Saturday, December 20, 2014

Thoughts on the launch of No Place To Fall & songs by Indigo DeSouza! Plus: GIVEAWAY!

Sad, sorrowful little neglected blog. I do love you, I do. But you see, I've been in labor, in the final countdown for the push of NO PLACE TO FALL out into the world. And it finally happened!

December 9th came grey and overcast with a threat of snow in the forecast. I started my day like always, by writing and going to work. I taught my first two classes and then through the generosity of some colleagues, I skipped out for the latter half of the day to go get ready for my 7pm launch party at Malaprops Book Store in Asheville, NC (an hour away).

Of course, my life is filled with demanding beasties and there was much to be taken care of, including feeding and watering, then filling the truck with diesel. Yep, big truck rolled into action because of that threat of snow. That snow - yep, totally pouring snow in the nearby tiny town, but as soon as we cleared the west side - it quit. And the roads stayed miraculously clear all the way to Asheville.

By the time I got there a few friends were already gathered. They'd set up the cafe for my reading and my friend, Indigo Blue DeSouza was already there with amp and guitar. A few friends came by only to hug my neck before other obligations swept them away, but in all, I had about sixty people show up. And it was so cool. All the intersections of my life from old friends, to colleagues, to published authors, to a bunch of other writer friends still in the submission and query trenches, to strangers and even my students were there.

The only way to describe the feeling in that moment is fullness, of love, gratitude, and awe that so many people chose to give their time to my moment.

So anyway, now that life is winding down a bit and I can simply let NO PLACE TO FALL be out in the world, I'd like to share some video with you. There's a 5 minute overview of the launch, and then two videos of Indigo singing the full versions of the two songs she played that Amber also sang in the book. I love Indigo's unique spin on them. Be sure and follow her youtube channel to keep up with her! And after you've peeked at the videos, scroll on down, because I'm showing my gratitude with two giveaways! For U.S. entries, a signed hardbound version of No Place To Fall with inspiration prize pack (Songcatcher DVD, Avett Brothers CD, Quote Print by the author). For International/Canadian friends, a digital download of No Place To Fall and a $10 Itunes credit! (This is a Harper Collins download that may require you to also download their reader but you will receive instructions with the download code.) So be sure and enter! One free entry and ways to earn extra!

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Possible List of Things I Might Have Done

Upon receipt of my advance hardcover copy of NO PLACE TO FALL in my mailbox yesterday morning.

  • giggled
  • cried
  • giggled again
  • grinned like a Banshee
  • carried it like a prize into work
  • worn a secret smile
  • shown it to some colleagues while laughing maniacally and saying, "oh my effing god, I wrote a book. Look. I wrote a book."
  • held it up to the sky and whispered, "I wrote a book, bitches."
  • sniffed every page
  • undressed it
  • thrust the spine in peoples' faces. "Look the ink is shiny." Look the cover is embossed."
  • shown a few students
  • giggled
  • read the first chapter in book form and thought, "whoa, random teenagers will be reading my book."
  • thought, "who am I now?"
  • giggled
  • carried the book around under my arm during planning period in the hopes of running into more hapless victims who I could shock by whipping it out and saying "look. my book."
  • laughed maniacally
  • snuck into the library, okay marched, and shelved it in alphabetical order just to see what it would look like
  • stared at it on the shelf for a long enough period of time that it became awkward
  • giggled
  • petted the shiny cover
  • held the shiny cover to my cheek
  • giggled
  • realized the day was one of the most amazing days of my life
  • celebrated with a cupcake. as one does.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Get to Know Kristin Reynolds - My 2014 Pitchwars Mentee - Author of LE CIRQUE DU LITERATI

With my second year as a mentor in Pitchwars, I entered the contest excited and hopeful and curious, oh so curious, about which manuscripts would claw their way into my heart and not let go.

The two that I found, couldn't be more different in tone and writing style, but what they share is a common language of finding personal truths, love, hope, and a slathering of bittersweet despair.

Kristin Reynold's manuscript, LE CIRQUE DU LITERATI, blew me away with its poetic turns of phrase, mind-blowing visual imagery, and a heart aching love story between its two main characters. I found myself gasping at things, then seeing them fully realized in my head. It's the story of Josephine and Nikolai, both running from pieces of their lives, when they make the fateful decision to hop a train. The train though is not an ordinary train nor does it have an ordinary destination. The train delivers them to Meir, a magical world known only to Josephine through the pages of her grandmother's favorite book. And above Meir, in the clouds, is a Utopian circus filled with artists, poets, writers, dancers, creatives of all types, who seek a place to be safe from those who would dull the world down. Jo and Nik's journey in Meir is about facing their fears, their truths, and ultimately finding their way to each other. It's stunning and beautiful and I want to know which devastatingly smart agent is going to choose it.

Author Kristin Reynolds

1. Give us the Twitter pitch for your Pitchwars manuscript (140 characters or less)!
Josephine and beau Nikolai flee homes of fear & ruin. Magicians of a Utopian circus offer them sanctuary if they relive their darkest fears.

2. Stephanie Perkins does this cool thing for her books called a Love List, explained here:, what is the love list for your novel?

Oooh, this is fun and so important! Okay, here is my Le Cirque Du Literati Love List:

Cute Russian artist boy
Brave Girl hurt by the world
Reunited lost loves
Dead Gypsies
Literary heroes
Color splashed across the page
Love that hurts, but holds
Broken hearts
Mended wounds
New life born from death
Otherworldly magicians
A circus of imagination!
A giant with moving tattoos
Believing in yourself and your dreams
Beating adversity
Battling personal demons
Train whistles
Granted wishes
True friends
Lavender sun
Cherry red moon
A city above the clouds
Letting go
A black tower called Magna Dune
A dog who is a friend
And miracles for those who believe

3. Name a handful of writers whose work inspires you, along with a short explanation of why!

Wow, only five, eh? That is so hard!

In absolutely no order:

1) Stephen King: I reread The Dark Tower series every year or two and it never gets old for me. I have read a good many books, and with many have found true and deep love, but I cannot imagine any other character I adore more than Roland Deschain—and don’t get me started on Eddie and Oy! King writes so flawlessly, and with so much between the lines wisdom, beauty and truth, when it’s a timeless story like The Dark Tower or The Stand, there is nobody I’d rather read and learn from. Well, except for . . .

2) Haruki Murakami: Like King, Murakami twines philosophy and existential wisdom into his stories, using metaphor and just the right amount of weirdness to make every crazy event absolutely believable. Kafka on the Shore is one of my most beloved books and 1Q84 had me engrossed from page one. Such a brilliant, wise, and ethereal man, Murakami. I’ve learned a lot of style from him.

3) J. K. Rowling: Need I say more? She birthed a world that our world would not be the same without; her mind resurrected magic, and breathed such life into her characters, I for one would be lost without Harry Potter, Hogwarts, and Dumbledore, more necessary characters (Hogwarts is a character to me) whom I love and would hate to live without.

4) Antoine de Saint-Exupery: This man writes skies, deserts, the human heart, and treachery of man more fluidly and poetically than anyone—ever. Exupery, best known for writing The Little Prince, in my top 3 books of all time, is little known in regard to his other, adult novels. Such a shame! Put it this way. If I were to be trapped on a desert island with only one author’s books, it would be Antoine de Saint-Exupery: Flight to Arras, Wind, Sand and Stars, Wisdom of the sands, more, all of them are so literally divine I could live eternally inside his words.

5) And, last but not least, my new favorite author, Laini Taylor. Few writers today meet with her grace of combining visual art with literature. I see words and verses in color, so by the time I’m finished reading a book, the amalgamated hue generally leans one way or another: white, gray, blue, red, you get the idea. But hers are like a prism, a rainbow of color jumping off the page. Laini’s characters make me feel, love, yearn, have me right there with them, heart in my chest. I so adore her poetic language and style, I am always thrilled to immerse myself inside her unique and colorful worlds. J

4. Why PitchWars?

Why? Because it’s the greatest pitch contest ever! Where else can you learn such invaluable lessons—on craft, publishing, editing, grammar, stupid confusing commas, how to structure a novel that works, and how to keep writing no matter what, because, damn it, you can do this—where, but the illustrious Brenda Drake’s PitchWars can a writer find so much writerly love? There seriously could not be a finer, more giving community than the writing community, which is the heart and soul of this contest. (Thank you all!)

5. When you self-identify as a writer, what does that mean to you?

That I have accepted the dream that came wrapped in ink ribbons inside of me at my birth. That I will no longer let society, the illusion of normalcy, the fear of failing, or ridicule for following this inherent drive to write, rule me. I am a human filter for processing human experience, emotions, and any number of miracles, for writing down life as I see it through a simple poet’s eyes. That is what the term writer means to me.

How does it make you feel?

Like until I accepted myself as a writer, a small sun inside of me was draped in a blanket of pitch . . . but the moment I wrote my first query letter, that sun rose and blanket burned and I will never be cold again.

6. Next 3 books on your TBR pile, what liquid's in your cup, and what's playing on repeat!

Next three books on my leaning tower TBR pile:

1) Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

2) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

3) No Place to Fall by (the incomparable) Jaye Robin Brown (aww, thank you!)

What Liquid’s in my cup: WATER, as always.

What’s playing on repeat: Why Georgia Why by my sweet, sweet love, John Mayer J

Jaye, this was a blast, thank you! <3

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Get to Know April Rose Carter - My 2014 PitchWars Alternate - Author of WINTER ON BRIMSTONE HILL

With my second year as a mentor in Pitchwars, I entered the contest excited and hopeful and curious, oh so curious, about which manuscripts would claw their way into my heart and not let go.

The two that I found couldn't be more different in tone and writing style, but what they share is a common language of finding personal truths, love, hope, and a slathering of bittersweet despair.

April Rose's manuscript, WINTER ON BRIMSTONE HILL, is this spare lovely gift of a contemporary manuscript. Centered around Sarah, a homesteading farm girl from a stubbornly poor family, she has to deal with not only her need to hide the family's lack, but also her father's alcoholism. When the bright flame of potty-mouthed, red-headed Bonnie enters her world, Sarah starts to change. And eventually she falls in love and finds the courage to stand up for not only who she is, but for what she believes in. The story is crushing at times, so, so sad. But the slow unspooling of the romance makes it achingly sweet, too. I can't wait for agents to see this one.

Author April Rose Carter
So without further ado, here is my little question and answer with the fabulous, talented, and smart April Rose Carter (who may just kill me for embarrassing her like that ;)).

1.              Give us the Twitter pitch for your Pitchwars manuscript (140 characters or less)!

Sarah values three things: farm life, family, and keeping her bruises hidden. That last one's easy - until she meets Bonnie. #YA #LGBT

2.              Stephanie Perkins does this cool thing for her books called a Love List, explained here:, what is the love list for your novel?

red hair
farm life
wine lips
little sister

3.              Name a handful of writers whose work inspires you, along with a short explanation of why!

Ouch. Can I just take John Robert Lennon’s words and hack them to pieces in a horrible paraphrased version of something he said much better? He said something to the effect of, ‘Why do I need to have other people inspire me? Why can’t my work be my own and that be enough?’ Yep. I definitely slaughtered that. So, I know that’s not how this question is intended, but it’s better than admitting that I experience something negatively emotional when reading other’s writing (while I’m writing).

I remember, while writing WINTER ON BRIMSTONE HILL, I read Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. The entire time, I kept thinking, “I can’t do this. I can’t write. She’s already used all the good words. Everyone’s going to think I just took her words and tried to write them as my own!” I didn’t write for about a week after that. Then, eventually, I realized I was silly and I picked up my novel again. I also picked up another novel and immediately had a similar reaction, despite the fact that this new novel was nothing like mine. I guess what I’m trying to say, as unattractive as it is, is that I never feel inspired by other writers’ works. I feel…insufficient.

I can ramble off a list of writers whose novels I love, though. Rainbow Rowell. John Green. Veronica Rossi. Charlotte Bronte. Charlotte Bronte. Charlotte Bronte. (Actually, I really only love Jane Eyre.)

4.              Why PitchWars?

Well, why not? Why wouldn’t I want to get up at four a.m. for weeks on end? Why wouldn’t I want to work through my lunch break each day? Spend countless hours writing and rewriting, fixing, tweaking, scratching out entire scenes? Why wouldn’t I want professional help turning my novel into something beautiful and barren and heartbreaking? Something that makes me want to climb the tallest barn, and shout out above the chickens and pigs, “I did this! I did this! I. Did. This!”?

So yeah. I don’t think I understand your question.

5.              When you self-identify as a writer, what does that mean to you? How does it make you feel?

I wish I had a better response to this. Let me attempt a comparison. I have a master’s degree in mathematics, yet I don’t identify as a mathematician. My specialty is statistics, yet I always feel like I’m lying when I call myself a statistician. Writing is similar. I write—I love to write—and when I’m willing to admit it, I think I’m pretty good at it. Yet I don’t feel like a writer. I always feel a little guilty, a little false, when I say I’m a writer…which is completely unwarranted, I know. Say you’re a writer! they say. Be proud of what you do! Use too many exclamation points in blog interviews! And I get that. I do. And I am. And I do! It’s just something’s holding me back, but I’m not sure what it is at this moment.

That’s how identifying as a writer makes me feel.

6.              Next 3 books on your TBR pile, what liquid's in your cup, and what's playing on repeat!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Raven Boys #3) by M. Stiefvater
Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman
Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

I’m always drinking coffee. I had a rather…er…intense relationship with it a couple years back, the kind you have when you go away with your lover for your first weekend together and your hotel room is plush and outfitted with its own hot tub.  In other words, I drank two pots (as in 12-cup pots) a day. For the record, our relationship has simmered down to a comfortable 3 cups a day. We’re both happy with how our relationship has developed.

I can never get enough of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash’s The Girl from the North Country. Never. Something about that song grips my heart and leaves me breathless. I mean, listen to it! 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

2014 Contemporary Scavenger Hunt with Liz Czukas!!!!

I'm so excited to have Liz Czukas on the blog today for the 2014 Contemporary Scavenger Hunt. Liz is the author of not one, but two contemporary novels published by Harper Teen! ASK AGAIN LATER and TOP TEN CLUES YOU'RE CLUELESS (coming December 2014). And if you read down, you'll find out the pretty amazing prize you might win!

Liz Czukas is a freelance writer (on sometimes sad or boring topics), and also writes books for young adults (which are rarely sad and full of kissing).  Before that, she was a nurse and she still kind of misses starting IVs.
She lives outside Milwaukee, WI with her husband, son and the world’s loudest cat.  She types too loud (according to her husband), spends too much time on the Internet, and can’t get enough of disaster movies.  There is *always* a song stuck in her head, and she once won a hula-hoop contest

What made you decide to write YA?

I have been a fan of YA since I was probably too young to be reading some of it—hello, Judy Blume’s Forever!  When i took my first steps into writing, it was just a natural fit for me.  I like how everything in YA has an intensity and importance to the characters.  There aren’t too many adult characters out there worried about if they’re any good at kissing, you know?  It’s just more honest and fun to me.  Plus, I think there are so many exciting things going on in the YA category—great stories that aren’t being told anywhere else.

What is your favorite scene from Ask Again Later? (I know mine is one that involves two characters in the trunk of a car.  :) )

Yes indeed—the trunk seems to be a universal favorite!  I had so much fun writing that scene and it was such a relief to finally let it happen, you know?  (I can’t say more than that, or I’ll spoil it!)

Describe Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless in 140 characters or less!
6 teens, 8 hours in a grocery store, $10,000, Christmas Eve. Theft, romance in the dairy dept, hijinks, kissing, and a ham that gets around.

You write both young adult and new adult.  How is it different writing each?
For me, they two are kind of similar. Both have characters who don’t quite have themselves figured out yet, and tend to be a little more awkward than actual adults in books.  Both tend to be a very personal, intimate narrative.  The differences are more in the situations they confront.  Also, NA characters just have that little bit more life experience and a lot more freedom than YA characters.  And while I am not opposed to sexual relationships in YA, they tend to be hinted it, while NA characters can have those relationships on the page.

Do you have any must haves while you are writing?

Just my laptop!  I’m not one of those writers with a lot of rituals.  I can write anywhere and often do!

What are some authors that inspired your writing?
Oh wow, that’s a tough one!  I adore e.lockhart, Maureen Johnson, and Stephanie Perkins for smart, realistic characters you cheer for all the way.  But there are so many amazing contemporary writers out there—Gayle Forman, Jandy Nelson, Sarah Zarr, Sarah Mlynowski, Jay Asher, Morgan Matson, Shaun Hutchinson…I could go on all day!

Can you tell us anything about what you are currently working on?
Right now I’m working on another NA romance though I’m not really able to talk about that yet!  I’ve also got another YA out in search of a home that is all about losing something precious to you and facing an uncertain future—but it’s funny and fun, I swear!

Thanks so much Liz! And readers, Liz is giving away a signed ARC of Top Ten Clues You're Clueless! (US Only Please!) - Just enter the Rafflecopter and you're good to go!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

YASH Scavenger Hunt! Welcome to Team Orange and Suzanne Lazear's Extra Content!!

Bam! You're here because you are a dedicated reader of YA fiction and are in search of great new reads! Right? Right! So let's not dilly dally - if you're not familiar with the Hunt - then pop over HERE for all the details.

This site (and me, coincidentally) are part of TEAM ORANGE.

What's really unbelievable—this year there are six teams in the hunt. Six ways to win incredible prize packages and read tons of fun extra content!!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.


Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the ORANGE TEAM, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday October 5th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


Today, I am hosting Suzanne Lazear on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA fairytale steampunk series The Aether Chronicles. INNOCENT DARKNESS and CHARMED VENGEANCE are FRAGILE DESTINY. Suzanne lives in Southern California with her daughter and the hubby where she’s currently attempting to make a raygun to match her ballgown. She’s also part of the Steampunk group blog Steamed Learn more about the Aether Chronicles at

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author's book here


Noli and her true love V fear the worst if the Staff of Eris—a potent Otherworld relic—falls into the wrong hands. Broken into pieces and hidden in the mortal realm long ago, the staff bestows vast powers on whoever possesses it. Ciarán, the dark king, is trying to rebuild the staff, intending to use it to install a new queen.

In a desperate effort to keep the Otherworld from falling into darkness, Noli and V plot the daring theft of a jewel Ciarán needs to complete the staff. But Ciarán is not so easily defeated. Through his devious machinations, he has set a plan in motion for a final showdown that will decide who rules the Otherworld once and for all.


~Cut Scene from FRAGILE DESTINY~
Author’s Note: Originally, I had Noli herself deliver the letter she asked Aodhan to write in chapter Twenty Six. Even though I really liked the interaction between Noli and the Dark
King, and the appearance of Aire, this scene was ultimately cut because everything in it could be accomplished in a quicker, briefer fashion.

Noli changed into a plain dress and put an equally plain cloak around her shoulders. She glanced at V, who slept quietly. As much as she hated to sneak out like this, she didn’t know what else to do.
It had been days and Noli still hadn’t heard from Ciarán. Granted, they’d been busy days, filled with trying to repair the damage the attack had wroughton the castle, the people, their reputation. They couldn’t prove who had sent the salamanders, but they had proved that the fire court and dark court hadn’t been behind it.
This made Elric and others muttered about rebels and dissenters and secret fire court plots. Not that Noli expected to be able to prove Tiana had been behind it, but deep down knew she had done itand even V agreed it was a possibility.
V didn’t seem to think Ciarán’s silence was a problem. Also, she didn’t really want Bran to know the full extent of this—the artifact, Aodhan’s parentage, the fact that she thought they could be allies.
Aodhan’s presence made Elise happy, and hearing their laughter and seeing them run and play made her think of her and V when they were that age. But the boy needed his father.
Given what she’d seen today, having the boy here was as dangerous as letting Elise go visit Tiana.
This meant she needed to deliver Aodhans letter herself. If this didnt garner a response from the dark king, she didnt know what would.
Grabbing her sword and her boots, she crept out of her room and into the hallway.
“Is this why you asked about secret exits?” James stood there, dressed, boots in hand, sword at his side.
“Maybe.” She gave him a long look.
“I’m going.” He gave her a nod that tried to be stern.
“Fine.” Actually taking James mig
ht be a good idea. Then they could talk.
“Then let’s go. V will be angry if you’re sneaking out anywhere but to see your mum or
Jeff.” James grinned.
“I hate to do it.” She gave the bedroom door a long look. “But he doesn’t understand. He

harbors too much misconception and hatred toward him.”
James shook his head. “An
d you trust too easily. Come on.”
He led her into what had been their father’s private library, a room V hadn’t quite
brought himself to use yet, preferring to use the study from his childhood instead. Shed been doing her work in the tearoom, spreading her papers all over the table. The formal rooms and offices offered to her were exactly that. They put her on edge and made it hard to concentrate.
One of the massive bookshelves in the library hid a secret passage. Inside the passage, they pulled on their boots and followed the twisty, dusty path which brought them just outside the palace grounds.
“Where are we going?” James whispered as they avoided the earth court guards that patrolled the surrounding forest.
“Do you really want to know?” Things were different from the last time she snuck out to see the dark king.
James shook his head. “No, I’m not sure I do.”
Noli made her way toward the Thirsty Pooka. “James, what do you want to do?” she asked softly. “We have you helping us, but what do you want?”
He thought for a moment as they crept through the forest. “I like helping you. I’m a younger son, so I figured I’d always help Steven. But I prefer exciting helping to boring helping.”
“Like going into the mortal realm and finding the rest of the pieces?” she pried.
James’ eyes lit up. “Now that sounds fun, especially if I can steal things and use a pistol.” Noli couldn’t help but laugh. Now that was James. Ever since Charlotte died he’d been
so serious. “And if we need someone to investigate, like things we can’t trust to anyone?”
His eyebrow rose and he rubbed his chin. “Hmm...spying. Do I get to go undercover?”
“I don’t know. Ma
ybe, but the pieces are priority. I’ve been going over Quinn’s research.
We may need to enlist Vix’s contacts for help.
“Sure, though I’d rather work with Hittie and Hattie.” James grinned.
“If we can trust them, why not?” She squeezed his arm. “You’re the best, James.” It

wasn’t as if she could go steal them herself. Pity.
They walked awhile longer in silence. James stopped and held out an arm, listening. “Come out, I know you’re following us.” He withdrew his sword.
There was a rustle in the brush and a young woman walked out, hands out
. “Please, I
mean no harm. I’m Aire, one of Her Grace’s Guards.”
Noli studied her for a moment. She didn’t wear a uniform, but she was wearing men’s

clothes, her brown hair nearly as short as Vix’s, a long knife at her waist. Also, her face was familiar, given she the only female guard Noli had.
“Yes, she’s one of my guards,” Noli told James. She frowned at the girl. “But why are you following us?”
“With all due respect, Your Grace, why are you sneaking around so close to dark court territory? It’s not safe,” she replied. “It’s my evening off. I was headed back to the castle and I saw you two in the woods, and given Her Grace isn’t supposed to leave the castle unguarded, I figured I’d follow, just to make sure nothing happened.”
It sounded plausibleand she had a valid point. Noli looked at James.
James shrugged. “Yeah, I remember her. What house are you from again?”
She paled. “I got into the guard the hard way, Prince Séamus.”
“Oh.” He shrugged again. “Good for you.”
Noli had no idea what that meant, though she hoped it meant that she had to work hard to
prove herself. “Fine, you can come, but I’m not babysitting you.”
Aire bowed. “Of course, Your Grace.”
They all walked in silence, Aire slightly behind, as they traveled through several portals
and finally arrived in dark court land.
“Your Grace, do you know where you’re heading?” Aire asked softly.
“Yes. I need to deliver a message.” Noli patted the pocket of her cape.
She put her hood
up to conceal her face.
“I see.” Aire kept her hand on the hilt of her knife but didn’t say anything further. James’ eyebrows rose, but he didn’t speak either.
Finally, the Thirsty Pooka came into view and inwardly she shuddered, remembering
what had happened before. This time Aodhan and his bow weren’t there to save her. “Um...Noli?” James gave her a searching look. “I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t be here.” “It’s business, not trouble.” Noli squared her shoulders. “Not that I plan on being
“What if he’s not here?” James’ frowned. “This feels stupid, like we’re
killed stupid, not dumb-stupid.” “We’re fine,Noli insisted.
“You should be very cautious,” Aire replied.
Noli huffed. “You should be as well; you don’t see me drawing attention to myself.” Maybe she should have gone alone.
Aire let out a little sigh. “Her Grace has a point, if we look like we’re just out for a drink
we’ll be less likely to be noticed...I hope.”
“True.” James nodded. “I wouldn’t mind seeing what a dark court pub looks like.”
Laugher and music greeted them as they walked in, even though it was quite late. But it
felt relaxed, not wild. Some ogres played darts. Creatures she couldn’t identify were engaged in a game of what might be cards. She wasn’t actually sure what was playing the piano.
Still, her heart thumped. James was right, it was stupid, which was exactly why she hadn’t told anyone what she was doing.
Being friends with the dark court wasn’t treason. She’d checked. Though conspiring against the high queen was.
However, this had nothing to do with the artifact or the queen or the salamanders and everything to do with a small boy who missed his father.
She surveyed the room, looking for Ciarán, but she didn’t see him—or Kevighn, for that matter. However, she did recognize the Deidre, leprechaun bartender, from last time. Keeping up her hood, she wove through the dark pub, not looking to see if James or Aire followed. She didn’t want to risk seeming out of place. While she didn’t expect to be recognized, she didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
Noli took a seat at the quiet end of the bar, near an unused dart board. Hood still up, she watched as the bartender served other customers, chatting with them and filling orders with ease. James took a seat beside her. She didn’t look around to see where Aire was, but she wasn’t going to babysit her.
The bartender came over to them. “Haven’t seen you two before, whatcha having?” “I need to speak to Kyran,” she said softly. “I have a message for him.”
“Oh do you now? La tee dah, aren’t we fancy?”
Deidre guffawed.
“It’s an important message,” James added.
Her belly tightened. What if he wasn’t here? V hadn’t wanted to come here back when Ciarán had Elise because he thought the dark court would kill him on the spot. What if they killed her...and James.
No. Ciarán was far more honorable than V gave him credit for. She was here with good intentions. Shouldn’t a monarch be allowed to visit another? After all, there were no rules saying Queen Tiana couldn’t visit Noli and V whenever she wished, unannounced. Pity.
Deidre put her elbow on the bar and leaned in closer. “Kyran don’t have time for time- wasters.”
Noli prickled at her words. Before she could think things through, she pulled her knife from her boot. The knife flew from her hand, landing in the inner-most circle of the target, not dead center, but close enough. “I’m no time waster.”
“I see.” She nodded and left her place behind the bar, going into the kitchen.
James walked over and took the knife out of the target and brought it back to her. “That wasn’t smart. Good aim, but not smart.”
“True.” She tucked the knife back into her boot. “I’ve been practicing.” Well, practicing knife throwing, not thinking through her actions.
Deidre returned and ignored them. Noli’ stomach bounced with apprehension, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to invoke any ire in the leprechaun. However, Noli wished the bartender would have taken their order so at least she’d have something hold on to.
A few moments later, a fierce looking man, one who looked like the brutes that seemed to accompany the dark king everywhere, strode over to her.
“This way,” he grunted. Noli and James stood. He held out a hand. “Only the girl.” She looked to James. “I’ll be fine.”
After all, she had her sword. Not that there’d been time for her to work with James to
learn to use it better.
Without another word, the unnamed brute went up a staircase, and down a hallway. Taking a deep breath, she tried to push away the dread threatening to tangle around her

limbs, dragging her down, preventing her from carrying out her task. No. She’d deliver Aodhan’s messageand this would prove she had nothing to fear from Ciarán.
“In there.” The man gestured to an open door.
Noli peeked inside and sighed in relief as she caught a familiar figured hunched over a desk.
“I appreciate you showing me here.” She nodded at the brute then slipped into the room. Ciarán wasn’t wearing his hood, and it was difficult not to stare at the scar marring his
olive skin. What a story there must be. Also, why did have no wife or girlfriend? Back when she was subjected to balls and society nitwits she’d heard them titter about how men with scars were more handsome because it meant they were tough and mysterious. Youd think plenty of girls would want to marry a king, even a dark one.
He sat writing at a plain desk, which was laden with books, scrolls, legers and the like as if this were a respectable place of business. The room was simplea few chairs, a bookshelf. There were no trophies of strange beasties, shrunken heads, or anything ominous.
Ciarán put his pen down and his head snapped up. “I could have you killed for crossing into my lands.”
“Why? No, really, I don’t understand.” She didn’t take down her hood, but she met his gaze.
“Are you trying to call my bluff?” His eyebrows rose.
A smile twitched at his lips. “You’re right. Though not everyone is welcome here, and

generally it’s in poor form to cross into another territory without permission.”
“I apologize, your majesty.” She gave him a small curtsy. “I have a message to deliver.”

Noli pulled out the paper from her pocket and handed it to him. “Aodhan misses you.”
Ciarán opened the note and read it, then put it in a drawer in the desk, face emotionless.
“I haven’t forgotten him.”
“Good, because...” she twisted her hands, “as much as Elise adores having him over, I’
not certain it’s safe for him at the palace. I...I saw them playing. They were trying to be discreet, hiding among the roses, in my own private garden—and they don’t know I saw them. But he...” Noli didn’t want to say the words. “I think he takes after both his mother and his uncle.” Quinn,
too, perhaps, not that she knew where his talents had lain.
“I see.” His hands folded on the desk in front of him. “You know who his mother is?”
“He looks like Kevighn. He used to speak of her.” Ah, she should get the children some paints. Perhaps Aodhan was an artist like his mother.
“Aodhan does resemble her,he agreed.
“Except for the hair....” Noli’s voice drifted off. “I don’t know the entire story. But, I knew a man with hair like that once.” She didn’t want to say it out loud. From what she’d learned from Quinn’s journals, Creideamh had been killed—by V’s father’s orders—for being a fire court girl with an earth court gift. Aodhan was supposed to die as well.
But he apparently hadn’t, though none of that was in the journals she’d found.
“Is that why Kevighn hates earth court princes?” Noli still wasn’t sure how Quinn was a prince, since he wasn’t V’s uncle.
“Yes, though it wasn’t Quinn’s fault—or Mathis’ for that matter.” Ciarán stared at her with his odd amber eyes. “You do understand that this information could endanger Aodhan?”
“I wouldn’t hurt Aodhan. I’ll miss him when you bring him home.” She looked up at him. “A boy needs his father. Wait. Mathias ...” That wouldn’t be the same one who had the odd establishment in New York City, would it?
“You’re not here to listen to stories.” His expression remained stern and he didn’t offer her a seat.
“No. All I wanted to do was pass on to you that Aodhan misses you. And...” She took a deep breath. “I was serious that we need to work together.”
“As was I. Give me your hand,” he demanded.
This wasnt what she expected.
“Give me your hand.” His was outstretched.
Noli gave him her hand. Both his hands wrapped around it, eyes closing. His expression
grew pensive. Her hand became warm and when she tried to pull it away, he yanked it toward him. The heat lessened and his eyes opened.
“What was that?” She snatched her hand to her and rubbed it.
“It didn’t hurt.” His expression softened....but only slightly. “I don’t want to say you’re unwelcome here. You’ve done nothing to make yourself so. But by the Bright Lady, come in through the kitchen. Luce will get me for you. Also,” Ciarán’s voice went stern. “Double cross me at your own peril. It matters naught to me that you’re a woman, well, a girl really.”
“Why would I do that?” Her nose wrinkled. “I know what needs to be done and I can’t do it alone.”
He nodded, as if she’d said something right. “I don’t think we can either, after all, we lack all the tools.”
“Yes, you do.” But she wasn’t sure if he meant the pieces in her possession, the jewel, Elise, or all of them.
“Be careful. As long as you mean no harm, you’ll be allowed to pass unharmed, but there are others that might not take kindly to you coming here.”
Right. “Elise and Aodhan wish to remain friends.”
“I’m glad.” Ciarán almos
t smiled. “Please, let him know I’ll send for him soon.”
“I will.” She bowed. “I should return now.”
“Yes, you should.”
Noli retuned downstairs, belly still bouncing with nerves, even though it had gone well. James stood. “We should go.”
“Yes, we should.” She gave a long look at the bar. This wouldn’t be the last time she came—and she wasn’t going to sneak in through the kitchen. Unless she had Elise.
They left the tavern and Aire caught up with them as soon as they went outside. “Did you deliver your message?” James asked.
“Yes, I did.” And learned a few things. But one thing that hadn’t gone away was the

feeling that she needed to trust Ciaránand the fate of the Otherworld depended on it. 

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