Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Release Blitz: CURSE by Steven James—Excerpt + Giveaway

PRESENTED BY XPRESSO BOOK TOURS
..........................................................................................................................................................


Curse
by Steven James

Don’t miss this intriguing and climactic conclusion to the Blur Trilogy.

As Daniel Byers prepares to attend a basketball camp before his senior year of high school, the terrifying blurs that’ve plagued him for the last nine months return.

Dark images begin to haunt him—creatures crawling from the deepest pits of his nightmares, glimmers of chilling memories from his early childhood. But before he can unearth the meaning behind his mysterious hallucinations, Daniel must team up with two other extraordinary teens to save a young woman who has been abducted by a scientist obsessed with enacting his own warped form of justice.

This atmospheric mystery picks up where Fury left off and takes readers into the uncharted regions where reality and madness intertwine.

* * *
Age Group/Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
 Skyscape: Skyscape
Purchase: Amazon • B&N • IndieBound

..........................................................................................................................................................



Dr. Waxford wound his way along the road, climbing higher into the Great Smoky Mountains.
He and his team had made great strides in the last couple of years, but the loss of the research facility in northern Wisconsin last December had slowed things down—that is, until they located this old hotel here in this remote part of eastern Tennessee.
Actually, the site was ideal. It was isolated and lay at the end of a one-lane road that had hardly been used in years.
Back in the 1950s when a new highway was built that wrapped around the other side of the mountain, it took the tourists and other businesses with it. The hotel owners went bankrupt and the property went into foreclosure.
Rumored to be haunted, the Estoria Inn had sat empty for decades and was being reclaimed by the forest when Adrian and his team started renovations. Most people, even those in the nearby towns, had forgotten that this place even existed.
And none of them knew what kind of research was happening there now.
Which was probably a good thing.
Fortuitously, the Estoria was also less than an hour drive for the hypnotherapist Adrian sometimes brought up to implant suggestions in the minds of his subjects after they’d been put into a deep trance.
When you pay a hypnotist enough, you can get him to implant any suggestions that you want.
Despair.
Depression.
Loneliness.
They can all be the tools you use in the service of the
greater good.
•••
We’re on our phones searching Internet news sites for recent obituaries when the X-ray results come back.
No broken bones.
The ankle is only sprained. The shoulder will recover. It won’t be ideal for the basketball camp, but at least it’s not my shooting arm.
The doctor gives me a sling to keep the shoulder in place, then explains what I already know: It’s going to be very sore for a while and I’ll run the risk of it coming out of its socket again unless I’m careful. “You’ll need to keep your arm in that sling for the next four to six weeks.”
“Okay. Thanks,” I say, but I know that’s not going to happen.
This camp is a huge deal and missing it isn’t an option. At least a dozen Division I coaches will be there recruiting players and it’s my best chance to get the attention I need for a scholarship offer.
Although I’ve had some interest from a few Big Ten football coaches, honestly, I’d rather play college basket- ball. Way fewer injuries. Less time lifting and more time actually playing. Besides, I don’t really have the size for col- lege football—not to mention my mom worrying about me less, which is a bonus.
While the doctor calls Dad to bring him up to speed and also get permission to give me some pain medication, I touch base with Mom to make sure she knows I’m alright. I decide that it’ll be best to explain about the blur in person, so I don’t bring it up.
Finally, the doctor hands me the meds, along with a prescription.
On their way to see me at the hospital, Kyle had picked up Nicole from her place, so now we swing by to get my car from the road out by the lake where I left it earlier.
Somehow, the logging company has managed to get the logs far enough to one side to allow cars to get past.
Being here brings everything back again and I can’t tell if it’s just my imagination, but my shoulder seems to throb more as I remember what it was like to get hit by that truck.
My attention shifting from one thing to the next.
That slipstream again.
All those unnoticed slivers of reality curling right past me.
But now, the ones branded with pain are coming to the forefront.
I ride with Nicole, who drives my car so I can rest my shoulder. Kyle follows us back to my house in his vintage Mustang. Even though it’s late, we search online again for a little
while, but we still can’t find anything about kids who’ve recently died—at least not any that match the age of the boy in the road.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s still alive.
He might not have died recently. After all, the girl I saw burn up in my blur back in December had actually died in the 1930s.
As it turned out, I’d learned about her story and seen her picture years ago when I was nine. Then, just before Christmas, my mind threaded some clues together and showed me what it might have looked like when the lantern she was standing next to caught fire to her nightgown and ended up taking her life.
I’d forgotten all about her.
When the memory came back, it brought a flood of other grisly images with it because the day I first saw her photo I’d been present when a killer struck, but I’d blocked it out.
They say trauma can do that, that it can rip the fabric between your conscious and your subconscious mind.
My problem is that the rip keeps getting bigger.
My friends get word from their parents that they need to take off and I tell them goodnight.
“See you tomorrow?” Nicole says.
“Yeah.” I give her a quick kiss.
“Kiss me and I’ll dislocate your other shoulder,” Kyle tells me. Then he taps a finger thoughtfully against the air. “But at least then you wouldn’t notice the first one so much. So there is that.”
“Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Okay, so before I go, I’ve got one for you.”
“You’ve got one?”
“A riddle: I’m twice as old as I used to be when I was half as young as I am now. How old am I?”
For months he’s been trying to trick me with math or logic problems. Doesn’t always work out so well.
“That one’s easy. It would be whatever age you are, so you’re the same as me. Seventeen.”
“Yes. And I’m seriously glad you’re still seventeen and not dead.” “Yeah.”
“It would have totally ruined my night.” “Mine too.”
“Text me.”
“I will.”
A little while after they leave, Dad comes home and checks on me.
“I’m good,” I tell him. “Anything serious with that call?” “Call?”
“The dispatch code. I heard it at the hospital. Was it a suicide?”
“Scarlett Cordova accidentally overdosed on some over the counter drugs.”
Scarlett is a year behind me at school. “Is she alright?” “She will be. Gave everyone a scare, though.”
“How do they know?”
He looks at me curiously. “How do they know what?” “You said she accidentally OD’ed. How do they know it was an accident?”
“There were three other kids there with her when it happened. It was during some kind of drinking game. Her parents were gone. Good thing she’s alright. Lucky girl.”
“There’s a lot of that going around tonight.” “A lot of what?”
“Luck.”
“I guess maybe there is.”
After telling me one more time how thankful he is that I’m okay, he heads to his room and I climb into bed, hoping that even with the aching shoulder I’ll be able to get some rest.
Instead, I find myself caught up thinking about who that boy might have been and what the blur might mean.
He’d reached out to me, just like the girls in my earlier blurs had done.
It’d been too late to save them.

Maybe if we were lucky one more time, it wouldn’t be too late to save him.


..........................................................................................................................................................





Best known for his high-octane thrillers, Steven James is the award-winning author of eleven suspense novels. The Blur Trilogy is his first mystery series for teens. Steven has taught creative writing around the world and loves rock climbing, science fiction movies, and chicken fajitas. Find him at www.stevenjames.net.


..........................................................................................................................................................

Continue on for the giveaway! ~

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Release Blitz: SHINING SEA by Mimi Cross—Excerpt + Giveaway

PRESENTED BY XPRESSO BOOK TOURS
..........................................................................................................................................................


Shining Sea
by Mimi Cross

Seventeen-year-old Arion Rush has always played the obedient sidekick to her older sister’s flashy femme fatale—until a mysterious boating accident leaves Lilah a silent, traumatized stranger. As her sister awaits medical treatment with their mother, Arion and their father head to his hometown in Maine to prepare a new life for them all. Surrounded by the vast Atlantic, songwriting is Arion’s only solace, her solid ground.

Unexpectedly, Arion blossoms in the tiny coastal town. Friends flock to her, and Logan Delaine, a volatile heartthrob, seems downright smitten. But it’s Bo Summers—a solitary surfer, as alluring as he is aloof—that Arion can’t shake. Meanwhile, Lilah’s worsening condition, a string of local fatalities, and Arion’s own recent brushes with death seem ominously linked…to Bo’s otherworldly family. As Arion’s feelings for Bo intensify and his affections turn possessive, she must make a choice. How will Arion learn to listen to her own voice when Bo’s siren song won’t stop ringing in her ears?

* * *
Age Group/Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
 Publisher: Skyscape
Purchase: Amazon • B&N • IndieBound

..........................................................................................................................................................



(CHAPTER ONE)

GOODBYE


Tuneless humming is coming from the bedroom next to mine. I’ve always been the better singer, no secret. Even before I could talk, I sang. To me, singing feels like . . .  flying.
As a little kid I sang in the church choir, later on in the choruses at school, and about six months ago I started writing songs—not that I’d call myself a songwriter yet. My first gig was last week, down in the Mission District. Standing on the spotlit stage of the black box perfor- mance space, I played one long set—twelve tunes total—while hipsters watched with crossed arms.
Performing in front of an audience is a good way to tell if your songs are finished.
Or not.
The song I’m trying to capture now definitely falls into the not
category.
I give the guitar a soft strum—a ghost of a chord slips out. Playing the haunting notes a little louder, I listen for the melody. It’ll come, eventually, but we’re leaving any minute.
Not just leaving . . . moving.
“Do you know,” I whisper sing, “where lost things go?”



In the next room Lilah falls silent. The lyrics tangle in my throat.
My fingers fumble, then jerk—playing a rhythmic pattern atop a single minor chord: one and two, one and two. Words tumble out of me. “Saint Anthony, can you come around? There’s something lost, and it
can’t be found.”
Saint Anthony—is he the one?
A quick Google search on the laptop perched at the end of my bed tells me he is. Saint Anthony is invoked as the finder of lost things. Pulling my guitar closer, I play the line over and over.
“Arion? You up there?”
Dad. After shoving the laptop into my backpack, I shut the guitar in its case and head into the hall. Hands full, I stand in my sister’s doorway.
She doesn’t see me.
Even as thin as she is, even with the ever-present dark shadows beneath her eyes, Lilah is beautiful. Her features are regular and in proportion. Mine . . . are slightly exaggerated. Nose longer, lips fuller. Now, without music to distract me, the tears I’d vowed not to cry fill my eyes. Brown eyes. On a good day, they’re hazel. Maybe.
There’s no mistaking the color of my sister’s eyes. Bright blue. Her hair is black and shiny, cut straight across her forehead and blunt at her shoulders in a way that has always made me think of Cleopatra, but especially since the accident, when she became a mystery to me. Lilah no longer tells me her every thought. She can’t.
My sister blinks her bellflower eyes now, and for a split second— seems to focus on me.
But the illusion vanishes just as quickly. I swallow around the lump in my throat, wondering for the millionth time if she has any idea what’s going on.
Her bed is up against the window. In the distance—over a nearly invisible San Francisco Bay—the Golden Gate Bridge hovers in fog. Sitting down beside her on the bed, I lay a hand on one of her legs—feel



bones, atrophied muscles. A raw feeling spreads through me, like a dull blade is scraping the underside of my skin.
“So . . . guess it’s time for goodbye.” I take a deep breath in, let    it out slowly—which doesn’t help at all. “I’ll see you in Rock Hook Harbor. Dad’s one-horse hometown . . . Sounds happening, huh?” My attempt at lightheartedness fails completely. The words drop like bricks.
Leaning in, I kiss her cheek.
She turns away, as if looking toward the ghostly water. Or, is she looking at the water? Or just staring blankly?
I so want it to be the former. The doctors say it’s the latter.
In my chest, a hairline fissure I’ve fused together with lyrics and chords pops open.
“I love you,” I choke out.
She doesn’t answer. Of course she doesn’t.
Biting down hard on my lip, I stand up, trying not to feel like I’m leaving my best friend stranded. But I am. She is. Stranded. She’s been stranded, for a year.
Swiping at my eyes, I take a few steps down the hall—then turn suddenly into my parents’ room, which is mostly Mom’s room now. Dad spends the nights he’s here on the living room couch, where, after dinner—usually something complicated he’s cooked up involving lots of pots and pans—he falls asleep with the TV on. Blue screen to white noise; maybe the sound helps him. Music works better for me. Or, it used to. I used to lie in bed at night and sing. Lately, all I want to do is sleep.
Like the rest of the house, my parents’ bedroom is crowded with canvases. Filled with slashes of color and geometric shapes, each paint- ing has the name “Cici” scrawled in large letters down in the right-hand corner. Mom’s pictures pulse with unfamiliar energy, and my nostrils flare at the scent of paint fumes as I move a half-finished piece—an abstract portrait of a girl, I think—that’s leaning up against the glass door. Slipping out onto the balcony, I clutch the cold railing and    eye



a moldering stack of Psychology Today magazines. Therapy is Mom’s religion.
A pair of paint-splattered jeans hangs off a chair. A handful of paintbrushes soak in a bucket. There’s no sign of Dad.
My parents are like a couple of unmoored boats. Drifting. One of the few things they agreed on this past year? The accident was Dad’s fault. A pretty stupid conclusion, really, considering he hadn’t even been on the boat. But he’s a ship’s captain. Lilah and I inherited our love of the water from him.
Water. I hate it now. Because of the water, I’m on this balcony almost every day, drawn out here as if for a long-standing appointment, some prearranged meeting between me and my broken heart. I cry here; sometimes I yell. Sometimes I write, and one day, I nearly threw my guitar over the railing.
Splintered wood, snapped strings, I’m interested in broken things. The circling song lyrics fade at the sound of Mom’s strained voice. “Arion, have you finished saying goodbye to Delilah? Your   dad’s
ready to go.”
I stay another second, then scoop up a stray guitar pick from the terracotta tiles and head inside, not paying any attention to the paint- ings now, just intent on leaving before I get any more upset.
But then I’m passing Lilah’s room—and I see it.
The slim black notebook I’ve searched for probably a hundred times over the past year.
Oh, I’ve seen the palm-size Moleskine with its curled cover, seen it clutched in Lilah’s fist, watched as she whisked the small black book beneath her quilt, or shoved it between her sheets. I just haven’t been able to get my hands on it, and I’ve wanted to, desperately.
So many times I’ve seen her slip the notebook between the over- size pages of the art books that Mom insists on bringing home from the library. She’ll hug the book close then—her treasure safe inside— but she’ll never actually look at the glossy pages. Not like she looks at



that notebook. She looks at that black book like it’s the only thing she recognizes.
It’s definitely some kind of diary. Not that I ever see her writing in it, not since before. But she’s always got it on her.
Only, she doesn’t have it on her now.
Now, there it is, on the floor next to her bed. And Lilah, there she is, still looking but not looking out the window. Transfixed, it would seem, by the gray bay. As I watch, she lifts one hand, bringing her fingertips to the glass—as if there’s something out there she wants to touch.
It’s kind of amazing how I do it, how I steal her most precious pos- session without breaking my stride. How I silently sweep into the room and, bending low, snatch it up—then keep on walking like nothing’s happened. Like I’m ten-year-old Lilah herself, that time at the rock and gem shop down near the beach, trying on one sterling silver ring, then another. I’ll never forget it, how she smiled at the shopkeeper—maybe even said thank you—then practically skipped out the door, still wear- ing at least one of the rings. Once outside, she tossed a half-dozen more rings onto the pebbles that served as the shop’s front yard, so that she could retrieve them that night when the gem shop was closed, so that we could retrieve them.
Eight-year-old me, I’d held the flashlight for her. She’d given me one of the rings as my reward, but only one.
I feel bad taking the book; if I could read it and leave it, I would. But there’s no time. Through the hall window I can see Dad standing down in the driveway by the old green Jeep Cherokee, the car that will be mine once we get to Maine.
So I slide the notebook into the pocket of my backpack where it burns a hole so big I think it will surely fall out—pages fluttering like fiery wings—and slap the floor with a sound so sharp, Lilah will shud- der to life. She’ll spring up and shout at me, her old self at last.
But nothing like this happens.



Leaving Lilah. Taking the notebook. My skin ripples with guilt. But we have to go on ahead. School’s starting in a few weeks, plus Dad’s new job—they won’t hold it any longer.
And really, I have to take the book. I need to know what happened.
Out in the driveway, I crane my neck, trying to see if Lilah’s still  at the window.
“Hold on,” Mom shouts from the house, “I almost forgot!”
Time seems suspended as Dad and I wait by the car, the limbo of the long ride already upon us . . .
Mom reappears holding a square box wrapped in gold paper and a purple ribbon. Balanced on top is a fat cupcake with pink frosting.
“Happy birthday, Arion.” Her flinty blue eyes soften. She hands me the awkward duo and gives me an equally awkward hug. “From both of us.”
Dad smiles, shakes his head. “Seventeen.” He’s always been a man of few words.
“Thanks, Mom. Dad.” Swallowing hard, I climb into the car with the gifts on my lap. Mom pecks Dad on the cheek, and he gets behind the wheel. As we pull away, she blows me a kiss.
Twisting in my seat, I wave—then look up at the second story. No Lilah.
My chest hurts so much—I actually glance down. But there’s noth- ing except a smear of pink icing on my shirt, where I’d leaned into the cupcake.
We’ll fly back close to Thanksgiving, when Lilah is scheduled for the operation that my parents have finally decided is her best bet: a surgical procedure to implant a device in her brain.
It’s not as sci-fi as it sounds. The battery-operated device is kind of like a pacemaker, only for your brain instead of your heart. This kind of surgery is used to treat a variety of disabling neurological symptoms, although I think whoever came up with DBS—deep brain



stimulation—was thinking of people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, not, well, whatever’s wrong with Lilah. Her case is—entirely different. I’m not going to pretend: I’m scared. But the plan is, we’ll all be together in Maine by Christmas, so that’s what I’m trying to focus on. I’ll miss Lilah. Mom too. But I’m glad to be leaving San Francisco.
My life here . . . is on hold—except for my music. The rest is a waiting game.

We’ve all been waiting for Lilah to find what she lost. As if she can look for it.


..........................................................................................................................................................





Mimi Cross was born in Toronto, Canada. She received a master's degree from New York University and a bachelor's degree in music from Ithaca College. She has been a performer, a music educator, and a yoga instructor. During the course of her musical career, she's shared the bill with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Sting. She resides in New Jersey.


..........................................................................................................................................................

Continue on for the giveaway! ~