in fifth grade but I didn’t know anything about them. Pygmy forests occur in areas that have very poor soil but moist air, which stunts the growth of trees and other plants, so they look like dwarf varieties.
3. If you found the black book lying around would you use it to become a witch? No! One of the lessons we learn in A Wicked Magic is that you just cannot go around trusting whatever enchanted books you find on the street! It’s a recipe for disaster.
4. Do you listen to music when writing if yes what is your playlist like? I don’t listen to music when I write. I actually prefer doing almost everything in total silence, which probably sounds crazy to a lot of people. But I do have playlists that I listen to when I’m thinking about a project. I find listening to music on a plane or long bus ride really helps me explore the characters in a different way, and I often end up cracking difficult parts of the book that way. The playlist for A Wicked Magic was dominated by Grimes, but it also had songs by Sky Ferriera, Babes in Toyland and the Smiths on it. You can find it here, but I warn you in advance that it’s pretty chaotic: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0WdXnVBwqZRsVSSwrXPnWb?si=w8bJ7VNOSXGTzo6iEzPJ5w
5. What is your writing habit like? Are you a pantser or planner? I’m a planner, but I’m not very good at it. I definitely need to know where the story is going and how we’re getting there, because otherwise when I sit down to write I get distracted or go off on a tangent. Planning and outlining helps me use the time I have to write productively. I also find it important for making sure that the story is as good as it can be—all the character arcs are right and the plot is doing the most it can do. So I do all that but inevitably, I write something into my outline like “They solve the mystery,” which is about as helpful as having no outline at all. I usually end up re-outlining or reverse outlining (ie outlining what you’ve written already) a bunch of times. I think I outlined A Wicked Magic on index cards at least 8 times.
6. Without spoilers what was your favorite scene to write? I really love Alexa’s scenes in the epilogue, so explaining that would definitely entail spoilers. Other than that, I really liked the scenes where Dan or Liss are overthinking something, like the scenes at the beginning where Liss is driving away from Dan’s house or where Dan goes running and tries not to think about Liss. I found it really easy to connect with those characters when their minds were racing and their emotions were turned up.
7. Describe A Wicked Magic in 5 words? Chaotic NorCal witchbabies fight a demon.
8. What is the last 5 star read that you read? I recently read T Kira Madden’s Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls, a memoir about her experiences growing up in Florida, and it was really excellent: messy and funny and brutally honest.
9. A Wicked Magic is your first book, what’s it like debuting during a pandemic? Well, let me tell you, it’s not ideal. Back in March when things started getting cancelled, I remember I wasn’t sure if I even counted as a debut impacted by coronavirus, because surely by June things would be cleared up? By this point, the pandemic has been going on for so long that I accepted a while ago that there won’t be an in-person launch event. I just hope people keep exploring new books, especially debuts, although they can’t go into a bookstore and browse the shelves! Internet shopping is so driven by algorithms and ads that I really worry a lot of the books released this year will be overlooked.
SASHA LAURENS grew up in Northern California, where she learned to drive on Highway 1’s switchback turns and got accustomed to the best weather in the world. After studying creative writing and literature at Columbia University, she lived in New York for years and, at various times, in Russia. She currently resides in Michigan, where she is pursuing a PhD in political science.
This year because of the corona virus comic con has had to move to online like many other convention there are over 300 online panels you can enjoy from July 22- 26 along with a online exhibit hall. It’s free to all and you can even print out your own badge! I’ll leave the link here.
Comic con is an event I look forward to every year even when I don’t have a badge. I live in San Diego just a few trolley stops away and it’s always fun. There are so many things to do outside of the con. San Diego basically becomes almost like a big block party for a week. There are parties, experiences, ( last year there was a Ferris wheel and let’s not forget about the Amazon offsite which was amazing.), concerts and so much more.
I thought since comic con wasn’t happening this year in person I would give you guys some of my favorite moments from the last 10 years that I’ve been. Not in any order. i hope you enjoy! Also I didn’t really have a camra until I was out of high school so I don’t have too many pictures from when I was younger.
Let’s get started!
My first comic con.
You never really forget your first comic con. I had been begging for years to go and then my best friend (at the time.) and I checked out how much tickets were on a whim, when we saw they were only $20 for Sunday we bought them and the rest was history. I remember getting off the trolley with her and feeling so much excitement we were both shaking. We were here finally!
This is the same year I got to see my all time favorite show at a panel, supernatural was just going on season 5 I think and was in ballroom 20 at the time.
That time assassin creed brought a pirate ship.
This is one of the first offsites I really remember. Besides for assassin creed being a huge influence on my life (I wrote a story inspired by it). I also spent every Wednesday after school watching my best friend play it while I read in her living room after it first came out. I thought the ship was the coolest thing ever.
How to train your dragon art gallery at the Chuck Jones.
I’ve always been a huge art nerd, I love going to galleries and seeing peoples work and comic con is filled with this (which is one of the reasons I love it so much). When I heard that how to train your dragon was going to have a small gallery at the Chuck Jones I freaked out and immediately RSVPed. I freaked out even more when I saw that two of the artist who worked on the movie were there.
They were kind enough to sketch me a small drawing each and it’s still one of my favorite things I’ve gotten from comic con.
Nerd HQ Supernatural panel.
Before nerd HQ was no longer a thing they used to hosts conversations for a cause, which were $22 panels with limited seating to make it more intimate(if I remember correctly I think there were only like 200 seats or something like that). I got to see supernatural as a panel with them. This was my second time being able to see a panel for Supernatural ( by then supernatural had moved from ballroom 20 to hall H, which I have never been able to get into).
Geek and Sundry at Jolt’n Joes.
The first time I ever heard about geek and sundry was when they hosted a night vale panel at Jolt’n Joes. A group of friends, my brother and I all went down to it for the panel. Night vale is one of my all time favorite podcast so I was super excited to see the panel. It was fun. We also got posters sighed by Felicia day (who plays Charlie in supernatural amongst other things.) and we did a scavenger hunt (and each won one of the limited swag boxes).
The thrilling adventures & welcome to night vale live show.
I was so excited for this show it was the first time I had ever seen them live. I had gone down the Spreckels theater a week or two before to pick up the tickets. The show was amazing.
I’m a big fan of the BBCs Sherlock so when I first heard about this party I definitely had to go. So far SherlockeDCC has been one of my favorite comic con parties, not only was it hosted on the 9th floor of the library (the view of the city from here is stunning and the space is great.), Steven Moffat was also there and did a Q&A. They had giveaways, a few venders, games, music and food it was a good time. I’m very happy I got to attend this party twice.
Geek and Sundry/the Nerdist at Petco Park.
One year I spent an entire day inside Petco Park watching panels and it was the best thing ever. I not only got to see Neil Gaiman for the first time, I might have been freaking out in my seat. I also got to see the cast of American Gods, Lucifer, Sherlock, The Agent of S.H.I.L.D and Misha Collins. I also got to do archery (which is always fun), laser tag and more.
Meeting Laini Taylor.
For those who know me the Daughter of Smoke and Bone books are one of my all time favorite series (so much so that I have decided to collect all the different editions). When I found out Laini Taylor was going to be at the con and I had tickets for that day I freaked out. I made sure that I was there early, (I was the first one in line) and I had all my books. Sadly I did not get a picture with her.
meeting Neil Gaiman.
Okay so I am a HUGE fan of Neil Gaiman, he is one of my favorite authors and had been on my authors bucket list for forever. When I saw that he was going to be doing an outside signing at comic con I knew I had to be there. I got up super early hopped on the trolley and stood in line for 5 hours to meet him. I was lucky enough to make some amazing friends while waiting to meet him.
The LAIKA live experience.
I love LAIKA they have made some of my favorite movies so I knew that I couldn’t miss this experience. It did not disappoint. It was amazing seeing all the props and sets that they used to make the movies.
That time they burned a viking ship.
When I first heard that they were going to burn a ship on the bay, I knew I had to see it when was the next chance I would get to see something like that? Probably never. After running around trying to find out where it was going to happen, I finally found the place and a pretty decent spot.
The first time I saw Conan it was on a whim. I hadn’t signed up for tickets but in the morning I randomly decided that I wanted to see the show, I stood in the standby line for wrist bands and then was told to come back later. I came back in the afternoon with my numbered wristband and waited for them to call my number. Eventually they did and I was in! I got to see the cast of the hunger games!
The second time a friend of mine had extra tickets and asked if I would like one, I said yes. I got to see the game of thrones cast that time!
Both times were amazing.
That time Jodi Whittaker walked on stage.
I love the Her Universe Fashion show it’s one of my favorite events during comic con. Fashion is a big hobby for me and I love seeing all the geeky designs the designers come up with. I’m also a huge fan of doctor who. So when Jodi walked on stage during one of the fashion shows I freaked out in my seat. It has to be one of my favorite moments. She was just announced as the new doctor and I was so excited to see her on stage.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this one or not at first, I didn’t know if I would be able to do It I had been walking around with a cane all day because the heat had gotten to me and my muscles were a little weak from the MS. I honestly got in line just so I could take pictures of the inside and one of the girls I was in line with who agreed to let me take picture of her for my blog. I took my pictures and was asked if I wanted to try. I told them that I did but I had open toe shoes (which is something you can’t have when axe throwing) one of the workers there let me borrow his shoes so I could do it. There is nothing more satisfying then throwing A axe at a wall. I still want to go back and do this again.
I might be missing some but these are the ones that stick out the most to me when I think about comic con.
I loved seeing all the props that Netflix brought to comic con.
Sleepy hallow panel
This one I got into on a whim, I was trying to rest because I had just been walking on the floor most of the day and my shoulder had popped out of place from the bag I had on it, (my joints pop in and out of place it’s normal for me.) and was told I couldn’t sit where I was. So I stood back up and looked though the event guide, I saw that the sleepy hallow panel was going to start soon and decided to go stand in line, even if I didn’t get in at least I could sit while I was in line without being yelled at to move. I waited the half hour I think and the line started moving and I got in. I was really surprised actually. I really enjoy sleepy hallow so I was pretty happy that I was able to see this panel.
Pictures from past comic cons.
See you next year comic con!
Here are Some of the panels I’m excited to see during comic-con@home. Which ones are you guys most excited to see?
Shannon Messenger Keeper of Lost Cities Spotlight Panel 11AM