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Derek Murphy

YA authors at PennedCon 2018

I just got back from a weekend with my favorite writing buddies – nearly 50 young adult authors. I took lots of pictures, and even made a video of them introducing their books. The main thing I got out of it, was how much these books mean to readers; even if they’re scifi or fantasy, they still make readers feel accepted or not alone. PennedCon was set up as a charity fundraiser for autism, by YA author Amy Miles.


I attended as an author, and even though I didn’t bring books to sign or a full display set up, I still met a few readers who knew me (and were waiting on more books!) I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

I also got to speak on a self-publishing panel, moderated by Mark Coker of Smashwords, with several NYT bestselling authors, including Amy Bartol (one of my fav writers).

More importantly, I got to connect and hang out with a bunch of YA authors as a peer, and see how they interact with fans



I bought a lot of SIGNED books, and I’m putting them all in a giveaway before we leave for Thailand this week…  here’s a video of some of the YA authors introducing their books. Scroll down to enter!


>>Click here to win ALL these signed books!<<

What I’m working on

I don’t update this blog often enough, so here’s the plan if you’re curious.

  1. still wrestling with the last few chapters of Selfie, so I can announce it
  2. want to finish Scarlet Thread 3, maybe 4
  3. want to finish Taste 2 and Shearwater 2
  4. Also have an epic fantasy I’m excited about

Not sure I’ll get all that done this year, but that’s what I’m working on, and I plan to be faster and more consistent with releases, and also focusing on finishing up series and being less sporadic with new ideas.


Poisoned Chalice: A Reverse Harem Epic Fantasy… with Dragons!

Download book one for free (sign up to my email list and I’ll let you know when it’s available!)

She’s spent her life in a cage, for a childhood incident that wiped out her family. But when her captors figure out she’s one of the rare lost queens—humans with tremendous power—she’s presented with a choice.

Marry one of the five handsome princes, or be executed as a witch.

Poison kills queen. Wand detects poison. Knight seduces witch. Dragon stops knight. When one rising queen refuses to play the game, she must marry one of the 5 princes or be executed as a witch. Red Queen meets Shatter Me. 

As long as a Queen sits on the throne of each royal house, there is peace in the Last Realm.

While the royals lust for power, their schemes are restricted by the rules of the game.

  • Only poison can kill a queen.
  • Only a wand can detect poison.
  • Only a knight can seduce a queen from another kingdom.
  • Only a dragon can stop a knight.
  • Only a queen can claim the crown.

Unless a king has the three magical items that keep his queen safe, and a handsome heir to attract a queen, his rule is threatened. But when one rising queen refuses to play the game, everything falls apart.

Enter a magical kingdom full of handsome rogues, dragon shifters and royal assassins – each vying for power in this deadly game of thrones. The Poisoned Chalice is book one in an epic fantasy reverse harem series with epic worldbuilding and twists that will keep you guessing.

“Vampire Diaries meets Hunger Games”

Last year I published a short teaser based on a vampire-dystopian story idea I had. Then six months ago, I heavily revised the first few chapters. Since then I’ve been struggling to finish the entire novel, which is deeper and darker than intended – both a story of apocalyptic survival, and a vampire romance centered around a royal wedding and political intrigue.

Although it’s still rough, I’ve just about finished a rough draft, which means I know how the whole story goes and now I just have to clean it up, edit and polish it. I know many of you have been waiting for the whole book, so today I put it up on preorder and gave myself a one-month deadline. (You can preorder NOW and get the full book as soon as it launches!)

If you read the first part, you may not have seen this bonus chapter, so I’m publishing it here:


Damien stood with his back to the door. He turned around, appraising me with his eyes. I’d only caught a glimpse of him this morning, when he killed the slagpaw, and I realized my memory didn’t do him justice. He was far more handsome than I remembered. He wore an all-black suit that screamed expensive, with a dark blue tie and that matched my dress.
“It’s nice to see you again, Miss Sharrow,” he said, his rich voice felt like velvet in my ears.
I hesitated for a moment, as he reached out a hand towards me. But finally I took a deep breath and stepped forward.
“Call me Emily,” I said, putting my hand in his.
His lips were curved up in a tiny, amused smile.
He repeated the name thoughtfully, dropping the syllables like he was savoring them. I realized it was the first time he’d ever said my name. The gentle way he said it sent a warmth through my body.
I linked my arm in his as he led me down an arched hallway overlooking a center courtyard full of rose bushes. The floral scent was wonderful, even up here on the third floor. We passed over a narrow stone bridge that crossed over one of the natural streams that seemed to divide the districts. In the distance I could see several more, hundreds of feet high, crisscrossing between the gravity-defying pillars of the Citadel. Some of them looked like natural rock and melted wax. Others were made of glass and steel.
As the sun set, the lights of the city began to glow, until they outshone the stars. I couldn’t believe a place like this actually existed. The City of Lights. I was finally here. We reached a spot overlooking the lower layers of the Citadel with a view over the maze-like walls that surrounded the settlement. I’d never been up this high before, and the view made me dizzy. I leaned closer to Damien, holding tighter to his arm. I felt his muscles tense beneath my fingertips and pulled away quickly. The sky was turning a deep purple, casting long shadows through the dark pine trees below us. The air tasted crisp and cool. I inhaled deeply, smelling scents of jasmine and spices from a market down below. I realized suddenly there was no ash here, but I couldn’t hear the hum of any purification machinese. They must have a different system defending them from the barrage of poisonous white flakes.
“Like it?” Damien said. I’d spent the last few days thinking about Prince Damien Hartmann, and now here he was, escorting me to some kind of ball. It should have been a dream come true, and yet, he’d barely said two words to me since I got here. He even seemed slightly annoyed, like he had better things to be doing than show me around.
“So, um, I guess I should thank you,” I said, looking out into the dark forests. “You know, for saving me from Nigel. Twice.” I bit my lip, waiting for him to answer.
“Don’t mention it,” he said casually. There was a sharp edge to his voice that sounded almost like a warning. He was acting like it was no big deal, like he would have done it for anyone. But not only did he save my life in the woods, he’d chosen me. We were supposed to get married, and I couldn’t even tell whether he liked me.
“And for what happened today,” I added. “I guess that was the third time you’ve saved me. How’d you find us, anyway?”
Damien’s sharp eyes flicked down to the steel bracelet his father had given me. The red numbers on the screen gazed up at me like angry eyes.
“That does more than monitor the level of elixir in your blood,” he said. “There’s also a tracking chip inside, so we know where you are. My father insisted on picking you up himself,” Damien said. There was an apology in his eyes, but not on his lips. “He can be very persuasive. But I was monitoring your journey. I left the Citadel as soon as your caravan stopped moving.”
I shuddered, remembering the terrifying moment when the limo had been flipped through the air. The amount of force it must have taken to lift a car like that was unbelievable. Damien bent down to meet my eyes. It was the first time he’d made direct eye contact, and the sudden intensity of his green eyes took my breath away.
“Listen to me,” he said. “The slagpaw cannot hurt you inside the Citadel. You’re perfectly safe here. Do you understand?”
I nodded, and shook my head to clear it. I hated being treated like I was some fragile thing that needed protection. Especially after years of looking out for myself. I lifted my chin and stepped brazenly forward.
“So are we going to do this, or what?” I asked, casting a teasing smile over my shoulder.
Damien was at my side in an instant. My pulse raced as he threaded his long fingers through mine.
“You certainly have a knack for getting yourself in trouble, Miss Sharrow.”
“Yeah, I suppose I do,” I grinned.
For a long moment, he was silent, and the duration bled into awkwardness. Finally, he dropped my hand and stood a little further away from me, raising an eyebrow quizzically.
“I wouldn’t recommend continuing that behavior in the palace,” he said. “The fortress walls will keep the slagpaw out, but that’s not an invitation to be reckless.”
With that chilling piece of advice ringing in my ears, Damien ushered me down a narrow side alley and over another bridge. I was completely turned around, but then suddenly we emerged onto a huge courtyard. It was lined with trees, but so wide and flat the opposite side faded into the distance. At the center, a crashing waterfall cascaded down from a steep hill, following a straight channel that cut through the stone plaza. Just at the top of the waterfall, a twinkling palace glittered more brightly than anywhere of the other lights in the city. It was a collection of tapered pillars and smooth domes that looked like upside down chocolate drops. A massive set of sweeping stairs had been cut into the bare rock on both sides of the waterfall, wrapping around the torsos of a pair of enormous statues carved into the rock. They were bent over, supporting the weight of the raised platform supporting the citadel with their shoulders. The waterfall gushed between them.
“We have to climb up that?” I asked, frowning. I thought we were going to a party, not a hiking trip. My new shoes were already cutting into my ankles, and I didn’t relish the idea of climbing up all those stairs in my dark dress.
“There is a faster way up,” Damien said. This time there was a hint of a smile in his eyes.
“Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to like the next words out of your mouth?”
“We jump,” he said, nodding at the platform on top of the hill. It was at least a hundred feet above us.
My heart pounded just thinking about it. I didn’t know if he was serious, or making fun of me. What if he was just testing me, to see how tough I was?
“Fine with me,” I said, far more boldly than I felt.
He stepped closer and wrapped his hands around my waist. He was suddenly way too close, holding my body firmly against his. He raised a questioning eyebrow, and I nodded.
Damien took three long strides, then jumped into the sky, holding me with one arm like a teddy bear. My dress pulled against the wind, and then opened up like an umbrella when we started descending. Damien landed first, then let me down slowly until my feet touched the ground. When he let go I was breathless, my eyes wide from excitement.
“That was amazing,” I grinned. “It’s just like flying.”
“Glad you liked it,” he said. There was a twinkle in his eyes, but he stepped away from me and put his hands behind his back. “Now, if you don’t mind, I think we’re late.”
He nodded towards the palace. Up close I could see the entire building was covered in gleaming marble tiles, inlaid with golden ornamentation that reflected the glowing lights pointed at it. A long red carpet ran from the massive front doors to the edge of the platform, seeming to disappear into thin air over the rushing waterfall. A dozen soldiers were positioned on either side of the carpet, so still I thought they were statues at first. Like the ones in our compound, they were wearing silver jackets with black pants. These ones, however, also wore a wide red band around their waists—a sign of the royal guard. As Damien and I walked casually between them, their gaze never flickered.
We entered the massive doorways into the largest room I’d ever seen. The high ceilings were covered in frescoes, and golden highlights ran between the enormous marble tiles in the floor. I had shield my eyes from the lights—they were brighter than anything I’d seen before, illuminating every inch of the room as bright as daylight. A few of the men in my compound had flashlights, and the streetlights used electric bulbs, but otherwise electricity was metered, and expensive. Unnecessary power usage was seen as wasteful, even potentially damaging to the purification engines that kept our air free of contamination. But here, the lack of restraint was almost conspicuously absent. The elite must have an unlimited supply of power.
Some kind of band with stringed instruments played music that made my heart sing, and I could see people dancing in the center of the floor. At the far end of the palace was a stage, surrounded by white round tables. Each table could fit twelve chairs, and had an elaborate flower display in the center, surrounded by white candles.
“Took you long enough,” said Tobias, approaching us with a friendly smile. He was with an elegant woman in a magnificient black dress and a pearl necklace. She was nearly as tall as Tobias, with long dark hair and an elegance I envied.
“We took the long route,” Damien grinned.
The girl rolled her eyes at him.
“Don’t tell me you jumped,” she said. “Poor thing! Tobias did that to me at my Presentation. I nearly had a heart attack.”
“She still hasn’t forgiven me for it,” Tobias smiled wickedly. “Allow me to introduce my wife, Penelope.”
I held out my hand, but Penelope reached out and grabbed me, squeezing me into a hug.
“I’m so happy you’re here,” she said. “We’ve been trying to get Damien to choose a girl for years, just so I have someone to hang out with when the boys are busy.”
“How long have you two been together?” I asked, hoping I was asking the right question.
“Five years,” she said, holding out her hand to show off her ring, which glittered with diamonds. I wondered if that included the three month trial, but I was too embarrassed to ask.
“Let’s sit,” Damien said, motioning toward the tables. We picked one and were soon joined by several other couples, and a handful of elites that appeared to be single. Everyone was so dressed up, it was a little hard to tell them apart at first. Mostly, the elites had a calm certainty about them, and a restrained power. They did everything in precise, simple movements. It was easier by far to recognize the other chosen, by their wide-eyed expressions and gaping mouths. I wonder if I looked as impressed as they did by our opulent surroundings.
My mouth watered as the first course of the meal was served. Waiters in red coats twirled wide silver dishes, then lifted the lids with a flourish, revealing strange foods I’d never seen before. I groaned as the exotic aroma washed over me. The duck, venison and soup I recognized. But there were also alien looking creatures with massive claws, and something that looked like two leaves stuck together.
“Oysters,” Penelope said, pointing out the unfamiliar dishes. “And lobster. My compound is right on the ocean, we catch them with traps and nets.”
She showed me how to crack them open to reach the meat inside. I pulled off my gloves so I could eat with my bare fingers, like she was. I saw her eyes slide to the dark red stains on my hands, but thankfully she didn’t ask about my birthmarks.
They’re supposed to be aphrodisiacs,” Penelope whispered in my ear, giggling.
I didn’t know what the word meant. I raised my eyebrow and she explained.
“It’s supposed to make you more eager, you know, for the bedroom.”
My brow suddenly prickled with sweat, and I squeezed my hands under the table. Was that supposed to happen tonight? I’d assumed intimate contact would be restricted to after the trial period and the formal wedding ceremony, but I realized nobody had told me so specifically. I glanced up at Damien. His smile was warm. He reached over and poured me a glass of wine. I smiled, and took a tiny sip. He was handsome, of course, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to be with him, in that way.
Was it expected of me? Did I have a choice?
At that moment, spotlights pointed towards the stage and I saw Damien’s father, King Richard, ascend some kind of podium. On either side of him, large screens descended, displaying a close up of this angular features. Somehow his words were spelled out on the wall behind him as he spoke.
“Tonight is the opportunity to welcome the new chosen into our community,” he said, as cheers erupted in the crowd. “I hope everyone is having fun.”
There were at least a hundred elite in the room, and I knew these weren’t even all of them—these were just the noble families and royalty. I wondered how many elite there were in total.
“There were thirteen chosen this year,” the king continued. “I’d like to invite them to the stage now.”
A few girls stood up immediately. Others, like me, waited to be prompted. Tobias and Penelope clapped their hands and smiled at me, but it wasn’t until Damien stood and pulled my chair out for me that my legs started heading towards the stage. In my peripheral vision, I saw Mary coming towards me from the side. I almost didn’t recognized her at first—she was wearing a lacy pink dress that stood out like a bright flower amongst the forest of dark suits and dresses that the elite seemed to prefer. She smiled at me, and I returned the gesture. She was probably feeling as alone and isolated as I was. We’d never been close, but it was nice to see someone I recognized from Algrave.


She followed up the stairs behind me and we got in line behind the other girls. Each chosen seemed to have a more elaborate dress. I was suddenly grateful that mine—while luxurious—was also relatively simple and understated. My jaw dropped when I saw Jessica, in a bright yellow dress with a matching hat that looked both ridiculous and stunning at the same time. She strode confidently forward. At my side, Mary nudged my arm and raised an eyebrow.
“She looks like a block of cheese,” Mary whispered.
“Or a banana,” I shot back, smiling.
Once we were all lined up, the king continued.
“For the last seventeen years,” he said, pacing before us, “you’ve enjoyed the protection and technological advances of living in the compounds. Safe havens, built for humans to thrive, without worrying about the poisonous ash of the wastelands, or the deadly beasts that roam outside the gates. Now you have been selected to fulfill your sacred duty and represent your communities by joining with an elite in a holy bond of matrimony. However, while you have taken the first step, and secured one of the highest honors for your compound, your partnership is not yet set in stone. Over the next few weeks, you will attend classes, to learn how to be better servants of the Citadel, and loyal consorts to your mates. I know that you will make your compounds proud.”
“This year marks the ninety-eighth year the chosen have been selected. For almost a century, we have had unparalleled peace and prosperity, since the covenant between our two races was first formed. Trust that, even if you don’t understand everything we do in the citadel, there are reasons for how things are. Learn our ways quickly, serve your new masters, and you will be invited to stay among us as full citizens.”
The audience applauded, and I looked back at the stairs, squinting against the bright lights and hoping we could get off the stage again.
“One more thing,” the king said, holding up his hand for silence. He drew his shoulders back, and when he spoke again it was soft, so low I saw the humans in the crowd lean forward to hear him.
“There are some, even within these walls, who do not support our mission, who questions our laws and way of life. Traitors and rebels, hiding in the shadows, plotting our downfall. Today there was even an attack on several chosen as they were heading towards the Citadel.”
There were murmurs from the crowd, even outrage. I was surprised that not everyone had heard of the attack yet.
“Luckily, my own son was keeping a close eye on his chosen, and arrived in time to save the lives of all three girls after their drivers were killed. Fear not,” the king said. “We will discover the parties responsible for these attacks, and they will be punished harshly, whether human, or elite.”
He let the last few words sink in. I furled my brow in confusion. We were attacked by slagpaw, not rebels. Certainly not elite. Then I remembered the bearded man I’d seen just before the attack, and the way he’d moved—for too quickly for an ordinary human.
What was he doing out in the woods, all alone? Was he involved somehow?
“Finally,” the king said, “on a more personal matter, I’d like to raise a toast, to my son Damien. I had always hoped he’d one day embrace the Covenant, and set a good example by choosing a human consort. Instead, he has resisted his duty for nearly a century… until now. So I’d like to raise a toast to Damien, and the first, and only, girl to catch his interest—Emily Sharrow!”
 A spotlight focused on me and I was blinded by the heat and light. I squinted, then raised my hand above my eyes. There were cheers and applause, along with quite a bit of laughter. When my eyes adjusted, I could make out Damien, but he was frowning and looking at the table with his arms crossed, even as elite from other tables came over to slap him on the back and congratulate him.
Just as the noise was dying down, I heard someone call out from the back.
“What’s wrong with her hands?” Followed by a cackle and a round of laughter. My eyes focused on a dark-haired girl in a black dress, practically lounging in Nigel’s lap. She looked drunk.
Was she a chosen? Why wasn’t she on stage?
My cheeks flushed red, as I realized I’d left my gloves at the table after eating. The splotlight showed off my marks in stark detail, and somewhere a camera zoomed in close, feeding a live video to the massive screens behind us, so that everybody could see the jagged marks on my hands. My deformity.
I crossed my arms, hiding my marks beneath my arms.


Blood roared in my ears. I didn’t even hear the king dismiss us, and stood there stupidly until Jessica pushed me from the other side, shoving me towards the side stairs.
“Move it, freak,” she hissed.
I nearly stumbled down my stairs, fighting to keep the tears out of my eyes. I could already feel the wet mascara and eyeliner. Once at my table, I sank into my seat without making eye contact with anyone, and immediately reached for my gloves. Before I could pull them on, however, Damien’s hand lashed out and grabbed onto my wrist. He looked like he wanted to say something, but instead he squeezed my wrist lightly before scowling at the table again. I wondered what I’d done to disappoint him.
When my heart stopped pounding, I took a timid glance around the room, imagining what people were saying about the prince’s deformed new bride. Most of the others had gone back to dancing or chatting with their tables, but I caught Nigel’s gaze as he glared at me from across the room, with such rage and malice it stole my breath away. Damien was wrong. The walls might keep out the slagpaw, but I had a feeling there were far more dangerous things inside the Citadel.
We walked home in silence. Damien must have taken me the long way the first time to show me the lookout point for a full view of the Citadel. The way home was much shorter. We passed over two of the covered bridges connecting the enormous towers of the main fortress, and then we were back in the building where we’d started.


Damien was pensive and silent, which made me nervous. Was he embarrassed by me, now that I’d revealed myself to the other elite in the Citadel? Was he regretting his choice so soon? I also couldn’t forget about what Penelope had said at dinner. Was Damien expecting us to sleep together? Is that why he was walking me home? Although I didn’t hate the idea of seeing Damien’s godly physique with less clothes on, I wasn’t eager to share my bed with a total stranger.
At the door, I panicked. Was this my bedroom? Or was it his?
I should have asked earlier.
“Do all the chosen live in this building?” I asked, trying to get at the truth.
“Just you,” he said. “This is our family residence, and it’s closer to the training grounds. Most of the chosen are living in this neighborhood. I’ve moved my things to my private chambers in the palace, to give you some space, so this place is all yours for the moment.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. So at least we didn’t have to live together. Not yet, anyway.
“Well, I guess I should get out of this dress,” I blurted, trying to find a way to dismiss him without being rude. I blushed when I realized how it sounded—almost like an invitation.
“And go to sleep,” I added quickly, faking a yawn. “I’m exhausted.”
He nodded, but frowned, like there was something else he wanted to say.
I stepped inside, holding the door, and he placed his palm over my hand.
My heart pounded as he leaned in close. My lips parted involuntarily, expecting a kiss that never arrived. Instead, he whispered quietly in my ear, so closely I could feel the warmth of his breath against my skin.

“Never hide who you are,” he said. Then he vanished into the night.



YA Scavenger Hunt (YASH 2018)

Scroll down to win $50 in Amazon credit!

We’ve been in Vietnam for ★ 28 ★ days and are leaving to Bali soon for a month of fruit smoothies and ancient temples… here are some travel pictures. I got a lot of writing done this month, and I’m also planning on participating in Camp Nanowrimo and finally getting my vampire dystopia finished (more on that later).

But today I want to share something amazing…


I’m participating in the 2018 young adult scavenger hunt and have the honor of hosting Amy Trueblood. Below you’ll find a never before published deleted scene from her novel Nothing But Sky. Booklist calls it “An exhilarating historical novel with a strong feminist core.”  School Library Journal says, “Breakneck stunts and romance lend this novel high action.” 

The @YAScavengerHunt starts April 3rd! I’m on #TeamRed. You can start the hunt at

To win the hunt, you need to start at the beginning and visit each author’s website to solve the puzzle. Scroll down for all the rules, which team I’m on, and the next website you need to visit from here.


A Deleted Scene from Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood


The massive buildings along Michigan Avenue cast dark shadows across the sidewalk. Passing cars honked their horns. The jingle of a bell on a passing trolley sang through the city. The Water Tower stood as a white beacon in the distance.

I shouldered past men on the sidewalk. Their heads bent low, briefcases gripped tightly in their hands. Ads for mouthwash, lotion, and laundry soap filled the shop windows. A two-story brick pharmacy on a corner advertised the newest brand of soda pop. The haberdashery next door displayed the latest fedoras, patterned ties, and leather belts. I walked for blocks and couldn’t find a women’s dress shop. I scanned the passing crowd until a willowy woman met my gaze. Her sleek black hair was clipped to her chin. The rich fabric of her red dress skimmed her body, accentuating her figure.

She stopped mid-step and her warm brown eyes studied me. A smile pulled at the corner of her mouth. “Honey, you look lost. Do you need some help?”

“Can you tell me if there’s a woman’s dress shop nearby?” I asked.

She gave me the once over again. The torn lining of my coat hung to my knees. The wrinkles in my hat screamed second-hand. I waited for her to laugh at me, or turn away, deciding I wasn’t worth her time. Instead she flashed me a film star smile.

“You can always go to department store which is just up the street.” She pursed her lips and shook her head. “But you don’t seem like a department store type of gal. May I suggest Landon’s just down the block. A friend of mine works there. They’ve got some wonderful things to fit a woman with a figure like yours.”

She was too polite to say boyish and thin.

“Thank you.” I started to walk away when she moved in-step beside me. “If you don’t mind me asking, are you…are you all alone?”

“Yes,” I said, picking up my pace. All I wanted was directions, not a companion.

“I’m Elsa, by the way.”

“Grace,” I said as we continued down the sidewalk.

Her heels clicked along the cracks. The feather in her hat bounced along with sway of her hips.

“I’m somewhat of an authority on fashion. And Anna, my friend who works at Landon’s, has got quite an eye, too. She looked me up and down again. “Are you looking for something special?”

“You could say that.” I ran my hands through my tangled knots and smoothed down the front of my dress. Next to her I looked like a weathered scarecrow moving next to a screen goddess.

When we reached the store, I stopped in front of its enormous picture window. Four mannequins stood side by side each draped in organza and silk in jewel-tones of sapphire, emerald, and ruby. French lace Mary and Ethel swooned about covered the scalloped hems. Cloche hats adorned with feathers or ribbons sat atop the heads.

A fierce pounding flared in my head. How could I decide which was the appropriate dress for this party? Should I wear green or blue? Should it skim my knees or be floor length?

“Some gorgeous dresses don’t you think?” Elsa motioned to the mannequin draped in a cherry-red satin gown.

“Yes,” I replied no louder than a whisper.

“Would you like me to come in and help you pick something out?”

I paused. How long it would take me to get back to the hotel, track down the boys, and tell them I’d changed my mind? An image of Henry filled my mind. A dark suit hugged his broad shoulders. His hair was slicked back, and a wide smile covered his face. His hand reached for mine.

“Would you like some help, honey?” Elsa repeated.

Letting the image slowly fade away I gave her a simple nod.

“Well then come on; let’s find something that will knock his socks off.”

I inched away from her. “I didn’t say anything about a man.”

“Honey, you didn’t have to. That love-struck look in your eyes tells me all I need to know.”

Read more or get the book!




The Hunt Continues… join me on the Red Team!

Events like this are a fun way to bring authors and readers together, so I look forward to getting to know my teammates and also introduce my writing to some new readers (if that’s you, welcome!)  here’s the full list of books and authors. You can pick a team to root for or play all the teams and rack up prizes. Many of us are also running contests and giveaways, including me (keep scrolling if you like vampires).

I think dividing the teams into colors is a fun idea, and I’m happy to be on the same team as Lisa Maxwell – I read The Last Magician recently and thought it was great. I’ve also had design envy for Julie Reece’s The Paladins, and am obsessed with Jessica Bucher’s Notes of Magic (because I just finished Orpheum, which also has music and magic and Eastern European cityscapes).



I set up a giveaway to win these books + $50, sign up to win!



Click here for YASH rules and entry

>>>To find the next clue in the YA Scavenger Hunt, you need to visit Carly Anne West. <<<



Do you like vampires?

I’m getting close to finishing a vampire dystopia novel that’s been called “Hunger Games meets Shade of Vampire.”

If you haven’t read the first six chapters yet, get them for free HERE for a limited time.

I’ve also published a BRAND NEW sneak peak of the book, it’s on one of my teammates websites so make sure you go through the Red Team’s sites to find it. It’s LONG, I hope you like it!


After the full book is finished, hopefully next month, I’ll delete the free chapters and republish the whole story.



To celebrate the book launch, I’m giving away 10 print copies of the book and 100 ebooks. Someone will also win this awesome vampire hunting kit and a pair of high quality fangs. Click here to sign up!





PS. Here are some of my favorite YA vampire books.

Taste: Kingdom of Blood and Ash: (Vampire Magic Preview)

I’ve been working on Taste for a few years, and the story keeps growing.

It’s a vampire dystopia, and one review called it “Hunger Games meets Shade of Vampire.”

However it’s an interesting mix of fantasy and science-fiction, where the “vampires” are genetically modified super-humans who keep humans in captivity: each “Elite” must choose a human bride to honor the peace between the races, and the protagonist’s adventure begins when she is chosen. So there’s also the “choosing ceremony” motif – I actually began this book probably around 2013 when “choosing ceremony” books were popular, but I’ve seen a few similar stories recently that I loved, like the 100th Queen, so maybe it’s making a comeback.

I’ve tried multiple covers for this book, and actually it was the one on the far right that helped make some interesting story changes:

But ultimately I went with this beautiful art from Consuelo Parra.

Even though I have a pretty clean outline and know exactly how it ends (I usually start from my endings), the middle is developing and a few new characters have emerged. I’m confident there are some EPIC scenes in this book, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be my best book yet, but it’s also developing more slowly than I’d like (plus, like usual, my stories keep growing and I have a difficult time knowing exactly where to cut off book one and where to start book two).

I HOPE to have it done in April 2018, because I have so many other projects to work on.
Read the excerpt below, and if you like it, download the first six chapters.


I covered my mouth and nose with my mother’s shawl and cut through the poisonous ash, ignoring the battered warnings signs. Going past the wall is death. Inhale too much ash and it will kill you. But this wasn’t my first time skirting the laws. I headed further away from the purification engines, whose motors filled our town with a constant hum, and climbed the oak tree that had grown too close to the perimeter fence ringing our compound.

As I shuffled out to the tip of a gnarled branch, the buzz of electricity radiating from the fence made the hair on my arm stand up. We didn’t have much electricity in Algrave, but I knew it was dangerous. I gripped the rough bark between my fingers, wobbling slightly as I blinked away a chunk of ash that had gotten stuck in my eyelashes. It wouldn’t harm me in small doses, as long as I didn’t breathe it in. But the ash wasn’t the only thing beyond the fence that could kill me.

My father used to tell me stories about the beasts outside the gates. Rancid breath. Claws as long as my arm. Teeth that could pierce the hardest stone. Their beady red eyes—the last thing you’d see before they ripped you open. Slagpaw, we called them. His stories terrified me when I was young, but it had been years since the last attack. Maybe the elite hunted them to extinction, or maybe they were just a story to scare the village kids from wandering too far into the ash. But I wasn’t a child any longer, and my father was gone. Besides, it was Festival tonight, and I didn’t want to be late.

I lowered myself down from the branch and dropped into the pile of leaves I’d left on my last trip. I’d nearly broken my ankle the first time I made the drop. This time I rolled, tucking my bow to the side. I brushed myself off and took a deep breath through my shawl. It filtered out the ash while letting in the fresh scent of pine sap. Nocking an arrow, I walked forward silently, my bow ready. My father had taught me how to walk without snapping any twigs when I was younger. He said it might save my life someday. I’d never really understood what he meant, and he’d died before I could ask him.

He left behind a bow he made himself, a hunting knife, and a few basic traps. When I realized my mother planned to sell them, I begged her to let me use them instead. She gave me a month to learn how to hunt. Twenty-eight days later, I came home with my first rabbit. Since then, she’s pretty much given me free reign, as long as I helped put food on the table.

Of course, she didn’t know how far I really needed to go to get meat these days. She thought I stayed within the compound and waited for a really stupid bird or squirrel to wander in. That hadn’t happened in months. I was sick of hearing my little brother complain that he was hungry. He was too young to understand rationing, or why we could never buy the sweet pastries in the market.

My mom did what work she could, but there was only so much she could do. At night, she soaked her feet in hot water with herbs, and rubbed the back of her neck. Sometimes I’d catch her staring at the walls and smiling to herself. I think she was secretly looking forward to the Choosing ceremony. Not that anybody in our family had ever been chosen, but she could hope. For my part, I was determined to make myself useful in any way that I could. And this could be my last Festival at home with my family. I wanted to make it special.

Twigs snapped behind me and I whirled around, pulling the taut string of my bow to my ear. A buck with magnificient antlers moved slowly through the trees. I’d never killed anything so large before. At least it was an easy target. I held my breath as it turned its three eyes towards me. Radioactive, my father would have said. Whatever that meant. Meat was meat. I steadied my breath, aiming for the front of its body, hoping to hit one of the vital organs.

I was just about to release my arrow when I heard the voices. My eyes widened in surprise and my heart pounded like a drum in my chest. There shouldn’t be anybody else beyond the wall, unless…

Oh, shit.

I ducked just in time to see a group of elites wander into the meadow, laughing and shoving each other. They looked like us, mostly—but I knew they were faster and stronger than any human. And far more dangeous than the creatures in my father’s bedtime stories. Apart from the handful of guards posted around the compound, who wore a standard black uniform, and a small team of engineers that came through our village every few months to check the machines, I hadn’t had much interaction with the elite. They all looked young, healthy, and clean in a way the people of my village could never hope to look, as if they took a bath every night and every morning. These ones were wearing richer materials and clothing than I’d ever seen.

One of the Elites held a finger up to his mouth. He ran a thin-fingered hand over the long, dark hair slicked back over his ears, then signalled the others to loop around to the other side of a small meadow. I was so sure they smelled me, my heart nearly stopped. I crouched on my toes, preparing to run, but then one of them hollered and chased a buck into the clearing. My buck. The rest of them ran around the animal in circles, terrifying the poor beast. They let it dart around and think it could escape into the woods, before appearing just in front of it again. They moved so fast my eyes could scarcely keep track of them.

The one with dark hair straightened his purple velvet jacket and approached the animal, keeping his arms out to both sides until he was right in front of it. Without warning, he grabbed the buck by the antlers and snapped them both off with a firm twist. As the animal stood there, stunned, he plunged the antlers into either side of the buck, skewering it and sending a spray of blood up over his white shirt and pale face. Then he smiled, licking the blood from the corners of his mouth.

My stomach turned sour as the other elites crowded around the animal. They raised silver chalices to the still-quivering animal, filling their cups with warm blood. One of them found a vein, and latched his teeth around the creature’s neck. He bit down hard, and blood streamed over his lips and chin. I shuddered and took a step backwards.

The leader’s head snapped up, and he looked straight at me with hungry eyes. Before I could even think about running, he was at my side. A cruel smile played on his lips as he glared down at me. Very slowly, he took an embroidered handkerchief out of his dark jacket and wiped the deer’s blood off his face.

“Ready for a new game, boys?” he called.

Keep Reading: Get the first 6 chapters free!



-Red dress:
Cover art: Consuelo Parra
Model: 3corpses-in-A-casket
Bg: cd-stock.deviantart

Cover art: Consuelo Parra
Model: Black-ofelia-stock

-When the soul dies:
Cover art: Consuelo Parra
Model: 3corpses-in-a-casket








I’ll be giving out vampire prizes and free ARC copies to my list during the launch, make sure you sign up to win!


Gods of music and madness book one (Orpheum)

Yesterday I finished Orpheum. Part one was published previously and ends on a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, even though people like it, I’ve been getting some negative reviews about how frustrating it is to wait for more.

I worked on this book through the winter, and we spent another month in Bulgaria doing research and visiting some of the geographical and historical locations in the book. I continued working on the book in Edinburgh over New Year’s… and was stuck on the last chapter for two weeks as we moved to Taipei.

But finally, I got to THE END and it’s pretty great. The full book also ends on a pretty big cliffhanger. I may leave it as it is, or I may add in an epilogue for at least a partial sense of completion, since it will probably be awhile until there’s another book in this series (I think it’s good – but I also have better projects mapped out and I want to be working on my best ideas, not the ideas I started years ago).

The original cover looked like this:

If you haven’t read part one yet, you can get the first several chapters for free in my starter library.

I like to update covers when I significantly change a book, so I’ve been working on a new cover, which will look something like this:

In a day or two, I’ll have a limited number of ARC copies to give out, so make sure you’re on my email list if you want one (these advanced copies are for fans who don’t mind helping me spot the inevitable handful of typos, and who can also post a review of the finished book on Amazon – if you’d prefer waiting for a clean copy, the full thing will be on Amazon next week).

Here’s an excerpt:

The world was my weapon, and I felt more powerful than I ever had before. Blood dripped from my fingertips, as the recent scabs reopened against the sharp strings of my violin. My eyes blackened as music filled my body, a rushing song, the voice of a god pumping in my veins. I hear his voice and I am destruction.

Here are a couple videos I made about the book… the second one is on-location in Bulgaria.


I’m also running a giveaway where you can WIN a paperback version of the full book, and one of these cool miniature violin pendants with a working case.





Europe was great, but we’ve just flown back to Taiwan for Chinese New Year and will be in Asia for the next several months. Here’s a picture of our street. I’m working on TASTE next and I can’t wait to share the full book!


I’m working on TASTE for the rest of this month – my vampire dystopia – you can still get the free sample on Amazon for a limited time here:

Get the first 5 chapters now.

The best YA scifi and fantasy books of all time (updated 2018!)

I’ve always been a fan of young adult books, even when I was studying my PhD in English literature I preferred the sweeping epic style of YA scifi and fantasy books to the tomes of the academic canon. Now that I’m writing young adult, I read not just for pleasure, but also for inspiration. I update this list whenever I’m impressed by a new book (which is often).






  • Bridge to Terabithia
  • Harry Potter Series
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Narnia

18 incredible Fallen Angel romances for young adult readers

I didn’t set out to write a fallen angel book, but Scarlet Thread is one of my most popular series so I thought I should nod towards all the fallen angel literature that continues to inspire me. So here are some of my favorite young adult novels that deal with fallen angels, wings, feathers and forbidden love (note, just because these are YA doesn’t mean they’re just for teens – some of these are very dark fantasy, including mine).




I happen to know that authors Sophie Davis and Leia Stone are working on fallen angel books – I’ll add links to their stories when they launch. I’m also working on my own fallen angel series, which will look something like this:


Make sure to sign up to my list if you want to know when these are available!

If it’s good enough for JK Rowling… (on the Harry Potter trail in Edinburgh)

Little known fact about me: I spent my 20s researching ceremonial magic.

Will power. Conviction. Invincible belief in infinite possibilities.

I’ve grown a bit lazy and sometimes tend to get mired down in the small, daily tasks rather than the big picture goals – but it’s important (I believe) to have a future that’s exciting enough to fight for.

Since I’m in Edinburgh, one of the main sources of inspiration for Harry Potter, I bought myself a Harry Potter leather journal and am spending January First getting clear on my annual goals.

I don’t have the awesome crystal wand I bought in the Canary Islands with me last year, but I agree with Albus Dumbledore, “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

Interestingly, every Harry Potter personality test I’ve taken matches me with Draco Malfoy, and I can see why.

Slytherin are all about Resourcefulness and Ambition.

They’re about logic, reason, and Machiavellian plotting. They set long term goals and work towards them tirelessly. While Hufflepuff are too focused on the minutiae to see the big picture, and Gryffindor like Harry are full of passion and convictions about Good and Evil, Slytherin are willing to bend all rules to achieve their desires.

In fiction, the brave, blustering hero usually wins, often by accident or sheer perseverance – but rarely through intelligence.

People want to believe that good people will be rewarded with success, even if they’re not smart or particularly skilled.

And there is magic in that.

Often, you can set an impossible goal and believe in it hard enough, your circumstances and behavior will begin to align with the destination you’ve chosen. You’ll start to “see” shortcuts and actionable steps that were invisible before. Setting the goal is like unlocking a secret kind of enhanced vision where opportunities align as if by magic, if only you’re bold enough to seize them when they appear.

HOWEVER, in real life, this isn’t always enough, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

For example, I want to publish a whole bunch of new books this year, and I want them to be amazing. I can’t wait around and hope that works out, because my goal depends on both skill and hard work – hundreds of hours of painstaking plotting, drafting, revising and publishing.

I may not have Gryffindor’s optimism that everything will work out for the best, but I do have Slytherin’s cynical realism, that I am capable of getting what I want, as long as I’m also willing to commit the time and effort. I need to spend years improving my craft, analyzing bestsellers, struggling with my muse, until I become one of the best writers or “most powerful magicians” of my time.

As I wrote in my PhD thesis, ambition isn’t evil. It’s human, and potentially the greatest thing about humanity – the desire to create, to improve, to enhance. The gift of seeing how things are and being able to imagine how they could be.

I’m not ashamed of my ambition – though it was once the sin that caused Lucifer to fall, it’s become the attribute that saved Faust’s soul. Ambition is the studious and hard-won self-improvement that makes real change possible, and I believe it’s a noble pursuit. I’ve spent the past 7 years dedicating myself to the principles I set forth in Creativindie, and things I only dreamed about several years ago are now starting to take shape. I can’t wait to see what I can achieve in the next few years, but I must stay true to the course, choose goals that are challenging enough to fill me with eagerness, and do the work.

Goals aren’t only about belief or magical thinking. Goals are the reason we choose to do something rather than nothing.

What are your 2018 goals and resolutions?


PS) While in Northern Scotland I heard some folklore that will probably help me plot Shearwater book two, which is one of 10 projects I’ll be working on this year.

What it’s like to live in a castle (Nanowrimo writing retreat)

This month I’m in a 12th century Austrian fortress, working on my Nanowrimo book project with a few writing friends. Right now it’s snowing outside. We have a couple goats, alpaca and rabbits in the barn, tons of space, and almost too much peace and quiet – apart from the continuous clacking of our keyboards as we increase our wordcount (I jut crossed 30K – I’m about halfway through the vampire dystopia book I’m working on).

Here’s a video tour and some pictures – I’ll upload some new stuff soon!



It’s snowing! Good day to stay in the castle and Write.

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