A Caryn Review: The Weekend Bucket List by Mia Kerick

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is one of the best YA books I’ve ever read.  It is emphatically not a romance, and to be honest, that’s what makes it so wonderful.

If you were asking for advice, Coop, I’d tell you that friendship is the deepest form of love.  But society deems the love between friends less important than romantic love.  Friendship is highly underrated.

That quote is from Cooper’s father, and I think sums up the theme of the book pretty completely.

Cooper is the high school valedictorian, a nerdy kid who’s never really been tempted to act out, and who has been good as gold for his entire high school career.  His best friend is Cady, another outcast nerd who “has always been game for any kind of fun that’s rated G.”  The two have been best friends who became especially close when Cady’s twin brother overdosed and went to rehab.  They’ve supported each other through high school, and now that they’re near graduation, Cady came up with a plan to do all the things they missed by being “good” kids – the Weekend Bucket List.  They are both frightened of leaving each other when they go to different schools, and both are wondering if what they feel for each other is more than just an extremely close friendship.

While carrying out their plan, they meet Eli, a lonely young man who dropped out of high school and has been working with carnivals and moving from town to town.  Cooper and Cady spontaneously adopt him into their plans, and they have an intense weekend that answers some questions, but raises even more difficult ones.  When the weekend is over, everything falls apart.

Fortunately, they have the summer to repair things before they go their separate ways.

I love how all the emotions are in this book – love, anger, jealousy, betrayal, hope, fear, and faith.  All three of these characters are at times unintentionally cruel to each other, and each at different times gives up on the other two.  Eli especially just broke my heart, because he had so little to begin with, and was so open and trusting, “falling into friendship” too quickly because he was so starved for affection.  In the end, all three of them learned strength and faith as they came together and fell apart over the summer, and learned how to be kind and honest and to truly appreciate the depth of their friendship.

Learning to differentiate between platonic love and romantic love can be very difficult, especially when there is some physical attraction, and definitely at that age!  What this book did so beautifully was elevate platonic love to the level it deserves, validate it in a world that talks way too much about finding “the one”, and legitimize the idea that soul mates don’t have to be lovers.  It was a beautiful book, and one that I am going to recommend to a lot of people.

Cover art by CB Messer is simple, eye-catching, and perfect for a YA book.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: April 19th 2018 by Duet Books
ASINB0797P1NX1
Edition LanguageEnglish

Come on, Muse! Give Me a Break By Nancy Stewart (author of Beulah Land) (guest post and excerpt)

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Beulah Land by Nancy Stewart

Duet Books, an imprint of Interlude Press
Release Date: November 16, 2017

Cover Artist: CB Messer

Purchase Links:  Duet | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Nancy Steward on her Beulah Land tour. Welcome, Nancy!

✒︎

 

Come on, Muse! Give Me a Break 

By Nancy Stewart, author of Beulah Land

What is it about muses? I know they take their work seriously, and yet conjuring up mine can be quite a chore at times.

I almost always search for her at the computer. She’s usually there, but not today. Sometimes she hides in my Favorites List. But not today. How about the Homepage? Nope. One more try my lists of guest posts. Occasionally, she will transform herself into a bright new post from an old one. Today, no such luck.

Not one to give up, I go to the gym. Strangely enough, she hangs out there quite a bit. And usually her gym ideas are good ones, full of life and vigor. She particularly likes the elliptical.  Actually, so do I. But after 25 minutes of trying to coax her to visit, I give up and move to other machines where I’ve never seen her ply her magic. One lives in hope.

On the way home, I stop by the bookstore and congratulate myself on a stroke of genius. She can’t not be there. It’s a muse kind of place, after all. She’s not there. Not even in the Young Adult books section. She’s always in the Young Adult books section. “Getting great ideas,” I usually tell her, but she sometimes rejects that notion.

Ah, well. I give up. I’ve learned there’s no future in sleuthing after a muse that does not want to be detected. So, home I go.

I consider the computer a lost cause, so I opt for a glass of iced tea and a comfy chair. And then, like a tiny bee buzzing in my brain, my muse appears. She speaks of Violette Sinclair, the brave and determined, and single-minded heroine of my new Young Adult novel, Beulah Land. She worries over Junior McKenna, Vi’s best friend, who puts himself in harm’s way to keep her alive in her own home town. My muse whispers the book’s ending to me, then smiles and says she loves it.

My muse is such a tease. But when she gets down to business, there’s no stopping her! Today, I’m only happy she visited, threw out a couple of notions then left me to ruminate. 

What is it about muses? I still haven’t figured out that answer. But though they are fey and capricious creatures, this author is grateful to have one.

If you haven’t met yours, don’t worry!  Give her the time and opportunity to make an appearance. Carry that little notebook. You know. The one that everyone says to take with you?  It’s crucial for dealing for a mischievous muse emergence. Read lots of books, particularly the genre you’re most interested in writing. It’s amazing how she can virtually pop off the page to infuse you with a brilliant idea.

Above all, while you wait for her, keep writing. I’ve found that most muses appear when one writes and writes and doesn’t give up. Taskmasters they may be, these little creatures know their stuff. You’ll be delighted when yours finds you.

Beulah Land Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Vi Sinclair’s roots run deep in the Missouri Ozarks, where, in some areas, it can still be plenty dangerous to be a girl who likes girls. Her greatest wish is to become a veterinarian like her boss, Claire Campbell. Fitting in at school wouldn’t be so bad, either. Only one obstacle stands in the way: She may not live long enough to see her wishes ful lled.

With help from her only friend, Junior, Vi unravels a mystery that puts her in con ict with a vicious tormentor, a dog ght syndicate, and her own mother. Vi’s experience galvanizes her strength and veracity as she overcomes the paradox of mountain life, in which, even today, customs and mores seem timeless, and where a person can wake up dead simply because of being who she is.

Excerpt

“I don’t buy it,” my sister says, after not interrupting for a change. “There’s no way some random guy would be after us. I mean, for what reason? I don’t even know this Dale whatever his name is. You sure, Violette?”

“After listening to his rant? Yes, and that means you gotta be extra careful. I don’t want to scare you crazy. Don’t go places alone. You hear?”

Her gaze shifts away from my eyes, and she gives a tiny nod, but I’m not convinced she believes me or I believe her. “I have a suspicion there are secrets, Jessie, dark ones. And you and me? We’re being dragged in because of Mama.”

She picks up a plastic cat that Seth won for her at the county fair, examines it like it’s a priceless treasure and gently sets it back on the table. “So what can we do?”

“First, we gotta work out the real reason Dale’s after us.”

Jessie puts a smirky smile on me. “He’s after you because you’re not like us. Lots of folks around here’s downright vicious about it.”

I’m gonna ignore her nasty attitude. “Don’t think it’s that simple anymore, Jess. I got a pretty big notion what’s going on circles right back to Mama.”

My sister sighs, gathers her hair in a hunk, and moves it to her other shoulder. “If what you’re saying is true, Vi, we gotta go to the police.”

“Won’t do any good. I hear Sheriff Fletcher’s real close to the Woodbines. Best friends and all. If that’s true, nothing’s going to touch Dale.”

“Then we need to talk to Uncle Gray. With him being the clan head of us Sinclairs, it’s his sworn duty to protect us.”

“Not Uncle Gray. No. Not yet.” “Vi—”

“NO! I can take care of this on my own.”
“Why are you so stubborn if we’re in this much danger, Violette? People in these parts get

dead for a whole lot less than being gay. But since you are and everybody knows it, you got a real head start. You want that?”

“No, I don’t. But Uncle Gray, he’s got no respect or liking for me. Don’t you understand that, Jessie?”

“Yeah, and dead’s dead a long time. And you’re saying my life’s in danger now, so that’s something you should understand.” She flounces her hair back on both shoulders; a punctuation mark for being through with this conversation.

“I’m going out to get some air, Jess.”
She doesn’t answer, even when I slam the front porch door.
A lightning bolt zigzags between Bald Knob and Scoggins Ridge, as I settle on the top porch

step. Thunder growls like those Greek gods we studied battling over some old-timey feud, and a few fat raindrops splat on my head, chilling the tops of my legs.

Jess and Junior are pretty much right about me taking too many risks. I almost wish for once Mama would caution me on that. I long hard for her to love me for who I am. Mama, she always lays heavy on my heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A professor of education specializing in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, Nancy Stewart is also the award-winning author of several bestselling books for young readers. The original manuscript for Beulah Land received the 2015 State of Florida Rising Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives with her husband and an adopted Bichon/Shih Tzu pup, Louie, in Tampa, Florida.

Beulah Land will be published by Duet Books on November 16, 2017. Connect with author Nancy Stewart at nancystewartbooks.com and on Twitter at @stewartnancy.

Release Tour and Giveaway: Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2) by C.B. Lee

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Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2) byC.B. Lee

Publisher: Duet, the Young Adult imprint of Interlude Press
Cover Design: CB Messer
Release Date: October 5, 2017

Purchase Links:

Interlude Press | Amazon |Barnes & NobleAppleKoboSmashwords

Book DepositoryIndiebound  

 

 


SUMMARY

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants and, if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges.

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

SBN (Trade)  978-1-945053-25-2

ISBN (eBook)  978-1-945053-43-6

Pages:  320 (79,500 words)

Price:  $16.99 print/$6.99 multi-format eBook

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

C.B. Lee is a bisexual writer based in California. She is a first-generation Asian American and holds a BA in sociology and environmental science, which occasionally comes in handy in her chosen career, but not usually. Lee enjoys reading, hiking, rock climbing and other outdoor pursuits.

Not Your Sidekick (2016) was named a finalist for both the Lambda Literary Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards. Lee’s first novel, Seven Tears at High Tide (2015), was also a Bisexual Book Awards finalist. She is a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices Fellow.

Giveaway

Book Tour Rafflecopter Giveaway:
Grand Prize $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of Not Your Villain // Five winners receive the multi-format eBook
Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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International Literacy Day and This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day in on Friday, September 8th.  What is International Literacy Day you might ask?  Consider these quotes:

Books were my pass to personal freedom. – Oprah Winfrey

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. – Edward P. Morgan

A book is a dream that you hold in your hand. – Neil Gaiman

A book is a device to ignite the imagination. – Alan Bennett

No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance. – Confucius

Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body. – Joseph Addison

Reading takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere. – Hazel Rochman

For each of those and for us, books unite us, make us bigger, pull us forward, out of ourselves and into something larger.  Maybe into something we can’t even define for ourselves yet. And now we are doing so in multiple ways on various devices.

But first we must learn to read.

That’s where the International Literacy Day comes in.

From the International Literacy Day Website:

International Literacy Day History

International Literacy Day serves to recognize the importance of literacy and acknowledge the need to create a globally literate community. Literacy refers to a person’s ability to read or write, an ability that connects and empowers people, allowing them to communicate and interact with the world, and one that the United Nations considers to be a basic human right. Today, approximately 16% of the world’s population, two-thirds of which is female, is unable to read or write at a basic level in their native languages. Illiteracy in nearly all parts of the world has been linked to socio-economic issues like poverty and demographic factors such as gender.

In an effort to combat illiteracy, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) created International Literacy Day in 2000.  During the 2015 campaign, themed Literacy and Sustainable Societies, UNESCO stressed the importance of literacy as the most powerful accelerator of sustainable development and pledged that by 2030, the organization will ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy. This international holiday is observed annually on September 8th.

This year the theme is Literacy in a Digital World exploring what skills people need to live in an increasingly digital oriented world.  Here at STRW we have talked about the increase in eBooks.  That’s also true at the educational level where computers and computer programs are rapidly replacing traditional methods normally associated with schooling, right down to eTextbooks.

Here is another paragraph that struck me from the International Literacy Day website:

Just as knowledge, skills and competencies evolve in the digital world, so does what it means to be literate. In order to close the literacy skills gap and reduce inequalities, this year’s International Literacy Day will highlight the challenges and opportunities in promoting literacy in the digital world, a world where, despite progress, at least 750 million adults and 264 million out-of-school children still lack basic literacy skills.

The more that you read, the more things that you will know, the more that you learn, the more places that you’ll go – Dr. Seuss

International Literacy Day – References and Related Sites

So what can we do to help?  There are many shelters, especially LGBTQIA Youth shelters, that maybe in need of books, even Kindles with suitable YA stories already loaded into them, that you can donate.  Donate books to local shelters for domestic violence.  They often take in families with younger children that might need books to read.  Check first with the shelters before donating.  Need addresses of LGBTQ Shelters to contact?

Start with

Ali Forney Center – NYC NY

Lost-n-Found Youth: Home  (Atlanta GA USA)

LostnFound Youth is an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization whose … More than 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ and this disparity in the homeless youth population continues to grow. …. 2585 Chantilly Drive, AtlantaGA 30324

Note:  They have a Wish List which includes underwear, food, bedding.  Contact them first before donating other than these staples.

Albert Kennedy Trust – Helping young LGBT people – Manchester UK

The Albert Kennedy Trust support lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans homeless young people in crisis. Every day … We have offices in both London and Manchester.

What else?  Check with your local libraries.  Volunteer with people who need assistance learning to read.  Send us suggestions on things we haven’t come up with.  What should we be doing for International Literacy Day?  It’s actually being celebrated on the 7th and 8th.  All comments and suggestions are welcome!  The more the merrier!  Our reviewers stretch around the globe, so do our authors and readers.  Let’s make this a global effort too.

International Literacy Day Giveaway

How do you think we can make a difference these days in promoting literacy?  Here  at home and abroad?  Also, tell us what how reading and books has changed your life? What does it mean to you that you can pick up a book, sink down into other lives and worlds? Two winners will win a $10 gift card.  Leave your comment along with your email address.  Contest ends on Sunday, September 9th.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

 

 

 

Sunday, September 3:

  • An Alisa Series Review: Only You Series by JS Finley
  • International Literacy Day
  • This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Monday, September 4:

  • BLITZ A Matter of Courage by J.C. Long
  • Review Tour – Ann Gallagher’s Having Her Back
  • RIPTIDE TOUR Foxglove Copse (Porthkennack #5) by Alex Beecroft
  • A MelanieM Review: Foxglove Copse (Porthkennack #5) by Alex Beecroft
  • A Stella Release Day Review: The Hike by John Inman
  • An Alisa Review: Eye Candy (Candy Men #2) by Amanda Young
  • A Stella Review : Having Her Back by Ann Gallagher

Tuesday, September 5:

  • Dreamspinner Promo j. leigh bailey on Stalking Buffalo Bill + Giveaway
  • RELEASE BLITZ Leaning Into Always by Lane Hayes
  • Review Tour – Hard Time (Responsible Adult #2) by C.F. White
  • A Kai Review: Hard Time (Responsible Adult #2) by C.F. White
  • A VVivacious Review:  The Highlander (Order Series #2) by Kasia Bacon
  • An Ali Review: A Matter of Courage by JC Long
  • An Alisa Review: Talk Bunny To Me (Hoppity Shifter #2) by A.R. Barley

Wednesday, September 6:

  • 3 day release Blitz for  Sunder by Lexi Ander
  • Blog Tour For Elin Gregory’s  The Bones of Our Fathers
  • A Melanie Release Day Review: Earning His Trust by Alicia Nordwell
  • A Lila Review: The Curse (Witches of Salem #1) by T.S. McKinney
  • An Alisa Review: Broken Pieces by Ruby MacIntyre

Thursday, September 7:

  • Release Blitz & Review Tour for Garrett Leigh’s Circle (Roads #3)
  • Release Blitz: Hard Time by CF White
  • Victoria Sue on her new release The Alpha Heir + Giveaway
  • A Kai Review: Facing West (Forever Wilde #1) by Lucy Lennox
  • An Ali Review: Making It (Ringside Romance #3) by Christine d’Abo
  • A Lila Audiobook Review: Tart and Sweet (Candy Man #4) by Amy Lane and Narrator: Philip Alces
  • An Ali Review:  Circle (Roads #3) by Garrett Leigh

Friday, September 8 (International Literacy Day):

  • TOUR The Dragon’s Devotion by Antonia Aquilante
  • Release Blitz : Con Riley’s Be My Best Man
  • RIPTIDE TOUR & Giveaway: Her Hometown Girl by Lorelie Brown
  • The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic by F.T. Lukens YA Tour
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review:  Friendly Fire by Cari Z and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)
  • A Lila Review: The Dragon’s Devotion (Chronicles of Tournai Book 5) by Antonia Aquilante
  • A MelanieM Review: Broken Records (Spotlight #1) by Lilah Suzanne

Saturday, September 9:

  • Living Out Loud by Nyrae Dawn & Christina Lee Release Day Blitz and Review
  • Cover reveal *September 8th* His Dark Reflection by Heloise West
  • A MelanieM Review: Sūnder (Darksoul #1) by Lexi Ander

 

 

 

 

A Julia Prerelease Review: The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Having long wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the merfolk’s fortress. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: Say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

Being an avid reader of the Fantasy genre myself, The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember had me intrigued as soon as I laid eyes on it. I find mermaids to be one of the most fascinating mythical creatures and yet I can hardly recall any Fantasy novels in which they play more than a supporting role. So, since the protagonist in this one is in fact a mermaid, I was really hoping that the author would grant a closer look into the society, customs and lifestyle of the merfolk. And thankfully I was not disappointed in the least!

The novel features a close-knit community of merfolk living inside a glacier far up in the frozen North with strict societal rules and traditions. As a reader you get to experience their way of life through the eyes of young Ersel from whose first-person perspective the story is told. World and lore building are one of the key aspects of Fantasy writing and I was immediately drawn in by the loving details the author used to describe how the merfolk lived and their society worked. The people of the sea really take the centre stage here and we are handed only small pieces of information on what the lives of humans are like in this world. I also very much enjoyed how the merfolk’s way of life was so closely entwined with the harsh and cold environment they lived in. The author did a good job in depicting the icy landscape and some of its inhabitants (most prominently a pod of beluga whales). A nice touch of magic and Norse mythology is added as well.

The novel features a varied cast of characters with the mermaid Ersel as its main protagonist. She does not want to lead the life dictated to her by the community’s traditions and laws but is too scared and timid to openly oppose them at first. A focus of the story lies on her personal development as she is repeatedly faced with new experiences and difficult decisions that impact her own future as well as others’.  The most profound of said experiences being when she meets Ragna, a fierce young human woman bent on survival and revenge. Ragna acts in many ways as a mirror for Ersel: They both have dreams and goals they want to achieve but unlike her Ragna has the courage and will to actively work towards and fight for them. At the same time Ersel comes to Ragna’s aid and becomes the friend and support the human girl desperately needs. The relationship that starts to blossom from this encounter was a delight to witness and I found myself rooting for them to succeed in their ambitions as well as their growing feelings for each other. Their story is one of self-discovery, compassion, determination and sacrifices.

Other types of relationships are explored as well, especially the one between Ersel and her childhood friend Havamal with whom she used to share a strong bond before he decided on a different path in life than the one they had once dreamed of together. And then there is of course Ersel’s deal with the infamous trickster god himself who, while being a divine entity, displays some rather human-like traits as well. I also quite enjoyed the magical aspects of this part of the story. 

Since this is a Young Adult novel the sex scenes are not described in detail but they are still teased enough to let the imagination run wild.

I had a great time reading this novel and enjoyed learning about the fascinating world the author had created. The characters, their motivations and interactions were very engaging as well. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from this author. 

The intricate cover design by CB Messer is what drew me to this novel in the first place. It is probably one of the most beautiful book covers I have ever seen. The art and colour choices are truly lovely. It immediately invokes a sense of ancient legends and fairy tales.

Sales Links:  Duet, an imprint of Interlude Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages

Published May 4, 2017

by Interlude Press

ISBN: 978-1-945053-34-4

Edition Language: English

INTERLUDE PRESS TOUR: Ghosts & Ashes (Broken Moon #2) by F.T. Lukens (author interview, special excerpt and giveaway)

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Ghosts & Ashes (Broken Moon #2) by F.T. Lukens
I
nterlude Press
Cover art

Available for Sale at

amazon square borderB&N borderApple borderKobo borderSW border

Other Purchase LinksGoogle | Book Depository | Indiebound

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have F.T. Lukens here today to talk about her  latest novel, Ghost & Ashes.  Welcome, F.T., thank you for stopping by on your tour today. Hi FT, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

  • Do you buy a book because of the cover, the blurb, or something else?

I’m such a sucker for a pretty cover. It’s not the sole reason I buy a book, but I do love a nice cover. I’m very lucky to have the beautiful covers I’ve had for my Broken Moon Series.

It also helps if the book is in my genre of choice. A good blurb that’s interesting can get me too.

Probably needless to say but I do end up purchasing a lot of books.

  • What does ‘romance’ mean to you?

This is a tricky question. I think romance can mean the whole sweep- someone-off-their-feet thing. But I tend to think of it as person meeting another person where they are and going from there. I think that’s romantic. But I love slow-burn romances and pining and those kinds of tropes.

  • What are your current projects?

I’m happily working on several different projects right now. This current book, Ghosts & Ashes, is the second of a trilogy. I’m busy plotting out the third and final installment. I also just finished another YA book about myths and cryptids. I’m also hoping to write a steampunk fantasy novel this year as well. It’s a lot to squeeze in.

  • What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

It’s the motivation. I’m a driven person. I recently had to take a strengths finding test for my day job and my top was called “Achiever.” Which basically means I’m here to get things done. But sometimes, after working a full day, and tending to three kids, and putting everyone to bed and I’m sitting at the keyboard and I’m drained… Those nights are difficult. But I surround myself with people who will push me. I have friends who will send me emails asking me if I’ve made my goals. And I have a goal tracking spreadsheet that keeps me on track.

  • Tell us something about yourself that would surprise people.

I don’t know if this is ‘surprising’ but it’s funny/sweet. My penname is of course, not my real name. But it is a combination of an inside joke plus the name of the person who nicknamed me FT. The name ‘Lukens’ is the last name of a friend of mine who passed away. She loved nicknaming people and she loved to joke around. The FT part is the joke that I share with her and a few others and the Lukens in her last name. When I was coming up with the penname, I thought of her, and I knew she would’ve loved it. I’m sure where she is that she’s smiling and probably laughing at me. 😉

GHOSTS & ASHES ~ Summary

Three months have passed since the events of The Star Host, and Ren is living aboard the Star Stream under the watchful eyes of the Phoenix Corps. Plagued by vivid nightmares that ravage the ship in his sleep, he struggles to prove he isn’t a threat and fears he has traded one captor for another. His relationship with Asher, whose efforts to balance his personal loyalty to Ren with his professional duties to the Corps are failing, fractures.

Adrift without an anchor, Ren must return to his home planet of Erden if he has any chance of reversing his dangerous descent into madness. There, he hopes search for his missing brother and salvage his relationship with Asher. What he nds is knowledge that puts everyone’s allegiance to the test.

GHOSTS & ASHES ~ EXCERPT

“There you are!” Asher said, striding toward him, wrapping him in an embrace. “Stars, you’re freezing.” Asher rubbed Ren’s arms; his palms swept over the chilled skin. “Where have you been? You left and never came back. Jakob and I have been looking all over for you.”

Ren pitched forward, planted his face in Asher’s chest, and shook. The terror at being taken again mixed with the crushing truths from his parents overwhelmed him.

“Hey, hey, you’re okay.” Asher pulled Ren close. “What happened? Was it a dream? Sleepwalking?”

Ren stilled. Pressed close to Asher’s body, it would be easy to give into the urge to tell him everything, to spill the truth about what his parents had said about the Corps and the star hosts and the history his life was mired in. But his mother’s words lingered in the back of his mind, and Ren remembered how Asher had sided with VanMeerten so many times since the debacle on the drift. Asher was Phoenix Corps, through and through. His allegiance was split, torn between Ren and his duty as a soldier. And how much did he know? Was Asher aware that the first mission of the Corps was to hunt down the scattered remnants of the star hosts? Or did he only know what he had been told, like the rest of them?

* * *

Ren poured his power outward. The force field created a partial wall between the captives and the Corps. The comms shrieked. The pulse guns spat electricity, came alive in the hands of those who wielded them, and sparked and sputtered, shocking the Corpsmen with forks and tangles of electricity. They fell, writhing on the ground, even Zag. Ren vibrated with their screams, tasted the burn of skin and hair, but it wasn’t enough.

They had destroyed his home. They had made it so Ren could never return to what he was before. They had scared Ezzy, who was only a girl with a crush, who wanted to prove herself capable in a warzone when she should’ve been learning at school, playing in the woods, swimming in the lake, or blushing around boys. They had threatened them, frightened them, and they would burn, as Ren did, blaze in misery and despair, and thrash in pain until their veins blackened and peeled like wires, until their bones glowed like circuits.

The power flowed from him in a torrent, and he pushed it, and pushed it. He ensured those responsible were filled until they burst, until their souls were scorched out of them, until their humanity had crumbled to dust as his had.

* * *

Ren sighed. Asher wanted to talk, and Ren’s insides ached with a fierce loneliness he hadn’t experienced since the first night in the cell of the Baron’s citadel. He didn’t want Asher’s words or his pity. And he didn’t want to relive the details of the nightmare, which had sent him twisting in his sheets and crawling across the floor. The sense memories clung to him, like cobwebs whose phantom threads, fluttery and strange and stubborn, brushed against his skin. The strands were infinite; they touched the deep places of Ren’s consciousness and burrowed down to his marrow to pull out the things that terrified him most.

He didn’t want to share the nightmare, but Asher’s flat countenance and sure gaze couldn’t hide his worry. It flashed in his eyes and ran in shaky tremors down the length of his crossed arms, as if he hugged himself to keep in his concerns and not as a defense to reflect whatever Ren had to throw at him.

Ren bent his knees, propped his arm up, and allowed his fingertips to dangle. Sweat flattened his hair against his temples. He regarded Asher coolly as Asher sat on the edge of Ren’s bunk.

“Do you remember when we went dancing?”

Asher blinked at the non-sequitur. “On Mykonos?”

Rowan had taken them dancing in a place with loud music and rotating lights. The beat had vibrated through Ren’s boots. “I had never been dancing like that before.”

Asher raised an eyebrow. “You weren’t bad. Well, not as bad as Jakob.”

“I liked the slow dance.” Asher had grabbed Ren in his arms and pulled him to the dance floor. They’d laughed and moved and all Ren’s worries had dissolved in happiness and the rhythm of the music. “I liked being with you. With the crew. I miss that.”

“We’re here now, Ren.”

He shook his head. “No. You’re not. It’s different now.”

“It doesn’t have to be.”

Ren looked away.

“Ren, you’re not okay,” he said flatly.

“No. I’m not, but I didn’t feel like broadcasting it.”

“It’s a little late for that,” Asher said softly. Ren’s stomach twisted. Asher had all but confirmed his latest nightmare had played on the vid screens. The crew had seen what Ren couldn’t remember, didn’t want to remember. “You’re getting worse. And they know it.”

Ren twisted his lips. “I’m aware the crew already knows. Pen can’t lie for anything.”

“Not them. The Corps.”

Ren rested his head on his knees. “You told her. You threw me to the wolves.”

“I had to.”

“Why? Do you want me to leave? Be locked away?”

“Stars, Ren. You know I don’t want that.”

“I don’t know what you want, to be honest. I don’t understand why you hold allegiance to them at all.”

“Because I have to. I promised five years.”

“You and your promises,” Ren said bitterly. That was loyalty Ren couldn’t understand, not after what the Corps had done to Asher, not after having left him for a year to rot in a cell on what they called a backwater planet. But Ren was beginning to realize there were things he would never understand and maybe wasn’t meant to.

“And I promised I’d keep you safe. Any way I could. This is the only way. Don’t you understand that?”

Ren felt the slight touch of Asher’s fingertips across the back of his hand. His star sparked and sought out the mechanism in Asher’s shoulder instinctually.

Asher shivered.

“There’s a fine line between safety and captivity.”

* * *

Connect with F.T. at authorftlukens.wordpress.com on Twitter @ftlukens, on Tumblr at ftlukens.tumblr.com and on Goodreads at goodreads.com/ftlukens.

About the Author

F.T. Lukens is an author of Young Adult ction who got her start by placing second out of ten thousand entries in a fan community writing contest. A sci- enthusiast, F.T. loves Star Trek and Fire y and is a longtime member of her college’s science- fiction club. She holds degrees in Psychology and English Literature and has a love of cheesy television shows, superhero movies, and writing. F.T. lives in North Carolina with her husband, three kids, and three cats.

Her 1st novel in the Broken Moon series, The Star Host, was published by Duet Books in 2016.

Connect with F.T. at authorftlukens.wordpress.com on Twitter @ftlukens, on Tumblr at ftlukens.tumblr.com and on Goodreads at goodreads.com/ftlukens.

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