Liberation is HERE


Liberation
Moonchild Book Two

After surviving the auction and a near death experience at the hands of Asher’s father, Scarlett Moon is more than ready to settle into life in Columbus. She isn’t alone, either. With each passing day her friends look more at home in the warehouse, and even with Asher ready for more than Scarlett can give, she manages to fall into a routine that almost feels like a normal life. She has her best friend back and for the first time in years, Scarlett feels like there just might be hope on the horizon.

But one distress call is all it takes to destroy the serenity the group has managed to build.

It’s been months since the night Paget stormed out of the warehouse following a fight with Asher, and for all Scarlett knew, the other woman had moved on. Only the fear in Paget’s voice when she calls the warehouse tells a different story, and even though Scarlett never liked Asher’s ex to begin with, she can’t help feeling a little bit responsible for the trouble Paget now finds herself in.

The group heads to the seediest part of the city in search of Paget, picking up clues as they piece together what might have gone wrong. The more Scarlett learns about what the other woman has been through over the last few months, the more concerned she becomes. Even worse: there’s no sign of Paget anywhere in Columbus.

With all the clues pointing in one direction, the group leaves the city and heads for the country in hopes of finding Paget hiding among her own people in Hocking Hills. Only it seems the danger may have followed them, leaving nothing but death and destruction in its wake and putting Paget in more danger than ever before. With each turn Scarlett learns more about the woman who used to hold Asher’s heart, and she suddenly finds herself unable to deny how she really feels about him. Only, with Paget in trouble, Scarlett can’t help wondering if Asher is as over his ex as he claims to be.

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MOONCHILD Read-Along Event

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I’m gearing up for Liberation, book two in the Moonchild series, so I’m hosting a read-along event on Facebook!

JOIN THE EVENT NOW

Here’s how it works:
1. Participants will read the scheduled chapters on their own each day. Reading ahead is welcomed and encouraged, but no spoilers in the discussions, please! If you get behind, you’ll notice that I’ve scheduled weekend to catch up time. 

2. Be sure to drop in every day on the event page. We will be having heated discussions about the book and characters as we read. We will also play some games, give away some prizes, get to know each other, and have loads of fun! 

3. We will have “mile marker” checkpoint posts clearly marked every few chapters. Each mile marker contains a giveaway. When you reach a mile marker chapter, be sure to answer the question posted and enter for a chance to win!

4. Participants who post a brand new review for the book will be eligible for the The “New Reviews” giveaway.

5. And all participants will be eligible to enter the final giveaway at the end of the Read-along.

And there you have it. I can’t wait to share Scarlett and her world with all of you!

Here’s the schedule for you:

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Moonchild is upper young adult (think older teens with plenty of adult appeal), and a mix of steampunk, dystopian, sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic genres. It’s available now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, and if you don’t have the book, you can get it HERE.

New Moonchild Covers

After some feedback, I decided to tweak my covers for Moonchild just a bit. People weren’t getting the steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi vibe and I wanted to give it a little more emphasis. So here’s what I came up with!

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And here are the new covers for Liberation! 


It’s a GOLD for When We Were Human!

I’m thrilled to announce that When We Were Human is a
2016 Readers’ Favorite GOLD Medal Winner
for Young Adult Science Fiction! 

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This is the second award for When We Were Human. Last year the 2015 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards awarded it the Silver Medal for Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction. I am so honored and excited that this novel, which took me over a year to finish, has received this recognition! 

You can get When We Were Human NOW on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, Paperback, and Audiobook!

 

Get it Now!

When We Were Human is NOW on Audiobook!

Exciting news! When We Were Human is now on Audiobook! 

Narrated by Texas singer BettySoo, my award-winning young adult science fiction novel has come to life in an amazing way, and I’m so thrilled to be able to share it with even more people! (PS-Be sure to check out Betty Soo’s amazing music as well.)

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Teen Reads Sampler

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Teen Reads Sampler

Want samples of some great books from YA authors? Here’s your chance! The Teen Reads Sampler gives you the chance to try out some great books, no strings attached! If you like what you read you can buy it, if you don’t, you’ve lost nothing! It’s a great way to experience new authors and possibly discover a new favorite book.

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Moonchild is Available NOW!

Moonchild Title

 

Moonchild ebook

In a world fueled by greed and corruption, where airships rule the skies and coal mines have been turned into prisons, Scarlett Moon has one goal: Survive. Being tough and looking out for herself is the only way to stay alive, but when her best friend, Rory, is arrested and returned to the mines, all of Scarlett’s carefully built walls threaten to crumble.

After being rescued by an airship full of pirates, led by the sexy and irresistible Asher Kimura, Scarlett finds herself surrounded by cons and fugitives, and thrust into the middle of a coal-smuggling business. When they take her to Columbus, the one place she never wanted to set foot in again, she wants nothing more than to get away. And her discomfort only grows as she becomes increasingly drawn to Asher.

But everything changes when she discovers there may be a way to rescue Rory. Enlisting the pirates’ help, Scarlett sets out on a mission to save her friend, praying that her overwhelming attraction to Asher doesn’t mean the end to her freedom—in more ways than one.

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(Coming soon on B&N)

Official Moonchild Cover!

Moonchild Title

I’ve been holding onto the hope for a while now that I’d get a big deal for my Speculative Fiction Novel, Moonchild, but after nearly nine months of waiting, I’ve decided to pull the plug on the idea of going the traditional route. Which means readers will get their hands on this book much faster, because I am going to move forward with publishing it myself!

The official release day will be June 21st, but you can get a look at the cover and pre-order it on Amazon NOW!!!

 

Moonchild ebook

In a world fueled by greed and corruption, where airships rule the skies and coalmines have been turned into prisons, Scarlett Moon has one goal: Survive. Being tough and looking out for herself is the only way to stay alive, but when her best friend, Rory, is arrested and returned to the mines, all of Scarlett’s carefully built walls threaten to crumble.

After being rescued by an airship full of pirates, led by the sexy and irresistible Asher Kimura, Scarlett finds herself surrounded by cons and fugitives, and thrust into the middle of a coal-smuggling business. When they take her to Columbus, the one place she never wanted to set foot in again, she wants nothing more than to get away. And her discomfort only grows as she becomes increasingly drawn to Asher.

But everything changes when she discovers there may be a way to rescue Rory. Enlisting the pirates’ help, Scarlett sets out on a mission to save her friend, praying that her overwhelming attraction to Asher doesn’t mean the end to her freedom—in more ways than one.

Pre-Order Now on Amazon

Alone is Now Available

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Alone ebook Cover

 

alone
A Zombie Novel

 


 

╣Synopsis╠

  

For the past two years, Jules has floated through life.

When the virus was released it changed everything about the world. Jules lost her mom and her home, forcing her to live with the father she barely knows. Now, even as society works to rebuild, Jules still feels like she doesn’t quite fit in.

Then she meets Roman.

Even before the zombies, he only had himself to depend on. Brooding and rebellious, Roman isn’t anyone Jules would have pictured herself with before the zombies came. But now she finds herself willing to give up everything to be with him.

The attraction is too strong for either one of them to ignore, but Roman and Jules soon discover that the uncertainty of their new world extends much farther than just the zombies. When disaster strikes, Roman must race against the most terrifying clock imaginable to save Jules, or once again end up alone.

Get Now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

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╣About the Author╠

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Kate L. Mary is an author of young adult and new adult fiction, the award winning author of WHEN WE WERE HUMAN, and the Amazon best-selling BROKEN WORLD series. She writes everything from post-apocalyptic tales of the undead to contemporary romance – basically anything that grabs her attention and holds on.

She is also a mother of four and an Air Force wife who grew up in a small town just north of Dayton, Ohio where she and her husband met at the age of twelve. Since their marriage in 2002, they have lived in Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and California. She currently resides in Oklahoma with her husband and children.

 


 

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Enter the Goodreads Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Alone by Kate L. Mary

Alone

by Kate L. Mary

Giveaway ends April 07, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Coming Soon: Alone

alone


A Zombie Novel
Coming March 29, 2016


Two years after the zombie virus has wiped out most of the population, eighteen-year-old Jules is trying to adjust to the world she now finds herself in. When her father relocates them to a settlement in South Carolina, Jules is afraid she’s going to miss Washington DC, the only home she’s ever known. But Hilton Head has its benefits, namely Roman. Their attraction is instantaneous, but as more and more hurdles are thrown their way, the two begin to consider the idea of leaving for one of the unsanctioned settlements.

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Temporary Price Drop for When We Were Human

The Moonbeam Awards medalist ceremony takes place this weekend at the Park Place Hotel in Traverse City, Michigan. Unfortunately I am unable to attend, but I wanted to celebrate the event by dropping the price of When We Were Human to $0.99 from November 12th-18th.

Buy on Amazon

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Prep For Doom is on Sale!

Prep For Doom

by Band of Dystopian

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The release of AVHF upon NYC’s unsuspecting populace brings bloody suffering within hours, death within a day, and spreads worldwide within a month. Online community, Prep For Doom, has risen to the top of the doomsday preparation movement. Some have written them off as crazy while others couldn’t be more serious about the safety the preppers could provide. But when AVHF strikes, their preparation may not be enough to save them. From 20 authors comes an integrated collection of short stories about a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, some of whom will cross paths.

 

Where to Buy

Amazon

iBooks

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Kobo

Other Links

Prep For Doom Website

Prep For Doom on Goodreads

About Band of Dystopian

Band of Dystopian (BOD) is a Facebook group, blog, and company dedicated to dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic books. Our mission is to help fans of dystopian fiction find books they will love and help authors of the genre get the word out about their work. Our community of over 2,700 readers and authors has become a supportive, interactive, and insanely fun place to be. We are branching into the publishing world with our first anthology, Prep For Doom.

We have over 200 authors in the group, plenty of great conversation, tons of giveaways, and the perfect place for dystopian lovers to find their next great read.

Join Band of Dystopian

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When We Were Human has won a SILVER Medal!

I’m sooo excited and sooo blown away to share that When We Were Human
has been awarded the SILVER Medal in the
2015 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards
for a YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi book!

If you haven’t read When We Were Human yet, you can grab it on Amazon!

Enter the WHEN WE WERE HUMAN Goodreads Giveaway

Between now and August 31st, you can enter the giveaway on Goodreads to win one of TWO signed copies of WHEN WE WERE HUMAN!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

When We Were Human by Kate L. Mary

When We Were Human

by Kate L. Mary

Giveaway ends October 01, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

When We Were Human, A Reader’s Favorite!

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5stars

I’m thrilled to share the awesome Five Star review that
When We Were Human recieved from Readers Favorite!

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Reviewed By Kayti Nika Raet for Readers’ Favorite

When We Were Human by Kate L. Mary is set in a post-apocalyptic world recovering from a devastating alien invasion. Eighteen-year-old Eva has spent the last year punishing herself for her sister’s death. With the population destroyed, Earth in ruins, and gangs terrorizing the survivors, she sees little hope left for the future. She soon crosses paths with Walker and Tara, two people traveling down the hot Georgia roads. In these new friends Eva sees a promise of what the future could be, as well as evidence that humanity might not be extinct after all. When a ghost from Eva’s past makes an unexpected appearance, the group sets out on a cross-country trek that will teach Eva how to love and hope again, and will remind her what it truly means to be human.

When We Were Human by Kate L. Mary is a well told piece of dystopian, post-apocalyptic fiction that relies less on the physical tropes pepper of the genre, and takes a more introspective approach. It’s a steadily paced book filled with nuanced characters and nasty creatures. I think it’s brilliant that Mary started When We Were Human after the invasion had passed; it makes things really unique as we get little glimpses here and there of what happened. I would love to learn more about the world Eva and the gang lived in. But as much as When We Were Human is filled with sadness, loss, and regret, it is filled with hope as well.
I must have a sequel!

 

Get it now on Amazon!

When We Were Human is LIVE on Amazon

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“They came four years ago. Invaded our planet, rounded us up, decimated the human race. We fought back, and some even say we won, but they’re wrong. The invaders took everything from us. Our family. Our hope. Our humanity. We won the war, but there are no humans left. Only monsters who will do anything to survive. Some look human and some don’t, but they are all the same.”

 

 

When We Were Human

 

╣Synopsis╠

 

Eighteen-year-old Eva has spent the last year punishing herself for her sister’s death and hiding from everyone she comes into contact with, human or otherwise. With the population destroyed and the Earth left in ruins, she sees little hope left for the future.

But when she crosses paths with Walker and Tara something inside her awakens. Something she thought had died along with her entire family. In these new friends Eva sees a promise of what the future could be, as well as evidence that humanity might not be extinct after all.

When a ghost from Eva’s past makes an unexpected appearance, the group sets out on a cross-country trek that will teach Eva how to love and hope again, and will remind her what it truly means to be human.

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╣Links╠

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╣Excerpt╠

 

      When the camp comes into view I have a difficult time not throwing up. Water and carrots slosh back and forth in my stomach. The sweat on my palms has nothing to do with the humidity, and my legs are so weak they feel like pipe cleaners trying to support a rubber ball.

      The fence surrounding the camp is down in most places, and the majority of the hastily set-up tents have blown away. The few left are ripped. The canvas blows in the warm breeze, flapping back and forth like the wings of an ominous bird.

      The storage building is still standing, though. If it isn’t empty this trip might be worth our time, but if it’s been cleaned out all this emotional turmoil and pain I’m going through right now will be for nothing. And I don’t have a lot of optimism that things will turn out in our favor.

      Atlanta is just visible in the distance. Or what’s left of it, anyway. A ruined building juts up here and there, but for the most part the city is flat. It looks as if like the earth had just opened up and sucked the city down. It’s what the creepers did in the first wave. Wiped out the all the major cities until there was nothing left but a landscape of rubble and dust. Killing millions in the blink of an eye.

      Walker heads into the camp, and I follow silently, trying not to think about those terrifying days. My throat tightens when we step across the toppled chain link fence. The rusty metal clinks under our feet and my heart pounds harder with each step.

      When I finally enter the prison camp where my sister lived out her final days, it feels like I’m walking into a cemetery. In many ways I am. Bones of the former inhabitants are scattered across the ground as far as the eye can see. The bodies have been picked clean by animals and bugs, and the clothes have long since blown away, but the skeletons remain as a heart-breaking reminder of everything we lost.

      Which one is my sister?

      “This way,” Walker says, tilting his head toward the storage building.

      The three of us pick our way across the camp, stepping over debris and remains. Tara won’t stop looking at me, and every glance causes my insides to harden even more. I wish I’d never told them I lost my sister here. I hate thinking that they associate me with this place. Even worse, I hate that I associate myself with this hell.

      I catch sight of a charred, mangled tree and the urge to hurl hits me so hard that I almost have to stop. The stump juts up from the ground, and to the left of it sits a small crater. It’s like a missile took out the top of the tree, then hit the ground next to it. The black circle from the fire extends for about ten feet around the hole. The fire burnt the tree to a crisp, leaving almost nothing behind.

      Our tree. Mine and Lilly’s.

      I force myself to turn away from the remains before I burst into tears. I shouldn’t have come here.

      We get closer to the storage building but something looks off. The brightness of the sun makes it hard to see and forces me to squint. Then it hits me. The walls are covered in writing and discarded cans of spray paint by the dozens lay on the ground. At first I’m not sure what I’m looking at, but it only takes a few seconds of scanning the words to figure out what it all means. They’re notes left by survivors. People hoping to find loved ones they’ve lost.

      Stupid people clinging to hope that doesn’t exist.

      “What is this?” I ask, coming to a stop about ten feet from the wall.

      “Survivor’s wall.” Walker glances toward Tara, then turns at the entrance of the building. “People leave messages behind just in case a family member comes through. We’ll check it out before we leave, but we should look for food first.”

      Tara nods and follows him, but her eyes are glued to the wall. They never stop moving, never stop reading the names.

      I keep my eyes on the back of Walker’s head as I follow him inside. Away from the wall and the words of desperation painted on them. There’s nothing on that wall for me.


 

╣Teasers╠

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╣About the Author╠

Kate L. Mary is a stay-at-home mother of four and an Air Force wife. She grew up in a small town just north of Dayton, Ohio where she and her husband met at the age of twelve. Since their marriage in 2002, they have lived in Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and California.

Kate enjoys any post-apocalyptic story – especially if zombies are involved – as long as there is a romantic twist to give the story hope. Kate prefers nerdy, non-traditional heroes who can make you laugh to hunky pieces of man-meat, and her love of wine and chocolate is legendary among her friends and family. She currently resides in Oklahoma with her husband and children.

Be sure to check out her best-selling BROKEN WORLD series, a top 100 book in dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction on Amazon.

 


 

╣Social Media╠

 

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╣Other Books╠

 

The Broken World series
Available now on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, Paperback and Audiobook! 

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When a deadly virus sweeps the country, Vivian Thomas sets out for California in hopes of seeing the daughter she gave up for adoption. Then her car breaks down and she’s faced with a choice. Give up, or accept a ride from redneck brothers, Angus and Axl. Vivian knows the offer has more to do with her double D’s than kindness, but she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to reach her daughter.

The virus is spreading, and by the time the group makes it to California, most of the population has been wiped out. When the dead start coming back, Vivian and the others realize that no electricity or running water are the least of their concerns. Now Vivian has to figure out how to be a mother under the most frightening circumstances, cope with Angus’s aggressive mood swings, and sort out her growing attraction to his brooding younger brother, Axl.

While searching for a safe place to go, they pick up a pompous billionaire who may be the answer to all their problems. Trusting him means going into the middle of the Mojave Desert and possibly risking their lives, but with the streets overrun and nowhere else to turn, it seems he might be their only chance for survival.

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Shattered World       Mad World       Lost World         Broken Stories

Collision

New Adult Romantic Mystery
Available now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Some secrets are better left untold…

Revised Collsion CoverWhen eighteen-year-old Kara Jones gets into a car accident on the way home from college, she’s left with more than a few bruised ribs, a busted cell phone, and a totaled car. After a slip-up at the hospital, she’s shaken to discover that her family isn’t all it seems. And now her mother’s strange behavior and willingness to do anything to protect her secrets—including pulling Kara out of school—have Kara floundering in the dark.

Enter Derek Miller, a former classmate who’s dealing with family issues of his own. His nerdy charm is too much for Kara to resist, and she’s even more amazed when he agrees to help her dig into her mother’s past. Together they investigate her mother’s old friends and boyfriends, hoping to discover who Kara really is. Instead, they find disturbing connections to the dark history of Kent State University, and an ever expanding maze of mystery surrounding Kara’s birth.

As Kara and Derek chase secrets, she realizes he’s the only person she can trust. But as they get closer to the truth, the disturbing answers reveal a web of evil far darker and further reaching than they’d imagined, leaving Kara to wish she’d never asked the questions in the first place.

 

The List
(College of Charleston, #1)
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Available from Lyrical Press

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 The List-highres_edited

 

The List. Twenty things every girl must do before she turns twenty. . .

Body piercing
Get drunk
First kiss

But thanks to her crazy, over-protective father, Annie Roth is way behind schedule. Good thing it’s her first semester of college, because Annie is more than ready to start checking off items. . .

Fake ID
Skinny dipping
Road trip!!!

Where it gets complicated? Ryan and Chris. Best friends. Both sweet, funny, totally hot, and totally into Annie.

But there are some things on The List that Annie only wants to do with Ryan. . .

Lose it
Get Heart Broken
Fall in love

No Regrets
(College of Charleston, #2)
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Coming September 2015 from Lyrical Press

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No Regrets
College is supposed to be fun…

Go to parties

Pick up guys

Maybe get in a little trouble

 

On the surface Cami is your average, wild teenager out to have a good time, but inside she’s struggling. Almost a year ago her best friend was in a car accident, an accident Cami feels responsible for. Since then, she’s made it her personal mission to experience everything life has to offer, both for herself and for Julie, who will never have fun again.

Then she meets Liam, her cousin’s sexy roommate. Hooking up with a hot British dude seems like the perfect way to start off the school year, but the more time she spends with him, the more she finds herself actually liking the guy. Which totally screws up her plans to live life with no regrets…

 

Prep For Doom
Don’t Look Back, Chapter 18
Band of Dystopian Anthology
Young Adult Apocalyptic

PFD cover_officialFrom the imaginations of twenty authors of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction comes PREP FOR DOOM – an integrated collection of short stories that tell the tale of a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, few of whom will ever meet. What begins with a seemingly innocuous traffic accident soon spirals into a global pandemic. The release of Airborne Viral Hemorrhagic Fever upon New York City’s unsuspecting populace brings bloody suffering within hours, death within a day, and spreads worldwide within a month.

 

An online community called Prep For Doom has risen to the top of a recent doomsday preparation movement. Some have written them off as crazy while others couldn’t be more serious about the safety the preppers could provide in a global disaster. But when AVHF strikes, their preparation may not be enough to save them.

Now Available: Prep For Doom Anthology from Band of Dystopian

PFD cover_official

 

From the imaginations of twenty authors of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction comes PREP FOR DOOM – an integrated collection of short stories that tell the tale of a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, some of whom will cross paths.

What begins with a seemingly innocuous traffic accident soon spirals into a global pandemic. The release of Airborne Viral Hemorrhagic Fever upon New York City’s unsuspecting populace brings bloody suffering within hours, death within a day, and spreads worldwide within a month.

An online community called Prep For Doom has risen to the top of a recent doomsday preparation movement. Some have written them off as crazy while others couldn’t be more serious about the safety the preppers could provide in a global disaster. But when AVHF strikes, their preparation may not be enough to save them.

Check out the official Prep for Doom Website: http://www.prepfordoom.com/

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Get your ebook now and check out my story, Don’t Look Back, in chapter eighteen!


 

 

Check out the other authors involved in this amazing Anthology!

Laura Albins

ER Arroyo

Amy Bartelloni

Brea Behn

Casey L. Bond

TK Carter

Kate Corcino

Harlow C. Fallon

Kelsey D. Garmendia

Caroline A. Gill

DelSheree Gladden

John Gregory Hancock

Casey Hays

Jon Messenger

Monica Enderle Pierce

Cameo Renae

Hilary Thompson

Yvonne Ventresca

Megan White

First chapter of MOONCHILD

Here’s the first chapter of my YA speculative fiction novel. It’s a mix of steampunk, sci-fi and dystopian, set in the future with a kick-ass heroine.
Check out my query here

Chapter One

 

I nudge a piece of charred wood with the toe of my boot. It crumbles into a thousand pieces and ash rises up, carried on the wind and swirling around like I’m in some kind of filthy tornado. It’s too dark to make out my boots, but I’ve been living on the streets long enough to know they’re covered in the gray filth. I press the handkerchief tighter against my nose and mouth, and for a brief second my lungs start to close. Like the ash has worked its way through the fibers and invaded my body against my will. My throat tightens and I squeeze my eyes shut. It’s too much like the mines.

It only takes a few seconds to pull myself together. Thankfully. Weakness isn’t something I can afford to show—especially not here in the open like this. At least I’m alone. The last thing I need is for one of the guys to catch me during one of my flashbacks. I’m not the only one struggling to overcome my dark past, but I’ve worked hard at masking my weaknesses. When you’re living on the streets you have to appear tough, even when you aren’t.

I let out a deep breath and go back to digging through the rubble. With no lights and no moon to help me, I have to rely on touch, so I kneel down. There was a fight between enforcers and pirates here just last night, and odds are they left something useful behind. It’s the perfect opportunity for someone like me to gather a few extra supplies.

Using my free hand, I sweep the top layer of charred wood away. Whatever this building was, they did a good job of destroying it. Not that it’s been in working condition anytime in the last one hundred years, but at least it had walls before they got ahold of it. Now it’s just ash and dust—like the rest of Athens. Not that I care all that much, but it’s still pisses me off that no matter how reckless these damn pirates are it never seems to be enough. Go ahead, burn down the whole world fighting with the enforcers! Seems like the perfect way to spend a life.

My gloved fingers brush against a solid object just as something crunches on the street behind me. My heart pounds and I’m on my feet in a flash, holding my knife out in front of me while backing into the shadows. It could be pirates coming back to stake out the area. Or worse, enforcers. Just the thought makes my stomach clench tighter than the fingers wrapped around my knife. If it’s enforcers they’ll be looking for fugitives, which is exactly what I am. I barely escaped the mines the first time, and there’s no way I’m going back. Ever.

I reach the cover of the neighboring building right before they come into sight. Two people. It’s hard to make them out in the darkness, but the one seems too small to be an enforcer. Pirates then? Or maybe another group of fugitives…neither is a comfort.

The stone is cold against my back and my body is completely rigid. I inhale sharply and hold the air in until my lungs threaten to burst. It burns when I exhale, but even that doesn’t calm my nerves.

They’re closer now. Maybe only fifteen feet. They haven’t spoken a word, but they’re standing close while they walk. Something about it seems off. It’s too intimate. The smaller one pauses and kicks at the ground and a rock scuttles across the road. A soft gasp echoes through the empty street and everything in me freezes for an instant before thawing. My muscles relax and I take a deep breath, forgetting the handkerchief. The air here is thick with ash and coal dust, and the gritty flavor of earth fills my mouth.

“Rory,” I whisper, taking a step away from the wall.

The couple pauses and the smaller one—Rory—turns her head in my direction. “Scarlett?”

I swear under my breath and shove my knife back into its hiding place on my vest. It should have occurred to me that Rory would come out looking for me. Like everyone else, she hates it when I come out alone.

I step away from the building and hop over a pile of rubble before darting their way. A breeze sweeps across the street and without even thinking about it my handkerchief goes back to my nose. The wind lifts my skirt a little too high, but I ignore it since there’s no one around to see it anyway.

“You scared the shit out of me,” I whisper when I’m closer.

Slivers of moonlight have managed to break through the overcast sky, and I can just make out Rory’s smile. She flips her caramel curls over her shoulder and nudges me with her elbow. “We were just out for a romantic stroll.”

Turk’s grin is big enough that I’d be able to make it out even in if it was pitch black.

I snort and turn back to where I was digging a few minutes ago. “Well don’t let me stop you.”

Before they’ve even had a chance to respond I’m on my knees in the ash. We’re wasting time. Being out here is dangerous and the faster I get back to our shelter the better I’ll feel. The ground under my knees is rough and cold and soft at the same time, and I can only imagine how black they’ll be when we get back. No way these stockings are going to stop the soot from painting my skin a lovely shade of black.

“What are we looking for?” Rory asks, kneeling next to me.

She’s wearing pants, but she still doesn’t get down in the dirt like I do. Probably smart. Who knows when I’ll find time to bathe next.

“Anything,” I mumble.

She nods and tosses a few pieces of charred wood aside. Turk is a few feet away kicking up debris. Neither one seems to really be interested in looking. They either came just to make sure I was safe, or they really were looking for some alone time.

Rory stops digging, but I stay focused on the task at hand. I’d found something just before they showed up, and even though it was only in my hand for a brief second I have a feeling I was onto something good.

“You know where we are?” Rory whispers.

My fingers freeze and my insides tighten once again. There’s something in her tone that tells me I’m not going to like where this is going. “No.”

“This is where we found you.”

I clench my jaw and go back to searching. “Oh.”

My fingers wrap around something hard and smooth, but when I pull it out it’s just a rock. I toss it down the street and dig deeper. I need to find something so this trip isn’t a total waste, and I need to keep my mind busy, so I don’t have to remember.

Rory nudges me and my throat tightens. It’s from the ash, not the memories. I. Don’t. Cry.

“Come on, Scarlett. You don’t have to pretend with me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I mumble.

“I’m not one of the guys. You don’t have to act all tough when you’re around me.”

Rory gets me, but she doesn’t. She knows I put on an act, but she doesn’t understand why I do it. I hate showing any weakness—especially in front of the guys—but it’s more for me than it is for them. Crumbling to pieces isn’t something I can afford to let happen. Life is too unstable as it is.

“I’m not acting.”

I jump to my feet and take a few steps away, but my foot slips when the rock I’m standing on wobbles. Rory grabs my arm before I have a chance to stumble, and just like that my insides start to crackle. Like wood being singed away by fire. She’s always had my back, and she’s the only one that can break through my walls.

“You okay?” Turk calls from a few feet behind us.

I keep my eyes forward and wave over my shoulder, but Rory turns so she can reassure him. She’s good at that.

Her hand is still wrapped around my arm when she turns back. “I’m glad we found you.”

How does she always seem to know when my walls are down? “Me too.”

Her hand drops from my arm and she kneels at me feet, brushing aside some rubble. She’s not digging for supplies—I’m the only one that does that—she’s giving me time.

“It would be lonely without you.”

I kneel next to her and nod slowly. “Even though I’m a pain in the ass sometimes?”

She smiles, and even in the darkness her green eyes sparkle. “Sometimes?”

“You two about done?” Turk calls—a little too loud.

Rory shakes her head and rolls her eyes—I think. “You trying to get caught?” she calls back—also too loud.

“This is why I like to go out alone,” I grumble.

Rory grabs my arm and hauls me to my feet. Her laughter is soft, almost childlike, and I can’t stop my walls from crumbling just a little bit more. Damn her.

She wraps her arm around my waist and pulls me toward Turk, whispering in my ear as we go, “You know you love it when I come out with you.”

I press my lips together to stop the smile even though she can’t see it. “There are certain things that I love about you, but trying to scavenge with you is not one of them.” Only Rory can make me smile like this. Life hasn’t exactly been easy, and sometimes I take it too seriously.

Turk falls into step beside Rory, and within seconds her attention is focused on him. I do my best to ignore the painful sting in the pit of my stomach. You’d think after all this time I’d be used to abandonment.

I pick up the pace and of course they don’t try to keep up. They’re laughing and whispering behind me, and I can’t stop myself from glancing over my shoulder at their entwined hands. Their relationship is new and they’re the first couple in our group if you don’t count Dex and me—which I don’t.

They’re still giggling when I round the corner and the world freezes. My feet are cemented in place and my lungs deflate. Three enforcers stand less than twenty feet away. Their backs are to us. We can still get away.

With a jolt I snap out of it and glance back at Rory and Turk. Our eyes meet and I jerk my head to the side, motioning for them to go back the way we came. They nod and I back up, keeping my eyes on the enforcers while stepping carefully over the rubble.

My heart pounds and a bead of sweat makes its way down the center of my back. We can make it. Just a little bit further. One step, two, five. Almost there. Rory and Turk disappear around the corner and I only have a few small steps left to take. We are going to be okay.

My foot lands half off a piece of cement and I stumble. Wood and metal clatter against each other, shattering the silence. The enforcers whip around and I let out a breath I didn’t even realize I was holding.

“Hey!” one of them shouts.

Every muscle in my body snaps to attention. Spinning on my heel, I haul ass and take off around the corner, right behind Rory and Turk. My heart bangs against my ribs and the pounding of the enforcer’s footsteps echoes in my ears. We have a pretty good lead, and the advantage of knowing the ins and outs of the city. We can outrun them. I know it.

Out of nowhere more enforcers round the corner in front of us. Rory and Turk skitter to a halt in front of me. Their eyes are wild with desperation as they search the streets for a way to escape.

“This way!” I yell, turning back toward a side street.

I don’t look to make sure the others are following me—I just go. Adrenaline shoots through me like fire, forcing me to move faster through the alley. I won’t let them catch me. They will not take me back to the mines. I take a few quick turns, dodging the rubble that clogs the alley, my mind focused on nothing but saving my own ass.

“Turk!”

Rory’s scream pierces my heart and the fire in my veins turns to ice. I stop and spin around so suddenly that I almost fall. They’re not behind me. The blood pounds in my temples and my head snaps back and forth. What do I do? Help my friends or save myself? Another scream shatters the air, and it’s all I need to hear. I can’t leave Rory.

I head back the way I came, retracing my steps in search of Turk and Rory. My blood pumps faster with each step I take. My feet bang against the body of an enforcer when I round the final corner, and I have to leap over it to keep from falling. Before I can move Turk jabs the blade of his knife into a second man’s stomach. He grunts and falls to the ground, taking Turk with him. A third enforcer grabs Rory and shoves her face against the wall, pushing her against the dirty brick and twisting her arm behind her at an awkward angle. Her painful gasps hit me like a punch in the gut and I rush forward. Grabbing the collar of his jacket, I yank the enforcer off her and shove him against the wall. He tries to push me, but I knee him in the balls and slam my forearm against his neck, pressing all my weight onto his throat. He claws at my arm while I slip my hand into my pocket. His face is red and puffy, and his eyes are panicked. Flipping open my knife, I thrust it into his stomach, twisting it once for good measure.

He groans and his hands stop clawing at my arm. His body goes slack and warm blood covers my hand. His eyes roll back and I pull my knife out of his stomach while the life slowly drips out of his body, covering the streets of Athens like so many people before him.

My throat tightens, but I swallow against the pressure. Forget him. Focus on Rory, I tell myself.

Rory is sitting on the ground and Turk is next to her. His face is pinched with worry as he examines her scratched and dirty cheek.

“You okay?” I ask, taking a knee at her side.

“Yeah,” she says between gasps. “Let’s get out of here.”

I help her up while Turk continues to fuss over her like a worried mother. The muscles in my face are tight and I flex my jaw, trying to relax. She’s okay. We’re okay.

We turn toward the alley just as three enforcers step out, blocking our way. I grab Rory’s arm and spin around, ready to run back the way we came, but find three more closing in on us from behind.

“Left!” Rory pulls her arm out of my grasp and takes off toward a side alley.

Every muscle in my body tenses as Turk and I follow. I’m right on her heels when two more enforcers run out, blocking our way once again. Rory turns to run, but one of them manages to grab a handful of hair and yanks her back toward the alley.

My heart shatters into a million pieces and the sudden pain is so overwhelming that I almost can’t talk. “Rory!” It comes out sounding like a gasp for air.

She struggles to get away, but it isn’t working. I whip out a throwing star and fling it at the man holding her. It hits him in the shoulder and his face twists in agony. He releases Rory and grabs at the star embedded in his skin. Rory runs toward us, but she’s only taken two steps when four more enforcers come out of the alley. One grabs her arm and pulls her behind them. There are too many now.

“Run!” she screams.

Panic surges through my body and my chest tightens until I have trouble breathing. This can’t be the end. Desperately, I search for a way to save her, but we’re surrounded, outnumbered and seriously outgunned. Anguish rips through me, building in my chest and filling my heart until it swells against my ribcage. For a split second I’m paralyzed.

Rory screams for us to run and I snap back to reality. My survival instincts take over, pushing the pain deep inside. I grab Turk’s arm and pull him down the only street that isn’t blocked. He fights me, but I keep moving, dragging him along.

“Let me go!” he yells, trying to pull his shirt from my fist.

“Move, Turk! She’s gone!” A sharp pain hits me in the chest and I gasp for breath. But I keep moving. I have to get out of here. Have to get Turk and me to safety. It’s what Rory wants me to do.

“No, no!” Turk keeps fighting, but I don’t stop. I have the advantage. He’s emotional and it makes him weak.

Somehow I make it to an abandoned warehouse I recognize. There’s a concealed storage area on the first floor that I’ve hidden in a few times over the years. We’ll be safe here.

I shove Turk through the door and push him forward. He’s not struggling anymore, but he’s still crying. His sobs are like needles piercing my heart, and each sound makes my stomach twist painfully. If only he would stop so I could pull myself together.

The closet is hidden by fallen beams, but there’s a small opening at the bottom that we can crawl through. I push Turk onto his hands and knees and shuffle in behind him. It’s pitch black, so I have to feel my way in. Turk’s quiet crying echoes through the room, but other than that the warehouse is deathly silent. It’s perfect. There’s no way the enforcers will be able to sneak up on us in here.

“We could have helped her,” Turk sobs.

I clench my fists and dig my nails into my palms to distract myself from the pain inside. “Shhh! You want to get caught?”

We sit in silence and I try my best not to let Turk’s crying get to me, but it isn’t easy. It’s hard ignoring my own pain with Turk sniveling on the other side of the room, and the longer we sit here the bigger the pit in my stomach grows. The pain over losing Rory threatens to swallow me whole. How will I go on without her?

“We have to go get her,” Turk says between sniffs.

“We can’t. You know that. They’re taking her to the mines as we speak,” I say. My stomach rises up, knotted and twisted, trying to choke me from the inside out. I swallow and force it back down, tucking it away with all the pain from the past. Deep inside.

“Then we have to go into the mines.”

My throat is tight and I snort to hide the sob clogging it. “You want to break into a prison? Are you insane? We can’t, so just forget it.”

“So you’re willing to just let her go? Just walk away and pretend like she doesn’t exist anymore?” Turk’s voice shakes.

It stings, but I can’t tell him we’ll try when I know it’s not true. There’s nothing I can say that will make him understand. I get it. We all love Rory. Thinking about her having to go back to the mines makes my insides feel like they’re being ripped apart. She’s like family to me, something I haven’t had since my parents died. Letting her go isn’t an easy decision to make, but it is the right one.

“I’m sorry, Turk,” I say, forcing my voice to soften just a bit. “This is how it has to be. Rory and I talked about it a long time ago, and we agreed that if one of us got caught we shouldn’t go for the other.”

He doesn’t say anything and his silence is louder than any accusation he could throw at me. It pierces the quiet and rings in my ears, making it difficult to think. But I have to push it away. I have to be strong. So I focus on listening. Concentrating on the sounds of the world outside this room. There isn’t much; a noise here and there, the sound of an animal scurrying through the building. But eventually I hear what I’ve been waiting for—the distant sound of an airship flying across the sky.

“I think the coast is clear,” I whisper. “Let’s go.”

I crawl through the opening and head out into the building. It’s dark and silent just like it was before, but I’m still on edge. Turk climbs out behind me and the despair radiates off him, getting more intense with each step we take.

We go back out into the street and head home. My knife is still clutched in my hand as we move, ready to act at a moment’s notice. But the streets are clear, and we make it back unharmed. Some of the tension in my body melts away the instant I set foot inside. I’m never completely relaxed, but being back is a relief. Even if we are one person short.

Turk drags himself up the crumbling stairs behind me, but I focus on the holes and rubble instead of him. I don’t need to. We’ve been living in this building long enough that I could navigate the littered halls and stairway with my eyes closed. But it keeps my mind off Rory.

When I reach the third floor I stop in my tracks. Dex and Ryder are waiting for us. They aren’t usually up this late. Dex is pacing the hallway and his face crinkled with worry, his hands are balled up into fists at his sides. In complete contrast Ryder is sitting on the floor, casually leaning against the wall.

Dex looks up and he stops pacing when our eyes meet. “Where the hell have you been?”

“We got held up,” I say, trying to avoid looking at Turk.

Ryder climbs to his feet and presses his lips together. His eyes go back and forth between Turk and me. “Where’s Rory?” His voice is strained. He already knows the answer.

I swallow the knife rising in my throat. “She didn’t make it.”

No one says anything and the silence hanging in the air is suffocating. Turk stalks off and even though there’s a part of me that aches for him, I’m relieved. Being around him is too draining. I’m having a hard enough time keeping my own emotions in check.

Dex’s eyes are moist when he steps forward and puts his hands on my shoulders. “Are you okay?”

I nod and look away. “I’m fine.”

“What happened?” Ryder asks.

I shake my head and refuse to meet his gaze. The cold fingers of misery squeeze my chest and make it difficult to breathe. A familiar feeling.

“I don’t want to talk about it right now,” I say, shaking Dex off and turning away. “I need to get some sleep.”