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2017 Reading Goals

Published January 31, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

Has it really been SO long since I last visited your homes? *cringe of shame* Apparently, I’ve been a bit consumed lately by working on The Jungle Princess, ironing out some blemishes/going where the story takes me, catching up on the mass amounts of paperwork at the office, planning a trip to Nashville (the heart of country music) to see my bestie, and also—oh, yeah, preparing for this year’s voyage to Realm Makers, the best writer’s conference. In. History. So forgive me, because, honestly, you can’t stay mad at this face.

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I’d like to say I’m coming back online to impart some great writerly wisdom on you, or blow your mind with a snippet from my work in progress (but keep your eyes posted for this, because soon . . .). But alas, I have simply journeyed to the Internet to humbly present an update on my 2017 reading progress. *raises hands to defend self against expected volley of rotten vegetables and fruit*

I set my 2017 Reading Challenge goal on Goodreads at 45, the same as last year, so I’m hoping to do as good as I did in 2016 and exceed my goal. I haven’t read much yet this year, so I figured now would be a good time to share my opinions so far.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnely ***

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Umm, I think I liked this book?? I’m typically not this confused over my opinion on a story, but there were moments while reading that I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the setting. But then there was the forced romance that was so cliche it was often painful, and the killer was fairly obvious from the first chapter of the book. There is this fabulously intense scene at the end where the main character (whose name I can’t recall, she was so memorable) gets into a scuffle with her father’s murderer and runs for her life in a mental institution. I wish there had been more exciting moments in the book because the author did it so well. It had a lot of potential and there were a few characters that I liked and wished had been in it more, and the setting of old-time New York was very fun. Overall, though, I feel like this book is a bit forgettable. 

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman ****

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(really 4.5 stars for cleverness of plot and design of the book itself)

Things I learned from Illuminae:
1. I can now survive the zombie apocalypse, though my hacking skills are seriously lacking.
2. You can fall in love with a person because of their emojis. EZRA!! ❤ ^_^
3. Artificial intelligence is a bad idea.
4. Nukes don’t really makes a sound in the vacuum that is space.
5. You should definitely have Gemina on hand to prevent symptoms of the Phobos virus (i.e. violence, incessant shaking, catatonia).

Wow. Just wow. The plot, the characters, the tears and edge-of-your-seat intensity made me stay up all night to see what would happen. This is the most uniquely designed book I have ever read, and the storyline is fantastic and very involved. The first 100 pages were a little bit dry as I got into the style of the book, but then I couldn’t put it down as I became involved in the story and these characters (and the death toll!!! o.O) The ending was such perfection—so intense and tragic and then your heart leaps in hope—making it one of those books that resonates with you for a long time.

Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman ***

gemina

(3.5 stars)
There were some aspects of this book that I enjoyed more than Illuminae. I felt like the characters were more alive in this story through the way they wrote the scenes to involve more action and surveillance footage, rather than just IM’s back and forth between characters.
That being said, I actually liked Kady and Ezra more as the driving force behind the plot in Illuminae. Also, I didn’t appreciate the casual drug abuse in the book or how the authors made it seem all right for the characters to use “dust” because they know when to stop or because it dulls their senses so they can get through a tough situation. I felt like it was unnecessary and actually sends a terrible message.

Despite my misgivings, I really enjoyed the book and will continue on with the series. Kristoff and Kaufman have crafted an incredible world, and the design of these books is unlike anything you will ever read. 

I’m also currently reading Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken *squeal of pure joy* and have Unblemished by Sara Ella patiently waiting for me on my bookshelf. I got them both on the same day, and there is nothing like that “new book” feeling where fresh hardbacks follow you home. 

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Also, my sister just ordered By Your Side for me by my auto-buy author Kasie West. A thousand yesses. I’ll do an Instagram post when I receive the book, so keep your eyes peeled. 

Lastly on the reading update, I feel like I’ve never had to wait for a sequel to release like I have with the much-anticipated Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman. Those who are also waiting for Book II to come out probably feel like each day just drags on and on. But we’re in this together, guys, and so we have to hold out and lean on each other through these hard times. Hang in there, friends, it will be here soon! 

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Janeen Ippolito: The Science behind Blood Mercy

Published November 2, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

She loved you all so much that she decided to come back! Give yourself a nice pat on the back. ^_^ Janeen Ippolito, author of the gripping Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water, has returned to grace us with her presence. *excited clapping*

Today she’s giving us the inside scoop on the creation of Blood Mercy and the mythology behind it, and can I just say that I adore lore and Greek mythology and really appreciate Julia and Janeen’s research behind this story. The book has only been out for a couple days, so you can still be some of the first to get your hands on Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water (links at the end of the post). Also, I felt so clever using red lettering for Janeen’s guest post, given the whole vampire theme. *laughs at own brilliance*

So, without further ado . . . 

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I enjoy tackling impossible challenges. Julia Busko enjoys putting new spins on the horrific. Both of us enjoy suspense and thrills.

Naturally, our first collaboration was a reinvention of the vampire myth!

Of course, a great deal of research was needed. Vampires have always fascinated us and between the two of us, we covered a wide variety of vampire and horror literature, TV shows, cinema, and graphic novels/anime. Not that we really needed an excuse! In fact, our mutual enjoyment of monsters and the horrific is a reason we became friends in the first place.

Next, we dove into mythology. Since we were creating a people-group who had existed since the origin of sickness, we wanted to echo and pull from traditional lore. Julia Busko is an art history buff, an aficionado of ancient Egypt, and a fan of Asian cultures. She also loves digging up awesome facts from vampire lore. I tackled Norse mythology and Greek/Roman timelines. I also researched various blood diseases and illnesses that contributed to the vampire mythos. After collecting countless facts and ideas, we sifted through them and started drafting.

And drafting.

And then more drafting.

Plus, we wrote pages and pages of backstory, long plot outlines, countless scene snippets, and a massive farm of plot bunnies that ended up spawning their own, entirely separate stories that we divvied up between us. It was three years of work and negotiation and all day brainstorming sessions and a lot of humility on both our parts.

(Side Note: For anyone who’s still persevering on their writing craft—don’t give up! It does help to plan – we now have a cohesive series of books laid out and the security of knowing where we are going with the overall narrative. Keep at it!)

What emerged from all that work was the Blood Kind. Humans from various cultures and societies afflicted with the blood curse, a fatal disease that requires regular blood transfusions for survival. Some people choose to take the transfusions. Others act out of bitterness, darkness, or elitism and take the vampire path, choosing to hunt healthy humans and drink their blood. Side effects of the blood curse can include sensitivities (including to light and to strong flavors, like garlic), personality issues like obsessive compulsive disorder (one common issue with vampires was the compulsion to count things), and a dislike of holy symbols (although that depends on the human and their level of guilt or anger connected with religion). Because many vampires turned to the occult, we chose to follow in the great tradition of Dracula and have the Church be involved in the fight, but we opened the party up to any denomination of churches, as well as to those of other faiths, or no faith, who might have a reason to take up the struggle. We also chose to give the Blood Kind a few ‘perks’ – side effects of the blood curse that could have some benefit, like increased longevity.

Welcome to the Houses of the Dead. Where the Blood Kind walk the shifting ground between vampirism and healthy humanity. Set apart by their weaknesses as much as their strengths and cursed with an incurable disease, they seek to live normal lives, resist the lure of vampirism, and fight against any prejudices of the healthy.

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What would you do if the one you loved was turned into a monster?

Melrose Durante brings order. As founder of the Houses of the Dead, he tirelessly opposes the vampires, and provides refuge for the Blood Kind, those like himself who fight against the blood curse that leads to vampirism. His medical breakthroughs have brought many back from the vampire path. After thousands of years, the Blood Kind finally has the upper hand.

Until a vampire attacks Melrose’s family, then begs for asylum. To his friends she’s Lucy, a disturbed young woman prone to incoherent rants, warning of an imminent attack by vampire leader, Conan. But to Melrose she’s something more.

His lost wife, Jane.

One thing is clear – time is running out. In five days Conan will attack Quebec City, killing or enslaving all in his way. If Melrose cannot unlock his wife’s tormented mind, even his immortal wisdom may not be enough to save Quebec City, the Blood Kind, and the Houses of the Dead.

Blood Mercy Official Website: http://www.bloodmercy.wordpress.com

Amazon Preorder Link: https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Mercy-Thicker-Than-Water-ebook/dp/B01L47ILUS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476321001&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+mercy%3A+thicker+than+water

Uncommon Universes Press Website: http://www.uncommonuniverses.com

 

 

Defying Shadows Has Been Nominated!!!

Published August 24, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

GUYS! Defying Shadows has been nominated for the August Clash!!!

Some of you are familiar with Clash of the Titles and their amazing awards and clashes each month, and I have voted on many a clash for worthy new releases. But for those of you who have yet to obsessively spread the word about your favorite books (shame on you!), COTT is a fantastic site that hosts what they call a “Clash” each month for new releases. Sort of a battle to the end between books where fans vote on a favorite blurb and cover photo, and in the end, there is one book victor.

I am crazy excited and honored because out of however many submissions they received for new July releases, Defying Shadows was selected as one of FOUR to enter the arena (cast your vote here!). I mean, no biggie.

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This is a total honor, and the winner of the August Clash not only gets a ton of promotion from COTT (and bragging rights–HUZZAH!), but they are also able to submit their book for the Laurel Award for free, which is a super prestigious award that I’ve only ever dreamed about getting (and have, admittedly, been too intimidated to submit to before). Lisa M. who designed the cover for Defying Shadows (add to Goodreads) and whom you might recognize from my acknowledgements in the book, was crazy excited and created all sorts of new banners for the clash and is spreading the word like crazy (I’ll post the image to grab and share at the end of this post).

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This is important, because it’s your votes that will decide which book takes home the victory of the Clash. I understand if another book takes your fancy over Defying Shadows…

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… but if DS strikes your interest in any way, then please stop by and vote again and again, and spread the word about the August Clash. If we win—that’s right, it’s a Team Hood effort!—then I’ll host another awesome book and gift card giveaway on my site. Don’t consider it a bribe, just “motivation.” 

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So what are you waiting for?! Go, vote and spread the word! And keep an eye out everywhere, because I will be promoting the heck out of this thing. Let’s share Sarah’s story and Will’s amazing journey with the world! Now, please excuse me…

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If you’re willing to share and encourage people to vote, you can use the image and link below (check out the new cover photo and header pics on Twitter and Facebook, also designed by Lisa M. Man, the girl works fast!). I’ll keep tabs on who shares the most when you tag @TownsendTales, and there might be a gift card involved for the Shadow who does the most social media posting and reblogging. Just sayin’. ^_~

http://www.clashofthetitles.com/2016/08/july-2016-releases-duke-it-out.html?m=1

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A Precious Bundle Has Arrived!

Published July 22, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

I returned from another fun-filled day at San Diego Comic Con (swag, books, panels, fun. Details to come!) to a surprise package on my doorstep. 

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Yes, my copies of Defying Shadows have arrived!!! I requested a few more copies of Chasing Shadows, and I’m so excited to bring these with me when I fly out to Pennsylvania for Realm Makers next week. And I’ll admit I had some fun staging little mock battles between Damien (Hook) and Will (Arrow).

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Also, a ton of people on Facebook are already posting pictures of their copies of the book that arrived on their doorsteps today, and I’m so excited that this is finally happening. I know you’ll laugh and cry and hate some of the characters while sobbing over others with all the love you have in your heart. But I hope, most of all, that these characters stay with you for a long time, as I know they’ll live in my heart forever.

Find your own copy of Defying Shadows, the final book in the Rising Shadows Trilogy, on Amazon today.  If you post your pics of your copy, use #TeamHood and tag @TownsendTales for a surprise!

http://amzn.to/2acv3rh

And don’t forget that the Rafflectoper giveaway only goes through 11:59pm this Sunday. So follow the link below to enter to win an Amazon gift card and your own paperback copy of Defying Shadows

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/efc81f6e2/?

DEFYING SHADOWS IS OUT!!!

Published July 20, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Defying Shadows has officially been released into the wild!!! 😃

http://amzn.to/2acv3rhhttp://amzn.to/2acv3rh

Hallelujah! It’s been a long time in coming, but I am so ecstatic that it’s out. Follow the link to the paperback of Defying Shadows here, and find me wandering San Diego Comic-Con tomorrow through Saturday. I’ll be the blond shamelessly promoting my own books. 😋 Follow the crazy person with the Defying Shadows tee and tote for a bookmark! 

And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter each day to be entered to win a paperback copy of Defying Shadows and an Amazon gift card. End this Sunday!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/efc81f6e2/?

Fictional Deaths Heard ‘Round the World

Published July 14, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Sick of ‘Em? Kill ‘Em . . . in Fiction!

We all know those authors, the ones who can’t figure out a place for a beloved character or think it will be just sooo dramatic and win them some kind of award if they randomly kill them off. If you’ve ever picked up a book or binge-watched a TV series, then you’ve probably experienced one of those Fictional Deaths Heard ‘Round the World. It’s that terrifying scene where you aren’t sure how they can get out of it this time, that breathless moment of denial that your favorite character could die and that a writer could be so cruel. And in the instant that they perish, your denial turns to tears, which evolve into a heart-wrenching, gut-twisting lifetime of pain.

princess bride

To honor those gone-too-soon heroes of fiction, I’ve compiled a short list of some of the fictional deaths that still twist my insides and provide a plethora of ugly sobs, though there are plenty more where these came from. This post will be spoiler-rich, so if you’re still waiting to read anything by Bodi Ashton or Cassandra Clare or have yet to watch Buffy, then you had best just avoid reading any further. Or if you know precisely what I’m talking about, then feel free to lament these fictional deaths all over again with me! *raises imaginary cup of shared pain and throws bars of dark chocolate into the air*

#3: Jem Carstairs in The Clockwork Princess

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Chances are you’ve heard about The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, but if you’ve read this series, then it’s safe to assume you’re still walking strangely. (And that Epilogue–just why??!!)

Jem is possibly the sweetest, most sacrificial and tragic character you will ever encounter. He’s been ill for most of his life and has to take this silver powder called yin fen to stave off the weakening effects of his disease so he can continue to live a relatively normal life. BUT the caveat is that the medicine he needs to function is killing him more quickly. His friends try to wean him off the poison to lengthen his days, but Jem wants to spend what remains of his life with his friends and his fiance, Tessa. And when she is taken, he stays on the yin fen to have enough strength to find her. But he becomes so sick anyway and weakens while Will (be still my heart! Never have I been so torn between two characters) goes out to find Tessa, who is in love with BOTH FRIENDS. Yeah, it’s messed up. So while Jem lies dying because he took too much medicine/poison to save his fiance, Will is off saving her. The tragic part–well, one of them–is that Jem always knew he was second violin to Will (poor joke), but he never held a grudge against his friend and loved him like a brother, and for a time they were all they had. I shed tears for Jem dying without either Will or Tessa, and I cried for Will’s loss when he was told his parabatai had died (Tessa who? She has feelings?!).

But almost more tragic than Jem’s “death” is the fact that he didn’t actually die. Waaaa???? What do I mean?

lemme splain

On the brink of death, Jem was turned into a Silent Brother, sort of like a monk with an eternal vow of silence that they all considered freaks for a lot of the series. The most horrific aspect of this change is that our Jem, whose greatest solace was found in playing his violin, must live in the Silent City where music is forbidden. And he did it all to fight one final battle with Will and Tessa and protect them. Yeah, killing him is too easy. Let’s destroy his life ans everything he holds dear.

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Even though he didn’t technically die, he still makes this list because the Jem we fell in love with disappeared and was replaced by this tragic creatures. *ugly sobbing*

#2 Cole in Evertrue

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Ohmysweetgoodness. First fictional death I ever really cried over. Cole is a total bad-boy, rock star, soul-sucker in Everneath, but I found him totally fascinating. He appeared to have this vague, broken past, but all we really know about him is that he chose Nikki to be his “life-support” for 100 years and wants her back.

When you see how he tried to protect Nikki in the Everneath and hear how he was a lost, lonely boy tricked into becoming what he is . . . Let’s just say he became a sympathetic “villain” in an instant. He disappoints you at the end of Everbound, but you can’t even be mad at him in Evertrue because he tries so hard to make things right and gets his memory swiped, so he thinks he’s an innocent Norseman who has no clue of the torment he’s caused! *sucks in a breath*

Nikki and Cole (whose memory has been restored by the end) are trying to destroy the Everneath throughout the book. BUT they also have to destroy the thing that tethers them to the Everneath to complete the process, which means they will return to their human forms. Cole is tired of taking life from others to survive and tearfully tells Nikki that they have to break their tethers, which means that he will return to his 900-year-old self. Desperately, Nikki begs for his heart before he can break it and turn to dust to close the portal to the Underworld. But he just kisses her and tells her she already has his heart, and THEN HE SNAPS THE PICK AND TURNS TO DUST.

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It’s so horrible because he changes in the end and chooses to sacrifice himself to protect Nikki and make up for his past. I could barely see the page through my tears, and the watermarks are still on my book.

 

#1 Angel from Buffy

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He was Stefan before there was Stefan, and he was too cool to sparkle

I know it happened over 15 years ago, but believe me when I say that the tears are still flowing from this scene oh-so-long ago. This fictional death is actually what sparked this post of tragedy and eternal torment (thanks, Liz!) . . . and also the fact that writers won’t stop killing off beloved characters.

Quick background if you never watched television in the ’90s: Buffy and Angel were the ultimate star-crossed lovers of the decade. A vampire slayer + a vampire with a soul and a conscience and who hates what he was turned into = perfection. There are a few other obstacles in their way–for instance, if he experiences a moment of pure joy, his soul will be stripped from him and he will revert to the monster he was before. Yeah, big problem, but it makes for the best romance on TV!

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Which brings me to the most dramatic fictional death of all time.

Angel does, in fact, find a moment of true happiness with Buffy, and he loses his soul because of it. It is this epic race to stop the total maniac he was before, and Buffy loves him too much to kill him, even though there is absolutely no sign of his kind and tender former self. But when Angel plans to open a portal that will destroy the world, she knows she has to kill him or send him into the portal, since only his blood can stop what he started.

There is a super dramatic battle between the two, and Buffy is getting ready to stab him through the heart when Angel ‘s soul is suddenly returned to him (let the cries of exaltation and fangirling ensue!).

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He just looks at her and says her name like she’s all he understands, and Buffy just knows he’s returned to her. They have this beautiful moment together, and we the fans are already crying with joy at this point. BUT THEN she sees over his should that the portal has already been opened, which means the end of the world if she doesn’t make a decision to act, and you can just see in her eyes how it guts her. Angel clearly has no idea of her inner struggle as she tearfully admits that she never stopped loving him. Then she tells him to close his eyes and that everything is going to be all right. . . . AND THEN SHE STABS HIM!

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Believe me, we all felt that mortal wound to our core. Angel looks so confused and betrayed because he’s her Angel, and he has no idea why she would do that to him. It’s so tragic because it was Angelus who did those horrible things, and now he’s our sweet Angel again and has no idea that Buffy had to kill him to save the world. The torment!!! All he knows is that Buffy stabbed him and then let him get sucked into the portal to close it, and there’s no time to explain. So he dies confused and hurt and betrayed. The gut-wrenching death of Angel was analyzed and cried over for weeks, and we still shudder when we think on it nearly two decades later. Don’t even get me started on how much we cried during “I Will Remember You” from Angel.

buffy angel sobbing

Now, please excuse me while I consume an entire chocolate pie after reopening these very real wounds caused by fictional characters and their demises.

 

Who Wants to Hear Some Exciting News???!

Published June 19, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Come hither, come hither! (wherever “hither” is) I have some exciting news! Drum roll please.

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DEFYING SHADOWS IS OFFICIALLY OFF TO THE PUBLISHER!!!

request the highest of fives
Robert Downey Jr sexy smile (gif)

After rushing to get the final round of edits done–moving past burning eyes, late nights, coffee abuse, and a serious lack of social engagements–Defying Shadows (click here to add it on Goodreads) is officially ready to go to print. WEEEEEE!!!!!!

It has literally been a decade from the start of this series to getting Rising Shadows published (see where it all began here), seeing Chasing Shadows in print, and now sending off the final book in the trilogy. I am crazy excited to share it with you all (July 2016 release date TBA), but it’s also a little strange to know that this series has come to a close.

I don't want to go 10 doctor david tennant

Of course, I’ll read it when it comes out (say, 20 or 100 times), but I’ll never get to write a new scene between Sarah and Will, never laugh at Karen and Seth’s antics (the badger moment you will experience in Defying Shadows), and never sigh with confused emotions when Damien breaks/mends my heart a thousand times over.
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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” sounds pretty appropriate for how I felt doing that final read-through. But although it is incredibly bittersweet to send my little word-child off to the presses all on his lonesome (yes, I laughed, I cried), it’s also really exciting to have the chance to dive into new series and novels that have been gnawing at my writer-mind for so long. Plus, I can always go back to visit Sarah and the gang in Serimone because . . . badum da dum!!! . . . yet another surprise:

RISING SHADOWS IS COMING OUT IN PAPERBACK!!!

clapping audience gif | Baby Clapping GIF

That’s right, Ink Smith requested the rights to have the first book, so it will be re-released in paperback in mid- late-July along with Defying Shadows.

Sebastian is basically me with the whole Team Cap over Team Iron Man rivalry XD

Soon, I will have the ENTIRE Rising Shadows Trilogy on my bookshelf, looking all pretty and fabulous, and you will too! And because Rising Shadows will be revamped in paperback in a month, I figured the oldest sibling in the family needed a new look. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands (because I can’t see your hands), so I’m just going to assume I can drop another bombshell on you today and REVEAL THE NEW COVER FOR RISING SHADOWS!!! ^_^

Ready?

Set?

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Rising Shadows Book Cover - Larger Moon_resized

“Would you entrust your future with a hero of the past?”

I know, it’s fabulous, feel free to fangirl.

New trending GIF on Giphy

The incredibly talented Elegant Stylus (click here to stay updated on future designs), who imagined the drool-worthy cover for Defying Shadows, also decided to revamp the cover for Book I in the trilogy, and I am LOVING it! Feel free to share around, and I am waiting with baited breath for the moment these lovelies can all grace my shelf, side by side. I might even have an entire room for them. Hmm. Something to consider.

Now, I'm taking a full day to organize my bookshelf and get back to Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matsen. Yep, I'm going to read an entire book this week and listen to music and not have a schedule.
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