Winter Extravaganza: Invisible Things Giveaway


CONTEST CLOSED




THE PRIZE: Invisible Things by Jenny Davidson

SUMMARY: Sixteen-year-old Sophie knows there is more to the story of her parents' death. And she's on a mission to find the truth. To aid her in solving the decades-old mystery, Sophie has enlisted her best friend, Mikael, whose friendship has turned into something more. It's soon clear that Sophie's future is very much wrapped up in the details of her family's past, and the key lies with information only one man can provide: her parents' former employer, the elusive billionaire Alfred Nobel. As the threat of war looms in Europe, dangers to Sophie and her loved ones grow. While her determination to solve the mystery doesn't waver, forces beyond her control conspire to keep her from her purpose. Then, news of her great-aunt Tabitha's death sets off a chain of events that leaves Sophie questioning everything. (Published on November 23, 2010.)

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Rules and Other Handy Things You Need to Know:
Open to the USA only.
Ends on January 6 at 11:59 p.m.
The winner, picked randomly and emailed, will have 4 days to claim their prize.
Commenting won't enter you into the contest, you must fill in the form below.
Extra entries for being a follower and spreading the word about this giveaway - must provide links for proof.



(Or click here to fill out the form)

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*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this giveaway! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza: Brent Hartinger




Brent Hartinger is the author of Shadow Walkers.

SUMMARY: Zach lives with his grandparents on a remote island in Puget Sound in Washington State. With only his little brother, Gilbert, to keep him company, Zach feels cut off from the world. But when Gilbert is kidnapped, Zach tries the only thing he can think of to find him: astral projection. Soon, his spirit is soaring through the strange and boundless astral realm—a shadow place. While searching for his brother, Zach meets a boy named Emory, another astral traveler who's intriguing (and cute). As Zach and Emory track the kidnappers from the astral realm, their bond grows—but each moment could be Gilbert's last. Even worse, there's a menacing, centuries-old creature in their midst that devours souls and possesses physical bodies. And it's hungry for Zach. (Publishes on February 8, 2011.)

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Chapter One Excerpt

I felt this weird chill, so cold it made me gasp.
At first I thought I’d walked through a pocket of frozen air, but it didn’t feel cold exactly, at least not on my skin. It was a much deeper chill, like I was suddenly cold on the inside of my body.
It felt like a premonition of something terrible.
But as soon as I felt it, it was gone. I’d barely had time to shiver.
I turned and looked behind me on the trail, but didn’t see anything unusual. I’d been walking to the end of Trumble Point, this little peninsula at the southern tip of Hinder Island. The waters of Puget Sound in Washington State – sparkling blue and mostly calm today – stretched out on either side of me. The whole peninsula was a park, a mix of Douglas-fir and red-barked madrona trees, but at the moment I’d felt the chill, I’d been in a clearing of bright sunlight.
I thought about taking a couple of steps back on the trail, to see if I could find the pocket of cold air again. But the truth is the chill had me spooked. I didn’t want to feel it again, not even by reaching out with just my hand.
“Zach, come on!”
It was my seven-year-old brother Gilbert calling to me from farther up the trail. We’d come here together to walk to the old lighthouse at the tip of the point. It was an old-fashioned lighthouse, built high atop the rocky edge just above the beach. You couldn’t go inside – it had been fully automated for years – but to the state’s credit, they still kept it lit because of the row of nasty rocks that extended out from the point, invisible at high tide. The lighthouse made a great destination for a hike, especially on a beautiful summer day in June with the air smelling of pine needles and salt.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I said, more than happy to leave that strange chill behind.
Gilbert and I had lived with our grandparents here on Hinder Island for almost two years now, ever since our parents had been killed when the barrier at a railroad crossing had malfunctioned. There were only about four thousand people on the whole island, so it was mostly just mossy forests and rocky beaches slathered with seaweed. Our grandparents had lived here forever, even raised a family, including my dad. But they were old now and didn’t get off the island much. As a result, Gilbert and I didn’t leave much either.
He came running back toward me, unstoppable in squeaky new tennis shoes. He was chowing down on a king-sized Three Musketeers.
“There’s a dead bird in the woods!” he said. “It’s grey and furry, but I think it’s a baby bald eagle.”
“Hold on,” I said. “Where’d you get candy?”
He was suddenly wary, protective of his candy bar. “The lady.”
“What lady?” I said, looking around. I hadn’t seen anyone in the park so far, but that wasn’t surprising. Lots of people took the ferry out to Hinder Island on the weekends, shopping in its funky art galleries and holing up in all the bed-and-breakfasts. But almost no one stayed through the week, even in summer.
“The lady with the big purse,” he said, even as he kept wolfing down the chocolate in case I might try to take it from him.
“Gilbert! You know you’re not supposed to take candy from strangers.”
“She’s not a stranger,” he said, talking with his mouth full. He thought for a second. “I just don’t know her name.”
So she was an islander. That was different. It was true there were no “strangers” on Hinder Island. This is hard to explain this to off-islanders, but things are different where you live on a small piece of land surrounded by water on all sides. After a while, you start to think of the water like a moat, like you’re protected from all the bad things that happen everywhere else, safe from the Big Bad Wolf. Plus, you really do know all the people. It isn’t long before there isn’t anyone you haven’t talked to at least once. And even if you’ve only talked to them a few times, you soon know who they know, what they do, where they live – and somehow that makes everyone accountable to everyone else.
Even so, I wasn’t about to let Gilbert eat that candy. I held out my hand. “How about I hold that until we get home?”
With a heavy sigh that sounded like he was the disapproving older brother, Gilbert handed me the candy, although there was only a bite or two left. I wrapped it up as best I could – it was melting in the sun -- and put it in my pocket.
“Hey, a walking stick!” Gilbert said, picking a branch up out of the undergrowth. It was almost perfectly straight and just his size. He started peeling off the leaves and smaller branches. Now that the candy bar was out of his sight, he’d forgotten all about it. Seven-year-olds.
“Wanna hear something interesting?” Gilbert said as we started forward again, him with the walking stick this time.
“Sure,” I said.
“Billy says he stuck a branch in the swamp, and two weeks later, it started to grow leaves. It turned into a tree!”
“That is interesting.”
“You think that works with people too? If I cut off my arm and stuck it in the swamp, I’d grow a whole new me?”
I stopped on the trail. “No. Gilbert, it doesn’t work that way with people. You know that right?"
He turned around to face me, leaning against his stick. “Yeah. I just wanted to know what you’d say.”
I rolled my eyes at him.
When we’d started walking again, he said, “You wanna know something else interesting?”
“Sure,” I said.
“You think I’m gonna forget about my candy bar in your pocket. But I won’t.”
Leave it to my little brother to be anything but a typical seven-year-old.
“You little Nabothian cyst!” I said, which was my pet nickname for him. A year or so earlier, he had overheard our grandparents saying that our mother had once had one of these, which are these harmless little bumps inside a woman’s body. Gilbert had asked me what it was, and I’d impulsively said that it was him, that he was a Nabothian cyst. Gilbert hadn’t believed me, but I’d said, “You know how Grandma is always saying Mom ‘had’ you? ‘When Cecil had Gilbert...’? Well, that’s what she means. Mom had a Nabothian cyst. You!”
I’d been teasing him about it ever since. For some reason, it felt really good to laugh about something that involved our parents.
“I am not!” Gilbert said.
“Are too,” I said, pretending to be serious. “I don’t why you still don’t believe me.”
He squealed with laughter. We’d been playing this game a long time, but for some reason it wasn’t making me feel very good today. I’d been wrong when I’d thought I could leave that chill in the air behind – that pocket of cold air or whatever it was – just by walking on down the trail. I still couldn’t shake the sense that something terrible was going to happen.
“There’s the lighthouse!” Gilbert said, pointing.
Sure enough, it loomed up from a rocky crag at the very end of the trail.
In front of us, the trail split in three ways – a narrow access trail heading up to the lighthouse, and two wider trails that wound their way down to the rocky beaches on either side of the point.
Out in the water, seagulls circled and crab trap buoys rocked.
I hated that water. Those same waterways that kept bad things away, that kept everything safe and predictable, also kept out new faces and new ideas. It’s not like the women on Hinder Island wore bonnets on their heads and accused people of being witches like in that play The Crucible. But it was like living in a small town: everyone was just a little too literal in their thinking, and a little too suspicious of outsiders. And while everyone knew everyone else, everyone also knew everyone else’s business. This is all fine when you’re seven like Gilbert or in your seventies like my grandparents. It’s not so great when you’re sixteen and the new kid in town, like I had been for – well, two whole years now.
Once you set foot on an island, no matter which direction you go, sooner or later you come to a dead-end.
Something caught my eye down on the beach on my right.
It was Matt Harken, this guy a couple of years ahead of me in school. He’d climbed up on one of the beach’s big boulders and was fishing – alone, it looked like. This made sense. He was a loner, but definitely not a loser – like how I’d like to think people saw me, even if I was probably just flattering myself. Matt was sort of a cross between a geek and hipster, neither cool enough to be noticed nor weird enough to be mocked. And he almost never was noticed, not by most people.
I’d noticed him. I guess you could say I had kind of a crush on him.
But I’d never even talked to him. I take back what I said about how I’d talked to every single person on the island at least once. I’d never had the nerve to talk to Matt.
It’s funny how you could know by sight every single person on an island of four thousand people and still not have a single real friend, much less anything “more.”
Matt wasn’t wearing a shirt, just shorts.
I’d always thought he was a good-looking guy, but it was kind of a hidden beauty, which I guess is why more people didn’t see it. He had a rare, but confident smile. And his long-ish dark hair hung down over eyes that were so piercing they were like whaling harpoons.
But even I had never seen his body before. His back bulged. He was pale, but not pasty, lean, but not skinny. Casting his rod, he turned in silhouette, and I saw his chest and stomach was rippled in all the right places. He had the same dusting of dark hair on his chest that he had on his legs – legs which looked particularly muscled as he stood perched on that granite boulder.
For the first time since I’d felt that weird chill, I felt myself flush warm again. I knew I should look away, keep walking after Gilbert, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I was in the shadows of the trees, and he was out in the sun of the beach -- even if he did know I was there, I doubted he’d be able to see me.
But just then the sun dipped behind some clouds, and he must’ve somehow sensed me ogling him. Anyway, he turned around to look right up at me. This figured.
I immediately looked away. How embarrassing. I wondered how obvious it had been that I’d been staring.
I hurried forward, not daring to look back. Face flushed, I reminded myself that I really needed to keep an eye on Gilbert, especially this close to the water.
“Gilbert?” I said, but he didn’t answer. “Gilbert?” I said, louder.
I’d seen him go down the left-hand trail, but I couldn’t see him ahead of me. This made me mad. He knew he wasn’t supposed to go all the way down to the beach alone.
“Gilbert!” I said, working my way down the grade to the beach itself. It was steeper than I remembered, and a skittering of loose rocks followed behind me like a little avalanche.
At the bottom of the trail, Gilbert’s walking stick had been tossed to one side. Not stuck in the sand, not resting against a tree.
The granite boulders on the beach were taller on this side of the point, almost over my head. They loomed up like tombstones in some giant graveyard.
“Gilbert!” I said. “Where are you?”
There was still no answer.
I remembered that chill I’d felt, that premonition I’d had. I’d known something bad was going to happen – and I’d still allowed myself to be distracted by Matt. How could I have been so stupid?
“Gilbert!” I said, suddenly frantic. The waves weren’t exactly crashing against the shore – there are no crashing waves in the protected waters of Puget Sound. But the slopping of the water against the beach was just loud enough that I couldn’t be sure how far my voice would carry, especially within all those boulders.
Still calling for him, I started searching between the rocks. I’d been here dozens of times before, but it had never felt so much like a maze. My feet crunched in the wet, dark gravel. Overhead, clouds claimed more of the sky. I didn’t know how they’d moved in that quickly.
Gilbert!” I yelled. I thought about calling for Matt, but I was sure he couldn’t hear me, not completely on the other side of the point. I even looked around for the woman who had given Gilbert that candy, hoping that she might be able to help me.
I stepped behind one giant rock, then another, then another. The waves splashing against the beach seemed bigger now – a fishing boat must’ve passed by just off-shore, but I hadn’t seen or heard it go by.
I was in a full-fledged panic now. I remembered the chill, the certainty that something terrible was about to occur, and it made me gasp all over again.
I stepped behind one more boulder.
And there was Gilbert, sitting on his haunches staring into a tidal pool. The tide-pool itself was completely still even as a wave crashed against a rock not five feet away.
He barely looked up at me. “There’s a crab with only one claw,” he said.
I was so relieved I couldn’t bring myself to speak, much less yell at him. Instead, I turned toward the open water, looking out at the darkening sky.
A cold breeze suddenly blew in off the bay, but I didn’t shiver. Whatever had caused the chill I’d felt before, it had been a lot colder than this.

Thank you for sharing an excerpt out of your up-coming book, Brent!

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PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK ONLINE: Amazon | Borders | Book Depository

FIND BRENT ONLINE:
Website | Goodreads | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

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*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this guest post! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza: Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance Giveaway


CONTEST CLOSED





THE PRIZE: Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin

SUMMARY: Fans of romance don't need to look any further than the fauxmance brewing between teen idols Charlie Tracker and Fielding Withers-known on their hit TV show as Jenna and Jonah, next-door neighbors flush with the excitement of first love. But it's their off-screen relationship that has helped cement their fame, as passionate fans follow their every PDA. They grace the covers of magazines week after week. Their fan club has chapters all over the country. The only problem is their off-screen romance is one big publicity stunt, and Charlie and Fielding can't stand to be in the same room. Still, it's a great gig, so even when the cameras stop rolling, the show must go on, and on, and on... Until the pesky paparazzi blow their cover, and Charlie and Fielding must disappear to weather the media storm. It's not until they're far off the grid of the Hollywood circuit that they realize that there's more to each of them than shiny hair and a winning smile. (Publishes on February 1, 2011.)

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Rules and Other Handy Things You Need to Know:
Open to the USA only.
Ends on January 6 at 11:59 p.m.
The winner, picked randomly and emailed, will have 4 days to claim their prize.
Commenting won't enter you into the contest, you must fill in the form below.
Extra entries for being a follower and spreading the word about this giveaway - must provide links for proof.



(Or click here to fill out the form)

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*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this giveaway! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza: Jenny Moss Interview




Jenny Moss is the author of Taking Off.

SUMMARY: Reimagining the days surrounding this unforgettable event in history, readers are brought back to 1986 as the astronauts prepare for the Challenger mission, and Christa McAullife trains to be the first teacher in space. When a teen named Annie meets Christa, she is fascinated by Christa's courage. Truly inspired, Annie is determined to make it to Florida to see the Challenger launch, a trip that will forever change how she thinks about herself and her secret desire for her own future. Although she is devastated when tragedy strikes, Annie honors Christa by following her own dream, despite the obstacles. Bringing in her experience as a NASA engineer, Jenny Moss weaves a moving story that recaptures the inspiration teens must have felt years ago as they watched Christa McAuliffe reach for the sky. (Publishes on January 4, 2011.)

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Describe Taking Off in one sentence?

High school senior Annie Porter, who wants to be a poet and is caught up in a romantic triangle, meets Christa McAuliffe before the space shuttle Challenger accident.

How did you bring your NASA experience into the book?

I worked for NASA for a number of years. Early in the space shuttle program, I was involved in the training of astronauts and flight controllers; one of the chapters in the novel describes the type of work I did. When the Challenger accident occurred, I had just moved from the Training Division into Flight Design. I used some of my memories of that sad time in creating Annie's experience.

What part of Taking Off did you enjoy writing the most?

The poetry. And the Vincent Van Gogh references. It was also fun to create the character of Tommy - who is one of Annie's love interests.

The parts of the novel that dealt with Christa and the Challenger accident were the most difficult for me to write.

What do you hope your readers will take away with them?

Mostly: Each of us has a wonderfully unique journey before her.

Three words to explain your view of winter?

Silent, still, hopeful

Describe the most memorable winter you have ever experienced?

It rarely snows where I live, so those winters are the ones I remember most: swinging with my toddler son with the snow-covered ground beneath our feet, and walking with my daughter on a cold winter night while snowflakes fall and the excited laughter of kids fills the air.

What's your favorite thing to eat and drink during the holidays?

Creamy hot chocolate topped with melting marshmallows, and sweet potato casserole topped with melting marshmallows. Gotta have the marshmallows. :)

If you had enough snow to make any kind of snowman/animal, what would it be and look like?

See, I'm a novice at this because we don't get much snow. So I wouldn't make a snowman; I'd fall to the ground and make snow angels like they do in the movies. Do people really do that? It looks like such fun!

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?

What Child Is This?

Thanks so much, Ashley! :)

Jenny, thank you for answering my questions!

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PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK ONLINE: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble

FIND JENNY ONLINE: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

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*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this interview! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza: Fallen Angel Giveaway


CONTEST CLOSED




THE PRIZE: Fallen Angel by Heather Terrell

SUMMARY: Ellie was never particularly good at talking to boys—or anyone other than her best friend and fellow outcast, Ruth. Then she met Michael. Michael is handsome, charming, sweet. And totally into Ellie. It’s no wonder she is instantly drawn to him. But Michael has a secret. And he knows Ellie is hiding something, too. They’ve both discovered they have powers beyond their imagining. Powers that are otherworldly. Ellie and Michael are determined to uncover what they are, and how they got this way... together. But the truth has repercussions neither could have imagined. Soon they find themselves center stage in an ancient conflict that threatens to destroy everything they love. And it is no longer clear whether Ellie and Michael will choose the same side. In this electrifying novel, Heather Terrell spins a gripping supernatural tale about true love, destiny, and the battle of good versus evil. (Published on December 28, 2010 - today!)

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Rules and Other Handy Things You Need to Know:
Open to the USA only.
Ends on January 6 at 11:59 p.m.
The winner, picked randomly and emailed, will have 4 days to claim their prize.
Commenting won't enter you into the contest, you must fill in the form below.
Extra entries for being a follower and spreading the word about this giveaway - must provide links for proof.



(Or click here to fill out the form)

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this giveaway! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza: Brendan Halpin




Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin are the authors of Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance.

SUMMARY: Fans of romance don't need to look any further than the fauxmance brewing between teen idols Charlie Tracker and Fielding Withers-known on their hit TV show as Jenna and Jonah, next-door neighbors flush with the excitement of first love. But it's their off-screen relationship that has helped cement their fame, as passionate fans follow their every PDA. They grace the covers of magazines week after week. Their fan club has chapters all over the country. The only problem is their off-screen romance is one big publicity stunt, and Charlie and Fielding can't stand to be in the same room. Still, it's a great gig, so even when the cameras stop rolling, the show must go on, and on, and on... Until the pesky paparazzi blow their cover, and Charlie and Fielding must disappear to weather the media storm. It's not until they're far off the grid of the Hollywood circuit that they realize that there's more to each of them than shiny hair and a winning smile. (Publishes on February 1, 2011.)

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Snow Day

There's a lot to hate about living in New England in the wintertime. We all hunker down for the better part of four months, entering a state that's like hibernation, only with much less sleep and much more coffee. We scurry from warm place to warm place, not really able to enjoy being outside. (Well, that's at least true of those of us who have neither the money nor the inclination to go skiing.)

But one thing I love about New England in the wintertime is the snow day. I like the snow itself, but what's really wonderful is the day itself.

Because when I have a day off that I know is coming, I tend to make plans to do something useful with it. (Or, more accurately, other members of my household plan for me to do something useful.) There are chores to be done around the house, deadlines to meet, games and practices to drive to, and more chores to be done around the house.

But a snow day is not a day off you can count on. Everyone in New England has had the experience of going to bed hoping for a day off because of the latest Storm of the Century, only to wake up and find only a dusting of snow on the ground.

So since we can't count on snow days or really plan for them, when they come, we have to enjoy them. They are perfect days to lie around watching movies, make cookies, and otherwise just relax in a way that most of us don't often get to do. Even the snow shoveling, at least in my neighborhood, makes everyone more neighborly. We'll all be out in the street together moving snow around, laughing at the cars trying to get through, and cursing when the snowplows undo all our efforts. Apart from our annual block party, snow days are really the only many of us see each other long enough to have a conversation.

I also think a snow day is a handy reminder of the fact that we don't have nearly as much control over our lives as we imagine. Make whatever plans you want, but if there's a foot of snow on the ground, it's not happening.

So, yeah, I do sometimes wish I lived somewhere with more sunshine and warmth, particularly by the time we get to March, when winter really should be over but keeps hanging on just to taunt us. And though I wouldn't miss the cold and the darkness that much, if I did live somewhere warm, I would miss the wonderful spontaneous gift of the snow day.

Thank you so much for this wintry guest post Brendan!

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PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK ONLINE: Amazon | Borders | Barnes and Noble

FIND BRENDAN ONLINE: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this guest post! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza: Chasing AllieCat Giveaway


CONTEST CLOSED




THE PRIZE: Chasing AllieCat by Rebecca Davis

SUMMARY: Dumped with relatives in a small Minnesota town for the summer, Sadie Lester is relying on her mountain bike to save her from total boredom. Then she meets Allie, a spiky-haired off-road mountain biker who's training for a major race. Allie leads Sadie and Joe, a cute fellow cyclist, up and down Mount Kato, and the three become close friends. But the exhilarating rush comes to a halt when they find a priest in the woods, badly beaten and near death. After calling for help, Allie disappears from their lives. As they search for Allie and try to find out why she left so suddenly, Sadie and Joe discover more about Allie's past, including her connection to the priest. Only on the day of the big race does Sadie finally learn the complete, startling truth about Allie—and the terrible secret that forced her into hiding. (Publishes on February 8, 2011.)

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Rules and Other Handy Things You Need to Know:
Open to the USA only.
Ends on January 6 at 11:59 p.m.
The winner, picked randomly and emailed, will have 4 days to claim their prize.
Commenting won't enter you into the contest, you must fill in the form below.
Extra entries for being a follower and spreading the word about this giveaway - must provide links for proof.



(Or click here to fill out the form)

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this giveaway! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza: Rebecca Davis




Rebecca Davis is the author of Chasing AllieCat.

SUMMARY: Dumped with relatives in a small Minnesota town for the summer, Sadie Lester is relying on her mountain bike to save her from total boredom. Then she meets Allie, a spiky-haired off-road mountain biker who's training for a major race. Allie leads Sadie and Joe, a cute fellow cyclist, up and down Mount Kato, and the three become close friends. But the exhilarating rush comes to a halt when they find a priest in the woods, badly beaten and near death. After calling for help, Allie disappears from their lives. As they search for Allie and try to find out why she left so suddenly, Sadie and Joe discover more about Allie's past, including her connection to the priest. Only on the day of the big race does Sadie finally learn the complete, startling truth about Allie—and the terrible secret that forced her into hiding. (Publishes on February 8, 2011.)

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I’m not gonna lie. I love snow.

That’s not always a popular position to take in Minnesota, when by the first official day of winter on December 21, we had already accumulated about two feet of snow. And in Minnesota, once we’ve got snow on the ground, you have to settle in and either enjoy it or endure it. It’ll be here for five months, like it or not. Yup, almost half the year is winter here.

It’s what everybody talks about. It’s the most-overused conversation starter in the state, I’m sure of it. “Some weather, huh?” “How ‘bout this snow?” “Roads suck, huh?” “Did you get your driveway plowed out?” “What’s with this weather, man?” “I almost slid into a semi truck on the way to school today!” Complaining about it seems to be the norm. Yeah, it’s a lot of work. Yeah, it’s a pain in the butt (or back, or shoulders) to shovel over and over and over, and yeah, it’s a ton of work to plow out your driveway three times in two weeks (once, when we got fourteen inches, it took me twelve hours to plow out the driveway to my old farmhouse with my garden tractor), and yeah, driving on it can be treacherous and it takes longer to get anywhere allowing for slippery roads, so yeah, yeah, snow can be a pain in the butt. And I have at least six friends who have to plow snow for a living when it falls, either city roads or state highways. They don’t love it. So around them, I usually keep my opinion to myself.

But it’s BEAUTIFUL.

On Christmas Day this year, my Newfoundland dog Freya and I went for a long walk across the pasture and through the woods. The snow’s over my knees and over her chest—and she’s a huge dog—she weighs 160 pounds—a giant female even for a giant breed. But we plow through and “talk” to each other all the way. We were literally living our own Christmas card. Snow hanging heavy on all the tree boughs. Snow drifting down in soft flakes—since it never seems to quit falling this year. Snow piling where the wind has whipped it on sides of hills and across open spaces. Snow on the partially iced-in river. The sun only a pale glow through the tissue paper clouds. I fell on a couple logs I couldn’t see under the deep snow, came up covered with snow, and she came bounding over to check on me. We kept plowing along. We were both covered with a layer of white flakes when we got home.

When I was little, I couldn’t wait for the first snow. I’d get out my sled even if there was only a single inch on the ground. Often on Halloween, it seemed. As soon as we got more snow and it stuck, we’d haul our sleds to my Grandpa’s farm, where his pasture had rolling hills and long sled runs. If the temperature was below zero, the creek would freeze, and we could go zipping down the hill, onto the frozen creek, and right through the culvert, out the other side and over the frozen waterfall for one wild ride. If we got going fast enough, we’d smack full-force into the opposite creek bank. It’s a wonder we’re all still alive without serious head trauma.

Of course sometimes when the temps weren’t quite cold enough, the creek would be frozen, but not solid, and we’d break through. Then we’d have to hike back to Grandma’s house to get dry socks and pants, warm up, and start over again. Anyway, the key to loving snow is finding something to love doing outside in it. And dressing for it. They make snowpants and boots and mittens for a reason. In Minnesota, the majority of my friends get out and “just do it”: cross-country skiing (my personal favorite), sledding, snowshoeing, hiking, downhill skiing, snowmobiling, running, and even biking.

Yeah, there’s even such a thing as ice biking. There are races on frozen lakes, but most winter riders simply do it for fun or to commute to work. Minneapolis has been named the bike-friendliest city in the country by Bicycling Magazine. And winter weather doesn’t stop many of the die-hards.

For a few years at Christmas time, my friends and I decorated our bike helmets and our winter riding gear with battery-operated Christmas lights and we rode around downtown Mankato all decked out. Literally. We rode up and down the Old-town shopping district, past as many bars as we could think of, and up and down the streets with locally famous elaborate Christmas decorations, where cars were lined up for blocks to drive slowly looking at pretty lights. When they saw us, they pointed, laughed, rolled down their windows to talk to us. We rode until our toes couldn’t stand it any more. Then we pulled into the Vintage Velo Wine CafĂ© for hot cider.

Most of us just ride mountain bikes in the winter for traction, but some of my friends actually ride studded tires in the winter. They put flat-head screws through the tires so they can actually get a grip on the ice. I’ve never done that, but I’ve ridden when it was so cold my water bottle froze solid in the first ten minutes of the ride.

Besides playing in the snow, I love it because dogs love it so much. First snowfall of the season, they snuff around it, bounce, roll and act out exactly what I’d like to do in fresh snow. They make snow dog angels. And they come up with little piles of snow on their noses.

I told this story when I was doing a book talk about my novel
Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged at Northwest High School in Halifax County, North Carolina. The book doesn’t have any dogs in it, but we were talking about stories in general. I said, “You know, when temps drop near zero, dogs have the curious habit of lifting one foot or the other to get some relief from the cold.” The juniors and seniors looked at me with blank stares. No, they didn’t know. It doesn’t get that cold in North Carolina. “Okay,” I explained, “they do…maybe they lift a paw to give their pads a quick thaw, but mostly I think it’s just to give a cold foot a break. Like sticking a cold hand under your opposite arm to warm it up. Same principle. Anyway, dogs pick up one front paw, then drop it and pick up the other. Norton, our poor brain-damaged pooch—part Retriever, part Husky, and the rest of the parts just plain slow—picked up one front paw and then the other and fell over on his side. He lay there and waited for us to help him.” The students loved the story, but the worst part of the story is, he did it more than once. He didn’t have a very high learning curve. But that’s partly why he was entirely loveable.

Another day, when the temps had been hovering below zero for several weeks on end (I think during the month of January that year, temperature never got up above zero), Norton came charging into the house from the back yard, bolted to the basement, and hid under the laundry table. He had a hawksicle. Some horribly unfortunate hawk had frozen to death trying to tuck its head under its wing. It was frozen solid in that half-tucked position. Solid as rock. As ice anyway. It had plummeted like an iceberg icebird into our yard, and Norton had found it. Determined to keep the two other family dogs from taking it away, he lay under the laundry table trying to chew it up, protecting his treasure with growls. Gross, huh? Besides everything else, hawks are protected species, and it’s illegal to have a dead one in your possession, under the laundry room
table or in your yard, even if Mother Nature herself was the murderer! Norton wasn’t pleased when we had to take the thing away to get rid of the incriminating evidence. Nortie wouldn’t have lasted long in prison for a being a dog felon.

I’m rambling, I think, but those are some of the reasons that winter is magical in Minnesota. It reminds us that we’re powerless against the forces of nature. It provides us with stories. It makes us feel like tough and hearty people to live here. And it’s always a good thing to feel strong, especially in the middle of beauty. And strength and beauty is a great combination—in life, in the world, and in a good story.


Wow thanks for the awesome and intriguing guest post Becky! I really enjoyed hearing about your personal winter stories.



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PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK ONLINE: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble

FIND BECKY ONLINE: Website | Blog | Goodreads

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Winter Extravaganza: So Shelly Giveaway


CONTEST CLOSED





THE PRIZE: So Shelly SIGNED by Ty Roth

SUMMARY: Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident. After stealing Shelly's ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly's body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last "so Shelly" romantic quest. At least that's what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly's and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end. (Publishes on February 8, 2011.)

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Rules and Other Handy Things You Need to Know:
Open to the USA only.
Ends on January 6 at 11:59 p.m.
The winner, picked randomly and emailed, will have 4 days to claim their prize.
Commenting won't enter you into the contest, you must fill in the form below.
Extra entries for being a follower and spreading the word about this giveaway - must provide links for proof.



(Or click here to fill out the form)

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*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this giveaway! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza: Ty Roth




Ty Roth is the author of So Shelly.

SUMMARY: Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident. After stealing Shelly's ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly's body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last "so Shelly" romantic quest. At least that's what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly's and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end. (Publishes on February 8, 2011.)

Ty chose to write a short story about the characters in his book! The story occurs six months after the end of So Shelly. If he decides to do a sequel, it will probably be a chapter in that story...how exciting! :)

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Cor Cordium

“I hate winter,” Gordon said.
I followed the path he carved through his backyard, which was covered by a strafing of snow left behind by an afternoon squall. The stuffed and snugly-strapped hiker’s backpack he wore gave him a Quasimodo-like silhouette in my foreground.
“I should have worn different shoes,” I lodged my own complaint, but either he didn’t hear me or he was indifferent to my whining, for he continued trudging single mindedly towards the bay. Although we hadn’t exchanged so much as a text in over six weeks, fifteen minutes earlier, Gordon, reeking either of bad cologne or bad alcohol or both, had appeared on my front porch. In a sandstone Carhartt jacket, blue jeans, and work boots, he looked like he had just walked off a construction site. Somehow, he still managed to look fashionable.
“Let’s go,” he said.
“Go? Go where?” It’s Christmas Eve.”
“What’s the difference? You’re as alone as I am.”
“Yeah, but . . .”
“But what?” He interrupted.
“The neighbors invited me over later.”
Gordon’s smirk betrayed his incredulity, but I was telling the truth. The Brawnes were really cool people, and they were more-than-awesome when my brother Tom died in the fall. Ever since, they’d more-or-less adopted me. It didn’t matter if Gordon believed me or not. I was done trying to please him. If nothing else, Shelly had shown me the uselessness of that.
“It’s about Shelly,” he said.
That was all that needed to be said. I reached back inside, grabbed Tom’s navy blue pea coat off the coat rack that still smelled like the Marlboros he smoked, put it on, and followed Gordon down the snow-covered steps and walkway to his black H3. Inside, I jammed my low top, canvas Converse All-Stars against the vent, one, because it was cranking out the heat, and two, because a pair of empty wine bottles occupied the floor. I shot him a disapproving glance.
“What?” he said. “It’s Christmas.”
I reached for the door handle, but Gordon threw the Hummer into reverse and me, still unbuckled, across the front seats and literally into his lap. Before I could orient myself, the tires were throwing snow on the un-plowed street and taking us east towards his home on The Strand. Tramping through the snow, my feet were already drenched and freezing. I was still pissed at being kidnapped and still clueless as to what this Gordonian adventure had to do with Shelly.
“Gordon,” I shouted. “Stop. I’m not going any farther until you tell me where we’re going.”
“The island,” he called back.
“The island! Back to North Bass?”
“No, Stupid. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s winter. Boating season is over.”
“Then, what island?”
“Johnson’s,” he said as a matter-of-fact then resumed his trailblazing toward the bay ice. Johnson’s was a small, pear-shaped island in Ogontz Bay and a mile or so off the beach behind Gordon’s house. During the Civil War, the Union built a prisoner of war camp on Johnson’s for Confederate officers, a sort of Alcatraz. Now it was rimmed by high-dollar vacation homes, occupied by seasonal tenants who’d fled Ohio’s winter months ago. The Confederate cemetery in the island’s interior was the only public property remaining on the island. It had been one of Shelly’s favorite places. When they were kids, she, Gordon, and his sister Augusta would boat over to the island and spend hours playing in the cemetery and occasional evenings competing in ghost storytelling contests.
“Gordon,” I called once more.
“What?”
“Really. How we going to get there?”
“We’re walking, Keats.”
I stopped dead and watched as he proceeded straight onto the still newly-formed ice.
“You’re serious?” I said.
Gordon stopped, held out his hand, and said, “Come, Peter, ye of little faith.”
“Very funny. But seriously. Is it safe?”
“Haven’t I taught you anything, Keats?” He paused to take a long draught from a wine bottle he had conjured from inside the backpack then said, “Nothing is safe, and if it were, why do it?”
He thrust the bottle towards where I stood on the frozen sand. He was either offering me a
swig or making a toast to the universe. He said, “Okay then. Let’s go. Keep your distance. We want to disperse our weight. And stay in my tracks. If it holds me, it will certainly support your scrawny ass.”
Either Gordon masterfully charted an oblique path around the dangerously thin patches of ice, or he was stumbling drunk; regardless, it would be the longest mile I’d ever walked. A light breeze lifted the cold from the surface and threw tiny ice pellets into our exposed faces. I thanked Tom for the knit cap I found inside one of the coat’s pockets. With my hands buried in those pockets, my nose hidden behind the buttoned collar, and my eyes peeled to the surprisingly well-lit ice beneath a luminescent, half-moon, we trudged forward at a glacial pace, like Arctic explorers, while the still-congealing ice constantly complained beneath our feet. Finally, we clambered up an embankment on the northeast shore of the island among an assortment of evergreens. They had been purposely planted to screen the palatial compound that spread out behind them. I stumbled past a resort-sized pool, Jacuzzi, and cabana area in jaw-dropping amazement, while Gordon continued on with blasĂ© disregard.
“Hey,” I said, “why don’t we do whatever we have to do right here? This place is awesome. And look, it has a fire pit.”
“It’s not the cemetery,” Gordon said and dropped the emptied bottle of wine.
“Oh, right,” I said. “It’s not the cemetery.”
Unlike Gordon, or Shelly for that matter, I wasn’t particularly comfortable in cemeteries. My family’s history with early death and a premonition regarding my own had left me with a perfectly understandable reluctance to visit them for any reason. There wasn’t a single artificial light shining. If not for the moonlight reflecting off of the snow, we couldn’t have seen more than a few feet in front of our faces. Before crossing the lone road, which ran the entire circumference of the island, we stopped so that Gordon could extract a flashlight from his backpack and take a piss. I turned away and watched a pair of taillights, traveling due north, for what I knew to be too far of a distance on an island as small as Johnson’s.
“Gordon. Tell me there isn’t a bridge to this island.”
“Bridge? Of course there is, but it’s all the way around the Marblehead Peninsula. At least forty minutes by car.”
“Then, why did we just freeze our asses off and risk our lives walking an hour over the ice?”
“Oh, I’m way too drunk to drive.”
He gingerly tucked himself back in and turned on the flashlight. “Let’s go. The cemetery’s not far." So Gordon.
After traipsing through a slice of sparsely populated woods, our progress was stopped by the
black, wrought-iron fence of the cemetery. Each picket was topped by spear points. Gordon performed a sweeping arch over the fence with the narrow beam of the flashlight. Rows and rows of flat, whitish marble tombstones, lined in military precision, stood at attention on the surface of the rolling cemetery. Gordon was clearly moved. Me? Not so much.
In the spirit of getting over whatever we had started, I carefully placed my hands between spear points and wedged my left foot on the bottom rail between a pair of pickets and began to place my right foot on the top railing.
“What are you doing?” Gordon said and grabbed me by the arm.
“What’s it look like I’m doing? I’m climbing this fence so we can get this nonsense over before my toes are frostbitten and need to be amputated.”
“Are you nuts? I’ve already been circumcised once. I don’t need any more lopped off. This way,” he said with a wave of his hand.
We traced the fence line until we arrived at the main entrance. The waist high fence gave way to an overhead arch engraved with the words “Confederate Soldiers.” The snow pack only allowed us to push open one of the pair of swinging gates a few feet, but it was enough for us to shuffle sideways into the cemetery grounds. Gordon walked purposefully toward the center of the graveyard, always remaining near the backsides of the headstones and below where the feet of those buried in the next row lay. Approximately at the dead center, he turned to his right and continued two or three more rows before he directed the flashlight’s beam onto the headstones.
“There,” he finally said.
“Where? What?” I asked.
“There,” he said once more and shook the flashlight so the beam momentarily danced on a single headstone, whose weathered engraving identified the deceased beneath it as

J.E. Byron
CAPT. CO. H.
45TH VA. INF.

“That there is my Great, Great, Great, Great Granddaddy,” Gordon slurred with a suddenly
emergent hint of a Southern drawl. “That’s his grave anyhow. Shelly, Augusta, and I used to come here. This was sort of our spot.”
“Look, Gordon. This is very interesting and all, but I really do have better things to do. What exactly are we doing here?”
“I thought it would be a nice Christmas gift for Shelly if we could all be together.”
“In case you don’t remember, Shelly’s dead. She’s not here. It’s just you and me.”
Gordon began to swing his head side-to-side, almost imperceptibly at first, until eventually his chin was nearly bouncing back and forth from shoulder to shoulder.
“You’re kind of freaking me out, man. What do you mean ‘no.’ Are you planning some kind of seance?"
He slipped off his backpack and placed it on the ground between us. “Hold this,” he said and
handed me the flashlight. I aimed the beam at the pack, which Gordon unzipped. He reached inside with the deliberateness of a surgeon and extracted a large mason jar. With his massive hands wrapped around it, I couldn’t discern what the jar contained other than being three-quarters full of some kind of liquid.
“What is that?” I asked.
Gordon slid his hands to the opposite poles of the jar and said, “It’s Shelly. Well, her heart anyway."
When I came to, Gordon had a fire going at the base of his ancestor’s grave. He had packed one of those fire-starter logs and a bundle of kindling and was half-sitting on, half-leaning against the tombstone beneath and in immediate line with J.E. Byron’s.
“That wasn’t funny, asshole.”
“Wasn’t meant to be,” he said.
The jar was resting on the snow between his feet. Dangling from his hand was a freshly-opened bottle of red wine.
“No bullshit, Gordon. What is that thing?”
“I told you; it’s Shelly’s heart.”
I bolted to my feet and brushed snow from my backside. “This is some sick joke. You drag me out on Christmas Eve to pull this bullshit. Which way is that road? I’m out of here, man.”
“That way,” he said pointing north, “but it’s a long walk home in that direction.”
I pulled my cell phone out of my pants pocket and brandished it for his view.
“Who you going to call?”
“Fanny.”
“Is that the neighbor girl? Have you hit that yet?”
“Yes. I mean, she is my neighbor, but no, I haven’t. You know, I’m not even going to say it. Is that all you think about?”
“What else is there?” He took a long pull from the bottle.
“You’re pathetic,” I said. I scrolled through my contacts in search of “Fanny.”
“Keats,” he said. “Don’t call. Stay. Please.”
Stunned by the desperation of his voice, I paused.
“What is this about, Gordon? What is that?” I pointed to the grayish glob of muscle floating in formaldehyde.
“Sit down and I’ll explain.”
I looked down at my cell. “Fanny” was highlighted. I moved my thumb over the green “send” button. I hesitated.
“I really miss her, Keats.
“Damn,” I said, before pressing the red “end” button instead. “I know I’m going to regret this,” I said and sat on the tombstone next to Gordon’s perch. “I miss her too.”
For the second time, he offered me a swig from the bottle. Although, I’d never had much use for alcohol, I needed to warm my insides and something to prepare for the story Gordon was about to tell.
“You remember Max Schulte, right? He was a couple of classes ahead of Shelly and me at
Trinity. His father owns the funeral home that handled all of Shelly’s arrangements after the coroner performed the autopsy. Max helps out his folks when things get busy.”
I didn’t know Max Schulte, and I really wasn’t in the mood to rehash Shelly’s death or the events of the days that followed. I’d already written that book. It was time to move on, but I nodded “yes” in order to get the story over with.
“According to Max,” Gordon continued, “and you can’t tell this to anyone because Schulte’s is a mom and pop operation, and the old man could lose his license if this got out. Anyway, Max said that his girlfriend was over. I guess she’s a goth chick or something and likes to fool around in the caskets and shit. Anyway, he lost track of time and thinks he may have removed Shelly’s body from the cremator too soon. Regardless, when he slid her out, he saw that her heart had failed to burn and was sitting in amongst all the bone fragments. So, he said that he remembered that Shelly and I were close, and he thought that I might like the heart as some kind of memento.”
“You said, ‘Yes!’”
“Well, yeah. Why not? One night he shows up at the house with this jar. I’ve had it ever since.”
“Besides being a violation of any number of laws, that’s just creepy.”
“You think so? I find it rather, I don’t know, poetic.”
He pulled his drinking goblet, a real, hollowed-out human skull with a plastic cup inserted inside of it, from out of the backpack, filled it, handed it to me, raised his bottle, and said, “to Shelly, without exception the best and least selfish person I ever knew.”
He banged the bottle against the smooth bone of the cup in my hand, and we both chugged
our wine, me to minimize its bitter taste, Gordon to anesthetize his guilt. Finished, Gordon threw the empty bottle over his head among the graves behind us. Then, with more affection than with which I felt comfortable, he reached across the space between us, wrapped his arm around my shoulder, and pulled me into him so that my cheek wedged beneath his armpit.
“Keats,” he said, “I never liked you much, but Shelly did, and with one obvious exception, she was an excellent judge of character.”
I tried to wriggle free of Gordon’s embrace, but he had no intention of letting me go.
“I’ve been thinking, since Shelly and I were so close, and you and Shelly were so close, maybe we should become closer, maybe, we could even be more than friends.”
Gordon’s proposition caused me to pause in my wriggling. I’d be a liar if I’d said the thought
had never crossed my mind. I mean, he wasn’t just anybody; he was Gordon Byron. Who wouldn’t be flattered? And who wouldn’t at least consider, well, you know. Before I could respond, Gordon had dropped to his knees. On his way down, he hooked both sets of fingers over my belt. The weight of his body combined with gravity to pull my jeans over my skinny hips.
“Gordon, no!” I said, dropping the skull cup to the snow and grabbing at the waistline of my jeans.
“No? No? No. No. No.” Gordon continued to say, letting go of my belt, curling up in the snow
around the jar containing Shelly’s heart, and crying. As far as I knew, it was the first time he cried for Shelly. Probably, the first time he’d cried for anyone. I followed him to the ground with my calves folded under my thighs in a “patty cake” position and raised Gordon’s head so that it rested on my lap. Gordon was the expert at living, I at grieving. With my left hand, I patted his back, while my right stroked his long, dark curls. We remained in that position until our fire log had all but melted away and only charred embers of kindling remained.
Gordon finally picked his head up from off of my lap and said, “We’re going to bury her, Keats.”
“The ground’s frozen.”
“Not anymore,” he said, “at least not beneath that fire. Besides, it won’t have to be very deep.”
He rose to his feet and kicked the fire aside with his boot. A folding camping shovel was the last provision remaining in the backpack. He removed it and dug into the earth at the foot of J.E. Byron’s grave. When the hole was of sufficient depth, Gordon picked up Shelly’s heart, brought the jar to his lips, kissed it, lay it on its side in the hole, and covered it with the excavated dirt. He then removed a glove, dipped his finger into the still lukewarm embers of the fire, crawled on his knees to the back of the headstone in line with his ancestor’s and in charcoal black inscribed: Cor Cordium. I translated the Latin out loud: “heart of hearts.”
After a few moments of meditation, Gordon rose to his feet. Not a single tear track was evident.
With a clear, unaffected voice, he said, “Let’s go, Keats. You’ve got a Fanny waiting for you at home.”
“Gordon . . .” I began disgustedly but just as quickly realized the uselessness of scolding him or expecting him to ever be anything but what was already too late to change. “You’re right. Let’s go home."


Thank you so much for writing up this short story Ty, it was wonderful! I really enjoyed it and your writing is awesome.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

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PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK ONLINE: Amazon | Book Depository | Borders

FIND TY ONLINE: Website | Twitter | Facebook

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*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this guest post! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza: Dia Reeves




Dia Reeves is the author of Slice of Cherry.

SUMMARY: Kit and Fancy Cordelle are sisters of the best kind: best friends, best confidantes, and best accomplices. The daughters of the infamous Bonesaw Killer, Kit and Fancy are used to feeling like outsiders, and that’s just the way they like it. But in Portero, where the weird and wild run rampant, the Cordelle sisters are hardly the oddest or most dangerous creatures around. It’s no surprise when Kit and Fancy start to give in to their deepest desire—the desire to kill. What starts as a fascination with slicing open and stitching up quickly spirals into a gratifying murder spree. Of course, the sisters aren’t killing just anyone, only the people who truly deserve it. But the girls have learned from the mistakes of their father, and know that a shred of evidence could get them caught. So when Fancy stumbles upon a mysterious and invisible doorway to another world, she opens a door to endless possibilities…. (Publishes on January 4, 2011.)

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Winter's pretty lame here in Texas. We get maybe two or three days of actual winter events, like snow flurries or freezing rain. Other than that, our winters are pretty mild. To get any kind of true winter experience I have to rely on fiction, and winter tales, the ones I like anyway, all tend to be dark and deliciously creepy. Like the one about the girl made out of snow who melts when she falls in love or that one about the miserly old guy who gets visited by ghosts during Christmas Eve. But my absolute favorite winter stories are short stories. I'm glad to be able to share these because short stories aren't as popular as novels and don't get nearly as much love. Here are three of my favorites:

"Snow Cancellations" by Donald R. Burleson. It's about this boy who's very excited to experience his first snow cancellation (he's from Arizona, I think, where they never get snow days). The problem is, the snow that's causing the cancellations is evil...and hungry. I still get chills when I read it.

"Silent Snow, Secret Snow" by Conrad Aiken. In this story, winter is all in the boy's mind. For some reason, he can't stop thinking about snow and how great it is, to the point where he can barely hold a conversation with anyone and lashes out when people interrupt his snowy daydreams--it's a terrific psychological read. Very disturbing.

"Wolfland" by Tanith Lee. This is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and I would marry this story if I could. It's romantically wintry--snow-covered forests, howling wolves, a girl in a thick red cloak. The wolf that menaces her is very different from the wolf in the fairy tale, though, but I won't say how and give it away.

So definitely grab a mug of hot chocolate and curl up with one of my wintry tale recommendations, especially if you live in the South like I do. Because if the weather outside doesn't give you chills, these stories certainly will.

Wow I'll have to check out these creepy Christmas short stories - thanks Dia!

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PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK ONLINE: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | The Book Depository

FIND DIA ONLINE: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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Winter Extravaganza: Trickster's Girl Giveaway


CONTEST CLOSED




THE PRIZE: Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell

SUMMARY: In the year 2098 America isn't so different from the USA of today. But, in a post-9/11 security-obssessed world, "secured" doesn't just refer to borders between countries, it also refer to borders between states. Teenagers still think they know everything, but there is no cure for cancer, as Kelsa knows first-hand from watching her father die. The night Kelsa buries her father, a boy appears. He claims magic is responsible for the health of Earth, but human damage disrupts its flow. The planet is dying. Kelsa has the power to reverse the damage, but first she must accept that magic exists and see beyond her own pain in order to heal the planet. (Publishes on January 3, 2011.)

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Rules and Other Handy Things You Need to Know:
Open to the USA only.
Ends on January 6 at 11:59 p.m.
The winner, picked randomly and emailed, will have 4 days to claim their prize.
Commenting won't enter you into the contest, you must fill in the form below.
Extra entries for being a follower and spreading the word about this giveaway - must provide links for proof.



(Or click here to fill out the form)

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*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this giveaway! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.

Winter Extravaganza Winners Part One


Some of my giveaways ended on December 20, and I have the winners for them! I'll email everyone and they have 4 days to reply, or else I'll pick a new winner. Thanks for entering everybody and continue to enter the rest of my contests/giveaways for the remainder of the month - I still have many to come! Also, move your eyeballs over to the left sidebar for the list of current giveaways, too.

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau - Melissa from Books and Things

The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Stevenson - Chelleyreads

Warped by Maurissa Guibord - Maidenveil from Musings from a Reader Happy

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John - Marg from Clockwork Reverie


Winter Extravaganza: Hilari Bell




Hilari Bell is the author of Trickster's Girl.

SUMMARY: In the year 2098 America isn't so different from the USA of today. But, in a post-9/11 security-obssessed world, "secured" doesn't just refer to borders between countries, it also refer to borders between states. Teenagers still think they know everything, but there is no cure for cancer, as Kelsa knows first-hand from watching her father die. The night Kelsa buries her father, a boy appears. He claims magic is responsible for the health of Earth, but human damage disrupts its flow. The planet is dying. Kelsa has the power to reverse the damage, but first she must accept that magic exists and see beyond her own pain in order to heal the planet. (Publishes on January 3, 2011.)

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Three words to describe Kelsa?
Control-freak, rebellious, and healing--and though she is in the process of healing herself, it's more that she's a born healer of others. Jase, in the next Raven book, is a very different kid!

How did you come up with the title Trickster's Girl?
Actually, the title
Trickster's Girl is a second choice. For a very long time this was creatively titled Book 1. After a whole lot of discussion with my writers group (I'm usually terrible with titles) I settled on Trickster's Choice...until my editor pointed out that Tamora Pierce has a book out with that exact title. After bouncing a bunch of stuff around, we finally settled on Trickster's Girl--which I like a lot.

What's your solution to prevent writer's block, and/or what do you do when you have it?
I don't usually suffer from writer's block. (Laziness is another thing entirely.) But I'm one of those outlining writers, not a seat-of-the-pants writer. And while I've met many successful writers who are pantsers, I have to admit I think they suffer from writer's block a lot more than we outliners do. Let's face it, when you know what's going to happen in the scene, and you've been itching for months to get to the scene where X happens, it's kind of hard to get blocked.

Do you have any family holiday traditions?
Board games. We have the big dinner Christmas Eve, open presents the next morning, and in the afternoon get together with friends and play board games. Given my choice, it's also my favorite way to celebrate my birthday.

If you were to go camping on a snowy mountain, what would you bring with you?
Books, my pop-up trailer, and three space heaters--which is what I take camping in Colorado in the fall and early spring, anyway. Well, in fall and spring usually two space heaters will do. I love camping, but I like to be comfortable when I do it, and we've been really happy in that trailer with 8 inches of snow--or 12 inch icicles--outside.

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?
My favorite Christmas carol is probably Good King Wenceslas. When I first started work at the library I came across a picture book of the song, and learned all the verses. It's a great one. And though I don't know all the words, there's a modern carol, Children Go Where I Send Thee, that I really like. And Let It Be Christmas. And the Peter Paul & Mary version of A Solkin'. I like Christmas carols.

What do you imagine winter will be like 100 years from now?
Winter a hundred years from now will probably be a lot more stormy. All those global warming gases aren't going to go anywhere quickly. And when in Trickster's Girl I talk about the Florida Islands, I'm not kidding.

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Hilari!

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PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK ONLINE: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble

FIND HILARI ONLINE: Website | Goodreads | Myspace | Twitter

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*Remember, you can get an entry into the comment contest by leaving a valid comment about this interview! Full rules, entering, and details by clicking that link.