Book Blitz & Excerpt: Pretty Deadly + Giveaway

pretty deadly
Pretty Deadly
by Kelsey Josund
Dark Fantasy

Date Published: October 26, 2021

Publisher: Darkstroke Books

Cinna would quite literally kill for the throne.

She’s spent years forced to serve her wealthy cousins rather than attend society events alongside them, waiting for the chance to prove herself and exact revenge. When a ball is announced at the castle, promising to bring many powerful people to town, she seizes the opportunity to strike.

She bets her best friend, a small-time thief and con-man, that she can land a greater score the night of the ball than he can. They embark on parallel heists. But as their plots unfold, things begin to unravel: by the end of the night, the castle’s on lock down, a duchess is dead, a mansion has burnt to the ground, and Cinna hasn’t stolen anything. Or has she stolen something more valuable than gold and jewels?

Pretty Deadly Teaser

Excerpt

Johann sat on the barstool beside Cinna and sighed. Without acknowledging him, she slid her empty glass forward across the bar.

The bartender poured her another round of top-shelf whisky, which Johann knew she could not afford. He wondered briefly whether the bartender owed her a favor, or if she knew something the man did not want shared, then decided that he didn’t care.

She smiled, settled back on her stool, and turned to him at last. “Have a good day?”

He grunted, which made her laugh. He may not have had a good day, but it seemed she had.

Life of petty crime too petty for you now?”

He shrugged and began rolling himself a cigarette. She sipped her whisky in silence, watching.

In truth, Johann had been in a good mood until he entered the bar and saw her sitting there. Every moment around Cinna was exhausting. She was his favorite and least favorite person at the same time, and he had been looking forward to brooding about her alone with some tobacco and alcohol. That plan was foiled now.

He tipped the cigarette toward her, asking wordlessly for a light. She was always good for that, at least.

She pulled a matchbook from a pocket and drew a match quickly between her fingers to bring forth the flame, then offered it to him.

Neat trick,” he said.

As she pinched the match out again, she asked if he’d heard about the ball they were throwing for the fiftieth anniversary of the accords.

No?”

He could never understand why Cinna made it her business to track things like that, and he certainly didn’t care. Maybe she did not expect him to, because she just shrugged and changed the subject. “Anything interesting in the store?”

With her words, he realized that in fact there was a reason to be glad to see her tonight. “Finish that,” he suggested, gesturing to her still-mostly-full glass. “I have something to show you.”

She raised an eyebrow and took a slow sip, decidedly not finishing the drink in any hurry. “How mysterious.”

Or don’t,” he said. “But I think you’ll find this interesting.”

She considered his expression for a moment and then seemed to decide that he was worth her time. With a half smile, she knocked back the rest of her drink and slid languidly down from the barstool. “Let’s go, then.”

Johann glanced toward the window. It was too wet and windy to smoke outside, so he stubbed out the cigarette and pocketed it, then offered her an arm as they walked out of the dim little tavern into the winter evening. As he had expected, she made no effort to pay or even thank the bartender.

He knew she only walked with her arm through his to humor him, but still it felt nice. The cold wind erupted in his face and blew back the hood he’d lifted as they went out the door, sending a shiver of icy rain down the back of his shirt. Though she wore a much lighter jacket than he did, Cinna seemed unbothered.

They passed in and out of the blue light of evening and the flickering oily yellow of streetlamps, descending through narrow streets toward his pawn shop. Passersby paid them no mind, in a hurry to get home as the temperature dropped. Before long, the rain would turn to snow and the puddles to ice.

He released her arm to dig out a key and led them inside, not bothering to light a candle. He preferred the shop like this: gloomy, dusty, dark. It reminded him what he hoped to one day escape.

She looked around as they walked deeper into the shop, studying various wares on the towering shelves. If he didn’t know that even Cinna had standards, he would have thought she was casing the place, selecting which trinkets she would come back for when he was not around.

What did you want to show me?” she asked, leaning her arms against the counter as he walked around behind it.

He wanted to let the suspense build, loving her attention on him. He shrugged out of his damp coat, and turned slowly as if considering his options, theatrically stalling in a way that, as hoped, made her laugh.

I’m starting to think you just wanted to trick me into coming home with you,” she said, a smile in her rich voice.

He grinned and leaned across the counter in a position mirroring her own. Close enough that he could smell the smoky whisky on her breath. “Maybe I did.”

She laughed again, then leaned away. “I’m missing my nice barstool and whisky.”

What did you do for that, by the way?”

She smirked. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

He sighed, well aware that she was as in control of this interaction as she ever was, and ducked below the counter to retrieve what he had thought to show her. It seemed silly now.

But he saw the sparkle in her eyes when he deposited the shoes on the counter with a flourish and knew he had been right. “They’ll fit you,” he said.

She lifted one in her hand, bringing it close enough to admire in the low light. They were truly beautiful, made of gleaming black leather embedded with tiny jewels, a delicate arch lifting upon sturdy but artful high heels.

She studied him over the shoe she held, eyes bright in the darkness. He had no idea what she was thinking, but he liked the hint of a smile on her lips.

You can have them,” he said, completing the thought he’d implied already.

She shook her head and set the shoe back down. “I have no use for anything like this,” she said. “You know that.”

He smirked and picked up the shoe that she had set down, holding it carefully in one hand with the other flat below the heel. With his thumb, he made some slight motion where she couldn’t see, and a slender knife dropped into his palm, pricking a tiny burst of blood where it made contact. Her eyes flickered to his face quickly enough to catch his grimace, but then they shared a smile.

She reached for the knife. He closed his fist around it and pulled away.

I have a weakness for pretty things,” she said slowly, picking up the other shoe and looking for the mechanism that would reveal the blade, “but usually I can ignore it. When beauty is combined with danger, though…” She grinned at him and he warmed at the sight of her honest happiness. “You know me well.”

And he did. Well enough to know that her real weakness was not that she liked objects that were pretty and dangerous, but rather that he knew as much. He was fairly sure she did not know his own.

But he would play into what she thought she knew. He set the knife he’d already extracted onto the counter and took the shoe from her, holding it aloft to show which jewel was actually a lever. “Someday I’ll get you every beautiful weapon you can imagine,” he said.

Gilded daggers?” she asked.

He nodded. “Swords inset with rubies.”

Guns that shoot not bullets but diamonds?”

He lifted his hands and parted them, as if to say he’d give her the world. She laughed, and he did too.

You talk a big game,” she said, lifting the blade by the hilt and tipping it back and forth. He watched her, seeing that she was thinking, wondering what she thought.

Cinna?” he asked.

The thoughts that clouded her face drifted away and she smiled. “What do you say to a wager?”

He folded his arms and raised an eyebrow. “Friendly competition between friends?”

Something like that.”

What are your terms?” he asked.

That ball,” she said. “Two weeks away. Everyone who’s anyone will be there. The king will empty his vaults to show off his treasure. It’s the ultimate target.”

I’m not seeing how this is a competition,” he said slowly. Understanding sank through him.

I’m not saying we do this together,” she clarified. “Let’s see who can land a bigger score that night.”

Risky, Cinna.”

Fun, Johann.”

She still twirled the knife between her fingers. He held only an empty shoe.

What’re the stakes?” he asked. He could never read her, much as he tried to. Maybe that was why she was so entrancing.

She shrugged, grinned, stood up straight. “Not high enough for you?’

Not high enough for you,” he replied. 

She laughed. A chill went down his spine.

Let’s decide once I win, shall we?” she asked.

He frowned. “That’s hardly fair.”

Her laugh this time was abrupt and biting, but her smile was friendly. “Then beat me.”

He drew a breath, considering. Cinna was not a fool: she would have a plan already, and he would be starting from behind if he agreed to this. But Johann was not a fool, either. Perhaps he needed something so risky and high-profile if he wanted to impress Cinna and break free of the ridiculous hold she had on him. Maybe this would show him that he did not need her approval to be strong.

Walk me home,” she said before he could reply, setting both knives down on the counter. “It’s late.”

He slid the knives back into their sheathes and put the shoes on the counter. “Are you keeping them?”

She lifted one by the heel, then the other. “I’ll wear these the night of the ball,” she said. “And I’ll see you there?”

He grinned, shrugged into his coat, and made up his mind. “If I do things right, you won’t.”

They headed back into the night, which had darkened fully by then. She did not live far away —the city was dense, with a small footprint—but even a woman as dangerous as Cinna knew better to walk home alone through those streets. Looking at her now, though, he was fairly sure she was the threat, not the one in danger. If someone thought to target her for a mugging, that would be their last theft.

The rain had let up but the paving stones had grown slick, just on the edge of icing over. Their breath clouded before them. Cinna held onto the shoes more firmly than she did his arm.

When they reached the mansion where she worked as a servant, they hesitated. He caught an inscrutable dark look in her eyes as she gazed up at its gabled roof and bright windows, and wondered for the thousandth time how Cinna had come to live the life she did. But if she shared that with anyone, it was not him.


About the Author

I am a software engineer and author living and working in Silicon Valley, California. I studied computer science at Stanford University, but I’ve always loved stories in all their forms. I approach writing fiction the same way I approach writing code: I like to know where it’s going, but I want to figure out the details as I go along. Good software is a lot like a good story, full of neat and clever solutions to tricky problems, beautiful at a granular level but also from a distance.

Originally from Seattle, I love getting outdoors and living in places that allow me to escape to the mountains on the weekends, and I care deeply about the ecosystems that humans impact and that impact us. My writing explores these issues while also following classic coming-of-age arcs in science fiction and fantasy. I’m also very interested in stories and characters that complicate the traditional and familiar, leading me to fairytale retellings from unexpected angles.

Contact Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter: @kelseyjosund

Blog

Instagram @kelseyjosund

TikTok @kelseyjosund


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Book Blitz & Excerpt – The Yakuza Path: The Deafening Silence, by Amy Tasukada

The Deafening Silence BANNER

BOOK BLAST

Book Title:  The Yakuza Path: The Deafening Silence (Book 4)

Author: Amy Tasukada

Publisher: ‎ Macarons & Tea Publishing

Release Date: December 1, 2018

Genre: Gay thriller, NOT ROMANCE

Tropes: Bad boys, tragic hero, unrequited love

Themes: Mafia, betrayal 

Heat Rating:  3 flames

Length:  235 pages

It can read as a standalone but you get more if you follow the series.

The book ends on a cliffhanger.

Goodreads

 

Buy Links 

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK  |  Kobo

Apple Books  |  B&N  | Google Play  |  Books2Read

 

the deafening silence

An unproven alliance. A broken promise. A mafia boss must shed blood to secure peace…

 

Blurb 

Nao Murata is on the verge of brokering peace between his syndicate and the  Mafufugumi mob. To seal the deal, he’ll need to pick up Russian prostitutes to appease his newest ally. When the exchange goes sour, both sides draw blades and Nao has no choice but to care for a blood-soaked enemy. If the man doesn’t make it through the night, Nao and his crew will pay with their lives.

Outnumbered and stranded in enemy territory, Nao is forced to fight his way out before the Mafufugumi Godfather takes the deal off the table. As his wounded enemy’s heartbeat slows, Nao must act fast or condemn his syndicate to a brutal war.

The Deafening Silence is the fourth book in a series of Japanese mafia thrillers. If you like twisty action, authentic settings, and a touch of gay romance, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s pulse-pounding series.

Buy The Deafening Silence to immerse yourself in a bloody mafia tale today!

 

The Yakuza Path Series

BOOK 1 – Blood Stained Tea

BOOK 2 – Better Than Suicide

BOOK 3 – One Thousand Cranes

BOOK 4 – The Deafening Silence

BOOK 5 – Flowers of Flesh and Blood

BOOK 6 – Wrapped in Screams

Releasing in November

Pre-Order here

 

 

Excerpt 

A car’s engine accelerating pulled Aki’s attention away from the phone. His eyes grew wide as a red Ferrari 458 pulled up in front of him. The sculpted body and raised headlights on the fenders sent a shiver down Aki’s spine. He was in love.

The door opened, and Shinji stepped out wearing tight black jeans and a red plaid coat with a few more zippers than necessary to give it a rocker vibe. But that car!

“You like it?” Shinji asked, gesturing to the sweetest ride Aki had been able to get close to in a long time.

“Like it?” Aki ran his hand across the warm hood. “I’m ready to propose.”

Shinji leaned over beside Aki and tapped the hood. “She does have one hell of a purr when she’s hot.”

Shinji’s red jacket rode up and revealed jeans hugging his ass like a second skin. He was showing off, but at the same time, Aki didn’t mind. If Nao could sleep with some Russian bastard, Aki could stare at the ass of an attractive guy with an even hotter car.

“You want to drive?” Shinji tossed the keys to Aki, who caught them in one hand.

“You mean it?”

“I don’t tease—at least not outside the bedroom.”

No other keys ever felt like they belonged in his hand. Aki shoved the briefcase in the back and slid into the driver’s seat. He brushed his hands over the fine leather detail. His fingers were made for the steering wheel.

“I always wanted to drive something like this.”

Shinji got beside him. “Murata doesn’t let you drive his flashy cars?”

Aki laughed. “Domestic brands aren’t known for their looks.”

“Jun told us he didn’t buy things not made by Japanese companies, but I didn’t believe him.”

“It’s true—everything from cars to suits. The only foreign thing he touches is his tea.”

“And a good hooker.”

Aki slammed on the gas, peeling out onto the street.

“Show-off.” Shinji grinned.

Aki asked, “Where’s the pawn shop?”

Shinji grabbed on to the door and let out a small laugh. “Good thing we have a deal with the cops.”

“Really? I’ve had a hard time getting ahold of Jun.”

“You have to ask the right person.”

“I see. Who’s the right person?”

“I forgot his name since I just deal with our Russia allies.”

Aki floored the accelerator, speeding through a changing light. “Father Murata is disappointed he hasn’t been released yet.”

“Don’t worry. We don’t want to raise suspicion. He’ll be released by the time we get back from the exchange with the Russians.”

More like get done holding Jun hostage. Nao was right. Something was off about the whole trip.

Aki slowed to a stop at a red light. The engine purred as if crying to be set free. Sports cars weren’t meant to be stuck idling.

Shinji pointed. “It’ll be a right at the next light.”

Shinji’s hair fell in his eyes, and he swept it back. Even with the coat, his biceps bulged. Nao kept his muscles lean, refining them in a boxing ring rather than lifting weights like Shinji must’ve done to get them so large.

Aki licked his lips. Both were appealing in their own way. Shinji probably would look hotter pinning Aki’s hands above his head and would have much more power behind each of his slamming thrusts. He could imagine the marks left on his back from being banged against the wall. Shinji could mark his body anyway he wanted. A small moan left the back of Aki’s throat, and if Shinji had heard it, he thankfully didn’t react, but Aki’s body had.

He blamed it on the car and the way it vibrated when they stopped. Not the fact that Shinji was objectively the hottest guy who’d ever hit on him before. Aki hadn’t just imagined what sex with him would be like for a full light change.

The light switched to green and Aki peeled out, hoping it would distract Shinji enough not to notice the bulge growing in Aki’s trousers.

 

About the Author 

International best-selling author Amy Tasukada writes thrilling times of crime, love, and gore. Readers who crave diverse characters, unique settings, and edge-of-your-seat action will devour her Yakuza Path series. Readers who seek less blood and more love will swoon over the Yakuza Path Romance and Would it Be Okay to Love You? Series. Amy is an atheist, queer author who enjoys drinking tea, Japanese street fashion and visual kei music.  Her calico cat, O’Hara, is never far from her side. Amy lives in North Texas, but is always planning her next trip to Japan.

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Author Links

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Book Blitz, Excerpt & Author Interview: A Place of Magic + Giveaway

Place of magic

 

A Place of Magic
by Merrie Destefano
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy
Publisher: Ruby Slipper Press
Date of Publication: October 12, 2021
ASIN:B09FNSVKZJ
Number of pages:320
Word Count: 73,000
Cover Artist: Elona Bezooshko,
Psycat Digital Ink and Motion

 
Halloween is the wrong time to visit Ticonderoga Falls.
Dangerous monsters hunt in the nearby woods.
 
The Prey…
 
Maddie MacFaddin.
For her, the nearby forest holds many memories, some joyous, some forgotten. But she has no recollection of Ash, the dark, magnificent creature who saved her life as a child, or that his kind preys upon humanity.
 
The Monster…
 
Ash, a Darkling fae.
Trapped in Ticonderoga Falls for a century, he’s required to host a Hunt once a year. Then, hungry, shapeshifting faeries will descend upon the villagers and harvest their dreams.
 
The Hunt…
 
There are rules about harvesting humans; the poor creatures are so delicate. If you take too much, they’ll die. Without dreams, they perish. And perish they do—now and then—despite Ash’s efforts to keep them safe. Then he realizes Maddie is the prey his unwanted guests are after. But, try as he might, this time he’s not strong enough to protect her. The entire village is in danger.
 
Soon the Hunt will begin. And no one will be safe.
 

Amazon


Excerpt:

He nodded, head lowered. Then he lifted his gaze until he was staring into her eyes. One hand rested on her shoulder. “I won’t tell anyone your secret, Elspeth. You’re safe with me.”

Then he leaned closer, his scent overwhelming, his thoughts like the wind through the leaves, a wild rushing, his skin like the embrace of the forest. His lips touched hers and she could hear his heart beating. She slid her arms around his waist, leaning into the kiss, suddenly wanting more. She wanted to cast an enchantment, to lead him into sleep, to harvest his dreams. Wanted to walk into a dream with him, to see the hidden world on the other side of his eyelids. Wanted to know everything about him.

The kiss had only just begun and already she wanted another.

His arms were around her then, and the winter chill disappeared. In its place, fire crackled through her limbs, from her fingertips to her feet.

She could see it then, the world inside him. Tender and gentle as a spring morning, the shadows of night lingering at the edge of the wood, a handful of stars scattered across a pale sky.

She never knew that humans could be filled with so much magic.

It was her first Hunt and she had chosen her prey wisely.


Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
This book began because I had a long bout with insomnia. It was as if I had forgotten how to fall asleep. When I couldn’t sleep, I began to imagine what sort of creatures might prey on people when they were sleeping. That was when I came up with the idea for the Darkling fae, magical creatures that draw their powers from human dreams.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
That every book is hard to write. They’re just all different. I rewrote this story so many different times. It took a long time for me to get the setting and characters in place. The first time, it was set in Pasadena, California. But it made more sense to have fae creatures in the wilderness of the San Gabriel Mountains. So, I moved the story to a mountain town based on Big Bear.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
The ending. I usually know how my stories will end, but not with this one. Although I was surprised by what happened, I love it! I tend to be a Discovery Writer, so I don’t outline as much as some authors. I enjoy the journey and finding new things along the way.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
It means that this place is where the Darklings are allowed to be magical. They have to hide who and what they are most of the time. Also, it relates to Maddie, the writer, too, since this is where she came to try and restore her ability to write magical stories.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Yes, although it was unintentional. Maddie is very much like me and her sister, Kate, is very much like my sister Kathy. Sadly, I don’t think I ever told my sister about it—I may have only realized it during the rewrite. My sister passed away a few years ago. I loved my sister very much and, for that reason, I often have stories with strong sister or strong sibling relationships. Some of those books include Fathom, Fairytale Magic, Valiant, and Lost Girls.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
Yes! Our dreams are what motivate us and give us hope. We should never allow someone else to steal them. In the book, if a Darkling fae harvests too many dreams, it will kill the human. Without dreams, we will die. It’s a paraphrase of Proverbs 29:18.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
Any scene with Samwise! This book has been published twice. Once under the title Feast: Harvest Of Dreams by HarperCollins. Then now by me, with the title A Place Of Magic. When I decided to rewrite the book, one choice I made was to include deleted scenes where the dog had his own POV.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Definitely Ash. He’s complex and can come across unfeeling at times, since he’s fae. But that’s not true. He’s conflicted. He sees the good and the bad in almost any situation. It was hard to get him to a point where he didn’t seem heartless, since that’s far from the truth. He’s actually deeply wounded and broken and trying his best not be bitter over what he has lost.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
I’m still deciding if I want to finish my half-written fae book or my half-written vampire book. I love both of them!



About the Author:


Multiple-award-winning author Merrie Destefano writes lyrical tales of magic, mystery, and hope. Her traditional books have been published by HarperCollins, Entangled Teen, and Walter Foster, while her indie imprint is Ruby Slippers Press. Her novels have won awards in both the science fiction and fantasy categories.

She worked for Focus on the Family, The Word For Today, Engaged Media, and PJS Publications, and her magazine experience includes editor of Victorian Homes magazine, Zombies magazine, Haunted: Mysteries And Legends magazine, American Farmhouse Style magazine, Vintage Gardens magazine and founding editor of Cottages and Bungalows magazine. Her co-authored art books include How To Draw Vampires, How To Draw Zombies, and How to Draw Grimm’s Dark Fairy Tales. Her edited books include The Man God Uses by Chuck Smith, Oil Pastel Step-By-Step by Nathan Rohlander, and The Art of Drawing Fantasy Characters by Jacob Glaser.

Born in the Midwest, Merrie now lives in Southern California, where she runs on caffeine, and shares her home with rescue dogs and cats. And although she dearly loves science fiction, in her heart of hearts, she still doesn’t believe airplanes should be able to fly.

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