Book Spotlight: Wish You Weren’t Here

This is a summer for great books!

Today I am very excited to share the newest release in the Steel City Genie series by Janeen Ippolito! I read the first book, If Wishes Were Curses, right around the time my own genie book came out, and it was so good with such a unique set of characters. There are shifters, vampires, genies, and creatures I’d never heard of before! Plus, it’s set in my home state, just out in Pittsburgh instead of the eastern half!

Enough of me, here’s more about the book!

I was done with my Jinn ex-boyfriend—but now I’m the only one who can save his life.

I’m already in enough trouble with my magic going crazy right when I’m opening a storefront for romantic crimes consulting. The last thing I need is interference from Kiran Singh, who failed spectacularly as a boyfriend, and now wants me back with some crappy excuse of helping him track down illegal, dangerous love potions.

Then one of his other exes tries to kill me in a fit of jealous, doped-up rage—and ends up dead herself, with all evidence pointing to Kiran.

My vegetarian vampire mate, Cendric, is convinced Kiran is up to something. But homicide isn’t Kiran’s style, even if he’s starting to show serious psycho-jealousy of his own. Someone else is pulling the strings, and they don’t care how many people die from fake love.

If we can’t track down the real mastermind, my ex is going to disappear.And not in the way I’d wish. 

This one was already on my pre-orders after I finished book one. You won’t want to miss this urban fantasy series…it’s a ride!

Where to get it

This book is available on Amazon, or you can add it to Goodreads.

About the author

Janeen Ippolito writes steampunk fantasy and urban fantasy, and creates writing resources, including the reference book World Building From the Inside Out and the creative writing guide Irresistible World Building For Unforgettable Stories. She’s an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, marketer, and is the leader of Uncommon Universes Press, a small traditional science fiction and fantasy publishing house. She’s also the cohost of the podcast Indie Book Magic. In her spare time, Janeen enjoys sword-fighting, reading, pyrography, and eating brownie batter. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica.

Where to find her: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Email Newsletter

Happy Book Birthday!!!

IT’S RELEASE DAY!!!

Happy book birthday to This Cursed Flame!

This book is finally out in the world and touching people’s lives! It’s been such a long journey, and I am so so thankful for all the people who have contributed along the way. There is a full list of people who have helped me in the acknowledgements section of my book, but I absolutely want to take a minute to thank my husband, family, friends, and all the professionals who have worked with me since the book’s story seed in 2011.

And thank you, readers, so much for taking this journey with me. I hope this book means as much to you as it has to me! And I promise, now we are back to our regular posting schedule (until the next release!).

Don’t forget to jump over to Facebook for the party tonight from 4-7 pm eastern, and put in your entries for the giveaways! I have hand-painted genie bottles, signed paperbacks, and signed bookmarks, all just waiting for a new home. Giveaways will be open until Monday April 29th, and then I will be choosing winners!

And finally, This Cursed Flame is available on Amazon (search This Cursed Flame if the paperback isn’t yet linked) and any other major retailer!

And now, your final excerpt…

Janan and Safiyya appeared in a shadowed corner of a loud, crowded city. Cars sped by with alarming disregard for pedestrians. People rushed about, some intent on the sidewalk ahead of them, some entirely engrossed in their phones. No one seemed to take notice of their sudden appearance, and, oddly, Janan couldn’t see any of the other djinn pouring through the portal with them.

Had the portal dropped everyone in different sections of the city?

They plunged into the sunlight outside the alley, and finally people jumped back. It wasn’t every day that humans saw an ocelot and a purple-eyed girl covered in blood and dressed in what looked like a costume. For all they knew, she was a struggling actress in a remake of Aladdin in her loose violet dress, embellished with gold embroidery and gemstones.

Janan looked around, trying to find someplace quiet, somewhere away from prying eyes.

“Janan!” Safiyya said, drawing a few puzzled and concerned looks. They ducked back into the alley before she continued. “Do you still have that bottle?”

Janan placed a hand on the wall of the building to steady herself and opened the bag slung across her body, feeling around for the wrapped bottle. It felt whole, somehow unbroken. “Yes, I think so.”

“Good, I have an idea! Put the bottle on the ground.”

Janan pulled it out of her bag and placed the unwrapped crystal on the cement between them. Icy fingers of fear clawed at her heart—fear for her family, fear for herself. She would never be safe. Never.

Safiyya sat next to it, turning serious eyes on Janan. “We have to do the Binding.”

“What?” Janan exclaimed, unable to control her reaction. Too much had happened, and she was past her limit. Her stomach turned at even the thought of using her magic, and she wasn’t sure she was capable of such an extensive spell. And Safiyya certainly couldn’t do it alone. “Isn’t that too extreme?”

“Extreme, yes, but what choice do we have? The others will find us, and this is our best chance to evade Ahriman.”

“But… here?” Janan looked around the trash-filled alley.

Safiyya also glanced around, glaring at a stray cat. The cat glared back at her with dull yellow eyes. “I can add a protection spell. Move the bottle somewhere safe.”

“Yes, please,” Janan said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Safiyya reached a paw over the bottle, and Janan grasped it. They closed their eyes, focusing all their energy, all their magic, on the bottle between them. Then, they concentrated on weaving their own energy into the crystal lattice.

As the attachment grew, their bodies phased out of physical being, becoming a light vapor that swirled in the weak air currents, mixing lavender and green smoke where they had been sitting.

Finally, the attachment complete, they became physical again and opened their eyes.

“We just need to hide long enough for the others to find us,” Safiyya said. “And you can get some rest in here. As soon as we’re inside, the bottle will take us somewhere safe.” Janan gave her a small smile, and they vanished in a swirl of smoke, disappearing into the top of the bottle.

This Cursed Flame: First Chapter!

Hey all! Welcome to the first stop on the This Cursed Flame Blog Tour! I can’t wait for you to see all the bonus content leading up to the release on Saturday, and what better way to start than to share the first chapter with everyone?

But first, here’s the blurb!

Look at this gorgeous cover!!!

Sometimes we put ourselves in the bottle…

Six years ago, Janan was transformed into a genie by an evil djinn, ripping her away from her home, her life, and her humanity. She has been on the run from him ever since. Worlds away, high school honors student Laurelin just wants to get into the chemistry program of her dreams.

When Laurelin discovers a crystal bottle that sucks her into the djinn realm, the girls find themselves working together to escape Janan’s creator and get Laurelin back home. But war is brewing in the djinn realm-a rebellion led by the same evil djinn they’ve been trying to escape. And he is determined to rule both the djinn and the human realms. As his creation, Janan is the one person standing in his way.

But to stop him, Janan must learn to overcome the fears he instilled in her and embrace her own dark magic while Laurelin must accept that some things are more important than an A+. Now, they will have to trust each other, and themselves, to stop the encroaching evil. Otherwise, both the human and djinn realms will fall to the tide of death and dark magic this war will unleash.

You can now pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer! Also, if you prefer a paperback, those will be available through Amazon (insider hint: they’re gorgeous!) Also, be sure to head over to Facebook on Saturday for the Launch Party! (and your chance to win your own hand-painted genie bottle!)

And now, without further ado, the first chapter.

Chapter One: Janan

Fuego, Djinn Realm

Janan couldn’t breathe.

Tiny white dots floated in her vision as her heart pumped blood faster than her brain could use it. They obscured the beige and white masonry of the city, the multicolored throng pushing through the cobbled streets like strutting peacocks. All four types of djinn surrounded her: the ifrits with their fire magic, marids with their water magic, sila with their air magic, and ghul with their shapeshifting and electric magic.

And she stood here, alone in the crowd, unprotected, probably the only genie in the city. A half-breed of magic forever caught between worlds. Her human life still colored her memories, her behavior, but the djinn who had turned her into this had robbed her of her natural life.

And the djinn could tell, could sense her other-ness, as they gave her a wide berth or cast vicious looks in her direction. She thought eventually she would be used to it, but even an errand out to fetch groceries was enough to send her into a panic, even after six years.

She hurried to the side of the road, trying to hide herself from their prying eyes. Her breaths were shallow, and she wheezed as she tried to pull enough oxygen into her lungs. She could almost see his gaze everywhere she turned: the hate in that marid’s face, the same crimson tint in that ifrit’s skin. Like he was everywhere. Would she ever be free of this fear?

She drew her hood lower on her forehead and pulled her cloak tighter around her, trying to hide the raspberry color of her hair, a sure sign of her genie status, and her violet dress with the gold embroidery. She had loved it when her adopted father, Mahtab, brought it home for her birthday, but now it seemed like too much, too flashy, like it drew the attention of too many.

“Janan!” A voice rang out over the roar of a thousand voices.

Janan cringed, her head snapping toward the sound. Several nearby djinn craned their heads, also searching for the source of the voice. Her eyes landed on a small, beige feline with ebony spots. If she didn’t look directly at the animal, she could almost see the form of the woman beneath the spell.

“Safiyya!” Janan, still breathless with fear, pushed her way back through the people still separating them and knelt in front of her friend.

Safiyya of the House Grimalkin studied her face. “Everything okay?”

Janan almost laughed. No, everything was not okay. It hadn’t been for some time. Not since before, when she was still human, when she still belonged.

But he wasn’t here, at least not as far as she could tell. It was only her brain running away faster than reason, again, her terror resurfacing after months of dormancy.

Her terror had almost been gone when he returned only a few months ago, like an angry ghost from her past, wishing to exact some terrible vengeance on her for her very existence. Her Turning had been a mistake. And now it was a hurdle to him, to his plans, to the very future of the Realm.

At least that was what he had said. Right before attacking, driving her from her home to flee to Fuego with her adopted family. She had brought him down upon them, and now she saw him everywhere she turned.

“Yes, of course,” she found herself saying, rising to her feet and refusing to meet Safiyya’s bright emerald gaze.

She couldn’t tell her what was going on. Safiyya had her own problems. She was djinn, one of the shapeshifters, but she’d been stuck as an ocelot for as long as Janan had known her, much like the way Janan was stuck halfway between djinn and human. One day, maybe Safiyya would tell her what had happened, why she was stuck, but for now Janan didn’t see a reason to draw the cat into her imaginary nightmares. It was enough to share this unspoken bond.

Safiyya continued to study her, doubtful eyes traveling across the old scars marring Janan’s pale skin. There were no new injuries for her to see, but her friend’s gaze burned across her skin, and Janan tugged the cloak tighter still. If she kept pulling at it, soon she’d be a diamond from the pressure.

The cat dropped her gaze, returning her attention to the writhing mass of djinn in front of them. “Have you heard from the others yet?”

“No, nothing.” Janan touched the shining gem that hung around her neck, a simple piece of Torrebon technology carried by almost every djinn and genie in the Realm. It not only allowed them access to the human and djinn internets but also provided a simple means of communication with just a small spark of magic.

It was all the magic she could bear to use. She had almost convinced herself that if she didn’t use any genie magic at all, maybe she could be human again. Still seventeen, still awkward and scared, but human, with a family and a life and human problems. As it stood now, she didn’t really fit anywhere, and she felt the weight of it every time she set foot outside.

Safiyya nodded her head at the crowd, and they wove through the scores of temporary stalls lining the sidewalk for the weekly farmers’ market. Vendors on both sides hawked their wares: fabric bolts here, jewelry there, tiny carved statues from the ifrit city of Prinnyn, mechanical toys from the ghul city of Torrebos. The road had been blocked off from automobile traffic for the day, allowing the thousands of pedestrians to browse freely without fearing oncoming cars.

Janan tried to focus on the market and push her fear out of her mind. It was uncontrollable, arising unbidden and unwanted, but sometimes she could stuff it back down and ignore it for a while.

At least until the next memory took her.

Her bag bounced against her thigh as she walked. It held only a few coins and her single purchase of the day: a bright glass bottle to add to her collection. To her, it had become a joke, a way of coping with what she was. A genie collecting bottles. Some form of control over the prison of her existence. And this bottle had felt particularly special, but she couldn’t say why. Perhaps some subconscious ghost of memory. Heavens knew there were enough ghosts flitting around in her skull.

The sun was rising higher in the sky as the morning dragged on, but Janan still shivered with cold. He wasn’t here, she was sure of it—sure that her mind was just playing cruel tricks on her again—yet she couldn’t shake the way every djinn in a cloak, every turned back, every sideways glare made her feel like prey. What if he really was here, somewhere in this mass of bodies?

She glanced sideways at Safiyya. The ocelot was small, but she made a formidable foe. Surely Janan would be safe at her side.

Safiyya stopped walking and looked up at her expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” Janan said, blinking herself back to the present. “What did you say?”

“I just asked if you wanted a drink. I’m getting a bit thirsty.” They were stopped next to a vendor selling cold fruit drinks.

“Oh. Sure.”

Safiyya rubbed her head against a picture of a lemon below the counter. “This one, please.”

Janan pointed to the lemon drink and a grape drink in the displayed pitchers, trading a silver coin for the two glasses. They walked a few steps away before she placed the lemonade on the sidewalk for Safiyya, out of the way of trampling feet, and sat down on the curb. Her own straw halfway to her mouth, she suddenly froze, feeling the pressure of a person standing just behind her.

Her heart began pounding all over again. Sweat shone on her pale skin, and she wheezed for breath, unable to take a sip of the refreshing drink. No longer thirsty, she set the glass down next to Safiyya and turned to face the presence, ready to run or strike if needed.

A man in a cloak stood hunched behind her, eyes bright yellow against his pale blue skin, even shaded as they were under the hood. They seemed to glow with their own light, like a harvest moon on an otherwise black night.

As she saw the man, her heart began to slow its furious pace, and she forced a shaky smile. “Mahtab.”

Her adoptive father stood with his arms full of packages from around the market, grinning a sharp-toothed smile. She crossed her arms and pressed her hands against her body, willing the shaking in her fingers to subside. Her adoptive mother, Irina, reached a hand down to help Janan to her feet.

Irina, Mahtab’s wife of nearly a century, was the opposite of him in every way. Where he was blue-skinned and stood with a permanent bend in his spine, she looked like she was cut from the finest alabaster, her hair fine-spun gold and her posture tall and proud.

Janan allowed herself to be drawn up next to them. “Is it time to go home?”

“Did you find everything on your list?” Irina asked.

Janan blushed with guilt. In truth, she’d forgotten about the list after the vendor with the bottles. She had been so distracted with the bottle that she had missed half of the family’s produce, still on her list.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Mahtab said. He studied her, quiet for a moment. “But perhaps we can drop you at home and finish the errands ourselves.”

Janan closed her eyes. He had seen her fear, had made the decision that she had done enough for the day. She would remain a burden, unable to fulfill her duty to their small family.

She opened her mouth, intending to say no, to say that she could push through and finish their trip, but no words left her mouth, and she nodded in defeat.

“All right, then,” Mahtab said, nodding back. His face was kind, but Janan couldn’t bear to meet his eyes.

They turned in the direction of home, a small apartment on the west side of the city, and began pushing their way through the crowds. She was buoyed by the presence of Mahtab and Irina, feeling her confidence replace her fear with every step they took. Maybe she could make it after all.

She opened her mouth to say so when a small trio of smug-looking djinn leered at her.

“Filthy genie,” one of them spat.

“Don’t worry,” another snarled. “They’ll be gone soon.”

Then Safiyya was at Janan’s side, baring her sharp teeth. “Keep walking,” she growled low in her throat.

The third djinn rolled her eyes before following her friends. Her sighed words were soft, meant only for Janan’s and Safiyya’s ears. “Genie sympathizers. Just as bad as the genies.”

Janan dropped her eyes to the sidewalk and trailed after Mahtab, already several yards ahead of her. Perhaps going home was for the best.

~~~

Want to read more? Check out the masterpost of stops on the blog tour, or go ahead an pre-order your copy today! Again, you can pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer. And don’t forget about the Facebook Launch Party on Saturday!

Blog Tour: This Cursed Flame!

One week to go! Here’s a list of the celebrations! 😀

Today is a very special day (also, happy Easter for those of you celebrating, and happy 1 year anniversary to my other half)!

My debut is less than a week away, and now we get to celebrate its release! Today marks the kickoff of the blog tour for This Cursed Flame. Some very kind bloggers/authors have agreed to help me celebrate with a number of posts that I hope you will all find interesting.

Here’s the schedule:

April 21

S. J. Eckert – Blog Tour Announcement
S. J. Eckert – First Chapter
H. L. Burke – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

April 22

Michaela Bush – Author Interview
S. J. Eckert – Character Interview (Janan)

april 23

S. J. Eckert – Bonus Behind-the-Scenes Material!

april 24

Michaela Bush – Book Spotlight

april 25

Kelly Jane – Character Interview (Safiyya)

april 26

Meg Dendler – Book Spotlight

april 27 (release day!!!)

Savannah Jezowski – Author Interview
Kandi Wyatt – Character Interview (Laurelin)
S. J. Eckert – Happy Book Birthday!
Facebook Launch party!

Be sure to tune in for all the festivities across the interwebs, and then head over to Facebook on April 27th for the launch party! We’ll have plenty of extras, behind-the-scenes, and giveaways for everyone (including hand-painted genie bottles, made by the author herself!).

Can’t wait to see you there!

~~~

Are you excited? I’m so excited! Let me know what you’re most excited about in the comments below!!! Then, head on over to the first stop on the tour!

Guest Post: Kathryn McConaughy

MagicMirrorsGraphic.jpg

Hey folks! Today we get another peek into these amazing Snow White retellings with a fantastic guest post by the author of Overpowered, Kathryn McConaughy! Just a reminder in case you missed the last post, these are seven Snow White inspired retellings that are part of the Seven Magic Mirrors joint release. You can find more stops on the blog tour here, and be sure to look for information about the giveaway while you’re there!

Overpowered by Kathryn McConaughy

41575887Taliyah bat Shammai is fleeing a terrible crime. Though she has no hope of shelter, she must keep running—for the Avenger will be coming. Even losing herself in the mist-haunted hills cannot protect her for long. But perhaps other criminals can…

Yotam bin Yerubba’la has left his home, his only guide a cryptic dream. Endangered by a perilous secret, he soon finds himself among men with secrets of their own—in a place where trusting others may be his most serious mistake… or his best defense.

Cypress and his band have been mercenaries for a long time. Criminals all, they don’t trust easily and never reveal their hearts. But when a battle goes horribly wrong, each man must decide whether he fights for gold, for fame, or for something yet more rare…

Disguised as a boy, Taliyah finds the outlaw life to be full of more questions than answers. What are those strange tracks around the ruined houses? Why is Yotam so calm in the face of battle? Where are the rest of Cypress’ men? And who is the Avenger?
There may not be much time for Taliyah to find the answers, for war is about to ignite in the hills. And they all will burn…

Add it on Goodreads, or buy it on Amazon today!

Now, without further ado, Kathryn herself on the inspiration of this fantastic historical fantasy!

The Inspiration for Overpowered by Kathryn McConaughy

What inspired Overpowered?  A lot of different things.  I’m never short of inspiration, just short of time to write things down!

Obviously, Rooglewood’s Five Poisoned Apples contest was a big factor, because I had to write a Snow White story.  This was a challenge for me, as I’ve never been a huge fan of this particular fairy tale.  While Snow White is more sensible than many fairy tale heroines, managing to make a new home for herself with her work ethic and housekeeping skills, she is also very naïve, instantly trusting groups of men in the woods and mysterious old ladies. (Can I ask—how did Snow White learn to cook?  You don’t see many princesses in kitchens.) Then she rides off into the sunset with a man whose only credentials are that he can kiss a dead/sleeping woman and that a previous member of his bloodline achieved political power. I don’t think it’s the plot itself that I have a problem with—like Snow White, many people do live life reacting rather than acting—rather, it’s the fact that Snow White’s choices are presented so positively.  “Of course you should marry the handsome stranger.  And of course your friends the dwarves will be perfectly okay with this.”

Ayeh.  So it took me a while to wrap my head around writing a Snow White retelling.  I originally tried writing an SF version in which Snow flees the colony where she grew up after her stepmother tries to have her killed for her planetary corporation shares, but my SF Snow kept coming across as too passive.  So I moved back to my home court—the mythic ancient Near East—and started a version that was set there. I made Taliyah more active from the very beginning, a woman wary and brave, though still a bit too trusting.

The first scene I wrote was the one where Taliyah, my heroine, approaches the outlaw camp and meets my “dwarves.”  I love writing “band of brothers” characters—they play off each other so well. And, as you know if you read “Guardian of Our Beauty,” I find the Late Bronze Age hillmen endlessly fascinating.  I had been reading a lot of books and articles on the relationship between townsfolk and nomads in the ancient Near East, so that information also made its way into the story and into the character backgrounds.  Anyway, in this scene I was able to explore who Taliyah was and how she was going to relate to the other characters. I was amazed that she was able to get Thorn, the band’s paranoid lookout, to talk to her, but their first conversation was wonderful.  After that, I was really excited to be writing her story.

About half of the ideas that took root in Overpowered had been hanging out in my head waiting to be used long before I knew that I would be writing a Snow White retelling.  For example, I’m very interested in the ancient Near Eastern wisdom traditions, whether they be in the Bible or out of it. I think that we often don’t appreciate what a big part those wisdom traditions—whether in the form of proverbs, poems, or parables—played in the lives of the ancient people.  There was one character, a middle-aged man who only communicates in proverbs, who had been living in my head for quite some time. So when I saw an opportunity to drop him into this story (where he would have to stay instead of wandering around in my brain making trouble) I wrote him in. That’s where Willow came from.

Many of my favorite wisdom tales from the Bible use plant imagery.  My favorite of all is Jotham’s cautionary speech to the Shechemites in Judges 9.  Distressed by their support of his murderous brother, he tells them a story about trees.  The trees want to have a king, but all of the trees with good reputations turn down the job.  Finally, the trees ask the bramble to rule over them. The bramble agrees, but pronounces a terrible curse on them if they betray him.  (Basically, Jotham is trying to tell the Shechemites that making his brother king was a bad idea.) I’ve always been intrigued by this tree tale, so I amused myself by giving my “dwarves” tree names in keeping with their appearances and personalities.  The grumpy “dwarf” is named Thorn, the giant is named Cedar, and so on.

Then I thought, “Why not make the homage to Judges 9 more obvious by letting Jotham’s brother Abimelek run around in the background?”  So I put him in. In the Five Poisoned Apples version of the story, you never actually met him, you just got Easter Egg-like references to him and his campaigns through the hill country.

Then Jotham turned up and said, “I’ve just had to flee after giving that tree speech against my brother.  I think I’ll join this outlaw band.” Well. I couldn’t chase him away; he was so friendly and polite. So I thought that he could be a dwarf, and maybe no one would notice that he was a biblical figure.

Then Taliyah started noticing how brave and kind and godly he was.  Long story short, he ended up as the hero of the piece, and I went back and wrote a bunch of scenes from his perspective.

As you can see, Overpowered came together from a lot of different sources—but I think that it really did come together into one integrated story world, a story world that I loved writing about.  In fact, I got so attached to these characters that I’m working on a sequel! I’m very excited to share the story with you all. I hope you enjoy it.

Concluding Thoughts

I had the great opportunity to read this story, and I have to say it was such a refreshing taste of a culture we very rarely read in most fiction, and especially as a fantasy! If you have any interest in the Near East, or fantasy, definitely give this a try!

If any of this has piqued your interest, remember you can add it on Goodreads or buy it on Amazon!

Happy reading!