Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Regeneration" by Stacey Berg

GUEST POST and GIVEAWAY
Regeneration
(Echo Hunter 367 Book 2)
by Stacey Berg


Regeneration is the second book in the Echo Hunter 367 series by Stacey Berg. Also available: Dissension.


Regeneration is currently on tour with Providence Book Promotions. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.


Description
The world is ready to be reborn…
Protected by the Church for four hundred years, the people of the City are the last of humanity - or so they thought. Echo Hunter 367, made to be faithful to the Church and its Saint at all costs, embarks on what she’s sure is a suicide mission into the harsh desert beyond the City. Then, at the end of all hope, she stumbles on a miracle: another enclave of survivors, a lush, peaceful sanctuary completely opposite of anything Echo has ever known.
But the Preserve has dark secrets of its own, and uncovering them may cost Echo more than just her life. She fears her discoveries will trigger a final, disastrous war. But if Echo can stop the Church and Preservers from destroying each other, she might have a chance to achieve her most impossible dream - saving the woman she loves.

Excerpt
Echo Hunter 367 studied the dying woman in the desert with grudging admiration. The woman had walked long past what might reasonably be expected, if that lurching stagger could be called a walk. When she couldn’t walk any more she had crawled, and after that she had dragged herself along, fingers clawing through sand until they clutched some purchase, body scraping over rocks and debris, heedless of the damage. Now and then she made a noise, a purely animal grunt of effort or pain, but she forced herself onward, all the way until the end.
I smell the water.
Desperate as the woman was, she had still been cautious. Though an incalculable distance from any familiar place, she still recognized danger: the wind-borne sand that scoured exposed skin clean to the bone, the predators that stalked patiently in the shadows for prey too weak to flee. The cliff edge that a careless girl could slip over, body suspended in space for the briefest moment before her hands tore through the thornbush, then the long hard fall.
Echo jerked back from that imagined edge. It was her last purposeful movement.  From some great height, she watched herself collapse in the sand. One grasping hand, nails torn, knuckles bloody, landed only a few meters from the spring’s cool water, but she never knew it. For a little while her body twitched in irregular spasms, then those too stilled. Only her lips moved, cracking into a bloody smile. “Lia,” she whispered. “Lia.” Then she fell into the dark.
For a long time there was no sound except water trickling in a death rattle over stones.
Then the high whine of engines scattered the circling predators. Pain returned first, of course. Every inch of skin burned, blistered by sun or rubbed raw by the sand that had worked its way inside the desert-proof clothing. Her muscles ached from too long an effort with no fuel and insufficient water, and her head pounded without mercy. Even the movement of air in and out of her lungs hurt, as if she had inhaled fire. But that pain meant she was breathing, and if she was breathing she still had to fight. With enormous effort she dragged open her eyes, only to meet a blinding brightness. She made a sound, and tasted hot salt as her lips cracked open again. “Shhh,” a soft voice said. “Shhh.” Something cool, smelling of resin and water, settled over her eyes, shielding them from the glare. A cloth dabbed at her mouth, then a finger smoothed ointment over her lips, softening them so they wouldn’t split further when she was finally able to speak. Lia, she thought, letting herself rest in that gentle strength until the pain subsided into manageable inputs. Then she began to take stock.
She lay on something soft, not the rock that had made her bed for so many weeks, although her abused flesh still ached at every pressure point. The air felt cool but still, unlike the probing desert wind, and it carried, beyond the herbal tang, a scent rich and round, unlike the silica sharpness of sand she’d grown so accustomed to. Filtered through the cloth over her eyes, the light seemed diffuse, too dim for the sun. Indoors, then, and not a temporary shelter, but a place with thick walls, and a bed, and someone with sufficient resources to retrieve a dying woman from the desert, and a reason to do so. But what that reason might be eluded her. The Church would never rescue a failure.
Unless the Saint commanded it.
She mustered all her strength and dragged the cloth from her eyes. She blinked away grit until the blurred oval hovering above her took on distinct features, the soft line of the cheek, the gently curving lips. Lia, she thought again, and in her weakness tears washed the vision away. She wiped her eyes with a trembling hand.
And stared into the face of an utter stranger.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]


Praise for the Book
"Echo Hunter 367 may be a clone and callous killer, but she’s one with true heart and soul. Regeneration is a thrilling conclusion to Berg’s dystopia duology." ~ Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger series
"Regeneration by Stacey Berg is a paean to resistance, hope, and love, a Canticle for Leibowitz that passes the Bechdel Test and then some. This post-apocalyptic clash of values and technology demonstrates beautifully that physical bravery can only take you so far; real change only happens when we have the courage to listen." ~ Nicola Griffith, author of Hild
"This book is packed with action from start to finish." ~ Ginger Miller
"This is the second in a series and I would highly recommend reading the first book, Dissension. [...] I do recommend this book to those who enjoy science fiction, especially when it deals with difficult decisions. There could be much discussion about Echo and her actions and what was really best for her community." ~ Joan N.

Guest Post by the Author
My Inspiration for Writing this Book
When I started to write the first Echo Hunter 367 book, almost all I had was the basic concept of a nature/nurture conflict and a very strong image of a woman in the desert, a kind of soldier, protecting from some unseen enemy another woman, a runaway of some sort, who was her prisoner. The dynamic between them was clear to me right away: the soldier determined to do her duty no matter what it required; the prisoner, wryly admiring her captor’s skill, even though it meant her own doom. And, as the two of them faced hopeless odds together, we’d see a gradual switch in roles, until the duty-bound soldier wanted only to set the prisoner free, and the prisoner realized that she could run no longer and had to face her destiny.
That only left me about 89,500 words short of a novel.
And that’s where I really started to have fun. I knew the heart of my story, but building the world it would work in was something else entirely. A kind of soldier genetically programmed to think only of duty? Were there lots like her, or was she the only one? Who would have the tech to make people like that? What did her makers need her for? (Or as my editor astutely put it, what exactly was her job?) And that desert was starting to feel pretty post-apocalyptic. What had happened to all the people? Plague? War? Zombies?
I never seriously considered zombies. But I had just read Thomas Cahill’s brilliant history book How the Irish Saved Civilization, which they did by copying ancient manuscripts in their monasteries while the rest of the Roman Empire was falling into the dark. So I began to play with the idea of the Church saving civilization again, only this time not through religion but with science. Where that all went was into the first novel in the duology, Dissension.
Since Regeneration is a sequel, some of the inspiration was honestly just the need to get the characters out of the mess I had left them in at the end of the previous book! But I also wanted to go further with something I hadn’t had enough time to explore in Dissension: the idea of a post post-apocalyptic world. Many post-apocalyptic novels focus on the time right around the end of the world, on the disaster itself or the stories of the survivors. I wanted to set my books later than that, at a time when people are living a few generations into the next part of history. This wouldn’t be a changed world to the people born into it; it would just be the way things were. These citizens wouldn’t mourn the loss of television or football or coffee shops or the internet; they never had any of those to lose. They wouldn’t be haunted all the time by the past. Instead, they’d want things we all recognize: a nicer house, ready access to meals without subsistence farming, a family. And fun! They might not have clubs, but they’d certainly make music, and if they made music, they’d be dancing. In short, they’d be trying not just to survive, but to be happy.
Of course, being human (most of them), they’d also be trying to steal each other’s stuff; they’d be jealous and ambitious and selfish and kind. And some of them would be thinking about building civilization up again. That, finally, was my inspiration for Regeneration: I wanted to tell a story about the world being reborn.

About the Author
Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives with her wife in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons.





Giveaway
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of three ebook copies of Dissension by Stacey Berg.

Links

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"The Outsider" by Anthony Franze

EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY
The Outsider
by Anthony Franze


The Outsider by Anthony Franze is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.


For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on The Advocate's Daughter.

Description
A young law clerk finds himself caught in the crosshairs of a serial killer in this breathtaking thriller set in the high-pressure world of the Supreme Court, from renowned lawyer Anthony Franze.
Things aren’t going well for Grayson Hernandez. He just graduated from a fourth-tier law school, he’s drowning in student debt, and the only job he can find is as a messenger. The position stings the most because it’s at the Supreme Court, where Gray is forced to watch the best and the brightest - the elite group of lawyers who serve as the justices’ law clerks - from the outside.
When Gray intervenes in a violent mugging, he lands in the good graces of the victim: the Chief Justice of the United States. Gray soon finds himself the newest - and unlikeliest - law clerk at the Supreme Court. It’s another world: highbrow debates over justice and the law in the inner sanctum of the nation’s highest court; upscale dinners with his new friends; attention from Lauren Hart, the brilliant and beautiful co-clerk he can’t stop thinking about.
But just as Gray begins to adapt to his new life, the FBI approaches him with unsettling news. The Feds think there’s a killer connected to the Supreme Court. And they want Gray to be their eyes and ears inside One First Street. Little does Gray know that the FBI will soon set its sights on him.
Racing against the clock in a world cloaked in secrecy, Gray must uncover the truth before the murderer strikes again in this thrilling high-stakes story of power and revenge by Washington, D.C. lawyer-turned-author Anthony Franze.


Excerpt
Prologue
When her computer pinged, Amanda Hill ignored it. This late at night, she shouldn’t have, but she did.
All her energy was focused on tomorrow’s closing argument. Her office was dark, save the sharp cone of light from the desk lamp. She’d waited for everyone to leave so she could run through her final words to the jury. So she could practice as she’d done a thousand times, pacing her office in front of imaginary jurors, explaining away the evidence against the latest criminal mastermind she’d been appointed to represent. This one had left prints and DNA, and vivid images of the robbery had been captured by surveillance cameras.
She glanced out her window into the night. Normal people were home tucking in their children, watching a little TV before hitting the sack. Her little girl deserved better. She should call to check in, but she needed to get the closing done. Amanda’s mother was watching Isabelle, and her mom would call if she needed anything.
There was another ping. Then another. Irritated, Amanda reached for the mouse and clicked to her email. The subject line grabbed her attention:
URGENT MESSAGE ABOUT YOUR MOTHER AND ISABELLE!
Amanda opened the email. Strange, there was no name in the sender field. And the message had only a link. Was this one of those phishing scams?
She almost deleted it, but the subject line caught her eye again. Her seven year old’s name.
Her cursor hovered over the link— then she clicked. A video appeared on the screen. The footage was shaky, filmed on a smartphone. The scene was dark, but for a flashlight beam hitting a dirty floor. Then a whisper: “You have thirty minutes to get here or they die.”
A chill slithered down Amanda’s back. This was a joke, right? A sick joke? She moved the mouse to shut down the video, but the flashlight ray crawled up a grimy wall and stopped on two figures. Amanda’s heart jumped into her throat. It was her mother and Isabelle. Bound, gagged, weeping.
“Dupont Underground,” the voice hissed. “Thirty minutes. If you call the police, we’ll know. And they’ll die.”
The camera zoomed in on Isabelle’s tear-streaked face. Amanda’s computer began buzzing and flashing, consumed by a tornado virus.
Amanda drove erratically from her downtown office to Dupont Circle. She kept one eye on the road, the other on her smartphone that guided her to the only address she could find for “Dupont Underground,” the abandoned street trolley line that ran under Washington, D.C.
Her mind raced. Why was this happening? It didn’t make sense. It couldn’t be a kidnapping for ransom. She had no money— she was a public defender, for Christ’s sake. A disgruntled client? No, this was too well organized. Too sophisticated. Common criminals, Amanda knew from her years representing them, were uneducated bumblers, not the type to plan out anything in their lives, much less something like this.
She checked the phone. She had only fifteen minutes. The GPS said she’d be there in five. She tried to calm herself, control her breathing. She should call the police. But the warning played in her head: We’ll know. And they’ll die.
She pulled over on New Hampshire Avenue. The GPS said this was the place, but she saw no entrance to any underground. It was a business district. Law firms and lobby shops locked up for the night. She looked around, panicked and confused. There was nothing but a patch of construction across the street. Work on a manhole or sewer line. Or trolley entrance. Amanda leapt from her car and ran to the construction area. A four-foot-tall rectangular plywood structure jutted up from the sidewalk. It had a door on top, like a storm cellar. The padlock latch had been pried open, the wood splintered. Amanda swung open the door and peered down into the gloom.
She shouldn’t go down there. But she heard a noise. A muffled scream? Amanda pointed her phone’s flashlight into the chasm. A metal ladder disappeared into the darkness. She steeled herself, then climbed into the opening, the only light the weak bulb on her phone. When she reached the bottom, she stood quietly, looking down the long tunnel, listening. She heard the noise again and began running toward it.
That’s when she heard the footsteps behind her. She ran faster, her breaths coming in rasps, the footfalls from behind keeping pace. She wanted to turn and fight. She was a god-damned fighter. “Amanda Hill, The Bitch of Fifth Street,” she’d heard the defendants call her around the courthouse. But the image of Isabelle and her mother’s faces, their desperation, drew her on.
The footsteps grew closer. She needed to suppress the fear, to find her family.
The blow to the head came without warning and slammed her to the ground. There was the sound of a boot stomping on plastic and the flashlight on her phone went out. The figure grabbed a fistful of her hair and dragged her to a small room off the tunnel. She was gasping for air now.
A lantern clicked on. Amanda heard the scurrying of tiny feet. She saw the two masses in the shadows and felt violently ill: her mother and Isabelle. Soiled rags stuffed in their mouths, hands and feet bound. Next to them the silhouette of someone spray-painting on the wall.
Amanda sat up quickly, and a piercing pain shot through her skull. She averted her eyes, hoping it was all a nightmare. But a voice cut through the whimpering of her family.
“Look at them!” Amanda lifted her gaze. She forced a smile, feigned a look of optimism, then mouthed a message to her daughter: It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.
It was a lie, of course.
A godforsaken lie.
[Please click here and use the "Look inside" feature on Amazon to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"The Outsider is as authentic and suspenseful as any John Grisham novel - and I like Grisham a lot." ~ James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"[A]ll ingredients of a fine thriller, and that’s exactly what this one is." ~ Booklist
"Crafty and clever! Franze’s insider knowledge of the Supreme Court sets this twisty legal thriller apart. The sympathetic plight of the outsider hero, Grayson Hernandez, will keep you glued to the pages; the explosive plot will leave you breathless." ~ Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Franze raises the ante and with an astute piece of misdirection that keeps the reader guessing. A lawyer in a prominent Washington firm and an expert on the Supreme Court, he uses his experience and knowledge to create an authoritative, taut tale of power and revenge that focuses on a justice-minded, admirable protagonist." ~ Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Truth, justice, and the American way, Franze-style. From the first page to the last, The Outsider is a stellar look inside the Supreme Court, and a killer thriller to boot. Franze has cemented himself as a top-notch legal thriller writer. If you like Grisham, you will love this book." ~ J. T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author

About the Author
Anthony Franze is a lawyer in the Appellate and Supreme Court practice of a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm, and a critically acclaimed thriller writer with novels set in the nation’s highest court. Franze has been a commentator on legal and Supreme Court issues for The New Republic, Bloomberg, National Law Journal, and other major media outlets. He is a board member and a Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization.
Franze lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family.



Giveaway
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon.com gift card.

Links

Monday, March 27, 2017

"Beauty of the Beast" by Rachel L. Demeter

EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY
Beauty of the Beast
(Fairy Tale Retellings Book 1)
by Rachel L. Demeter


Beauty of the Beast, the first book in the new Fairy Tale Retellings series by Rachel L. Demeter, is currently on tour with Promo Stars Services. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well, and keep an eye out for my review, coming soon.

 
For more books by this author, please check out my blog post on The Frost of Springtime and my blog post on Finding Gabriel.

Description
Experience the world’s most enchanting and timeless love story - retold with a dark and realistic twist.
A beast living in the shadow of his past ...
Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.
A beauty in pursuit of a better future ...
Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle - unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.
Beauty and the Beast ...
Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more ...
Perfect for fans of Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty of the Beast brings a familiar and well-loved fairy tale to life with a rich setting in the kingdom of Demrov and a captivating, Gothic voice.
Note: This is an edgy, historical romance retelling of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. Due to very strong sexual content, profanity, and dark subject matter, including an instance of sexual assault committed by the villain, Beauty of the Beast is not intended for readers under the age of 18.


Book Video



Excerpt
~ The East Tower ~
Arms sprang out from the darkness. They spun her full circle and slammed her body against the king’s portrait. Isabelle gasped, more in shock than from pain, as she stared into Adam’s deformed face. The lantern flickered behind his massive form, casting his cloaked body in silhouette. But she saw enough to know he was far from pleased. Rage and frustration radiated from his body like a palpable force.
“I warned you to stay out of here,” he said, his voice dangerously cold and deep. Those rugged vocals vibrated against her body and seeped into her marrow. “What part of forbidden didn’t you comprehend?” His voice lashed out from the darkness like a hurtled knife, and the word “forbidden” seemed to whisper another meaning altogether. Isabelle tried to answer but failed to find her voice. Indeed, her vocal cords had turned to solid ice, as numb and cold as the blood rushing through her veins. She couldn’t breathe; she felt like she was suffocating.
“My mother gave me that musical box on my fourth birthday,” he said, the sensual lull of his voice causing the fine hairs on her nape to stand erect. “And now your recklessness has destroyed it. Have you nothing to say?”
“I—I’m sorry.” He offered no reply; only the ragged sound of his breathing and the hammering blizzard broke the silence. “Please—I didn’t mean any harm.”
She struggled under the weight of Adam’s colossal body and battled to free herself. He merely gave a low chuckle and pressed her firmly against the portrait. He looked otherworldly at that moment, like an angel of death seeking vengeance. Both beautiful and monstrous, his cool, sapphire eyes overflowed with warring emotions. In spite of his harsh and ruthless exterior, she detected a quaver in his voice and saw that his large, cloaked shoulders trembled. The darkness in his soul cast a shadow that embraced her; as she peered up at him, she knew he was drowning in the turbulent waters of a past time.
“What a disappointment,” he went on, his voice growing deeper still, mocking her words from so many days ago, “You’re like any other woman.”
“I—I’m sorry. Please, Adam. I—” Her gaze shot past his body and over the wreckage of a past life. She thought of her private chamber again—of the stale perfumes and outdated garments.
Her flight or fight instinct seized hold of her. She attempted to scramble free, but he merely grabbed her shoulder and whirled her back against the portrait. Gloves wrapped his hands; his long, silk-clad fingers grasped her shoulder and kept her firmly in place.
He stood intimately close.
Far too close.
As close as Raphael had been that night.
“Going somewhere, ma belle? After you’ve worked so hard to find my East Tower?”
Hands like two steel bands held her wrists in place. Hot breaths, which faintly smelled of wine, seared her cheeks and assaulted her senses. Her breasts flattened against the pressure of his strong chest, and she felt that same chest swell and deflate in perfect sync with her own. One large hand slipped down her elbow and glided across her extended arm. The lush material of his gloves drew a shudder from her heaving chest. His breathing grew more ragged, shallower, and the erratic beat of his heart banged against her own.
Anger and desire warred on his face, twisting his features into a mess of both monster and man. “Find anything of interest, aside from my musical box? Come, come. You went through such great trouble to get here,” he asked, his voice now threaded with both anger and something else.
Yes, Isabelle recognized that something else. It was the same note that had entered Raphael’s voice that night…
She attempted to duck under his arm, but he moved swiftly, capturing her in the crook of his elbow. Reeling her toward him, he emitted a low, haunting chuckle that swelled the eastern tower to its rafters. She was back where she’d started—pinned against the portrait, Adam’s body serving as a flesh-and-blood blockade.
Hunger radiated from him, enfolding her in a current of sizzling power. His silk-clad hand grazed the curve of her breast as it moved down her body in a painfully slow caress. Even more alarming was her reaction to him. Her treacherous body responded with a crush of hot and cold pulsating waves. Then he whispered a taunt in her ear, and his liquid baritone slid down her backbone like honey; it swirled inside her, finding its home in her most intimate area.
He leaned closer still. His face’s uneven skin brushed against her neck, the black waves of his hair tickled her chin... His thick arousal expanded against her, reminding her of what he was capable of—and of her sheer vulnerability.
His lips teased the base of her throat. Cursing her traitorous body, Isabelle gasped at the gentle scraping of his teeth. His tongue and lips tormented her throbbing pulse—just barely, stirring her skin in a mere ghost of a touch.


[Want more? Click below to read another excerpt.]



Praise for the Book
"Another Fairy Tale grows up, gains some dark realism and proves that without love, even a saint can become a beast from within their heart and that love can make anyone beautiful in the eyes of those who love them. Rachel L. Demeter has shown her writing chops once again as she turns an already dark tale into an edgy read that will rock you back on your heels." ~ Tome Tender Book Blog
"Absolutely beautiful. A perfect retelling of one of the most famous fairy tales. This version doesn't involve talking teapots or enchanted roses, but this retelling is still beyond magical." ~ LYLY 5 STAR BOOKS
"5++ enchanting stars. This book is so beyond anything I could have ever expected. The author recreated the original Beauty and the Beast story with a sexy and dark edge and I completely LOVED it. Rachel L. Demeter's writing is just beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, my kindle is literally FILLED with highlights." ~ Katie's Book Blog
"I loved Ms. Demeter's Finding Gabriel, so I when I saw her Beauty of the Beast, I jumped at the chance to read it! The fact that it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, my favorite fairy tale, only made me want to read it even more - and wow - was it good. Although good is too weak a word to describe it, it really was amazing and I positively loved it!" ~ A Hopeless Romantic's Booklandia
"Once I started reading it ...I. Could. Not. Stop!" ~ The Booknatics


My Review


I'm just over halfway through reading Beauty of the Beast, and I'm loving this original adaptation of Beauty and the Beast that reads like a historical romance with a touch of The Phantom of the Opera and Cinderella thrown in.
Full review coming soon!


Playlist



About the Author
Rachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California, with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and her high school sweetheart of fourteen years. She enjoys writing poignant romances that challenge the reader's emotions and explore the redeeming power of love.
Imagining dynamic worlds and characters has been Rachel's passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mother would record them for her. She holds a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances. Whether crafting the protagonist or antagonist, she ensures every character is given a soul.
Rachel endeavors to defy conventions by blending elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness.
Her dream is to move readers and leave an emotional impact through her words.


Giveaway
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of Finding Gabriel by Rachel L. Demeter.


Links