Monday, October 23, 2017

I See Fire: Wine Country, 2017

I'm ashamed to admit that I've always dismissed California fire season in the same way as California earthquakes--treating them as just part of the territory. A necessary evil. Unfortunately, I truly didn't understand the devastation fire can have--until it threatened the one place I consider home.

I'm even more ashamed that this provided the empathy I should have had all along.

I grew up in St. Helena, California, in the heart of the Napa Valley. We moved to Napa when I was 2, and to St. Helena when I was 4, and I lived in the same house until I went to grad school at age 25. I've always carried my town with me, not just as a place--but with the people from there who shaped me--ones I still turn to today.

When the Atlas Fire hit, I was on the phone with my father, and I didn't think much of it at first. I thought back to a previous conversation with a friend, when I heard about how people in Northern California made particular efforts to clear away brush in order to avoid the devastation seen from Southern California fires. The fire wouldn't spread too quickly, I thought.

How wrong I was. My home, usually sequestered from tragedy, from pain--my own Shire, as it were--was now facing the flames of Mount Doom.

Perhaps it's all too fitting, then, that Ed Sheeran's "I See Fire" is on The Desolation of Smaug soundtrack. Smaug, like the Northern California fires, was indiscriminate in his anger, destroying the city of Lake-town without hesitation of what it would do, or who would be affected.


And now, we pick up the pieces. Granted, Santa Rosa and Sonoma have more to clean up than Napa County does, and I am thankful that St. Helena and its surrounding towns are safe.

There are others who are much worse off. People with houses of mere rubble.

We have to confront how we are going to move forward. What now? What possible recourse do we have?

We start by using the change to shape us further.

No longer do I have trouble finding the necessary recognition, the necessary empathy, when it comes to the characters I write, their relationships, and what happens to them. All I have to do is remember my sick, horrid queasiness when an un-contained fire moved toward my home community. When there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I also have a fire scene in one of my eight works-in-progress that will probably have to be completely rewritten because of this. But it will be better, in the end.

I am using my anger, my angst, to build something better. 

In a word, we have community, and each other. We have art. And like this woman who lost her home, we can use it to build beauty from the ashes.

And we must.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

THE WONDROUS WORLD OF VIOLET BARNABY by Jenny Lundquist

Jenny Lundquist continues to generate the perfect books for middle grade graders--with topics that aren't often seen (but are very much needed) in books for this age group. Her newest book, THE WONDROUS WORLD OF VIOLET BARNABY is the second part of her Izzy Malone series, first featured here.

Violet Barnaby is a having a blue Christmas. She’s still grieving the loss of her mother, and to make things worse, her dad has just married Melanie Harmer, a.k.a. the meanest teacher at Dandelion Hollow Middle School. But on the day Violet and her dad are packing up and moving into the new house they’ll share with Melanie and Melanie’s two children, Violet finds a letter her mother wrote to her before she died, asking Violet to enjoy Christmas, along with a Christmas Wish List—things her mom wants her to do during the holiday season. On the list are exactly the kinds of things Violet doesn’t want to do this year, like Be Someone’s Secret Santa; Give Someone the Gift of Your Time: Volunteer; and Bake Christmas Cookies.

Violet shows the letter to her friend Izzy’s Aunt Mildred, who calls a meeting of the Charm Girls, a club Izzy and Violet belong to along with their friends, Daisy and Sophia. Aunt Mildred decides she will give them each a charm to put on their bracelet if they do all of the tasks on the Christmas Wish List, which Violet is not too happy about. She’d rather forget about the list completely, but feels compelled to honor her mother’s wishes.

And when Izzy’s crush confides a big secret to Violet, Violet feels like she is stuck between her best friend and the boy who she just might have a crush on, too…

In our last interview, you said, "I think the main thing I’d like my readers to take away is that it’s okay to be who you are." What are your hopes for middle grade readers who might not know who they are yet? 

My biggest hope is that they would know that’s okay! Most of us don’t know who we are; and who we are one day could be different than who we become the next day. I firmly believe life is a journey, and we are always changing and growing. Middle school is a tender and tough time, an in-between time, when there is so much to learn. Wherever you’re at now, you’re okay. And you will be okay.

Wise words! THE WONDROUS WORLD OF VIOLET BARNABY is the second part of the Izzy Malone series. I love how Violet talks about her relationship with words at the beginning. What other ways were you able to get to know Violet as you wrote her?  

In this book Violet has to come to terms with her new blended family, while still grieving the loss of her mother to cancer a year and a half ago. I wanted to make sure I honored Violet’s character—and anyone who has lost a parent—by trying to portray what it feels like when a tween/teen loses his/her parent as accurately as possible. To that end I read books about the grief process and let that influence me as I wrote Violet’s character. I also get to know my characters by writing journal entries in their “voice” and occasionally interviewing them.

Interviewing characters sounds like a great strategy. What books do you hope to see less of and why?

None! Less books are never the answer! I want more books. Bring me all the books! One of my favorite things to do as an author is visit elementary school classrooms and encourage the students to consider writing a book. The world is always in need of more stories. Who knows how many masterpieces don’t exist because their author decided they “didn’t have what it takes” to become a professional writer?

An excellent point--and one I needed to hear. What are some of your current projects? 

Right now I am in the process of writing the first draft of The Carnival of Wishes and Dreams, which is a book about three eighth grade girls in a struggling factory town who each receive a note to meet the anonymous sender at the Ferris wheel at midnight on the night of the carnival. It’s got sort of a Night Circus/Ray Bradbury tone to it and it has been so fun to write. It is also due in three weeks, so I am currently stress eating my way through October!



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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

NYXIA by Scott Reintgen

I first saw Scott Reintgen at a panel that discussed worldbuilding, and I really liked what he had to say. His new book NYXIA is excellent too. Have a look:

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

According to your website bio, you have a teaching background, explicated through the following quote: "He strongly believes that every student who steps into his classroom has the right to see themselves, vibrant and victorious and on the page." How does this principle translate to both your teaching and your writing?  

I have brilliant, diverse students who the system treats like afterthoughts. In spite of their boundless potential, the system has already taught them to act like side-characters in their own stories by the time they reach high school. That's wrong, and I've tried to teach and write against that mentality from the very beginning. My students are main characters. They can be heroes. They can launch into space and fight dragons and conquer empires. I always want to teach and write that truth as a reminder to them.

A wonderful reminder. In NYXIA, Emmett goes on a voyage to provide enough money for his family. How did Emmett come to you, and in what ways, if any, did he surprise you? 

Emmett's personality is based on several of my students. He's the kind of kid I spent full semesters with, day in and day out, learning from. And Emmett definitely surprised me. I wanted to write him as this cutthroat competitor who was reaching for glory, and willing to do anything to achieve his goals. Emmett refused to be that character. Time and again, I watched him build bridges of connection toward his competitors.

I love when characters blaze their own paths. NYXIA's cover is amazing, and I'm sure you've received many compliments on it. What, in your opinion, are the necessary elements of a book cover?

That's a great question! I think you want a cover that is aesthetically pleasing, captures the core of the book, and offers expectations to the reader. I'd say that this brilliant cover does all three. First, it's a pretty cover, especially when you see it in person. Those raised bubbles splashing out and the reflective design? Just lovely. Second, it's meant to be nyxia (a very important substance in the book) as it transforms shape. I think the cover captures the idea of possibility as we see something new taking form. Finally, it offers expectations. There's some clear science fiction to the cover, but more importantly, I think it's a relatively mysterious image. You kind of get drawn into that central portion of the image and want to know what journey you're about to begin. I definitely think our team at Penguin Random House hit a home run with this.


They definitely did! What are some of your current projects? 

I'm working on a lot of things that I can say very little about. Nyxia is a trilogy, and book two is complete. I'm slowly dipping my toes into book three as well. I've already written the first book of what might be my next YA series. Beyond that, I'm dabbling in some middle grade and adult fantasy as well. I've been quoted saying I have 23 planned projects at the moment and that number still stands.


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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

THE BRIGHTEST FELL, newest in the October Daye series, by Seanan McGuire

I happened upon Seanan McGuire's books when I was looking at a preliminary review of INTO THE DROWNING DEEP, one of her stories written under the name Mira Grant. The newest in McGuire's October Daye series, THE BRIGHTEST FELL, also promises a satisfying literary escape.

For once, everything in October “Toby” Daye’s life seems to be going right. There have been no murders or declarations of war for her to deal with, and apart from the looming specter of her Fetch planning her bachelorette party, she’s had no real problems for days. Maybe things are getting better.

Maybe not.

Because suddenly Toby’s mother, Amandine the Liar, appears on her doorstep and demands that Toby find her missing sister, August. But August has been missing for over a hundred years and there are no leads to follow. And Toby really doesn’t owe her mother any favors.

Then Amandine starts taking hostages, and refusal ceases to be an option.


According to your website, you've been a full-time author since January 15, 2014. In what ways, if any, did you balance your author life with your previous day job, and what are some time management strategies you still employ?

Well, when I was working a full time day job as well as a full time slate of publication commitments, I slept an average of three hours a night, had no social life, regularly broke down crying for no apparent reason, screamed at my friends for even implying that it might be acceptable to take a break, considered suicide daily, and eventually had a nervous breakdown culminating in my spending three weeks on the couch watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and dozing.

I don't do those things anymore.

As for time management strategies, I have a daily to-do list, and I try to finish everything on it before I go downstairs to play Overwatch.

Sounds like a nice way to unwind--and I'm glad you've found some balance! In THE BRIGHTEST FELL, the newest in the October Daye series, readers finally get to meet Amandine the Liar. What did you enjoy most about writing Amandine and why?

There's a sort of flawed central conceit to this question, which is the idea that I enjoy characters rather than plots and storylines.  I adored getting the chance to finally tell more of Amandine's story, which has been brewing in the background for a very long time, but writing Amandine herself was no better or worse than writing anyone else.

That makes sense. The second book in the Wayward Children series, DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES, actually takes place before EVERY HEART A DOORWAY. What led to this decision, and in what ways do you feel time influences plot?

In this case, the plan has always been to alternate between "present" stories--the time period that began with "Every Heart a Doorway," and continues forward from there--with "past" stories, showing the actual worlds the various students went to visit.  Each is intended to interrogate the other, and show that all the kids, good or bad or neutral in the present, were heroes in their own way and time.  It's important to the text that we not forget that all of them were once sure.

Indeed. In July, you announced that you will be penning an upcoming Star Wars novel. There's probably not a lot you can say specifically yet, but is there anything that has you most excited about it?

I'm one of the four authors writing a novella for Canto Bight, an awesome look at one of the exciting new settings introduced in The Last Jedi.  I adore working in other people's worlds.  It's freeing and constricting all at the same time, and that's just delightful.

Sounds exciting! You also write horror novels under the name Mira Grant. INTO THE DROWNING DEEP comes out this November--is there anything you can tell us about it yet?

Mermaids!  So many mermaids.  I'm hoping to do for Ariel what Alien did for domestic xenomorphs.

THE BRIGHTEST FELL

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INTO THE DROWNING DEEP

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More books by Seanan McGuire:



Discount Armageddon Midnight Blue-Light Special Half-Off Ragnarok Pocket Apocalypse Chaos Choreography Magic for Nothing Tricks for Free
(7 books)
by


Indexing Reflections
(2 books)
by



More books by Mira Grant:

Feed Deadline Blackout Feedback
(4 books)
by


Parasite Symbiont Chimera
(3 books)
by

(images and links ©2017 Goodreads Inc)

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

GRANDMA'S TINY HOUSE by JaNay Brown-Wood

I've been a fan of JaNay Brown-Wood ever since her book IMANI'S MOON debuted to critical acclaim. Her newest book, GRANDMA'S TINY HOUSE, is a beautifully illustrated story that engages little ones with counting!

This sweet, rhyming counting book introduces young readers to numbers one through fifteen as Grandma's family and friends fill her tiny house on Brown Street. Neighbors, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandkids crowd into the house and pile it high with treats for a family feast.

But when the walls begin to bulge and no-body has space enough to eat, one clever grandchild knows exactly what to do.

Where there's a will there's a way when families grow and come together.


According to your website bio, as a child you wrote and illustrated your first series of unpublished picture books for fun called Taylor the Tyrannosaurus Rex. How did Taylor come to you?

My little sister’s name is Taylor and she was the inspiration for the character in that book. That “series” (I wrote 3) included themes that many children could relate to like moving to a new place, losing a tooth, and finding the perfect costume. But really, those books were a fun way for me to be creative. If I remember correctly, the first one was written for an assignment in 6th grade, and then the second one was an assignment in 7th grade. The third on I wrote for fun.

Wonderful! GRANDMA'S TINY HOUSE has such a beautifully woven narrative. Was it always a counting story, and in what ways did it develop as you wrote it?

Yes, it was always a counting story and it was always about my family. One of the big ways it changed, though, was including conflict, which as we know is an important piece of a narrative. Initially, it was just about the counting, but then after receiving some feedback, I was able to revise it with more conflict added in.

And I love how the story resolves that conflict too. IMANI'S MOON explores reaching the seemingly impossible. What is a goal you've attained that you once thought was impossible and why?

I am a person who sets many lofty goals and works really hard to reach them. One of those goals includes getting books published. As you know, publication is no easy feat and it takes a lot of hard work and determination. But, despite all the no’s you might receive, it is important to keep at it. Other goals I’ve attained include becoming a tenured professor and getting accepted into a doctorate program in education. And really, I have many, many more goals set that I am striving to achieve. I am really a believer that you only have one life, so why not make it as rich and full as possible, and why not make yourself the best you can be. One of the ways I do this is by continuing to push myself forward and constantly trying to grow, improve, and accomplish. I’m striving for self-actualization!

A good goal for us all! What are some of your current projects?

I always have ideas swimming around in my head. As of right now, I have several manuscripts being sent out (fingers crossed). I am also working on a middle grade which has also been a goal of mine (there I go again with goals). I am hoping to expand my publications beyond just poetry and picture books to include longer works as well.


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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING by Alexandra Bracken

I first saw Alexandra Bracken's book PASSENGER as an ARC, and I immediately fell in love with her intricate world-building and compelling characters. Her newest book, THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING, is a middle grade novel that came out on September 5. Have a look:

"I would say it's a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly, I only anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness."

Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history — that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper's great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn't exactly the forgiving type.

The fiend has reawakened with one purpose — to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his future without a side of eternal servitude, thanks.

Little does Prosper know, the malefactor's control over his body grows stronger with each passing night, and there's a lot Alastor isn't telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host.

The Passenger series:

Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.



Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.


According to your website bio, Star Wars offered a significant spark of imagination for you growing up. What about the story resonates most with you?

My dad was a collector of Star Wars memorabilia from the time I was in first grade until he passed away in 2012, so I spent so much of my childhood and teenage years going to conventions, reading all of the tie-in novels, and rewatching all of the movies. It was, shall we say, a not-so-casual obsession--I made sure to memorize all of the answers to Star Wars Trivial Pursuit so no one would ever be able to beat me. So I think, in many ways, I ended up absorbing an understanding about storytelling, specifically how the traditional Hero's Journey is framed and how archetypes play into it, just by being constantly surrounded by that universe.

What I've always loved best about Star Wars is its cast of characters. The films taught me from a young age that audiences and readers will follow a story anywhere if they love the characters--something I keep in mind while working on my own stories. If a character's motivations aren't strong enough, or if they're not interesting enough, it can sink a whole story. Luke's journey in particular is deeply moving to me because it's such a big arc, and I'm so curious about where they're going to take him next. I framed the narrative of my A New Hope retelling, The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy, to be split between Han, Luke, and Leia's point of views so I could dig in deep to who they are as people and really explore their motivations, their hopes, and their fears.

Those are the kinds of invisible internal forces that really drive a story forward--and add extra meaning to what happens. In addition, THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING explores inner demons and sadness. What, in your opinion, is the key to happiness, and why?

One of the really interesting things about writing is that you sometimes don't actually understand what your story is about until you have a finished draft of it. That was very much the case with this book--I set out to write the kind of darkly humorous book I would have loved at Prosper's age, only to realize that its emotional core is largely centered on the doubts and fears that inwardly plague us. Alastor is that ugly voice inside of our head telling us that we can't do it, that we're stupid for wanting, that something is never going to happen, that we're not good enough--times, like, a hundred.

I'm not sure there's any one key to happiness, but I've definitely figured out a few things over the last few years. For me, the key to happiness has been finding ways to express love. It's telling others how much you appreciate them, it's taking a moment to stop and be grateful for the things you have, it's taking care of another person who needs help, it's finding a hobby to sink your enthusiastic energy into and enjoy, and so on.

Excellent advice. I love the premise of both PASSENGER and WAYFARER, and you have a real talent with voice. Do characters come to you fully fleshed or do they develop as you write them? Or both? 

Thank you so much! I usually can't start a story until I have a good grasp of the main characters. I tend to hear their voices in my head before I develop a sense of what they look like, actually. Passenger and Wayfarer were a challenge for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I had to find ways to differentiate the two close third person narrative voices. Etta is a modern teen, so her chapters tend to be a lot more relaxed in terms of language. Nicholas, however, is a young man of the 18th century. He has a more formal way of expressing himself verbally and in his own thoughts. If I used an anachronistic word or expression in his section (and believe me, I was constantly checking the Oxford English Dictionary to see if words were in use in the 18th century,or if their meaning had changed since his time period), it was 1) because I thought the meaning wouldn't be clear to the reader otherwise or 2) I thought he could figure out the meaning based on context, or had encountered it in his time travel.

I'm working on a new project right now and developing out the characters--really getting to know them inside and out. It's crucial that I take the time to do this before I sit down to start writing, because it also helps me locate the emotional center of the book. Sometimes I get really lucky and the characters come fully formed in one big rush (which happened with The Darkest Minds), but, most of the time, I have to sit down with a notebook and suss out their motivations and backstories. They do sometimes surprise me while I'm in the middle of drafting, though!

I'll bet they do! And that's great advice for character development.  THE DARKEST MINDS also explores the strains between ability and control. What do you hope readers can gain from Ruby's story? 

I really wanted Ruby to have a big arc over the course of the trilogy. Despite her incredible ability, she starts in a position of powerlessness because she doesn't know how to control said ability and is essentially a prisoner, both in the world and inside of her own mind. When it comes down to it, she's deeply traumatized and afraid, and, realistically, suffers setbacks in her confidence and slips in her moral code along the way. But her story is one of her first accepting herself, then learning how to master the potential of her innate power, and, finally, harnessing it to change the world around her--something that we can all do, even if we don't have powers of the mind.

A great reminder for us all. What are some of your current projects?

I just finished the first draft of The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding's sequel (hooray!) and am waiting on those edits. I just wrote three not-so-short stories set in the world of The Darkest Minds for the new special editions we're releasing in January, too! But my main focus over the next few months is a new YA that I sadly cannot tell you anything about yet!

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding: 



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Passenger series: 


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The Darkest Minds: 


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Thursday, September 14, 2017

TREASURED BY A TIGER Book Tour







Felicity Heaton

Despised by his tiger shifter pride as an abomination, Grey has ventured far from home, deep into the bowels of Hell in search of answers about the machinations of Archangel, the mortal hunter organisation who held his twin captive. With no knowledge of the realm, and little skill with the local languages, he quickly finds himself at a dead end—until he crosses paths with a beautiful hellcat female who rouses his darkest most dangerous instincts.

Lyra has been a fool, falling for the charms of a male whose only desire was to make a fast buck by selling her. Shackled and collared, her strength muted by magic, she awaits her time on the stage at a black-market auction, but before it can come, all hell breaks loose and she seizes a chance to escape—and runs straight into a majestic warrior who steals her breath away and tempts her like no other as he battles alone to free everyone.

When Lyra offers her services as a translator to repay Grey for saving her, will he be strong enough to resist the needs she awakens in him and spare himself the pain of her inevitable rejection when she discovers the truth about him? And when the powerful male in charge of the slave ring starts a bloody hunt for Lyra, can she escape another collar and find the courage to trust the tiger who is capturing her heart?









Enter the grand tour-wide giveaway to win a $25, $50 or $75 Amazon Gift Card at the Treasured by a Tiger book page. This giveaway is international and open to everyone, and ends at midnight on September 24th.
Enter now: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/treasured-by-a-tiger-shapeshifter-romance-book.php






It was almost her turn on the stage.
Sickness brewed in Lyra’s stomach and her legs trembled beneath her weight, but she refused to let fear overcome her. She tugged at the heavy metal collar around her neck, rattling the chain attached to it, and cursed. Her heart thundered at a dizzying pace that made it difficult to breathe.
Gods.
She needed to get away.
It was pointless though. There was a huge gulf between what she needed and what she knew was going to happen. She needed to be realistic, and not allow her fear to consume her. She had to keep her head.
Even if she did manage to get the collar off, and the shackles that bound her wrists, she wouldn’t be free. She would still be locked in a cage built of the strongest metal in Hell.
Lyra paced the small space, struggling to breathe through the panic as it started to sink its claws into her heart and her mind, conjuring vile images of her future, visions that tore at her strength, making it easier for the fear to take hold.
To strip away her control.
She sucked down another trembling breath.
She needed to be strong.
It was hard when she was falling apart inside.
The number of eyes on her grew, pushing at her fragile restraint, making her want to lash out at the other captives as they watched her.
She hated the sense of expectation that laced the warm air and pressed down on her.
These people expected her to be strong. Fearless.
She might be a hellcat, one of the most powerful and vicious of the shifter species that called Hell their home, but she still had a heart.
She still experienced fear.
The thought of what was about to happen to her was terrifying.
She clawed at her cuffs and her collar, her throat growing tight and her strength wavering for a heartbeat before she snatched hold of it and clung to it again, not letting it bleed from her.
She cursed the collar.
The magic in it sapped her strength, making it impossible for her to break free of her bonds, the drain it caused far stronger and more devastating than the one she felt from the shackles around her wrists. Those were just the back-up plan, a last resort in case she broke her collar somehow. They would inhibit her enough that she wouldn’t be able to break them open, but they wouldn’t stop her from snapping the chain and gaining enough freedom to sink fangs and claws into every male present.
Everyone responsible for what had happened to her.
She tugged at the ring of cold steel around her neck and growled.
Damn collar.
She let her left hand hang from it, her fingers looped over the top of the ring, and fought for the strength to push back against the feelings welling up inside her, the despair that would allow weakness to invade her heart and her body.
It would break her.
She closed her eyes and cursed again.
Aiming it at herself this time.
Gods, if she hadn’t been such a fool, none of this would have happened to her. She would be home, living the life she loved. Her need to track down others of her species had been a moment of weakness, brought on by loneliness, and she should have weathered it as she had every other time it had swept over her. She should have stayed far away from Hell.
Hindsight was a bitch.
She had longed for company, and now she longed for the solitary life she had left behind.
Her moment of weakness had only proven that she was better off alone.
Lesson learned.
Never trust another hellcat.
Lyra tugged at the collar, her strength flowing from her again, despair swift to roll in to take its place, eating away at her.
A collar a male hellcat had placed on her.
She shouldn’t have trusted him. Her mother would roll in her grave if she could see her now. Her aunt would roll right along with her. They had raised her better than that. She had been such an idiot, believing herself stronger than both of them, thinking that what had happened to them wouldn’t happen to her because she was more intelligent, had learned from their history and seeing the scars that ringed their necks every day of her life.
She had been a damned fool.
All males of her kind were the same.
They wanted to collar any female they met, using it to force them to become their ‘mate’. It was the reason most females of her species despised their male counterparts and had long ago decided to do without them, to find their fated ones instead of allowing a male to collar them.
So, the males of her species had grown vicious, driven to dominate the females in response to the rejection, determined to claim what they viewed as rightfully theirs.
She opened her eyes and looked towards the glow that filled the air in the distance to her left, where the stage had been set up and a low hum of chatter drove back the silence of Hell.
Was there a male of her kind in the audience, waiting to bid on her?
Eager to have her at his mercy?
Was she about to face the same dark fate as her mother and aunt had?
She shuddered at the thought of any male having that sort of power over her.
Owning her.
“You.” The deep voice sent a tremor through her and she whipped her head around and bared her fangs at the huge bare-chested male.
The demon smirked at her, his broken pale horns flaring a little from behind his ears, pushing through his shaggy mane of sandy hair. He always got off on her threatening him. The sick bastard enjoyed taunting her.
The dark-haired demon next to him just stalked forwards, keys jangling in his hands as he searched for the one that would unlock her cage.
Her heart kicked into overdrive again, pulse slamming hard.
She backed away.
Her bottom hit the back of the cage, the metal bars cold against her bare flesh, and she bared her fangs again, hissed through them at the two males, warning them away.
The brunet demon ignored her and unlocked her cage.
The blond flicked his wrist, extending the baton he held. “Be nice now.”
He grinned at her, revealing short fangs, a glimmer of arousal in his pale eyes. He wanted her to do the opposite to his words. He wanted her to fight him.
Gods, she wanted it too, but she wasn’t about to give the bastard the satisfaction of fighting with her.
A loud roar sent silence sweeping across the black lands.
And a shiver down her spine.
It wasn’t one of her kind.
But there was such anger in that roar, such strength and power, and it lit a fuse inside her.
She exploded from the cage, launching at the two males, everything she had held bottled up inside her blasting through her, driving her into a rage.
She was on the brunet demon before he was even aware she had moved, her bare body slamming into his. Her left foot skidded on the loose dirt as she drove forwards, putting all her remaining strength into shoving him backwards and off balance.
As she landed on his chest, the captives in the cages around her began shouting, some of them calling to her to free them while others screamed for the guards, their fear of being punished because of something she had done driving them to alert the bastards who held them in chains in the hope they would avoid a beating.
Lyra sank her claws into the demon’s shoulders and struck hard with her fangs, lodging them deep in the side of his throat. He roared and bucked up, but she held on, refusing to release him as he tried to shake her off him. She snarled, a red rage pouring through her, controlling her actions.
She didn’t feel it when the sandy-haired demon struck her across the back with his baton. She didn’t feel it when he sank his own claws into her arm and pulled. Didn’t feel it when the male beneath her managed to shove his fist hard into her stomach.
She felt only the high of battle, the roar of victory in her ears, and the sheer elation that came with the taste of blood on her tongue.
The pale-horned demon finally managed to yank her off his colleague.
To his detriment.
Her fangs ripped through the side of his neck, gouging a deep hole in his flesh. Blood spurted across the black ground, and the male fumbled, desperately seeking the strength to cover the wound. The blond tossed her through the air and she shrieked as she hit the cage, the top bar of it slamming hard into her lower back, sending pain ricocheting through her.
By the time she had hit the ground, the dark-haired demon was still, his eyes staring blankly into the dark beyond.
The blond turned towards her, a growl on his lips.
Lyra roared and sprang at him, hitting him square in the chest with all of her weight. He didn’t fall. He grabbed her right arm and spun with her, flung her across the clearing and into the side of another cage. The occupant screamed and shoved at her, pushing her away.
She scowled at the female and spat blood on the floor.
Foolish bitch.
There was no currying favour with their captors now.
Not if the unholy cacophony she could hear coming from the direction of the stage was anything to go by.
Someone was ripping through the crowd, and most likely their captors. Someone who wanted blood on their hands as badly as she did.
She hunkered down and growled low, and the demon backed off as blue flames flickered over her hands.
The need to shift was strong, driving her to obey it, but she couldn’t, not with the collar on.
The male knew it. She saw it the moment he remembered, saw all that fear that had been building in his eyes drain right back out of them again as he cockily smiled at her.
Lyra wiped that smile right off his face.
In a lightning fast move, she closed the gap between her and the dead demon, and snatched the baton from his belt. She flicked her right hand out, extending the weapon, and roared as she swept it up in a fast, hard arc aimed at the blond’s head.
He growled and dodged backwards, her baton cutting harmlessly through the air a few inches in front of his face.
She strafed left when he swung at her with his own baton, coming close to striking her with it, and threw herself into a roll when he struck again, diving beneath his blow. She came to her feet behind him in a crouch and sprang forwards, leaping high into the air. He turned, a frown on his face as he looked at the ground where she had been.
Lyra grinned as she came down on the bastard’s head.
She brought the baton down, a sliver of satisfaction rolling through her when it struck hard enough to crack his skull, and he grunted and dropped to his knees. She kicked off him and pirouetted, coming back around to face him.
He shook his head, his eyes widened as he spotted her baton coming at him again, and he swiftly brought his arm up to shield his face. Another satisfying crack sounded as she connected with his wrist.
How many times had he beaten her with his baton?
How many times had he smiled as he did it, taking satisfaction from hurting her?
Gods, that left her cold. She was no better than he was.
It didn’t stop her though. She could hate herself later, when she was free, and this male was dead.
She pressed her left hand against the tip of the baton and drove forwards, into the male’s arm, shoving him sideways. He lashed out at her again, his baton striking her thigh and then her knee. Heat swept through her, numb at first but then fiery hot, blazing along her bones.
“Fucker,” she snarled and grabbed his baton before he could strike her with it again.
She wrestled with him as he tried to twist it free of her grip, his face contorting into vicious lines as he growled at her, flashing his fangs. His busted horns curled further, a flare of aggression, and his eyes brightened, glowing gold around his pupils.
He yanked his arm backwards, and she went forwards with it, refusing to release his weapon. She slammed into him, her bare breasts pressing against his chest, and pulled her arm back, trying to get the damned baton off him. She was going to kill him with the fucking thing. It would be a fitting end for him. Dying by his own weapon.
She was so focused on getting the baton off him that she didn’t notice his other fist coming at her face until it was too late. Pain splintered across her nose and blood poured from it, hot as it ran over her lips. She growled, grabbed his arm and twisted it hard.
He roared as the bone snapped.
Lyra grabbed her baton with both hands, shoved it against the front of his throat and pressed forwards, driving him down into the dirt. She settled all her weight on his chest, her knees pinning his shoulders, and pushed downwards on the baton. His eyes grew wild as he struggled beneath her, kicking his legs and growling.
His baton smacked her hard in the side.
She snarled, grabbed it and twisted it free of his grip.
And brought it down hard.






Book 1: Kissed by a Dark Prince (FREE AT SELECTED RETAILERS)
Book 2: Claimed by a Demon King
Book 3: Tempted by a Rogue Prince
Book 4: Hunted by a Jaguar
Book 5: Craved by an Alpha
Book 6: Bitten by a Hellcat
Book 7: Taken by a Dragon
Book 8: Marked by an Assassin
Book 9: Possessed by a Dark Warrior
Book 10: Awakened by a Demoness
Book 11: Haunted by the King of Death
Book 12: Turned by a Tiger
Book 13: Tamed by a Tiger
Book 14: Treasured by a Tiger




Felicity Heaton is a New York Times and USA Today international best-selling author writing passionate paranormal romance books. In her books, she creates detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons! If you’re a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will enjoy her books too.
If you love your angels a little dark and wicked, the best-selling Her Angel series is for you. If you like strong, powerful, and dark vampires then try the Vampires Realm series or any of her stand-alone vampire romance books. If you’re looking for vampire romances that are sinful, passionate and erotic then try the best-selling Vampire Erotic Theatre series. Or if you prefer huge detailed worlds filled with hot-blooded alpha males in every species, from elves to demons to dragons to shifters and angels, then take a look at the new Eternal Mates series.
If you want to know more about Felicity, or want to get in touch, you can find her at the following places: